busting the BUDDY system

“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.”

16 thoughts on “busting the BUDDY system”

  1. Bravo! I am so sick of my platonic guy friends telling me how much they care about me while they suck all my time away using me as a temporary girlfriend. Emotional convenience store, buddy system, call it what you want, but it’s still time with a guy who loves you but will never be in love with you. I believe opposite-sex friends are a huge asset and have enriched my life – but honestly, like you, I collect them like magnets, the different-time-different-place relationships that are beautiful and enticing but just not enough, and not in that way. And meanwhile my precious time – most notably for my girlfriends – gets dwindled away, and worse, it just seems so much easier to spend a Fri night in my sweats, have my guy-friend make me a fabulous dinner and laugh and hug and watch a movie than get all dressed up and go on another boring 1st date with a stranger. Yet now I’m 38 yrs old, wondering why I’ve devoted so much of my time, energy and emotions on guys that will never be in love with me, nor I with them. I have enough friends. I almost have too many friends, I find myself flaking and spread to thin to keep in touch with everyone. Yet always I make time for the guys, the ones who disappear when a new hot chick is in the picture, or can only do coffee when they’re in a relationship, neglecting my girlfriends, my dating, and my focus. I don’t want to be someone’s Girl Friday anymore either, Gal Pal is just not enough to distract me from looking for a *romantic* meaningful relationship. Take my curly fries, but no more of my time.

  2. God,

    I feel for both of you. I’ve pretty much weeded out ALL of my guy friends. They are just the buzzkill in the relationship dating pool. I have 3 guy friends now that I ONLY talk to on the phone. It seems more and more, however, that men I date want to put me in the friend category if it fails to mature to a relationship. Sorry buddy, not interested. Go find another friend. I have plenty.

  3. After reading both Miss Shell’s and Serendipity’s comment, I feel a wee bit convicted. I’m realizing my plethora of platonic pals problem stems from being TOO accommodating and TOO accessible.

    CONFESSION # 1: I’m the one making the fab dinners in my sweats for my boy buds.

    CONFESSION # 2: Wingwoman. Yes. I’ve become the quintessential wingwoman for ALL my guy friends.

    CONFESSION # 3: When my platonic pals run out of retarded or generic date ideas — I call them on it, then plan out (in detail) how to sweep their love interests off their feet.

    CONFESSION # 4: I’m guilty of doling out damage control advice when things start to sour with their “more-than-just-a-friend” of the moment.

  4. Aren’t you being a bit hard on him? Third date, he’s still sizing-you-up. He hasn’t wasted your time, and he’s declared his exact level of interest in a calm and responsible way. You’re perfectly within your rights to rule out certain types of relationships, and to tell him so. It just seems that you’re getting mad at the wrong person, and he hasn’t done anything wrong.

    As for male platonic friends – as I am one to several women, thanks for the warning. But I’d like to defend our kind a little bit. First, we need platonic women-friends, especially if we have no sisters. How else would we buy presents or plan dates? Second, female friendship is different than male friendship. As a man, I can’t rely on just my girlfriend for that – that would be seriously unhealthy.

    And don’t you women need us as well? I’ve fielded tearful, hours-long calls about issues ranging from med-school rejection and parental divorce to accidentally broken mirrors. I’ve been a surrogate boyfriend, serving warm OJ to feverish friends, unclogging their toilets, and fixing their computers. And seriously, having male friends keeps jerks away – if you listen to them.

    If your male friends are using you like a convenience store, they’re not your real friends. I understand the temptation – it’s never fun to stay at home rather than dine out because you have no one to eat with. But responsible men won’t do that to their single female friends. A real male friend is protective, not exploitative.

  5. You’re right Josh – we lean on our Surrogate Boyfriends just as much as guys rely on their Temporary Girlfriends. Sometimes it’s easy to forget all the ways they were there for us as well, and I’d like to add putting together furniture and helping with apt moves, b/c that was always uniquely guy-friend territory. I actually changed my mind on this recently, and really appreciated your point of view!

  6. Yes, Josh, I was rather harsh on Grant. Especially since it was only our third date. What I didn’t include in the blog was that we had been “hanging out” quite a bit before and in between those specified dates. He’s a good guy — I just had this inkling that eventually he’d end up as an added rung to my friendship ladder. Even though he was fine with it, I was not.

    Platonic pals are important. In fact, I’ve got quite a few. Josh, you sound like one of the good ones that your gal pals are blessed to have in their lives. I’m glad that women you date are fine with you playing that specific role.

    For me, I’ve been busted by quite a few former beaus for playing the role of TEMPORARY GIRLFRIEND (see Serendipity’s post) a little too well AND often. Recently, a guy I’ve been interested quite some time now, made it clear to me that one of his hang ups about dating me — was for this very reason: why would he want to compete for my attention if most of it was tending to my platonic pals?

