"Just" Friends

“Just friends” is an inadequate expression. It’s dismissive of friendship, as though there were some more precious form of relationship and our “just friend” is standing in for the real thing. “Oh, this old thing? It’s just a cubic zirconia friendship I picked up on sale.” That’s bullocks. Any true friendship is as powerful—if not more powerful—than a love partnership. Time and again, friendships outlast love affairs and marriages. My marriage, anyway.

And yet there is such an allure to romantic entanglement! I long for the thrill of the crush, the obsessive intensity, the ache to be together, the electric shock of physical chemistry! Even writing about it gets my heart rate up.

But I decided that I can’t be in a “relationship” (read: romance) right now, meaning that it’s a bad time for me to meet men. That’s because I have some ISSUES to resolve. Nothing big, just your ordinary, self-indulgent, developmental, spiritual, existential, quintessential, heavy-duty, midlife-crisis kind of shit.

So why not attend to that irrelevant drivel AND step out on the town with a hottie at the same time? Because my mind is a crafty thing. I can rationalize my way into, out of, around, and through anything. I can ignore red flags, turn a blind eye to my soul’s flare guns, and act on misguided instinct with the best of them.

And sometimes choices made in the throes of passion are not healthy for me in the long term. Because when I’m coupled up, my focus turns outward... “Me” becomes overshadowed by “we.” I don’t attend to my ISSUES because I’m too wrapped up in developing this “us” thing.

Now you have to understand, this deliberately single idea is remarkable for me. See, I have no problem committing to faithful (or serial) monogamy, but I struggle mightily to remain alone. Struggle. Mightily. Because when I’m alone, those ISSUES are there waiting for me.

So when it came time to acknowledge the need for a dating hiatus, I dutifully disabled my online dating profile. But not before something extraordinary happened.

I had met up with Dave a few weeks earlier, after we made contact on okcupid.com (or okstupid as it is commonly known). Dave turned out to be a handsome, creative, talented, warm, articulate, affectionate, loyal, well-educated, sexy dude. I’ll give you his number later if you want, but first let me explain what happened with Dave and me.

We embarked on our meeting with the intention of being “just friends.” We had discussed briefly the obstacles to anything else, most notably that Dave is moving to New York later this year. Now typically, when I meet a man whom I find attractive AND who is available, I’m gonna’ go for it, baby! That’s what people do when they meet someone compatible, right?

Except when, like me, they need to work on their ISSUES. Distractions like existential questions have never stopped me before. But at my advancing age, I can’t indulge in the “high” of a romance (read: diversion) at the expense of my personal growth process. So what is a woman to do about this handsome, artistic, talented, warm, articulate, affectionate, loyal, well-educated, sexy dude?

Talk to him. Dave and I shared our relationship histories, our codependent narratives, our mutual tendencies to rush in, eyes a-sparkle, only to be disenchanted when things don’t turn out to be as promising as we’d thought. We fondly recollected all the times we’d played and lost... when the chemistry downshifted and we were left with: friendship?
Uh, usually not. Those firecracker moments at the beginning derailed rationality and higher purpose. Real friendship was never established or cultivated in the first place. So after the smoke clears, there’s that stark moment of revelation when we ask: are we even friends? Or were we “just” lovers?

So Dave and I have challenged ourselves-- individually and collectively—to turn down tickets for that codependent rodeo. I have other things I need to accomplish. And along the way, I just might need a friend.

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