Welcome to the third (and final) installment of the heartbreak monologues, a post that tackles the age-old question: Can men and women be just friends? If you missed Part I and Part II, check ’em out! I hope you enjoy reading the conclusion to our Valentine’s Day series, starring:
The Romantically Unavailable Best Friend
THE STORY // About a year after my humiliating episode with Jared, I met a new guy (Simon) at a house party in college. I spotted him from across the room about halfway through the night and immediately thought of Flynn Rider from Tangled: Cartoon or not, Simon had the same slender build, long(ish) dark hair, relaxed demeanor, and—as I would come to find out—a refreshing directness about him that drew me right away.
Neither of us were really the partying type, which is most likely why we ended up engaged in our own private conversation for the remainder of the evening. We instantly bonded over our mutual interest in film and shared dream of moving to London (a discovery that alone was enough to make my heart skip a beat). He offered to drive me home after the party, and before saying our goodbyes, we agreed to hang out again sometime. It wasn’t until the next morning, after making our new friendship Facebook official, that I happened upon his blinking red relationship status. Surprise, surprise: he had a girlfriend back home.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a tad disappointed (seriously, who else would be willing to move to London with me?), as well as a little confused that he hadn’t mentioned her, but I convinced myself we could still be friends.
Little did I know, we would become besties practically overnight. On our second meeting, at a hipster coffee shop a block from my apartment, we talked for four hours straight—about a slew of topics ranging from relationships to religion. Our conversations were deep and always intriguing, and after a while, random house parties became just an excuse to hang out with each other. Within a few months, I was cheering him on at his soccer games and he was bringing me donuts before class. Weekends were spent watching documentaries on my couch, bar-hopping on 6th street (where he once attempted to teach me to salsa—those Cuban genes tho!), or scoping out the city’s food scene with the roomies. And when we weren’t physically together, we were texting. Sometimes until 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning.
I know you’re imagining the worst right now, but our exchanges weren’t flirtatious by nature. We would just talk about things that normal friends talk about: movies we’d seen, articles we’d read, our most recent discoveries and fascinations, what we dreamed of doing after college… You get the idea. The only difference was, we couldn’t stop talking.
The opposite of Jared, Simon encouraged boldness in me. He told me to speak my mind, to shake off my timidity, to state my opinions unapologetically. And I liked that about him. Perhaps, more accurately, I liked who I became when I was with him: confident, free, real.
If this all sounds sketchy considering the circumstances, that’s because it was. I knew we were headed for destruction, deep down–but Simon’s company was addicting, and I lost that argument with my conscience over and over again. All the while, he assured me that his girlfriend knew about our friendship (and had zero qualms), which made it a thousand times easier to ignore the writing on the wall.
At some point, though, I could no longer deny my attraction to him, and he could no longer deny that the connection we shared, platonic or otherwise, was getting too close for comfort. While my head told me to pull a Jane Eyre and run, my heart had different plans: One night, after realizing I was in too deep, I bared my soul to Simon in a Facebook message (how millennial of me), in which I admitted I couldn’t just be his friend anymore—and basically asked him to choose between me or her.
In the end, he chose the latter. And I chose to drown my sorrows in a pint of Ben & Jerry’s.
THE TAKEAWAY // Before this experience, I never imagined I’d be the girl who attached herself to an unavailable guy. I thought I was smarter than that, and not to mention, too self-conscious to intentionally invoke confrontation. It wasn’t until the dust had settled that I was able to see clearly the slippery slope that our emotions can put us on—and vowed to never again allow mine to cloud my better judgment.
I don’t blame Simon for anything, really, other than being careless. He was the one in a committed relationship, sure, but we both let things progress further than was appropriate. Out of respect for his girlfriend (who happens to be one of the sweetest girls I know), I should have taken a step back in our friendship the moment I sensed my feelings changing. But I chose to put my feelings out there instead, a choice that revealed both an inner foolishness and fearlessness that I didn’t know I had. Yes, I pursued a guy in a long-term, long-distance relationship, and I’ll forever be a little ashamed of that fact. But I was painstakingly honest by the end, something I can’t say I wholeheartedly regret—because it was, truth be told, a small step towards becoming the woman I’d like to be someday: Boldly and unapologetically myself.
All that said, can guys and girls be just friends? I’d still like to think so, sure, but only once concrete boundaries have been drawn and agreed upon. Take it from someone who blatantly overstepped them: Don’t be that girl. If a guy is in a relationship, keep him at arm’s length. Because if feelings do develop, you’ll undoubtedly end up with a broken heart—or even worse, be partly responsible for someone else’s.
THE CONCLUSION // While you might have (hopefully) enjoyed reading about my most personal stories of heartbreak, you might be thinking: Cool story, bro, but what’s the point?
Great question, thanks for asking! Because I actually do have a reason for going all Taylor Swift on you guys this week. And no, it wasn’t to trash-talk my exes. In fact, the poor men that I’ve brazenly crafted into caricatures for the sake of my storytelling are actual people—good people—with feelings and stories and heartbreaks of their own. (To whom I sincerely apologize if they ever do stumble upon these posts.) Even if I was barely a blip on their radar, I can honestly say that I’m grateful for each Mr. Wrong in my life, the connection we shared, and the lessons they taught me.
The point of this blog series, however, has nothing to do with them. Cliff, Jared, Simon… They all just happened to play a part in a much larger story of self-discovery.
When it comes to romantic love, heartbreak is inevitable. We’ve all had our hearts broken, and we’ve all been the heartbreakers at some point. In the thick of it, unrequited love—betrayal, rejection (whatever you want to call it)—hurts. A lot. But eventually, you come out on the other side, maybe a little stronger than you were before. You begin to see everything, including yourself, a little clearer. And one day, it dawns on you:
Heartbreak, or at least the risk of it, is what makes all of this—the butterflies, the connection, the romance—worth celebrating. Without it, we wouldn’t know happiness if it hit us in the face. We wouldn’t know what it means to truly put our trust in another, or how it feels to open our hearts to someone completely. Could we love as deeply, knowing we had nothing to lose? Without the possibility of pain, there’d be no vulnerability. And a world without vulnerability would be the death of intimacy as we know it. Which is why, if we’re going to celebrate love—why not celebrate it all? Heartbreak included.
THE EPILOGUE // I’m currently 25 years old, happily married, and a little wiser in affairs of the heart than I used to be. My relationship with my husband is very different than any fling I entertained in high school or college, and I thank my lucky stars for that. But on the rare occasion (like this week) that I find myself pondering the romantic ties of my younger years, I can’t help but think: Had I not gone through what I did with my Mr. Wrongs, I might not be able to fully appreciate what I’ve got with my one-and-only Mr. Right. And that, my friends, would be the the most heartbreaking thing of all.
Photos from When Harry Met Sally by Columbia Pictures.