By Olivia Cardinale
While you’re scrolling through Instagram, double tapping photos of celebrity girl squads and commenting “#goals,” you’re probably not thinking about whether or not they get into arguments or if one of them feels left out sometimes or if they really even exercise the true values of friendship. Why would you? When you see a picture of a group of girls with bright smiles doing a silly pose, you want to believe that they’re happy and they love each other no matter what and that everything is perfect. So do I.
When I met my three best friends during junior year of high school, I felt an urge to pray to God and thank Him for finally sending me the kind of people I’d been looking for all throughout high school – girls who share my love for clothes, feminism, photography, exploring the city, and overall a sense of adventure. My school was full of teenagers who prioritized house parties and athletics – two things that I could not possibly care less about. I never thought I’d find a group of girls who would meet my interests, so when I did, I took them and ran, perhaps a bit too fast.
The first time we all hung out together, we spent a day downtown in the Chicago Loop, taking pictures, discussing our favorite One Direction songs, and talking about our futures. On the train ride home, I knew with all of my heart these were my people.
By the summer of 2015, we were closer than ever, and I felt that we could not be more connected as a friend group. There was never a waking moment that someone wasn’t texting in our groupchat, at least two of the four of us were always together, and we hadn’t had a single argument. In my mind, we were the perfect Girl Gang.
Even though we haven’t always called them girl gangs, they’ve been in the media for years. The women of Sex and the City, Grease’s Pink Ladies, and 2016’s most famous, Taylor Swift and her squad, consisting of a variety of girls, including Kendall Jenner, Zendaya, Lorde and Karlie Kloss. As a fan of both Taylor Swift and girl power in general, I was delighted to have something comparable to her iconic friend group.
I began captioning photos of the four of us with “#GirlGang” and people from school would frequently comment things like, “Goals!” or, “Can I join?” After a few months, I was thriving so much on the likes, comments and aesthetic of my friendship that I lost track of what it really meant. Things turned south when senior year began, and our seemingly perfect friendship began to diminish. The pressures of college applications, boys, new classmates, and family drama quickly added up to show our true colors – how we act in times of stress and how we support one another. I quickly discovered that just because we have the same material interests does not mean that we are on the same emotional levels.
To make a long story short, our friendship ended due to high expectations and unrealistic standards on my part. When everything blew up over a month ago, I liked to blame the girls for being unsupportive, not understanding, and just plain negligent. But the truth is that I attempted to turn three carefree, spontaneous girls into people they weren’t, people I wanted them to be.
I wanted these girls to prefer quiet nights to parties, and to focus on school and ignore boys the way I did, and to place our friendship above everything else. I thought that’s what being a “girl gang” was all about. In my mind, girl squads wore the same clothes, only spent time with each other, told one another everything, and definitely never fought. But as it turns out, what looks perfect on social media doesn’t always work out in real life. Who knew?
True friendship means allowing the people you care about to be unapologetically themselves – to wear what they want, hang out with who they want, and express themselves the way they want. Expectations ruin relationships. Once you start attempting to change people to fit your ideal model, you lose what made them special to you in the first place.