Cushion (n.): The person who is (knowingly or unknowingly) brought along to make a stressful situation less tense and awkward with their presence alone.
How it’s used in the show: Jessa brings Hannah with her to visit her estranged dad and his girlfriend, Petula. Upon arriving, Petula says to Hannah, “I was so nervous about seeing Jessa because I know she hates me, and she hasn’t seen her dad in so long. So I prayed, and here I manifested the solution – you. You’re the cushion.” To this, Hannah replies, “Are you sure I’m the cushion? I’ve never done it before but I’m definitely up for it.” Although the interactions between Jessa and her father are already tense in the episode, Hannah provided some relief for Jessa and divided her attention effectively.
Most of us are guilty of subjecting our friends to the role of cushion at some point or another, whether we do it consciously or not. After watching this week’s episode of Girls, we found ourselves wondering: just how kosher is a cushion? Is it okay to rely on a third party to ease social tensions, or is that considered immature? Maybe cushions are okay in particular situations, but best used sparingly. As the case of Girls shows, the cushion is a godsend. There are certain times when we wish the cushion gods would answer our prayers, and there are others when we really shouldn’t be praying at all.
Appropriate times for a cushion:
-Dinner with your parents, aunts and uncles, or weird cousins when they visit you at school. Cushions are especially appropriate for those of you with overly nosy moms and dads.
-When that creepy townie from last Wednesday’s Whisco texts you to get Antonio’s…even though you have no recollection of meeting him. (Better option: don’t go at all.)
-Your crush’s or new hookup’s pregame. As Pitbull says: “So get your friends, and I’ll get my friends, and we can be friends.” Similarly, the wisest of sages (i.e. The Spice Girls) so eloquently sing: “If you wanna be my lover, you gotta get with my friends.” At least we think that’s how it’s supposed to work…
-A meal with an orientation acquaintance. There’s a good shot that your ability to maintain a fluid conversation won’t persist beyond 10 minutes. Enter: cushion.
Inappropriate times for a cushion:
-Office hours with your advisor. It’s not that awkward.
-Casual dates (froyo, coffee, brunch). Chances are you’ll come off just as co-dependent on your cushion, or just as insecure. You’re better than that!
-Fancy dates. The guy or girl taking you out probably wasn’t planning on treating you and your friend to Bacaro. (Also, if your date is taking you to Bacaro, it’s so not worth screwing that up.)
-During a sexit. Self-explanatory…unless you’re into the whole self-sabotage thing.
Choose your cushions wisely — if they’re more socially inept than you, they can easily make a delicate situation worse. The ideal cushions are charismatic and have impeccable social skills. These are the friends who can be relied on to pick up the slack of an awkward conversation, or to change the subject without missing a beat – the people your parents love and wish you were more like. To all the cushions out there: you’re doing a great service; keep on killin’ it.