How Much Are We Supposed To Like Our Friends’ Boyfriends?

In the beginning of my sophomore year of college, when I was still nineteen and summer was still summer — three long months of mosquitoes and sunburn lines and firefly-lit romances — I had one of those end-of-teen-movie kisses. You know the ones I mean. The Dawson’s Creek/10 Things I Hate About You/Rory-&-Jess-first-kiss kind of kisses, backed by ages of buildup and angst and curiosity and something resembling passion, however fumbling. It was a fantastically, otherworldly, insanely good kiss.

Being 19 (or, well, just being a girl generally), the first thing I did the next day was tell my best friends. The dining halls weren’t open yet, and we went to get lunch at a cheap Mediterranean place just off campus. Over plastic plates of hummus and pizza, I recounted my evening — and across the table, one of the girls burst into tears.

After a few confused seconds filled with “What’s wrong?”s and “What is it?”s, she stopped crying long enough to catch her breath, look at me, and say, “I’m dating him.”

This was news to me. Needless to say, it wasn’t particularly good news. But it turned out to be true, and unbelievably, they kept dating, all of which left me in a bit of a pickle. At a small dorm, in a small college, there was no way to avoid my best friend’s new boyfriend. Whom I had kissed. With whom I thought I was in love. Obviously, on a scale of one to inappropriate, I had overshot the mark in terms of liking this guy. A lot. And now I was stuck platonically hanging out with him. Also a lot.

Long story short, their relationship fell apart, he and I had a brief and strictly-sex-based go at it, those two events overlapped, and the whole friend circle went to hell faster than we could finish our midterms. All of which makes total sense, because once you fall in love with the best friend’s boyfriend (let’s call him the BFB), you’ve pretty much screwed everyone involved, including possibly the boyfriend and definitely yourself.

So I was only 19 when I established, with unnecessarily tangible evidence, that we’re not meant to like-like the BFB. But five years later, I’m still not entirely sure what it is that we’re supposed to do with him instead. Because the truth is, for the most part, I don’t really approve of the guys my friends date.

Let’s take Exhibit A: They met online, he’s 27, professional student (at this age, still with no degrees whatsoever, that’s the proper term, am I right?), pseudo-health-nut but no notable career ambitions. No hobbies to speak of, not very smart. Never going to crack the $40k salary mark without a serious stroke of luck, and not because he’s off doing what he loves in spite of the shit money. Because he’s sitting on his ass playing the kind of online video games that require a headset. The two of us could probably sustain a mildly awkward conversation alone together for approximately 7 minutes. She, on the other hand — well, she’s my best friend — of course she’s awesome.

Or Exhibit B: The BFB is some sort of military engineer who seems perfectly friendly but owns half an arsenal worth of guns and lives in a manicured condo in the Florida Keys. His job is to fly around the world working on high-tech air force equipment, which means it’s a half-LDR situation. And when he’s home, what’s he gonna shoot with one of his automatic weapons, a crocodile that slipped under the newly painted fence? Again, she is my best friend. She’s the fucking best. But this guy is not my cup of tea.

The list goes on. There’s the BFB who is mean to his dog (fatal strike, I’m sorry), the BFB who doesn’t like dogs (again, fatal strike, excepting chihuahuas). There’s the condescending “I know what’s best for you” guy, and let me tell you, he makes my fucking skin crawl. Don Draper is only sexy if it’s 1963, and even then, he’s not for dating. There’s also the BFB who wears custom platform shoes that make him look like Kim Jong Il because he is insecure about his height. I mean, seriously, man. If you pay to resemble a murderous dictator because you want people to respect you, you’re realllly doing life all wrong.

Sometimes it’s not so much that the BFB is totally unqualified. Sometimes he’s alright, he’s just not alright enough. Like, maybe we have nothing in common and he’s not my type, at all, but I can also concede that he’s a sweetheart and loyal and will be a good dad. Sure, he sounds perfect — after all, I won’t accidentally fall in love with him, and he’s not an asshole — but then, we’re still stuck having no idea what to say to each other at parties.

How much my friends want me to bond with their boyfriends seems to be directly proportional to how little I like these guys. If I think a BFB is witty, well-read, and genuinely nice, and he and I have no trouble filling an awkward half hour alone together while we wait for everybody else to get to dinner, it never seems as though the two of us have half hours that need filling. But the BFB who doesn’t believe in affordable birth control, doesn’t watch television, and thinks I’m some sort of mutant misfit because I’m vegetarian? Him, I get pressured to like, and be nice to, and be friends with. It’s as if we’re only supposed to like the BFB enough that we would be friends with him under different circumstances — we’re not actually supposed to actively be friends with him.

I assume that our parents’ generations got around this problem by all getting married young and at once, and establishing the sorts of friend groups that could always reliably be split along gender lines, so that men never had to like, or even interact with, their friend’s wives, and vice versa. But as a single millennial, I’m really sick of being asked to fake-befriend the BFBs in my life. It ain’t gonna happen. Not to mention, there’s always the risk, whether real or perceived, that I’ll like them too much.

I think sometimes we forget how much of a miracle it is when somebody walks into our lives, points at us, and says, “I want you to be the one I fall in love with.” I mean, that’s a big fucking deal. It’s also a completely mysterious phenomenon. I don’t know why my amazing, perfect, hand-picked best friends fall in love with bargain basement jerks, or weirdos, or just plain mediocre guys. I’m not trying to get them to dump anybody, I just don’t necessarily want to feel as though my friend contract includes a mandatory extension clause for boyfriends.

Maybe it’s selfish, but I like having my friends to myself. I’m not interested in playing nice with every last interloping BFB who wanders into the picture. So ladies, for all of our sakes, I have a favor to ask: please, if you love me, for the love of God, stop asking me to love your boyfriends. Please, pretty, pretty please, just let me love just you. TC mark

featured image – Sex And The City

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