“Just so we’re clear, I’m not in the market for new guy friends.” I try to make eye-contact. I figure I’ve got nothing to hide, since my new motto is to live like I’ve got nothing to lose. “We’re either dating OR we’re not. There’s no friendship fallback at the end of this tunnel.”
“Huh?” Grant shifts uneasily in his seat. He spins his fork for the third time. That reminds me, we’re on our third date. Perfect timing.
“Look, I’ve got more than enough guy friends.” Thirty-plus years worth to be exact. “I’m not planning to pick up more platonic pals in the near or immediate future.”
Grant finally meets my gaze. “Well, I like you a lot. I love spending time with you. If things don’t progress from here, I don’t want it to be over between us, because I really believe we’re meant to be friends.” He picks up the fork, changes his mind and sets it down. He reaches over and then switches the salt with the pepper shaker.
I wrinkle my nose. I do that when I’m about to sneeze, or patronize. “Not to belittle your belief system, but my hard-earned conviction still stands.” I try to change. It’s tough.
“So that’s it?” Grant doesn’t sound surprised, though he knocks over the salt. “Don’t you think that’s a little extreme?” He creates a tiny salt circle with his spoon.
“It’s a tough enough market out there as it is.” I try not to grit my teeth. Another bad habit of mine when I get antsy. I wonder if I grind them in my sleep? I push the menus closer to the edge of the table. “I’m not just talking in terms of financial — the relational market is pretty cutthroat. I’m hitting my thirties and not appreciating in value. Substance seems to be falling short of the superficial more often than not.”
Grant sets his spoon down next to his circle of salt. I’ve got his full attention now. “You have lots of friends that are guys. Actually, I’ve met quite a few of them. They all care a LOT about you.” He looks tired. Or sad.
One thing I absolutely can’t stand, is being called out on my shit. Good thing I’ve been rehearsing: “Those guys are like family. We’ve got history. They made the cut.”
“What cut?” OK. This part was not part of the practice runs. The diner is playing Katie Herzig. How appropriate:
…I’m in a love affair without a love song / I’m in the habit of having what I don’t want…
“Cut off point.” I don’t hesitate. Duh, right? It’s my turn to give the salt shaker a spin. “After my last relationship, I realized I’m done investing in platonic relationships. I’ve got the attention span of a hyper three-year-old. Commitment to one’s significant other is enough of a challenge for me as it is. I’m also in the process of weeding out my existing pool of platonic pals.”
“That’s not fair.” Grant’s not pouty. What’s worse, is he’s overly steady. Other than spinning his utensils or petting condiments, he’s not easy to get a rise out of. No fun.
“You’re right.” It’s not. I am fallible. I get this. What I don’t get is why this guy is making it SO difficult to shake him off. “That’s why I’m certain that it’s not fair for me to have to be the fallback every time one of my guy friends’ ‘more-than-just-a-friend’ fails to meet his expectations mentally or emotionally.”
“So you’re saying…” If we were characters in a comic book, I would draw a big baseball bat next to his light bulb.
“I’m saying I’m tired of being such-and-so’s GIRL FRIDAY.” I’m pouty and DAMN proud of it. “I’m no longer OK with the GAL PAL status.”
“Why be so black-and-white about it?” The waitress brings our orders and Grant reaches over and nabs one of my curly fries. I say nothing. The waitress forgot the spicy brown mustard I asked for. I think twice about pissing her off, since our drinks are still coming.
“I’m exhausted of fighting the WHAT IF factors of each and every opposite gender-based relationship I’ve got.” Grant grabs another three curly fries and shoves them into his mouth. He grabs the Heinz and proceeds to pound the 57 on the bottle next to my fries. I try not to wince and scoot my chair to save my blouse from becoming a ketchup casualty. “It’s time to up the ante for access. I’m ready for membership status to the blocks of time I’ve still got for meaningful relationships. I’m realizing I’m a worthy investment. I’m no longer okay with being the emotional corner convenience store.”
“I still think we’re meant to be friends.” Grant motions the waitress to come over. There’s no more ketchup. “I’ll still be here when you change your mind.”