Friday, March 19, 2010

A History Lesson

Being in love with someone else’s boyfriend sucks. It sucks more when he lives 3,000 miles away, in your hometown. It makes it even worse when you realize you haven’t had a crush this intense since you were twelve and everyone had a poster of Jonathan Taylor Thomas in their locker. It adds insult to injury when you wake up in a new city with only one real friend and, strangely, no libido. It rubs salt in the wound that everywhere you go you meet men who are in relationships. But the worst part of all, the thing that makes all of the above problems seem insignificant, the predicament that places an immoveable boulder in your path of self-improvement, is that you and he are friends. The only thing more disheartening than coveting another woman’s boyfriend, is coveting your friend.

Beyond the moral dilemma, there is added the issue of day-to-day survival. In today’s uber-connected world with fuzzy lines between reality and virtual-reality, you can speak to someone in the afternoon about his plans for that evening and then see photographic evidence of it pop up on your news feed four hours later (at least you know he wasn’t lying about why he had to go!). We must now cope with our problems in our faces at all times. If he’s truly your friend, if you honestly have an existing relationship with this person, his presence, regardless of his physical distance from you, is not going anywhere.

Of course if he were just an acquaintance, a friend of a friend or a distant co-worker or classmate, he could easily disappear with the click of a button. De-friending is easy when you know you’ll barely be missed, but how do you explain such an action if he’s asking you to send pictures of your new apartment? We are all familiar, whether we’ll admit it or not, with the pulsating temptation to virtually check in on people. We check in on the objects of our affection. We check in on the objects of their affection. We check in on past objects of our affection even if we are truly unaffected by their affections anymore. And even though few of us have big enough egos to believe it, they are all checking in on us too. In short, if you delete him from your friends list simply to stop yourself from obsessing over his unattainable existence, your actions will not go unnoticed.

It is wonderful that now, no matter where you are in the world, your friends are close by. No matter how many time zones separate you, being in touch is a few keystrokes away. But what happens if your friend is the person you need desperately to avoid? Being connected with him online is like being forced to pass by your seventh grade crush everyday because he’s always at his locker when you’re headed to U.S. History. There’s no avoiding it and worst of all, it feels kind of good.

We’ve all had our fair share of guiltless crushes from far away. That guy at the coffee shop who always serves your Americano with an extra smile you assume is just for you; the one with whom you repeatedly end up on the same subway car during your morning commute. These are welcome distractions from our otherwise mundane routines. There’s a freedom we get from obsessing from a distance. It’s a safe way to direct our affection in an anonymous, non-committal environment. In essence, these crushes don’t matter because nothing will ever come of them. There is little to no interaction between you and this person and that way it can live in your imagination as big or as small as you need it. When you’re ready to move on, you can make it disappear as easily as you can switch to the Starbucks three blocks closer to work. So what happens when you need to move on, but the object of your desire is a frequently called contact in your phone? It now becomes much more difficult to extract this fantasized relationship from your imagination. This is not just a day-dreamed scenario with a barista. It is a very real relationship that exists in the very real world and it is not of the same nature as the idyllic one living in your right brain.

A friendship is hard work, even harder when you secretly wish it were something more. You are constantly trying to find the balance between full support and total honesty. And truly, what is any relationship without honesty? Herein lies your predicament. When surveying close girlfriends, the one that leans more on the side of support than honesty will tell you that since he never talks to you about his girlfriend, he must love you too he just hasn’t admit it (to himself) yet. The one leaning towards (brutal) honesty will tell you to get over it, it’s unrealistic and unhealthy and this hang-up is perhaps the cause of your mysterious loss of libido. Perhaps they are both right (about everything), but your honest friend will tell you that even if the two of you are meant to be together it sure ain’t happening anytime soon, so move on.

If this is the opinion you’ve accepted, you now have to deal head on with the fact that he is still in your life. Maybe even permanently depending on how good a friend he is. Odds are, he’s a great friend. A great person. A loyal boyfriend. Always giving you positive feedback and confidence boosts just when you need them and making you feel needed at exactly the right times. Chances are he’s doing everything right all the time. This can be looked at as the reason why he’s so hard to be around (even in a virtual world). But this can also be the reason why you can continue to be his friend: he’s easy to support. You are, by definition of your obsession, in full support of his behavior as a friend.

You’ve got half of your role as a good friend down pat. But the other half? Not as simple. How do you find a way to be honest, without spilling your guts and sending him running in the other direction? The answer is painfully simple. The only real way to cope is to continue. And, at the risk of sounding cliché, eventually, something has got to give. Either you will find a way out of love, or he will find a way in. Nothing lasts forever. After all, you don’t have any posters of JTT on your wall now, do you? You will eventually move on, and as long as you remain a true friend, you can’t lose. Be thankful that you don’t have the kind of friendship that allows you to dish about your love lives to each other. What could be more painful than hearing how well things are going for him with someone else? And if you do have that kind of friendship, be thankful it’s not you he’s complaining about to his friends.

If honesty is the other half of your friendship role, then be honest about your desire to be his friend. Give him honest advice and support. Let yourself have honest relationships with those around you so you can stop neglecting potential new friendships. Remember that once upon a time, his was a new friendship too.

So before you go suspending your online accounts because his cyber presence is too much for you to bear, try to see the bigger picture. You can’t spend your entire semester coming in late to your U.S. History class. What you can do is enjoy the view as you pass his locker, and then get ready to pay attention in class, because history is bound to repeat itself.

1 comment:

  1. YOU might not have a poster of JTT on your wall. Other than that, though - BAM! Merlot Mouth(es?) is(are?) on point.