When I was in middle school, I met a group of people I quickly identified as My Best Friends. I’d never met such a unique, intelligent group of people and I found myself drawn to them instantaneously. Over the next four years we formed a tight-knit clique and spent almost all our time together. We did normal teenage stuff, like watch movies together and stay up late goofing off, but we also had complex discussions about history, politics, civil rights, religious beliefs, and the proper emphasis of “cream cheese.” (Is it cream cheese or cream cheese? The jury’s still out on this decade-old debate).
These people weren’t my first friends, but they were the first people that asked me tough philosophical questions and challenged me to better understand my own thoughts and beliefs. It wasn’t always what I said or what I thought that mattered, it was more why I said or thought those things. What influenced my knowledge? How did I defend my perspective? Why did I feel a certain way about something? For the first time in my life, I’d met people who were interested in what I had to say and why I was saying it.
My heart leapt for joy, and I knew I’d always love My Best Friends: nothing would ever come between us. As we all graduated high school and went our separate ways for college, I think we were conceited enough to believe we’d never find better people in the world than this group. I’m embarrassed now to say that we were that egotistical, but I know deep down this is truly how we felt.
Little did I know that my husband was gathering his own clique across town, at the rival high school. (Sam and I didn’t meet until our senior year of college, so I had no idea he even existed at this point). They called themselves the Interlochen Crew (IC) after the part of town where they all grew up.
Unlike my friends, they didn’t sit around bonfires on starry nights and contemplate the existence of God, or play emo indie music on guitars while trying to unravel life’s mysteries. Instead, the IC unloaded hundreds of corn husks into car sunroofs at the high school parking lot. They threw big screen TVs off quarry drop-offs. They did a full-on Jets vs. Sharks reenactment at school for an entire day, and followed it up a few months later with a pretend Jocks vs. Geeks rivalry that caused an Army recruiter in the cafeteria to go ballistic. One day they went to a local restaurant all suited-up and held a fake (obnoxious) business meeting during lunch, complete with briefcases and a giant easel. They lost all but the final softball game one year and reacted like they won a championship. Sam and I often point out that if we’d known each other in high school, we probably would’ve hated one another.
Flash forward four years later. A mutual friend (and IC member) introduces me to Sam, sparks fly, and we start dating. I introduce Sam to my friends and Sam introduces me to his friends, and we both have lukewarm feelings towards the clique of our significant other. Sam thought my friends were arrogant and too smart for their own good (which is sort of true). I thought Sam’s friends were flippant and immature (which is also sort of true).
I loved Sam but couldn’t figure out the IC. All they ever did was one-up each other in weirdness and generating awkward tension in public settings. Even so, they always made an effort to include me in their shenanigans, and I couldn’t be mad at them for that. A lot of times they talked about sports or got trashed at house parties, which wasn’t really my thing, but they weren’t put-off by my aprehensive demeanor: they went out of their way to make me feel like a part of the group. I wasn’t fully sure I wanted to be a part of the group because I still didn’t understand it, but I greatly admired how warm and welcoming they were to me even if I was a stuck-up snob.
In the midst of spending more with the IC, some friendships with My Best Friends slowly slipped away. We naturally evolved into the more advanced evolutions of the unique personalities we were in high school. This resulted in tiers: I grew incredibly close with some of my friends (Sam grew close to these friends, too), and far away from others. We’d all get together once a year around Christmas to catch up, but there were strange distances between some of the people I once knew so well. Emotionally, I didn’t know how to handle drifting apart from the people who were supposed to be my foundation.
Sam and I moved back to Traverse City after college and I found myself in a strange situation: almost none of My Best Friends still lived in TC, but practically the entire IC lived here. If we went out, it was with the IC. If we had people over, attendance was comprised of 90% IC members. I learned more about them and they learned about me.
Over the course of many months I recognized my own “friendship arrogance.” All this time I resisted letting the IC into my life because they were Sam’s friends, and I believed I had to maintain loyalty to my friends because they were…what? Better? Smarter? Cooler? My friends weren’t any of those things. I resisted because my friends were mine, and somehow that made me feel that I couldn’t possibly have any other friends. Didn’t we determine long ago that we’d never find other friends?
The more time I spent with the IC, I was happy to learn they were different than my friends. It’s true I still don’t understand the IC, but that’s what I love about them. Even though they all have their own personalities, I’ve honestly never seen a group of guys care about each other so much. The loyalty and love they have for one another is unprecedented. Don’t get me wrong: my friends aren’t all assholes and I still love them, but sometimes I think we forget why we’re friends in the first place. We can’t see past our complicated emotional baggage and simply care one another. Our expectations for what friendship should be gets in the way of just appreciating who we are as individuals.
I’m grateful I’ve had the chance to experience a different type of friendship through the IC. I may not understand what comprises the foundation of the IC friendships, but being with them makes me realize that not everything needs to have a logical answer. Friendship isn’t a means to an end; it’s about valuing and loving people for who they are, not who I expect them to be or how a relationship benefits me as an individual. I know I won’t ever be IC by blood, but I’m happy these guys let me tag along.