You’re out to lunch with your friend of the opposite gender and it’s time to pay for your food. You get up to the cashier, and they ask the question that you’ve heard one too many times: “Is this all together?” Before they get out the last syllable you’re already half way through saying “Oh no, we’re just friends,” a phrase that has become custom in your vocabulary.
For some reason, instead of just saying no, you feel the need to explain your relationship. Maybe you actually do care that the person serving your food knows about your status, but for many of us that’s not the case. For many of us we need to hear ourselves say it. If we say it aloud than we must believe that it’s true right? By saying it aloud we can act however we want and not worry about acknowledging any feelings. By saying it aloud we provide a defense for anything we do that may seem questionable.
You can justify doing anything, because hey, you’re just friends, it means nothing more. But what this phrase actually means is much more. It means that you can bring him as a date to a wedding, even if he has a girlfriend, because he’s just helping out a friend. It means he can accidentally fall asleep in your bed while watching TV, and it’s not weird, because it’s a plutonic sleepover. It means that you can text him about every insignificant thing happening in your day, because that’s what friends do right? It allows you to act however you want without others questioning it. It allows you to avoid facing your feelings. But you know that’s not true.
You use the phrase as a defense, because you need one. If your relationship were purely innocent, plutonic and “friendly” than you would need no explanation. You wouldn’t feel the need to justify sleepovers, dinner dates and long phone calls. You use it because as long as your status remains labeled “friends” no one can get hurt. Not his girlfriend, not your boyfriend, not him, not you.
The problem is, someone always has to get hurt. The problem is, you already put the defense out there, and now you can’t go back. The problem is, the moment you don’t say “we’re just friends,” all the previous times you have used that defense now look like a lie. It’s a tricky place to be. On one hand you want to keep the relationship you have going; you want to have a defense for the conspicuous way you’re acting. On the other hand, as long as you keep the defense, you never will get past the level of “just friends”. You will feel, desire, lust and maybe love, but you can’t act on it, because the moment you no longer say “we’re just friends,” you lose the ability to say it again. So you don’t. You go up to the cashier, as you have a million times before, and when they ask if you’re paying together, you don’t bat an eye, and say that phrase you now loath, “no, we’re just friends.”