third wheel friend

I've been trying to write this post for over a week. There's a lot rolling around in my head and I've been trying to articulate all these different thoughts, feelings and remembrances and this post just gets longer and longer and ends up not making much sense at the end of it. I'm going to break up my thoughts into numerous posts. This will be one of many posts on friendship inspired by the posts that Lindsey from A Design So Vast has been writing lately. Her posts come at a time when I've been thinking a lot about the connections I've made, would like to make and the ones I've let go of and maybe others of which I need to let go. I've written about friendships multiple times in this post, and this one. As I move into my adult life, I look back on my past friendships with a mix of longing, happiness and sometimes even regret. But I'll get to all that, hopefully, throughout this series of posts.

In high school and as an undergrad, I was the third wheel friend. I was the girl who tagged along with my friends and their boyfriends, the kind of girl who played in the arcade with boyfriends while the girlfriend (my friend) shopped. Later, I would meet these boyfriends for drinks and assuage their relationship insecurities. I consulted on birthday, anniversary and Christmas presents. I provided scripts for getting themselves out of arguments. As the third wheel, I learned about relationships and always seemed to be where my friends (and their boyfriends) turned for advice. Though, looking back now, it's comical to me how little I knew compared with what I thought I knew. I spent hours on the phone talking to my friends and their boyfriends encouraging them to stay together or listen to one another and a few times, calling it quits.

When I hung out with my friends, their boyfriends seemed to be just part of the deal and perhaps to the boyfriends, so was I. I had a friend who recycled boys like yesterday's Diet Coke can so there were certainly some guys I never got to know. But others I became particularly close to and at least two of my friendships with them outlasted my friendships with their girlfriends.

I put a lot of energy into my friends' relationships, especially when I didn't have a relationship of my own. I lived, I suppose, vicariously through them. It may seem like I was that annoying, meddling friend but that wasn't always the case, at least I hope not. I offered advice only if asked and considered the boys my friends, often spending time with them and their friends on my own, which caused tensions when a breakup did happen as I felt an equal kind of loyalty to both parties, violating the cardinal rule of female friendships.

I harbored no attraction for these boys. I saw them as brothers, as friends of my own. Besides, I was only attracted to a particular kind of guy (typically on the other end of the spectrum from my friends) and struggling with my sexuality. I enjoyed having guy friends as I could go over to their houses in my pajamas and not feel the need to impress them. I was incredibly comfortable around guys, especially the guys my friends dated. There was an ease with my friendship with them that was missing from my friendships and relationships. When I had my own relationships, most were not serious, and many were infrequent and there were periods of time I dated long-distance or was single. (See above explanation) Being a third wheel was, looking back, a way to hide while I figured it all out. It allowed me to be part of a relationship without being in the relationship. It was also pretty lonely, on the outside of the gifts and sweet notes and phonecalls.

It was simple on the outside. The boundaries were clear and easy. The stakes were relatively low for me, unlike in my own relationships where I spent most of the time feeling terrified to really be myself, whoever that was. As a third wheel, I had two friends in one, which meant almost constant companionship. So, while the romance might have been absent I had the benefit of friendship. And there was a freedom in that, one I desperately needed.