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The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

Mara and Julia: a symbiotic four-year friendship

Mara Short ’18 and Julia Sullivan ’18 at home. Photo by Maya Rait ’18.
Mara Short ’18 and Julia Sullivan ’18 at home. Photo by Maya Rait ’18.

Talking to Mara Short ’18 and Julia Sullivan ’18, it’s clear that they care for each other with the joy and ardor of two people in passionate friend-love. After meeting as first-year roommates, Short and Sullivan adopted all the typical trappings of one’s most intimate friendship: finishing each other’s sentences, playfully ribbing each other and even planning their lives together. Short majors in biology and hails from Albuquerque, New Mexico; Sullivan is a sociology major from Arlington, Massachusetts.

The Mac Weekly: Is there a moment from the beginning of your friendship that you still remember?
Julia Sullivan: Well, the moment we became friends… Mara thought I was really weird and unfriendly—
Mara Short: She was very shy—
JS: I was really shy freshman year. I didn’t really talk a lot, especially the first week.
MS: She didn’t say anything for the whole week. I had done Macward Bound, I knew a bunch of people.
JS: And then we were getting ready to go somewhere and I was changing, and Mara was like “Do you want to close the curtains? Everyone can see you!”
MS: I was changing.
JS: Either way. And I was like, “No, they’re game!” and it was my first joke. And she thought I was funny.
MS: And I laughed.
JS: That’s when the ice broke.
MS: Turned out she’s actually hilarious.

TMW: Can you each explain why you think the other is interesting?
JS: Well, I think what I really appreciate about Mara is that we have really interesting conversations. No matter what I say, even if it’s kind of controversial or uncomfortable, she just has a very open mind and her first approach is always “Oh! I hadn’t thought about it that way!” or “Oh! I could think about this differently,” and I just value that so much in another person. When they’re like “Oh, let’s get into this,” and not “That’s dumb,” or “That’s weird,” or “That’s not how I think about things.”
TMW: What’s an example of a controversial thing you’ve said?
MS: One time, she was doing class discussions in a sociology class, and one of the topics was the shackling of pregnant women who were convicts. And she never said the convicts part, so she kept being—
JS: Because obviously nobody shackles pregnant women just for the hell of it.
MS: But she kept being like, “We’re discussing shackling pregnant women.” And I was like, “Why would you ever do that?” And she kept being like, “Well, you know, for their safety.”
JS: We had a semester-long discussion about whether or not you should shackle pregnant women with Mara under the impression that they were just pregnant women—
MS: But I was really trying to understand her point of view—
JS: Or women doing labor.
MS: And I was just like, I really didn’t get it.
JS: I was like, “People view them as a threat. They’re dangerous.”
MS: And I was like, “I guess maybe… Oh. Well. Really?”
JS: So, open-minded to the point where you’re like, “you should close your mind.”
MS: What I appreciate about Mara–she’s really hilarious and very witty and kind of cynical but–we’ve been through so much together. It took forever for her to open up, but I feel like I know her really well. I feel like we’ve passed friendship and passed family into some other relationship where she’s basically me. I just love her so much, and she’s just very interesting, always introducing me to new topics.
JS: I’m like, “This thing’s really weird!” and everyone else is like, “Shut up!” but you’re like, “This is kind of interesting!”

TMW: Julia is graduating at the end of the semester—will you still be in the area?
JS: I will be.
MS: I told her in no uncertain terms.
JS: It was a conversation in which it was made clear that I would be returning in the spring. Yes, I’m on the lease for our duplex, so I’ll be coming back. Post-graduation, Mara is switching continents.
MS: I’m going to be living in Tanzania for a year, which is where I studied abroad. So that’s very exciting, but I think the saddest part of it is not living with Julia, ‘cause we’ve planned since freshman year to live together for the rest of our lives, no matter what. So it’s gonna be hard. I’m worried she’ll find new roommates while I’m gone.
JS: Come back!
MS: I’ve tried to convince her to come with me, but that didn’t quite happen.
TMW: If you plan to come back after Tanzania, how would you guys continue to bond?
JS: Well, I think we would probably live where I want to live—
MS: Because I love you enough to do whatever you want.
JS: —pretty much, Mara does whatever I say if I say it enough times. If I’m just like “do it do it do it do it do it” she does it. [laughter] And I wanna be on the East Coast, so we’d probably be on the east coast. But maybe I’d go to the wilderness for you, so we could go to Vermont or Maine.
MS: [laughs]
JS: So like where there are trees and bugs.
MS: In thinking about graduation and the future I think about Julia like you’d think about a partner or a significant other. I’ll follow her wherever she goes. We have been planning our future house, too. Like every time we see something we want, like a grand foyer. We want stucco, lots of stucco.
JS: A lot of water?
MS: Fountains.
JS: Just probably something very aesthetically pleasing—
MS: That neither of us will be able to afford.
JS: We’ve got a sociologist and an environmentalist—
MS: So we’re doing great.

