I have been the friend for most of my 28 years of life.
I was the friend in primary school who all the boys were friends with, the tomgirl who could run. I would buy ice creams and share them with everyone because I could, because I wanted everyone to like me.
I was the friend in high school that you heard rumors about – the one who was best friends with a boy, the one who had to hear the comments. Is she going out with him? Isn’t she? They’re so close, they must be together. He was my closest friend, but to everyone else I was the lovesick girl. We used to laugh about what everyone would say. It wouldn’t affect us or our friendship, we would say. Except it did. He drifted off, started seeing a girl and stopped talking to me. When we graduated, we were virtual strangers.
I was the friend in university who spent a drunken night and morning with a boy I’d known for years. We danced, we drank, and he confessed that he would be with me, IF it didn’t work out with my friend. He asked my friend out the next day. They got married last year.
I was the friend at work, who finally, hopelessly fell in love with and became friends with a boy who never really cared about me, or cared about me in a way that wasn’t enough for me. I was the friend he sneaked out to see, when his girlfriend wasn’t watching. I was the friend who put up with the rumors at work, almost to the detriment of my career, just because I thought one day he would see that we were more than friends. I thought we would be together once he broke up with his girlfriend. Everyone at work already thought we were together. I gave him myself and we’d never even kissed. It took me three years to leave our friendship behind.
I am the friend the boys are now afraid to be friends with. The friend that boys start to turn down with awkward excuses, about why we can’t go to parties together, why we can only meet alone for lunch, why it’s so important that we sleep in separate beds even though we’ve been friends for years. The friend that cannot be left alone, the one that cannot be trusted. A good friend of mine, who used to laugh with me at the idea of us being together, has done what all the others have done and has started drifting away. We’re both single. It shouldn’t matter what other people think. But he’s turned down my invitations to dinner, to just hang out. And it hurts.
I’m so good at being the other friend that I don’t know what it’s like to simply be the girl. I’ve been the other woman without being the other woman. How did I get labeled with something that I never have been? I have never hooked up with these boys, even the one I wanted to be with.
And now, at 28, I’ve decided that I’m no longer going to be that friend. I’m not going to put up with friendships where I am the subject of conjecture, where the boys are blameless and I am the hopeless girl, even when I’m not.
I am going to be the friend that will have friends on my terms, where the balance is not tipped in favor of the boys. Where boys can choose to see me, or not, just as I am free to choose to see them. I’m not going to hide any longer from girlfriends.
If you can’t be friends with me in a way where we can be completely honest with each other and be together without any pretense, you’re not worth being friends with. And I will be the friend to tell you that.