  7. Hi S and S,

    Thanks for the kind comments. I sorta stumbled on this site while looking for date ideas a few weeks back, it’s very interesting! A great source of conversation between the gf and myself (“So what do you think of…”, et cetera). I’ve been reading the archives.

    Hmm, I guess boundaries are important, but my girl loves the fact that I take care of my platonic friends. I’ve made it clear that she’s my number one, and that’s enough for her. Apparently, it’s also incredibly reassuring for her that I have female friends, so she knows I’m not crazy. (I don’t know how true that is though, I can be quite neurotic.)

    In a different post, I think one of you mentioned that it’s a sign of trouble if you have a best friend of the opposite sex. I think there’s an exception – you can have best friends of the opposite sex if you’ve ruled out sex. My platonic girlfriends aren’t gfs-in-waiting, we know that at some level, we’re incompatible. Maybe that keeps the jealousy level down as well.

  8. Again. Thanks for the nuggets of wisdom Josh. I mean it. I’m glad that you’re able to keep things clear and out in the open with your PGFs. Again, your one-and-only-girl sounds like a gem. She’s a keeper. To be THAT understanding? I’m convinced she’s bound for sainthood.

    As for the topic of having a BFF of the opposite gender: I’m glad that you haven’t run into that wall with yours (assuming you have a BFF that’s female). I used to believe there were no gender lines to having a BFF. Now I realize there are massive exceptions to the rule, which is why I made sure to say so. I’ve been blessed with BFFs of the opposite gender, but the ones that have worked out are the ones like you suggested — have specific boundaries with. For example, making sure persistent consistency and convenience are not part of the equation.

    BTW — you should definitely think about becoming a guest contributor!

  9. sexAFTERsix, yes, she is a very special girl, but I don’t think that level of trust is that rare. There are a lot of good people out there who give their SOs the benefit of the doubt.

    Trust is the fuel that powers men (well, good men anyways). If you give a man trust, he will run himself to exhaustion to deserve and maintain that trust. Trust and honor are closely linked, and despite post-modernism, there is still nothing more powerful to motivate men than male honor.

    As for being guest contributor(!), I’m flattered. I must warn you, my friends would find the idea of me writing for a dating blog totally ludicrous – I’m not that experienced in dating, although I am fairly experienced in relationship troubleshooting for other people. I have an extremely logical thought process, almost to the point of being robotic.

    As for my own love life, it’s pretty sappy and happy, which makes for very boring reading. I am absolutely traditionalist when it comes to dating – I meet her through friends, we become casual friends, then I ask her out, go exclusive, and then meet her friends and win their trust. I always call or talk in person.

    And thankfully, there are apparently a lot of people who are like me. It’s an alternate universe where people don’t meet randomly, they are introduced to each other. They have dinner parties. They go to church. It’s all a bit proper and boring, NPR-boring. But it’s a nice world if you want to find these mythical “nice guys” and “good girls”.

    I’ve never been online dating. I’ve never picked-up someone in a club or bar. Hell, I’ve sent about ten text messages my entire life. My life is pretty plain vanilla – but, if after reading this, you still would like to have me guest contribute, I’ll take you up on it.

  10. @Josh: My buddies here at DatingThoughts agree wholeheartedly with me that you should be contributing more than just comments on our posts! Word has it, a few of them have tried to snag a post or two from you, but to no avail. Might I interest you in an article before the dreaded VD? As in the 14th of February? D’you think you have it in you to crank out your thoughts on being single and ready to mingle? OR not? Please DO contact us to let us know if you’ve got some slivers of wisdom to pen our way…

  11. Taking a late lunch break. Sure! I’d be happy to. I’d have to give some thought as to what to write about, maybe you have some ideas…let’s talk more via email.

  12. Although it sounds a bit harsh, a girl’s best friend is herself!!! A wise woman always did tell me that other than God, no one could ever love me more than myself. So, screw all the male platonic freaks that use women to satisfy the needs of their dysfunctional lives! Since when are women surrogate girlfriends?!?!? Platonic male friends use women like quick-stop stores and the emotional damage they cause is not worth a dime. Friendships are supposed to be bonding and caring for one another, not about what “services” you can offer. I am glad you kicked him to the curb.


  13. @BUSYBEE: Thanks for passing on the pearls of wisdom. You’ve certainly echoed what most of my friends have been trying to hammer home to me RE: loving myself. Talk about perfect timing! After a brief interlude — Grant’s been attempting to reconnect. Why? Methinks he hasn’t been collecting enough clue cards as of late. I’ve been advised by those much wiser than — to cut the cord completely.

    I’ve gotta admit that I’m a recent recovering platonic freak. Ironically, it took some really harsh reality checks from both male and female friends (since plunking down this particular post) RE: I’ve been equally guilty clinging onto my male counterparts for “purely platonic” companionship.

    It’s been tough, but I’m learning to loosen some of the emotional ties to keep me from getting sucked back into the “buddy system.”

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