In honor of Valentine’s Day, the Record brings you its annual profile of a campus couple. This year, I sat down with Lili Bierer and Phacelia Cramer, two sophomore activists who have been dating for almost a year, to discuss their relationship’s beginnings, sharing a friend group, being queer at the College and everything in between.
How did you start dating?
LB: Do you want to tell this story? [Both laugh].
PC: Man, I don’t know how much to tell. So, we both were involved in similar groups on campus. We were really good friends for the whole first half of the year. We are both on Divest Williams and do different activist stuff together and both had crushes on each other that were pretty significant for like two months…
LB: Uh … three? Four?
PC: Three or four months before we started dating, and neither of us talked to anyone else on campus about this because we were in the same best friend group. You usually talk to your best friends when you have problems like this, so it was kind of stressful for both of us, because we kind of were falling for each other more and more and knew that the other person was gonna figure it out at some point. [Both laugh].
LB: And like really trying to repress it and let the feelings go away and see if we waited it out.
PC: To the point where we were both pretty uncomfortable being alone in spaces together, even though we were best friends … So then spring break was just a shit show. I was a mess and just let myself fall in love with Lili over spring break. And, I think she had a similar experience, but maybe not — I feel like it couldn’t have been as bad as mine because my spring break was just a disaster.
LB: I feel like yours couldn’t have been as bad as mine.
PC: I literally only thought about Lili for all of spring break, and it was terrible. I really thought that it was never going to happen, and that I couldn’t be part of our friend group if everyone knew I was just in love with one of them! [Both laugh]. And it was high-key very stressful but also amazing because I had never been in love with anybody before, so that was a really cool feeling. And then on April 8 … [both laugh] … [Right after spring break], we went to the WOC [Williams Outing Club] cabin.
LB: Some of our friends decided to stay over, so there were like seven of us.
PC: Yeah, so that’s a good thing, to have a group of seven friends be there the night that you figure out that you like each other [Lili laughs]. So this part is confusing to tell….
LB: But made a lot of sense.
PC: Yeah, made a lot of sense in the moment. So essentially, we had all hung out late into the night in the WOC cabin, and we were going to sleep, and I was sneaky and made sure that I was sleeping next to Lili. And, we were just kinda like spooning [both laugh], and then we communicated to each other that we liked each other through hand squeezes.
LB: Mmhmm. I don’t really know how it worked out, but it really did. After a certain amount of hand squeezing, I was like, “Wow, I know that she likes me.” And then we kissed for the first time. And then from there on, we were basically just in a relationship.
You live in the same suite — how does the dynamic work with being in the same group of friends and dating?
LB: I think it’s generally actually really easy, and part of that comes from the fact that our friends are really communicative with each other about our needs and our feelings and the dynamics of our friend group — it’s something that we talk to each other about, which makes it a lot easier. I think there are moments when it takes added mental energy to be thinking about, “Are people feeling excluded by us right now?” And, it’s also sometimes hard to be in a big group together because there are things that we want to talk to each other about individually. But at the same time it’s also really comforting to not have my relationship just be this separate part of my life – to really have it be integrated into everything that I do and care about. All of my friends know Phacelia really well, and vice versa, because they’re the same people. But that’s a really scary thing, and it made us really nervous last year.
PC: Another thing that I think is pretty significant is that both of us weren’t “out” or really thinking about queerness before college, and we definitely have a lot of close friends who are really supportive and helpful in that process and awesome queer role models. So not only is our friend group really communicative, but also they’re really supportive and like talking about queerness openly, which is nice because we can actually really talk about our relationship with them, which is, I think, really healthy.
On that topic, have your families been supportive of your relationship?
PC: I grew up with my parents constantly saying, “You won’t know who you fall in love with until you fall in love with them,” which I’m everyday so grateful for. I came out to my family just by calling my mom and being like, “I’m in love with a girl, and I don’t know what to do.” [Both laugh]. And they weren’t really surprised. My family’s super open about it, and they know that I’ve dated guys before, and it doesn’t feel like this final thing, like, “Oh my gosh I came out to them, now it changed my identity.”
LB: I think for my family, it was a bigger deal. It wasn’t just like, “Oh, this wasn’t a surprise, and it’s just totally normal and fine and we’ll move on.” It was definitely something. My impression is that for them it altered their sense of my identity, whereas I don’t really see it that way. It was never something that I was repressing and then had to come clean about. Being queer and thinking about my own sexuality was sort of a gradual process and something that developed and was created over time, but I think that my parents and I just think about queerness in a really different way from each other, which can make conversations about it really hard and energy-intensive when you’re just not seeing eye to eye. But I’m also really lucky, and it’s been mostly really easy, and I feel supported.
Other than Divest Williams, what are your favorite things to do together?
PC: We like picnicking together.
LB: Love picnicking.
PC: Hammocking. That’s a huge part of our relationship.
What does hammocking consist of?
LB: Basically, being in a hammock.
PC: I have a hammock that’s a double, and so we put it up, and then we pretend to do work together, but it’s just distracting. It’s mostly just talking in a hammock. We like playing recreational pickup sports together.
LB: You like that a little bit more than I do.
PC: Yeah, but we still do it.
LB: Okay, yeah. I participate.
PC: We go to a ton of events on campus together, like all of the activist events that happen – everything the Davis Center does.
Is there anything else you guys want to say to readers?
PC: I feel like we should say something about how we wish there were so many more happy queer couples that were out on campus if they wanted to be.
PC: We can give a shout-out to queer frosh who are nervous about their sexuality because we went from having never really thought about queerness to being in the best relationship that I’ve ever been in in my life and very, very in love in like 10 months. So queer frosh readers: just know there are lots of circles of queer people with different interests at Williams. At least something that I’ve learned is that there are so many different queer spaces and friend groups here – there’s no such thing as the “queer community,” instead there are lots of different circles. So if you think that there’s one queer friend group that you don’t belong in, there are lots of other spaces out there.