Post- Magazine

creating your own media canon [A&C]

on friendship and the power of popular media to facilitate connection

“Hello, lettuce.”


My friend Riley and I are FaceTiming each other in a rare moment when we are both relatively free—she is working on her fashion class final at 1:00 a.m. in Lacoste, France, while I lay in bed during my post-dinner slump. We both giggle and then start catching up. “Hello, lettuce” is a reference to Bella Hadid’s viral clip from the 2019 “Camp”-themed Met Gala after-party. Katy Perry, dressed as a hamburger, stares off into space as Sarah Paulson yells, “Hello, lettuce!” over and over again. 

We’ve been best friends since the fourth grade—we essentially grew up together. In high school, we started joking that we were the same person. From fifth grade recess to middle school track and field to senior year AP Statistics, we’ve shared a hive mind of old and new gossip, inside jokes, embarrassing moments, and hometown opinions.


She tells me she is going to Paris for the weekend. Later, when she posts the photos from the trip on Instagram, I comment, “Are you happy to be in Paris?” to which she responds, “Beyoncé! Beyoncé!” in a lyrical ode to her song “Partition,” the object of our brief obsession freshman year of high school. 

There’s something deeply affirming about being in on a joke, a secret, or a reference. In seventh grade, during a game of charades at a cross country Christmas party, we decided to hint at our answers by giving the first letters. When it was Riley’s turn, I could tell just by the way she smiled and declared, “T-E-N-G,” before she started acting that her word could be none other than The Emperor’s New Groove—a movie she had made me watch three times by that point in our friendship (and probably more since). Maybe I ruined the game for everyone, but the shock on her face and the realization that we knew each other too well was worth it. 

Every friendship has its own media canon. In the same way the literary canon arbitrarily consists of books of the “highest caliber” and “aesthetic value,” all long-standing friendships curate their list of movies, songs, books, memes, and niche references. A crucial aspect of friendship is vulnerability, and what’s more vulnerable than mutually sharing in the things you love? 

When I first got to Brown, I worried about finding friends I would feel as deep a connection with as my friends in my hometown. It seemed like everyone I met was from New York City or Boston or some other huge city. In my quiet, white-picket-fence, conservative Georgia suburb, everyone went to the same public elementary, middle, and high school—all located within 20 feet of each other. I had known most of my friends since I moved there in the fourth grade. We all knew too much about each other. Probably the most exciting thing to do in town was sit in the blazing heat at a tree-less “park” named after our hometown heroes and 2010s hit country band Lady A. By the end of senior year, Riley’s and my favorite activity was driving out 30 minutes to the bait and tackle store on the off chance this man who would sometimes sell cajun boiled peanuts was there. Back then, Brown had seemed like a pipe dream, but suddenly it was a reality, and even though I was happier than I had ever been, I mourned the familiar and the simple. “Nobody is funny like you guys are,” I texted my friends during those first few weeks—and at the time, it seemed true. There was no bank with a decade of memories and easy conversations about the people we knew. And suddenly there wasn’t nothing to do: there was everything—a new school to adjust to, a new city to explore, and new people to meet. I hated to admit it, thinking I was cool enough to avoid it, but those first few weeks were a culture shock. I was at a loss for how to connect with people with no knowledge or history of each other.

At home, music had always served as a source of connection with the world outside of the conservative suburban bubble of contemporary Christian and country pop. One of our favorite activities was watching music videos up in Riley’s dad’s office during the hellish midsummer months. We accidentally developed a routine playlist. I would force us to watch all of Lorde’s Melodrama Vevo performances, and then we’d delve into Miley Cyrus’s covers and somehow always end up on this very specific BBC radio country version of the Hannah Montana song “See You Again” she performed in 2017. Eventually, we knew all the ad libs and could mimic her country twang by heart; we’d blare it in the car driving through town before fighting to queue the next song. We were constantly sending each other new artists and songs, excited by the vibrant pop culture and experimentation that seemed to thrive in other U.S. cities and parts of the world. 

Rina Sawayama became a mainstay in our media canon after I sent Riley her song “XS” in mid-2020. We had always talked about going to see her in concert, but by the time she toured, we were both beginning our first year of college over a thousand miles apart. I bought tickets for her Boston show of the Hold the Girl tour and went with a new friend that December. As we shivered waiting in line for the concert, I felt those odd, new pangs of nostalgia for my home and childhood return. I missed my best friend and the people who really knew me. I was surprised to notice I missed the good things about the South—I missed its spirit of friendliness, bright aesthetics, and appreciation for the mundane. The show began, and a local drag queen opened with a DJ set. As I was taking videos to send to my hometown friends, the final song she played was a dance remix of “See You Again” by Miley Cyrus. Of course, I put down my phone and screamed the words as my friend confusedly tried to match my sudden burst of energy.

It was bittersweet. On the one hand, I couldn’t believe I was in a big city like Boston. I had seen a drag show and a concert and had taken the train like a real New Englander. Riley was at art school pursuing fashion and following the same dreams we had talked about since middle school. But I was also reminded of the impermanence of childhood, relationships, and the daunting anxiety of crafting a new world for yourself in early adulthood.
Jokingly, I tell friends that I am the opposite of a gatekeeper. I want people to love what I love, and I want to love what people close to me love. I find my joy and have found some of my closest friendships through a mutual love of all sorts of things—from Chappell Roan to Derry Girls to Vanderpump Rules to La Creperie on Thayer. I want to love the things that the people I care about care about—even if they aren’t things I enjoy or understand at first. We are all a unique mixture of the passions and traits we have chosen to adopt from the people we love, and when friendships or relationships are drawn apart by any number of factors in life, art and media remain an easily graspable point of connection. And even while I reminisce on the deep-rooted bonds I had growing up and continue to maintain, the past year and a half at Brown has shown me there is still so much to learn and discover from others, and the ties that bind do not stop at childhood. I treasure the unique “media canon” I have with all of my friends, from little jokes as frivolous as “Hello, lettuce” to the books and movies that bonded us as kids. And if the time Riley and I attentively watched all of Outer Banks to befriend a girl in our literature class tells you anything—it’s a beautiful way to connect with people and maybe even spark a friendship that changes your life.

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