TTLG: A Thank You Letter to My Girls

by Lindsay MacMillan | 4/12/16 5:04pm

Lindsay MacMillan '16 reflects on the lessons that she's learned from female friendships throughout her time at Dartmouth.

I arrived at Dartmouth nearly four years ago as a wide-eyed girl wheeling two oversized duffel bags to the Choates. Butterflies ruffled my stomach as I looked around at picturesque Baker Tower, the rolling New Hampshire hills and the beautiful... BOYS.

Hot boys. Herds of hot boys swaggering across campus in pastel polos and Ray Bans. When one of them smiled at me, I swiveled my head to see who he was looking at. There was no one else around. Was he smiling at me?

I smiled back, and boy-crazy freshman Lindsay was born.

To put it mildly, high school hadn’t been my dating prime. My mom said I “intimidated” the guys, but I think it was more the fact that once you’ve seen someone go through her brace-face, pimple-popping and growing-out-bangs phases, dating material doesn’t exactly come to mind.

But college was a different ballgame. I was surrounded by an endless supply of attractive guys who hadn’t witnessed my awkward years. I could reinvent myself, and I did.

By the end of orientation week, I’d landed my first-ever boyfriend.

Why would I want to mingle at parties when I could stay in and watch a movie with my cute new guy? And when all the other suckers were scavenging for people to eat with at Foco, I had a built-in dinner buddy every night.I felt like I was #winning freshman year.

But then another guy came along, the classic bad boy with just enough glimmers of good to make me believe the “You’re different” and the “I’ve never felt this way before” that slid off his smooth tongue.

So I broke up with boyfriend number one and moved on to boyfriend number two — well, technically hookup number two because there was no way this Keystone-chugging bro was going to limit his options with a label.

It took a grand total of two weeks before he ghosted me when I wouldn’t sleep with him.

My crushed little self found the perfect cure in the form of — wait for it — another guy. This time, he was a hauntingly handsome sophomore who turned into my next boyfriend and first real love.

It was exhilarating to jump from relationship to relationship. I loved the witty flirting, the cozy cuddling and the fairytale fantasies of the future.

But when boyfriend number three broke up with me in the spring, my heart was too dented to consider another guy. I spent a solid 48 hours bawling in bed and hiccupping over the phone to my mom before picking my head up, looking around and realizing something: I had no friends.

Well, shoot. SHOOT. SHOOT. SHOOT.

While I’d been basking in the glory of coupledom, the other freshmen girls had been bonding over shared secrets and shoes.

I was a thousand miles from home and without a boy to lean on, I felt cripplingly alone.

Luckily for me, I’d met a couple of stellar girls who didn’t hold it against me that I’d bailed on them a million times in favor of my guys.

Kelly from down the hall delivered gourmet chocolates a few days after the breakup. Mary, my rock climbing trippee, asked if I wanted to get lunch. These were small gestures, perhaps, but they were the beginning of something incredibly large.

They were the moments I began to realize that there might be something to this whole female friendship thing. Maybe it was more than a contrived concept to comfort single women.

I didn’t have to wear makeup to impress these girls. I didn’t have to wait just the right amount of time before texting them back. I didn’t have to tone down the snorting elephant sound that is my laugh.

Once I discovered the freedom, the fun, the empowerment that came from spending time with other young women, there was no going back.

I haven’t had a boyfriend since.

To say I’ve been so much happier, that I’ve discovered who I am and who I want to be and that I’ve found my people, would all be correct clichés.

So now as I wrap up my time in Hanover, I feel compelled to say thank you to the lovely ladies who have made these the best four years of my life (so far!).

To Mary, my two-time roommate and steadiest confidante: thank you for sharing your tough times with me and softening the edges on some of my own, and for not judging me when I come home late and plow my way through too many Collis mozzerella sticks.

Thank you to Claire, for showing me how to balance academic diligence and social revelry. There’s no one else with whom I’d rather go straight from the library to a dance party, slaying the fashion game by wearing backpacks to frats.

