Guest columnists and contributors are generously sharing their talents and insights while I’m taking some time to care for my new baby. Today’s essay comes from “His Take” contributor, Dennis Hong, who writes about relationships and other topics at Musings on Life and Love.
I have no problem with the Friend Zone. The Friend Box. Friendship Island. The Vortex of Platonic Optimism…Whatever you want to call it, I think opposite-sex friends are splendid. They can be an arsenal of insight when we need help understanding, well, the opposite sex. What’s not so splendid is the opposite-sex friend who desperately wants to be more than friends. Especially when the opposite-sex friend who desperately wants to be more than friends is…Me.
Years ago, I had a classmate, “Holly.” She had just moved to Southern California, and I was one of the first friends she made here. I think she gravitated towards me because I was already familiar with the city. That, and I also threw parties. Lots of them. If friends were crack, then my apartment was her pipe, and she’d show up at my place whenever her social life needed a fix.
One night, a group of us set aside our rampant partying and went out clubbing instead. Late in the evening, Holly and I found ourselves separated from everyone else, and in a fit of drunkenness, we started making out. Over the next few days, I realized that I wanted to be more than just friends with Holly. So, I did what any rational non-eunuch would do: I asked her out.
Unfortunately, she confessed that while she enjoyed our impromptu kissing session, she wasn’t interested in dating me. Still, she continued to call me almost every day, and we started spending more time together, to the point where we were hanging out four or five times a week. And so, my crush continued to grow. Of course, her wanting to see me so much only made it more difficult for me to accept that she wasn’t romantically interested in me. But I was just happy that she wanted to spend all her free time with me. And this is where the “desperate” part of “desperately wants to be more than friends” weaseled its way onto me.
I became relentless in my pursuit. I bought her wonderfully thoughtful gifts. I took her out to fancy restaurants. When she had to work late, I brought food to her office. I left roses on her car. I took the grandiose romantic movie gesture to stalker-esque levels of persistence. You see, I failed to realize that the grandiose romantic movie gesture ends up being totally creepy if she doesn’t actually like you that way.
I made it ever so clear that I wanted to date her. And she made it ever so clear that she didn’t want to date me. But, we continued to see each other…mostly because she still kept calling me all the time. Until…several months later, she met another guy. One she was actually interested in. And, of course, she started spending more and more time with him. Soon, she started blowing me off completely. When I figured out why she was blowing me off, I realized that I was only a placeholder, and I was devastated. Not surprisingly, we drifted apart. We haven’t spoken in years now.
Looking back, I have nothing but regret for the brief friendship that I had with Holly. As wondrous as Friendship Island was, it was still surrounded by the Great Barrier Reef of Frustration. With soul-devouring sharks patrolling the waters. Just being around Holly was devastating for my self-esteem.
Today, I can only promise myself that I will never make the same mistake again. I don’t care how good a friend she may be. I don’t care how often she calls. If she sees me as a platonic friend, but I want more, the friendship will never last. And if I have a female friend who’s interested in me? Well, then I’m not going to be her friend. I’m not going to hang out with her one-on-one. There’s just too much potential for hurt feelings there.
Staying friends with someone you’re desperately in love with is like trying to get drunk on alcohol-free beer. Sure, you can practically taste the buzz. But, trust me, you’re never gonna get there. Again, I do absolutely believe that men and women can be friends. But, with one enormous caveat: they must both feel the same way. Only if both the man and the woman see each other platonically will the friendship be viable.
*Dennis Hong blogs about the life lessons he’s learned. Check out his and his friends’ musings here.