“I used to think that the worst thing in life was to end up alone. It’s not. The worst thing in life is to end up with people who make you feel alone.” – Robin Williams (via BrainyQuote)
One thing that girls, women, and media have all taught us about friend groups, commonly known as ~squad~ today, is that “three’s a crowd.” I personally try not to believe in that because among my two best friends and I, someone would have to be the leftover friend, yet this is not the case for us (not to brag, but 12+ years and going strong). I’ll admit, however, that with almost every other friend that I have made, I will find myself getting anxious with the introduction of a new friend in our budding friendship. And no, I don’t have social anxiety – I just get worried because I don’t want to be that leftover friend, no one does. I know that we’re also taught to take things with a grain of salt, but the fact that everyone says that about groups of threes makes me scared of the realization of a “three’s a crowd” in my life, where I am that dreaded leftover friend.
According to AP Psychology and my mother (credentials: NYU), humans are social creatures. That is, we are naturally social beings who seek the company of others, mainly to increase the likelihood of survival, e.g. getting food and shelter, and eventually emotional support. Today, the survival aspect isn’t as apparent because we generally have a familial network of some sort, blood related or not, that helps us get food on the table with a roof over our heads. However, the latter has become a crucial social skill in a world of seven billion people. We naturally crave the presence of those who resemble us, beside the desire to fit in and feel normal.
As little girls, we’re taught many things from our older counterparts. Among them is that happiness and fulfillment is found through a boyfriend, who will eventually become your husband, then father to your children. While we can sit and argue that this is an unfair representation of girls and their desires, we can also argue that girls understand that we are fundamentally built this way, something not taught and apparent to boys. Girls understand that helping one another is crucial for the success of humankind, beyond the gender.
Tangent aside, I’m reminded of a crude rhyme that I still hear in college, “chicks before dicks,” and “bros before hoes.” Funnily, these infantile phrases are true – we crave boyfriends who love us, but that boyfriend is just a boy we’re intimate with. Friends, however, are individuals who will still be there for you after the breakup, to wipe away your tears and binge anything with you until you get over that rough patch.
So, in the end of the day, we want to surround ourselves with emotionally intelligent humans who provide emotional support. That’s what I think makes human beings so unique; we crave sympathy and empathy from our loved ones because in the end of the day, we are our worst critics. We beat ourselves down even before starting anything, so we need people to remind us that we are good enough and that we are loved.
Motivational speech aside, I believe that the unevenness of the number three frightens us partly because of perfectionism. It’s almost logical for a friend group to be an even number, like the number four; most things in this world are square shaped. Squares have four sides, and when split in half, you get two groups of two. In a four-membered friend group, you will have that one friend that you feel the most at ease with, but the other two are still great people to surround yourself with.
The fear of missing out, FOMO, is a dangerous term because when you see yourself left out of an Instagram post, it hurts. It seems like your friend are all having a ton of fun without you, but they aren’t doing this with an intentional or malicious desire to stir jealousy among the trio. However, when you’re left out, missing out on inside jokes, it feels like the opposite. On top of that, you may find yourself questioning your value to your friends, and that really, really sucks. As girls, we’re all practically hardwired to overthink things, especially second guessing yourself and your self-worth constantly. And I know that we shouldn’t, but “’tis the curse of the girl, bound to overthink and doubt ceaselessly.”
Between all these anxious and negative thoughts, you silently pity yourself, thinking, “I just want to be loved.” You may start considering finding new friends and praying for a non-three’s-a-crowd situation, but like always, you are plagued with doubts and fears that you’re cursed to live that way, cursed to be the leftover friend who misses out on everything. It’s a never-ending cycle of anxiety, and quite frankly, I don’t see a solution coming for me any time soon.
the girl who doesn’t want to be the leftover friend