Zoey's Friendship Rules On 'grown-ish' Are Tearing Her Clique Apart
Zoey and her friends on grown-ish have a lot of rules. They have rules for photo-taking, rules about letting one’s phone die, rules about texting the group every morning, rules about having one’s location tracking on their phone, etc. There are minimum-security prisons in American with fewer restrictions than these kids have put on themselves. But as they all find out eventually, Zoey’s grown-ish friendship and relationship rules ultimately do more harm than good.
The trouble starts when Zoey sees Doug, Jazz’s boyfriend, hanging out at a “kickback” (OMG, I am so old) without Jazz. Usually, that wouldn’t raise a red flag, but Doug and Jazz have a rule in their relationship that neither can be at a co-ed hangout without the other present. Doug is oblivious about the rules or simply doesn’t care, and Zoey is in a literal panic about what to do. Ultimately, Zoey tells everyone what he was up to. Except Jazz. She eventually finds out and Zoey gets iced out by the rest of the group for going behind her back. Oh, and Luca is mad at her, too, but that’s because she is always letting her phone die and he can’t get a hold of her. In either case, she can't really win.
Zoey looks like a rat if she tells on Doug, so she opts to let it lie, but Jazz asserts the old “chicks before d*cks” adage. And Luca was just last week keeping Zoey on a need-to-know basis about whether or not he was in the country, eating meat, and who knows what else. He needs to chill, too. While she and Luca eventually make amends, Zoey still isn't in Jazz's good graces by the end of the episode because… well, I’m not sure why. There are a whole bunch of ways the writers will let this play out.
Zoey and her friends have made up these seemingly useless rules because they make them feel sane in a world in which they have no control. Up until now, they’ve all lived in the cocoon of their parents’ homes. In college, the game is different. They have day-to-day autonomy over their lives, and in order to keep the scary stuff out (uncertainty, mainly), they opt to follow a precarious set of rules and regulations for the friend group. It was exhausting to watch, so I would imagine that it’s exhausting to maintain IRL, if you’re Zoey. Zoey even has a literal panic attack when no one in the group will talk to her, which is a clear sign that she needs to take a step back and deal with some of her stuff.
But what Zoey and her friends don’t yet understand is that even the inanest of rules won’t stop your boyfriend from cheating on you. Or your friends doing something without you. They won’t stop you from breaking up or having panic attacks in a shorts and shirt combo. (Zoey's worst nightmare.) In fact, such a lack of trust will probably make you break up faster, because holding on too tightly, even to platonic friends, is always a recipe for disaster. But that’s something that Zoey and her friends will learn. These are, probably, their first toes dipping into the pool of adult relationships, and those lessons are always hard-learned. Trust is earned, not dictated by clandestine cell phone rules.
Zoey and her friends are trying to feel their way through adolescence and into adulthood, and they’ll find it eventually. That’s what college is for — sure, it's about studying and careers and stuff. But mostly it's about learning how to navigate friendships and first loves and all that other stuff. From the looks of it, the friend group on grown-ish has a ways to go. But they'll get there.