Recently my best friend got engaged. They met overseas, so I didn't meet her fiancé until after he actually proposed - though I knew the ring was coming (because she believed it was coming) and I Facebook friended the guy before they were even official.
Upon meeting her betrothed, he asked how we knew each other. "From college?" he guessed. (I was slightly offended my friend hadn't briefed her beloved further.)
"No, no, we go all the way back to kindergarten," we relived our friendship. "In third grade we ran against each other for SCA secretary. Neither of us won."
Friend: "And do you remember four years ago that picture from New Year's Eve where you proposed to me?"
Me: "Yeah, I almost used it for your congratulation photo, but I thought it was in bad form. Maybe if I photoshopped your fiancé's head onto my body?"
"So it's really you two who should be getting married," her fiancé concluded.
Cue awkward laugh.
Welcome to the life of the girlfriend's best friend. Aka my life. I am your girlfriend's confidante without being her lover. I know as much about her as you do, but I don't want her, at least in that way. Despite Hollywood stereotypes, your girlfriend and I have probably never had sexual chemistry, though we may drop innuendo like a Judd Apatow comedy and I've probably seen her in a bra while she decided what to wear and I quizzed her on how to flirt with my crush of the moment.
The majority of my close friends are female. I've lived with females since college. Now I could go the route where I act like females are an alien species whose mystique I've begun to master, but they're not. They're just like any human. Some are messy, some can't cook, some like shopping, some don't know what Frye boots are. My college roommate can drive a stick shift and name car parts like an anatomy textbook, and I just blink. Contrary to my shared history living with females, I don't know how to interpret a crush's delayed response to a text or what she means if we should hang out. Because I hang out with my female friends all the time and it means nothing.
Of course, hanging out with my female friends does not prevent suspicious boyfriends (or whatever we want to call my female friends' romantic counterparts in these commitmentphobic times). Occasionally my friends admit their boyfriends are disapproving of our friendship. Other times they don't and I pick up on it myself.
Last year I traveled to visit my friend of seven years. We go back to high school. (But I haven't drunkenly proposed to her on New Year's Eve.) My friend had just snagged a new boyfriend and wanted us to meet. I foresaw no turbulence because all she did was gush about him and drop that she thinks he's here for the long term. And when you're in your mid-twenties, that suddenly means, gasp, marriage - maybe?!
She arranged for the three of us to go rock climbing. Then he was late and she got annoyed. When he called, she hung up on him. When he showed up, he was visibly annoyed.
I recognized how this looked. Here he was meeting his girlfriend's best guy friend. We had already spent two days together drinking and doing fun things without him. Now she was mad at him. I looked like the pot stirrer, the jealousy harbinger, the other man, etc. But seriously, I'm not. I wanted to wave a white flag.
This was my first time rock climbing. The instructor told us we should only grasp one color to make it more of a challenge. Yellow was the easiest. But once you're ten feet off the ground, colors be damned. I'm just clinging on for life.
When I dropped down from the wall (which included me body slamming the wall because I didn't know how to belay properly), her boyfriend promptly informed me I had used more than yellow: "You also touched the blue, red, and green."
Me: "I was actually trying to touch the rainbow. I should have made my goal clearer beforehand."
Ultimately rock climbing failed as a workout (because I couldn't do it), so my friend proposed we do a workout circuit. Her boyfriend led because he does Crossfit (*collective eye roll*). Now I don't do Crossfit, but I work out daily and am in pretty good shape if I do insist. I followed along as we did box jumps and lunges with dumbbells above our heads.
I abruptly found myself barraged with critiques: "You need to straighten your arm," "Stand straighter when you jump," "Faster," etc.
I listened at first, my elbow was a tad crooked and I even dropped my weight, but then I realized there were no critiques to my friend/his girlfriend. And suddenly I realized he had synced to follow my every rep.
We were competing.
"I'm going to get water," I announced.
When I came back, I was told we had two more sets to go. "I'm going to do abs," I declared instead, and then I found myself a corner and splayed on a mat.
That night the boyfriend came over for game night. My friend wanted to play Yahtzee. I haven't played Yahtzee since my grandmother moved into assisted living, so didn't remember the rules, and we were drinking; I didn't take the game at all seriously. Three rounds in, it's my turn, I still don't know what I'm doing other than I roll the dice and someone else will decide what I record. You're allowed to roll three times, but on my third roll the boyfriend mumbled, "That's your fourth roll."
Me: "I'm pretty sure it's my third."
Boyfriend: "No, it's your fourth."
This exact conversation happened again on my next turn. I wanted to snap, "Even if I am cheating, who the fork cares? We are playing dice and drinking wine. What are the stakes? You lose? Russia bombs us? Trump wins?"
I thought the boyfriend would go home after we packed up Yahtzee. He didn't. He stayed over. He finally left in the morning for work.
I prepared a concise summary of my feelings for my friend in case she asked ("Your boyfriend is moody, has a need to be right, is a rule follower"), but she didn't. And I didn't bring it up. I knew she didn't think anything had gone wrong, and I had no concern about their relationship. He treated her decently, had a stable job, and she was happy. They could get married for all I cared. The only question would be, am I invited to the wedding?
In the end, boyfriends' jealousy complexes are obnoxious, but they're not reasons to terminate a relationship. The only instances I would openly question a relationship is if one partner is too controlling, both partners' life plans seem to wildly diverge, and/or stability or faithfulness seems dubious. And truthfully, I can't remember a time I have ever suggested a friend break up with their boyfriend. I have pointed out probable flaws, but I am careful to add these may be flaws they are willing to tolerate and I'm just not (and I don't date, so we all know I'm picky).
And that is the danger of a girlfriend's male best friend. We can objectively assess the relationship. We can point out why you two might not work. We can call you out for the douche you might be. But we also can defend you when your girlfriend says you're acting like a jerk. We may just tell her she's being an unjustifiable nag or "no, he's right; you're being unreasonable/unfair/irrational." I have told several friends this.
What we are not is the danger you think we are. We are not trying to seduce your girlfriend. You wouldn't be dating her if we were. We've had far more years alone with her than you. We would be together already if we were going to be.
The truth is, I know when her period is. Her dog likes me better. Her grandparents already think we're dating. But I don't want to go home with her. I don't appreciate her when she's without coffee. I think she's a slob. Or she's neurotic and God help you. Honestly, I want her to be with you so she'll shut up about being lonely.
I want my friend to be happy, and if she's happy with you, I want that, too. I would very much like to toast you both from the open bar at your wedding and then invite you to my wedding whenever it may be to whomever it may be - but it won't be to your girlfriend.
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