Kelli Skinner Eyerly teaches English at the University of Maryland. Her technical writing students will recognize the labeling of figures and attaching of warnings and/or troubleshooting advice as hallmarks of accessible technical texts.

Warning: This post requires 8th grade geometry.

Several years ago in college, I worked as an editor for an academic journal on campus, where I made several unique friends. Our camaraderie resulted from searching our hearts (and several style guides) about what felt right (in terms of where to appropriately place a comma) in dating. After a hurtful snub from a guy in French Civ, I stormed into our office and announced my latest theory: Men were like desserts and from that point on I was swearing off sweets. When I came to work the next day, I found my friends had made me a giant chocolate cake in the design of a French flag, with my name and the words “An éclair to remember” carefully iced on top.

I remember another occasion, around the same time period, when my friend Caitlin told me about the love axis, a theory (and accompanying board game), she conceived one day with some of her girlfriends. She told me that my love interest was a “Quadrant Four.” She explained as she drew on a piece of scratch paper, “You see, the x-axis measures attraction and the y-axis measures qualities that you’re looking for in a marriageable partner–qualities like funny, smart, ambitious, etc. What you have is a fatal attraction on your hands. A Quadrant Four.” She referred to the diagram, “Plot points are positive on the attraction axis, but negative on the qualities axis.” (See Figure 1.)

That seemed logical.

loveaxis1Suddenly we were plotting all the guys we knew and figuring out slope intercepts. Great fun and again what I needed. I later passed the advice on to other girlfriends in need.

There was another time, another crisis. I don’t remember the particulars, something about how dating at BYU was as useless as finding a single-serving meal at Costco. Again, somehow, in some way, my friends were there for me.

My marriage in October marks for me a happy passing onto a new stage (an apron stage?) of my life, so I hadn’t thought much about those dating relationships recently, nor had I thought about the angst and accompanying theories. But when a friend mentioned the love axis the other day, I laughed and thought about her and those other good friends who’ve been there for me. I miss them.

When I told my husband about all this, he said, “You should call up one of your girlfriends, see if you can go to lunch.” Plus, as he astutely observed, he “doesn’t speak girl.” I love my husband, but I’m realizing we’re not quite all each other needs yet. Some girls know just what to say and some know what form of chocolate to give. (And some girls also know not to say anything, that neat conclusions don’t necessarily make meaningful narratives.) I miss my girlfriends’ wisdom on my new challenges, and I need their theories; I need their diagrams; and, I definitely need their chocolate cake.