The English writer G.K. Chesterton once said, “All slang is metaphor, and all metaphor is poetry,” and as someone who takes poetry very seriously, I also take slang seriously. Slang allows people to express specific experiences that they may not be able to vocalize otherwise. Though “chill-to-pull ratio” is a term that frats use to mock those who think real personalities can be distilled to two such simple parameters, my love of this phrase is without irony. I think it’s a fascinating expression of traits we look for in our friends that we’ve never before been able to articulate.
I like “pull” because it expresses an awe-inspiring ability to attract sexual attention, a capacity that consistently amazes me. This is not just a frat-boy thing: There are girls and boys, GDIs and Greeks, who pull. There are people who pull without being exceptionally attractive; likewise there are people who are exceptionally attractive and don’t pull. I think that’s the operative thing about the phrase: You don’t have to be “hot” or “sexy” — or any other word that currently exists in our vocabulary to describe people we find attractive — to pull. You just have to have this magnetic force that pulls people to you. Ideally, you pull more people than you yourself are interested in. This is the most important part of being able to pull: You have to share the wealth with your friends who are better at chilling than they are at pulling.
Being “chill” is as nebulous as “pulling.” It doesn’t necessarily — at least to a typical college student — mean what the dictionary says it does nor does it mean being remarkably cool or funny or smart. I think the best way to define it is by how other people react to you. It’s more indicative of others’ impressions of you than any inherent value you possess. It means you are a kind of person who others don’t find stressful or confusing. Basically, it just means you are not unpleasant to be around. That’s the thing with both of these characteristics: They say more about the judger than the judged.
While I hope no fraternity or sorority actually determines potential members by this rubric — my friends in frats here confirm that they’ve never heard someone use this phrase seriously — it still allows us to express what matters when we choose our friends. It is a choice we all make, regardless of whether we call our group of friends “SAE” or “St. A’s” or “besties” or nothing at all. Being friends with someone isn’t about liking the same bands or living in the same residential college. Even the closest friendships are based partly — maybe a large part, maybe a small one, depending on the context — on what the other person’s effect is on you. Maybe they make you feel smart or funny or popular. Maybe they make you feel loved. I’m not dismissing all friendships as shallow contracts between self-absorbed individuals. I’m just trying to account for what it really means to feel a connection with someone. This is why we have these half-slang/half-euphemistic terms. It seems superficial, but when we talk about something as unquantifiable as what it means to like someone, it doesn’t matter why you say it. I just think it’s important that you can.
Susannah Sharpless is a sophomore from Indianapolis, Ind. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.