I have a great group of reliable and loyal friends. Many I’ve known since I was a teenager. Our relationships have changed as we’ve gotten older and life has gotten more complicated. New friendships have been made through various stops along my career path and, more recently, through the brave new world of being a mommy to an awesomely social kid. Of course, the depth of the friendships vary. But I know that if I need a ride to the airport or if my home burned down, there is always at least one person I can call in my time of need.
The one common element each of these friendships share is the fact that I am the single friend.
Whether they are married, divorced, or dating – I am the single friend. I’m even the single friend for my single friends for the simple fact that I don’t even have an ex to refer to (it’s been 20 years – I don’t even list jobs on my resume I had more than seven years ago).
The reasons for my perennial singledom are complex and varied, but the simplest answer is I truly want to be and enjoy it (and this isn’t referring to sex – that’s not conditional on a relationship. For me.).
Being the single friend has given me an interesting perspective into relationships, from how they start to how they end. I’ve been through a few divorces, fewer weddings, and have heard the phrase, “I am seeing someone” more times than I can count.
The thing is, by the time they tell me that, I’ve already known for quite some time.
I’ve noticed there is a distinct change in behavior from the moment that a friend meets someone to the time they introduce them to you. The speed at which this happens depends on personality…and gender.
For my girlfriends, it starts with their conversation. When there is no one that is piquing their interest, our topics vary from the silly to current events. In my carefree days (aka sans child) we met for lunch, dinner, drinks, and talked on the phone. As we got older and things like jobs and children got in the way of our important bonding, it’s more about weekend playdates (even with those that are child free) and chats on Facebook.
At some point in the conversation there will be a weird comment like, “Yeah, the Lakers are kicking butt this season.”
What the fuck? What do you know about basketball? (I say to myself).
Having done this single friend thing for most of my life, I know she’s met someone…who likes basketball (or finance or whatever). I then start wondering how long before she finally admits to him that she doesn’t know the difference between a free throw and a touchdown.
I will respond accordingly, depending on how much I have been paying attention (and try not to mention how I could never get her to go to a Lakers game) and try to get her interested in football. At this point I estimate she has been talking to him for about two weeks and they’ve been talking mostly about him – which she finds fascinating.
I also know that an apology for not being able to make plans is going to happen within the next week or so because she will be going to a Lakers game.
That’s the next stage – I start seeing and hearing from her less.
It’s subtle at first. I’ll be going about my life and realize I haven’t talked to her in a couple of days and when I call I get the voicemail more and more, texts are fewer, and Facebook updates are nonexistent.
This is where my guy friends start displaying similar behaviors. When single, my guy friends call regularly, make time to hang out, and update their statuses a lot more. When they are getting laid, the calls stop and it suddenly appears that they’ve forgotten how to use the Internet.
And, yes, with guys it’s at the sex stage of the relationship. The better the sex the longer they disappear.
As the single friend, I know my role in all this. I understand that relationships take time and effort and some things have to be moved down the priority list. I don’t get upset or hurt and know that our friendship is just fine. They’re just busy. In fact, the amount of time they have for me is inversely proportional to their interest in the relationship.
It’s scientific fact. I think.
How long before they come up for air and announce that they are seeing someone is subjective to the person and situation. Prior to the aforementioned behavioral changes, I sometimes hear about the cool guy they just met and how they are going out soon, but no discussion of progress until they’ve figured out where’s it’s going (in their mind).
One thing I have learned is that gender matters with the timing of the announcement.
For my guy friends, the only time I will even learn the woman’s name is when he announces after six months that he’s bringing her to something we planned – like my birthday dinner. I had one friend who I talked to regularly and said casually during one conversation that he was in the midst of wedding planning.
They had been dating for two years.
Lest you think this weird – understand I know my gender. For guys, having a female friend that they’ve never had sex with is always a challenge when it comes to those that they date. The woman never quite believes that I could have known this guy who is (more than likely) amazing and not been with him. Or want to be. Ever. Because of that, my male friends and I have an understanding: I don’t exist until it’s serious. (And, yes, I did meet her before the wedding and she is lovely).
This is not the case with my girlfriends.
At some point the phrase “I’m seeing someone” is uttered and a whole new stage of being the single friend begins. I will then get the recap of the glorious early dating period, share in her excitement of having butterflies every time she hears his voice (I have to admit – I miss that), and have to coordinate our busy schedules so that I can meet him.
And, yes, fellas, I’m there to approve.
Don’t worry, it’s not like I have a choice to not approve. The most important aspect of being the single friend is to never, ever, EVER give your opinion on your friend’s significant other or the relationship. Even when they ask. Your job is to listen, smile, cry, validate, and listen.
Did you hear the one about listening?
Obviously, my role as the single friend of the friend in a relationship is to be…a friend. I’m there for the ups and downs, good times and bad. Sometimes I end up sitting at the singles table at the wedding, or the dinner table pouring the alcohol as we talk about how horrible the person-that-shall-not-be-named was.
So, as the single friend, I confess, I already knew you were dating someone. And I’m happy for you. And I love that you love me enough to involve me as you head down this new path – wherever it may lead.
But, if I could just make one simple…little…insignificant request: Don’t EVER ask me to go out with his single friend. I’m not here for that.