MS: May I share a story? A good Julia moment—one time I was upstairs in the Campus Center, and it was crowded, full of people at lunch, and I was sitting somewhere, and I heard my name, like someone was speaking in my ear. And I turned around, and Julia was across the Campus Center, far away, and she was staring at me. And then I went over and was like “Hey, what’s up?” And she was like, “I just whispered your name. And you looked over at me!” And I think that shows how connected we are. We just say things at the same time now.
JS: Or if we’re at parties and we need to talk about the people there, we just—
MS: Just do the eyes. We often communicate about others through our eyes.
JS: I guess we communicate when we’re around people who make us uncomfortable.
TMW: What’s the look you give each other?
JS: Seduction.
MS: My parents think I’m gonna marry her, because they just are confused about how much I love her.

TMW: You said clubbing is one of your hobbies.
JS: It’s gone in waves. It’s always on the table, but we usually end up in bed. But we have had some memorable club experiences. We really enjoyed Honey on Halloween night.
MS: We really like places where men aren’t grabbing us.
JS: And the First Ave thing where it was mostly gay men.
MS: Most clubs where there just aren’t predatory men, you know?
JS: We also went to the Ariana Grande concert this March, which was highly memorable because everyone there was under 12.
MS: We dressed like Ariana Grande does, which is scandalous.
JS: Which is mostly nude. We were literally in a row of five-year-old kids.
MS: We’ve been to a lot of concerts together, actually.

TMW: Is there anything special about Macalester as a school that you feel has added to your friendship?
JS: Well, going back to the point I made about Mara’s open mind, I think that was something where I would get really frustrated in a lot of my classes ‘cause I’d feel like my professors or the readings would provoke points that maybe people wouldn’t necessarily agree with at Macalester and people would just shut it down and be like, “No. That’s not what I think. That’s not liberal and I don’t want to talk about it.” And so I would come back from class and just have an hour-long discussion with Mara about it on our couch. And so in some ways I think discussions that I’ve had in my classes brought us together. I would say more negative than positive aspects brought us together.
MS: I’d say she has a more negative opinion of Macalester. I don’t know how to say it, but I still love Macalester and have had different experiences here, but I feel like we balance it out. I think study abroad actually really helped our relationship. We were apart for a long time and we missed each other but we changed a lot.
TMW: Did you go abroad the same semester?
MS: You know how you can request to go abroad the same semester as someone else? I needed to go abroad the same semester as Julia. Study abroad transformed us.
JS: Into global citizens.
MS: [laughs]
JS: We are now multicultural. We can just talk about big things now. Worldly things.
MS: That’s what we talk about. I thought it was really great, though, because I just thought, being apart for that long, it’s hard, but we came back—
JS: Stronger than ever. We’re like an Olympic team that took time off and won gold.
MS: I remember when she came back, she never was very touchy. We came back from abroad and she started spontaneously touching, and I was like, so confused.
JS: It’s cultural in Prague.
MS: She would put her arm on my hand or my leg or something and I’d be like, “What are you doing? Who are you?” but she was just showing affection. I forgot that’s what people do.

TMW: Anything else you’d like to impart to our readers?
JS: I just feel like I didn’t really use my female friends freshman or sophomore year as resources for support or as confidantes. I didn’t really talk to them in that more meaningful way. And I’m definitely, like, a hider, and Mara is a seeker. So she just kind of forced me to talk about my feelings, and I think that’s something I’ve really come to appreciate now, doing that in my other female friendships as well. I guess my advice would be, talk to people.
MS: I also think appreciating the people you have for what they are. We’ve been finding that in a house of five very different girls. People sometimes look for faults in their friends. Just love people for who they are.
JS: Case in point. I wanna say something that will change people’s lives, that they’ll read and be like, “Oh my God, Julia Sullivan knows what’s up.”
MS: Well, I think what changes your life is just growing up and going through college.
JS: Yeah. And find people that know your worth. People that stand up for you and look out for you and believe in you.

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