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red and green flag
Red flags and green flags, like everything else in life, are subjective. Image: Hailey Otten/Fulcrum
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Everyone has a but(t)

The University of Ottawa campus is fuller than it’s ever been since March of 2020 and it’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for: new friends’ season. You know what that means… It’s time to have the same exact conversation a few dozen times, which will always follow a particular format: the exchange of names, programs, and social media handles. This year, you will most likely discuss whether you have in-person classes or not. Sprinkle in a few compliments, a half-hearted but well-meaning promise to hang out soon, and the mention of some mutual friend you have as a result of a niche set of circumstances, and you could very well have a friend for life — or a stranger you’ll pass in Loblaws eventually, probably.

Don’t get me wrong, I love these conversations. I love meeting new people, learning everything about them, and never seeing them again. It’s a hobby of mine, really.

As an expert in small talk and meeting strangers, it is a trick of the trade to know who I like. Of course, who I like may not be who you like, but I urge you to be wary of a few red and green flags that I swear by. I know, I know — I just wrote about how my standards are not high and how I’m easy to please. This is true at an entry-level, but life is too busy for friends that you don’t love. Quality over quantity, I always say.

Thus, I present to you a comprehensive and non-exhaustive guide to how to either make me love or slightly question you (hate is a strong word) in no particular order. These may present on a first date, on the dance floor of a club, or in your next lecture should you make a friend out of a seatmate.

 Red Flags

  1. Being rude to customer service staff

This should go without saying, but this is very telling of character. If they treat wait staff poorly, don’t tip their server, or are rude to customer service staff in any capacity, I’m out the door. 

Personally, a waiter could pour a fresh, hot cup of coffee right onto a brand-new white dress of mine, and I’d still tip. Perhaps I lie on another extreme of the scale with my incessant people-pleasing. However, if you’re sending food back for being lukewarm while I’m letting them serve me an entirely wrong order — it just might not work out. However, there is something good to be said about a relationship in which one person can advocate for the other. The forthcoming friend that steps in graciously and politely remedies the wrong order situation is often appreciated by people of my nature.

  1. Milk drinkers of the cow variety

 Society now offers an abundance of milk alternatives. Oat, cashew, almond, soy, coconut — you name the nut, someone’s got the milk. If despite this, you’re still reaching for a glass of milk right from the cow’s teat, I have a myriad of follow-up questions. Most importantly: why? Once, I saw one of my best friends fill her water bottle up with milk in the cafeteria and I have never stopped talking about it since and I don’t plan to.

  1. Pronounces “naan” wrong

If you say “naan” like “ran” rather than “run”, I’m going to run, too. My name is Sanjida — I can’t be taking chances in this department. I’ve heard every mispronunciation in the book, with the most popular being “san” instead of “sun”, despite my phonetic spelling of it in my Instagram bio. Any variation of pronouncing words from other languages overtly wrong is a huge red flag, especially if you continue to say them wrong after being corrected. 

  1. Hates popular things

I have little to no patience for anyone who is too cool for the less fine things in life. This includes niche music tastes that disregard musical groups like One Direction and Justin Bieber. Are they objectively bad or did they just have primarily female fanbases? Eureka — it’s misogyny.  Likewise, if they hate Friends or the Office, they probably just have a superiority complex and love Pulp Fiction, Wolf of Wall Street, and other movies that assert their intellectual dominance. I’m not saying either sitcom is necessarily critically acclaimed or unprecedentedly funny — I’m saying, why does it have to be? Let things be silly and meaningless. The people need it.

  1. Exclusively orders the Philadelphia roll when we get sushi

 This is perhaps incredibly niche, but I think it speaks for itself. Unless it is your first time eating sushi, for what reason would you get the least adventurous item on the menu? You can just simply tell me you’re boring verbatim if you’d prefer. Live a little!

  1. Antagonizes all their previous friends or partners

 If someone is telling you about a slew of previous friends or partners they had in the past, each crazier than the last, you have to stop and consider that perhaps they were the problem. Or, they have really bad taste — do you want to be included in that palette? 

  1. Hates cats

Despite being a dog person, I included hating cats as a red flag. Unlike most dogs’ willingness to befriend everyone, a cat’s affection is earned. So, if they have enough bad interactions with cats to hate them, it leads me to question if they have bad energy that cats are more privy to. It’s like politicians and babies — it’s a bad omen if a baby cries at the sight of a politician.

  1. Has a superiority complex about their major

Anyone who is dismissive about other peoples’ programs is pretty instantly written off for me. This is University — people are paying hefty tuition, to study their passions and they likely have a dream. To look down your nose at someone because they are not in the same faculty as you is ostensibly pretentious, and I don’t fare well with any degree of condescending.

Green Flags

  1. Has siblings

 The specific order of siblings offers certain nuances to this one, but, overall, having siblings is a green flag. A boy with older sisters is one of the best combinations if done right, albeit I am biased as an older sister who just about raised her younger brother who is just about perfect. Naturally, this does mean that I consider being an only child a red flag. The socialization of only children is a separate op-ed in itself and I can’t explain the nuances of it enough.

  1. Twirls when I spin them on the dance floor

No matter who it is, if there’s music on, we’re dancing, and I try to twirl you — I would like to see some enthusiasm. Though this goes for any gender, it is a bit more specific to men because, once again, I see it as a sign of misogyny if they refuse. What’s wrong with twirling? How fragile is your masculinity that one measly little spin threatens its integrity? It is refusing to wear the colour pink as a physical manifestation, and I abhor it. If they do spin, spin me in turn, and dance like no one’s watching? I’m sold.

3. No dress code

 As someone who always likes to dress up, I need people who are okay with that. That doesn’t mean to match my energy, necessarily, but to accept it. While some may prefer sweats and athleisure, I tend to opt for skirts above all else. All are great options and can coexist if we simply allow them to. If someone asks that you dress down for their comfort, or dress up for their aesthetic, I find it rather toxic.

 4. Gets your references

 There’s something beautiful about a friend that just gets it. When you’re finishing each other’s references in the early days, you know from the get-go that you have a similar sense of humour. Being funny is one of the most important of my friendship prerequisites, so this one is a very good sign. It’s just like that scene in Frozen: “We finish each other’s —” “Sandwiches!” There’s something unifying about it in the most comforting way.

 Some other green flags that go without any explanation include having an existing group of friends, remembering your dietary restrictions, queuing your song recommendations when on aux, indulging your habits, and being a good listener.

Something I’m trying (and succeeding) to popularize is the phrase, “everyone has a but(t).” Just as everyone has a butt, they also have a “but.” We’re only human, we’re flawed — it’s in our nature. In the name of being fair, I will admit that many of my own quirks are likely perceived as red flags.

Starting on a controversial note, I strongly dislike ice cream. I know it’s unheard of, I get a lot of heat for it. It’s simply that I lack a certain sweet tooth and also hate everything that texture. Yogurt, oatmeal, bananas — anything squishy like that. When my wisdom teeth had to be taken out and I was forced to eat solely foods of this texture, I was in my personal hell. Despite being awake for the operation, eating the “cream of” soups was the worst part. Some of my other red flags include that I sometimes don’t text back for weeks at a time and that I can’t sit through a movie because of my very short attention span and general restlessness. The list goes on and on.

Red flags and green flags, like everything else in life, are subjective. We all have our quirks. Some things are regarded as endearing to some, and incredibly irritating to others. Something about one man’s trash, right? So, take these red and green flags with a grain of salt.