It’s a common dating app trope; let’s start as friends first and try to build from there. It’s something we say because it sounds good, if someone out the gate is like, I want my eggs CRACKED, meaning I want a child… I want my name DROPPED, meaning I want to be married (h/t New York the Lash Gawd), that’s a swipe left. Even if ultimately that is your goal, that’s a lot to ask of a stranger with a couple selfies on an app. Friendship is the softer approach, even though you both know you aren’t on this dating app to make friends. So, you play along…you have a few conversations, you ask them out and suddenly the secret’s out, you are trying to pursue them romantically! *Crowd gasps*. Turns out, they too aren’t actually looking for new friends they are also looking for a romantic partner…just not you, sorry. *Crowd awws*. So, then you continue a friendship with them. You become vulnerable with them, they become vulnerable with you. You know each other’s favorite foods, colors, books, Netflix series. Now that a relationship is off the table, there’s no need to be guarded. You see them for who they truly are, they see you for you. You learn what they look for in a partner, it’s someone just like you. You think about what you look for in a partner, it’s someone like them. Then one day, you just decide to shoot your shot again, the secret’s out again you weren’t really trying to be their friend you were trying to pursue them romantically! *Crowd boos*. They trusted you, confided in you and all you was doing was gathering intel for a better shot. Sounds gross out loud, doesn’t it?
Unless of course, they are with it and then you live happily ever after. When it works out, no one looks back at how weird it is. The Flash and Iris West get married and have kids so then in retrospect, him pining for his foster sister for over a decade doesn’t feel as gross. For me, the closest would be my longest relationship. There was no happily ever after obviously but we were together for several years. She was a hippie dippy homegirl who I never thought I would be with. I don’t know if she ever saw herself with me either, she would always poke fun at my dating life and the “saditty” girls I would chase. But life happened, we fell in love yada yada yada. I didn’t feel like she crossed a line in our friendship, but once we were together I knew that we could never just be friends again and we haven’t spoken since. C’est la vie.
There’s a vulnerability with friendships that differs from that of a relationship. Doubly so with men/women friends. Women having an even bigger struggle because if we’ve learned nothing else from #MeToo, it’s seemingly impossible to exist anywhere without a man trying to fuck you. It’s something I’m cognizant of in my own friendships; that if we are friends, we’re friends with no ulterior motives or secret desires. I’m not the same way with my female friends than I am with women I’m pursuing. My friends see me for who I am, partners see who I am trying to be. Not necessarily in a dishonest way, just different. My friends see you for who you are, dates see who you’re trying to present. They see the outfit you picked out, not the 5 other ideas that got dragged in the groupchat. They don’t know that you weren’t blown away by the 1st date and had to be urged into another. (It’s why I don’t think you should follow s/o on social media, but no one hears me). You’re so unfiltered with your friends that when they then turn around and shoot their shot, it’s so startling. I’ve had female friends pursue me romantically and I struggled to process, feeling like our friendship has suddenly become conditional, wondering if there’s even romantic feelings to return and if not, the guilt of having to hurt someone you care about. It’s not necessarily their fault if they’ve developed feelings for you but it makes the entire friendship look funny in the light. Particularly for someone like myself who doesn’t open up that much. And once it’s out there, its out. You can’t pretend they don’t have feelings for you, and now you’re left wondering if it was ever a friendship or just a dating internship?
It was a question I had to ask myself concerning someone; if we were actually friends or was I waiting for a better shot? I knew firsthand how disheartening it can be to have someone you trust cross that line and maybe I was being a whole hypocrite. When it works, it’s no harm no foul but that mostly happens on rom coms and TV shows. When it doesn’t you blew up a friendship for no reason. I had to think about what I actually wanted, I have her already; in an intimate relationship but not a romantic one. Maybe too much time has passed, we a little too close, maybe she’ll never see me differently. Is it worth the risk? Can I handle the rejection? Was I ever her friend? What kinda friend even does this? All the questions and pro/cons, there was only one way to find out for sure, and so I shoot…miss. Fuck you, rom coms. *Crowd sighs*
So exceptions aside, people don’t date their friends. (Maybe sleep together but that doesn’t end well either) Yes, over the course of a relationship your partner does become a friend but that’s not quite the same thing. Aside from that one relationship, the women I’ve dated, from jump knew I was stepping to them as a suitor not a friend. Make your intentions known, early and often so there’s no surprises and no mixed signals (and no one claiming y’all “used to talk” simply because they got your number).