Thank you to Maggie, for our long runs along the Connecticut River, talking about everything from politics to philosophy to what kind of Morano gelato we should order for a post-workout treat. The air is easier to breathe when you’re around.

Thank you to Lily, for always being down to sing karaoke with me and not making (too much) fun of my dance moves that alternate between flapping falcon and bouncing baboon.

Thank you to Anya, for our adventures chasing each other through corn mazes and pulling each other around in little red wagons. My favorite part of growing up is realizing we don’t have to.

Thank you to Victoria, for showing me around New York City during our off-terms. Because of you, this country girl is now a seasoned subway rider, understands the importance of Sunday brunch and realizes that the only man worth chasing is Manhattan.

Thank you to my Alpha Phi sisters. As someone who did homework during lunch period in high school because I didn’t belong to a specific friend group, you all have made me feel like an integral part of your house. Greek life isn’t perfect, and many improvements can and should be made to the system, but it has the ability to foster an unbelievable community. I am grateful to have experienced such a special one.

Thank you to Meg, for waking up at 5 a.m. on my 22nd birthday to take me on a Gile sunrike and not calling it quits even though it was pitch black and pouring rain.

Thank you to Amy and Sophie, for looking at screenshots of texts from boys to help me craft perfect responses. The most fun part of any date I go on is giggling about it with you afterward.

Thank you to Leda, for your contagious, undiscriminating sweetness. I hope that my smiles can brighten people’s days the way that yours do.

And then there are the girls whose names I don’t know who deserve shout outs.

To all of the bubbly girls I’ve met in bathrooms: thank you for holding the locks while I relieve my bladder, passing toilet paper under the stalls, letting me borrow your lipstick and giving me the “You’re crushing life!” pep talks I’ve needed.

Thank you to the girl from my “Econ 26” class who came up to me one night when I was crying in a corner at a party, missing my ex. You’ll never know how much that meant, not being alone in that moment when the floorboards felt flimsy.

Thank you to all these people, and the countless more whom I’ll find a better way to repay than with this little article.

These thank yous aren’t intended as a self-call about how many friends I’ve made over the last four years. They are intended to draw attention to the positive power women create by prioritizing camaraderie above petty drama, jealousy or exclusivity. As women, we’re often pitted against each other with the mentality that we can only rise up by pushing one another down. But the strongest way to reach the top is by building each other up as we go. Female interactions should be mutualistic, not parasitic.

It isn’t all slick, Taylor Swift-esque squad goals. My friends and I don’t walk the red carpet, and we don’t smile all the time. Our friendship is gritty, and that’s the part for which I’m most thankful.

I feel safe exposing the shadows and the splotches of my soul. My friends won’t break up with me. They won’t turn away. They’ll stand closer.

Female friendships don’t solve everything. I still get sad sometimes, I still get annoyed with people, and I still doubt myself. I still get lonely, and I still cry. But now I have a cohort of people who sense when I’m off and won’t let me off the hook if I lie and say, “I’m fine.” They pull me up with a collection of outstretched hands.

That kind of a role is something that a significant other, no matter how great they are, can’t fill because it’s a role too large for any single person. To live a healthy, balanced life, we need supportive relationships that extend beyond romance.

Maybe down the road I’ll find a guy who makes me want to share my girl time with him, but for now I’m having too much fun making memories, mistakes and margaritas with the people who push me to be better, while at the same time embracing me for exactly the flawed human that I am.

We won’t all be living within a five-minute walk of each other next year. We’ll be scattered across the country, and our friendships will take work to maintain. However, we’re not about to be Ivy League graduates for nothing. We can do it, like we’ve done so much these last four years: determinedly, and together.

So now, before putting on our caps and gown and getting choked up on our “See ya soons,” let’s pop the cork on one more bottle of Andre and pass it around the boundless circle.

I could ramble on with a long toast about what we should be celebrating, something about how our bond is the biggest accomplishment that we’re taking out of Dartmouth, greater than any G.P.A. or job offer. Or maybe a feel-good speech about how many more adventures await us just around the river bend.

Instead, I’ll keep it short, only two words swollen with sincerity: “Thank you.”