I’ve experienced breakups, cheating, Catholic guilt and depression, but none of them compare to a friend’s betrayal — at least what feels like betrayal to a teenage girl. It isn’t that hard to follow the rules and expectations of a friendship, or more specifically, “girl code.” Unfortunately, I guess we don’t all feel the same way.
Firstly, don’t call dibs. Dibs are a frozen treat meant to be consumed at a movie theater, not the golden rule of girl code. Instead, the golden rule — the ultimate commandment and frankly just human decency — is to not fuck the person your friend is fucking. Period. No exceptions. I had to learn that the hard way, as both the traitor and the betrayed; the worst consequence of all is losing a friend over sex.
I wouldn’t say I committed the ultimate crime of girl code. It was rather a minor infraction I was able to recover from. In high school, access to boys was limited, and feelings seemed to always get involved. I remember my friend sharing her feelings for a guy with me — but then again, she did this every other week for a different guy, and eventually, it got frustrating. How was I supposed to have my first kiss or invite boys to the spring formal and still observe the rules of girl code? In hindsight, I should have been upfront with her. But instead, I went behind her back to pursue the new object of her desire.
He had never initiated anything with her or shown any previous interest, so was it really that wrong? At the time, I thought girl code only covered the ex-hookups and late relationships, not the unreciprocated crush. So I continued to entertain his texts, flirt and lie to my friend about the notifications bouncing across my phone screen.
But all secrets inch toward fruition, and my seemingly confidential crush would be no different.
It seemed ridiculous to me that my friend, after years of movie nights and shared pints of ice cream, would throw away our relationship due to something as trivial as my Snapchat best friends list. But, there he was, her crush perched at the top, revealing my frequent contact with him and our forbidden fling. She was pissed. The 17-year-old guy was completely unaware of his pull on the ties of our friendship.
“Girl code” could not have prepared me for this. It was not a set of unambiguous laws, a clear doctrine for maintaining friendship and sex life. Rather, girl code is a collection of guidelines meant to minimize double-crossing, but it’s not always foolproof. The only way to truly understand the limits of girl code is to test them, my high school faux pas shining light on a future of friendships and shared crushes.
Our friendship survived my breach of the rules. Granted, it took weeks of catty gossip and stirring tension to come out the other side. However, not all friendships emerge unscathed.
The highs of having a crush, confiding in your friends and gathering girl advice are easily submerged by the depths of betrayal. Those same friends are capable of infiltrating the infatuation.
My mom always told me to never trust anyone when I came to college. While this seemed like a ridiculous way of thinking, sometimes I wish I had taken her advice. During my freshman year, there was no sense of allegiance between girls. Blinders on and in a relationship, I never took the time to build strong bonds outside of my roommates. So maybe, when I entered the dating scene post-breakup, I shouldn’t have gotten so comfortable and felt so confident that the girls I had met only months ago would watch from the sidelines. Everyone wanted to be in the game, competing for affection: Berkeley’s bench reserved only for the taken.
Fouling, or breaking “girl code,” was the norm. Hookups and crushes frequently subbed in and out, dates to Yogurt Park and sexual escapades only short plays in a larger game. Last year, I endured many foul plays, as good sportsmanship transformed from avoiding transgressions to forgiving them — girl code a privilege rather than an expectation.
I never want to choose a guy, some silly crush, over a friend, no matter how slighted I may feel. Sometimes, the only way to combat the wound of broken trust is to cover it up, move on from a potential suitor together and pretend it never happened. While staying afloat in the sexual tornado of young adulthood, I have become quite accustomed to this hidden, not healed, strife.
As convenient as it would be to stay in one line, never crossing over casual hookups or undermining a friend’s feelings, college has required me to develop a thicker skin. Girl code still exists, but sometimes we slip up, prioritizing our exploration over another’s, and forgiveness is just a part of growing up.
After all, as much as I want to portray myself in the most idyllic composition, we all fuck and fuck up at some point. I would hope that, as friends on a shared journey of sexual liberation, we can understand the sometimes unpleasant twists and turns of spit sisterhood.