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Girlfriend or Girl Friend?

Happy Monday, all! As usual, don't forget that you can get more scoop on my personal blog, So about what I said...

Over tuna melts and coffee in a small-town diner one September afternoon, one of my oldest friends, Claire, and I were in the midst of catching up on each other’s busy lives. Work (we weren’t thrilled about our post-college jobs, but it paid the rent). Family (We wondered why our families become crazier and more dramatic with age). The nip of fall in the air (Were we turning into old ladies?) 
After a lull in the conversation, Claire’s eyes lit up. 
“So I hear you’re sad over a boy,” she said in a hushed voice as if trying to be discrete and not divulge top-secret FBI classified information. 
We were suddenly 15 again. 

“Oh, so you saw my blog?” I asked. I knew I shouldn’t write those blogs late at night. “It’s not really as dire as I made it out to be.” 
I tried to brush it off and be nonchalant about the whole thing. After all, I’m a grown woman. I’m not one of those people who suffer from the double Ds – depressed and desperate over some guy. I pitied those people. That certainly wasn’t me. 
Apparently, Claire saw right through my façade. 
We sat there, giddy as school girls as I retold the tale. 

A few months before, out of the blue, I received a short and innocent note from an old acquaintance. We’d attended the same high school, and my father worked with his parents, although we really weren’t that close, we’d known of each other for as long as I could remember. 
Hey Melissa, 
How are you? How’ve you been? Your mother once suggested we meet up for lunch or dinner. I would like that. 
Cute Guy Friend

It was a simple note, but with my father’s death four years earlier, it made me smile to reconnect with someone from my father’s past. 
Over the next few months, we kept in contact through email. He told me about his life as a big-shot lawyer in the Chicago suburbs. I bemoaned my toils as an aspiring freelance writer, to which he said he loved my work as a newspaper columnist and wanted me to send him my columns every week. 
We even began exchanging flirty little emails, complete with a wealth of electronic smiley faces. 
Maybe it was just my girly side doing all the talking, but I could feel something between us. The more we got to know each other all over again, the more I found myself liking him – I’m talking about 15-year-old liking him –maybe even falling for him, though I vowed to myself that I wouldn’t be the first to admit it. 

I wasn’t that girl, remember?
And then the bomb dropped. 
Hey Melissa, 
Do you have another copy of your essay that was in Redbook? My girlfriend lost her copy. 
Cute Friend Guy

So apparently, all the falling had been on my end. I had become “The Friend.” I was the Dawson to his Joey. The Ross to his Rachel. An unspoken yearning more powerful in its silence. 
I officially put on The Friend sash when we met up for brunch the following week. As I sipped a steamy hot chocolate, he told me all about Megan (not her real name). They’d been dating for three years. They’d discussed having kids one day. Oh, and what a coincidence – she was a lawyer too. 

They were so perfect for each other. 

I soon realized that I was the girl friend, not the girlfriend. I might as well wear the crown. 
“Why do guys do that?” Claire asked after I finished my girl friend vs. girlfriend spiel, a look of pure puzzlement crossing both our brows. 
That’s the million-dollar question, I suppose. But the billion-dollar question? I’ve never been the typical jealous woman. So why was I trailing a loud streak of green behind me? Something told me I could rationalize it according to the myths of The Friend Syndrome – a very debilitating, insidious disease.

See, being friends with a guy is sort of like having the perfect boyfriend. He listens, gives you the inside scoop on the male mind, is both charming and flirtatious sometimes and is always there for you. The only problem: He’s, well, not technically your boyfriend. He’s your boy friend. And when your boy friend has a girlfriend (note: not a girl friend; that’s your role, remember?), it’s hard not to feel just a little pang of heartbreak.

But we put on a smile anyway. Why? Because, of course, we can’t admit that we wish our boy friend was our boyfriend. Confused yet? Welcome to my world. Here are the myths I wish I’d known before taking up a boy friend.*  

*Guys, take notes. 

Myth #1: We love meeting your girlfriend, and of course she’s welcome to join us at the movies (substitute dinner, lunch, etc., or whatever fits your situation)
Truth: We can take the “How We Met” story once, maybe twice if we’re not experiencing PMS or are a bit tipsy, but that’s the limit. We feign a smile and a nod over salad and champagne as we watch you two hold hands, but inside we’re mentally writing our grocery list, thinking about that work proposal or counting the number of freckles on her forehead. Has she had Botox or ‘work’ done? You’re so in love. We get it. 
Myth #2: We never compare ourselves to your lady love. Why would we be so insecure and shallow?
Truth: The minute I heard about Megan, I did the only logical thing. I furiously Googled her and looked for her on MySpace and Facebook. I just had to see this vision of perfection. What color was her hair? Was her skin creamier than mine? I did everything short of e-stalking but came up empty-handed. The thing is, though, we do it all in secret. If you ever ask us, we remark, “Of course not. What am I? Jealous? Pfft. Someone sure thinks highly of himself, doesn’t he?” 
Myth #3: We never drift off during the day and daydream about the day you two break up. For good. 
Truth: Women are natural predators. We want to be top dog. It’s just in our nature. Even I’ve been guilty of this. The whole storming in on the wedding scene in Four Weddings and a Funeral has always held special meaning for me. Now I know why. And don’t even get me started on My Best Friend’s Wedding. We may like you two separately, but together…well, we secretly hoped that would end eventually. And by eventually, we really mean soon. Very soon. 
Myth #4: We’re definitely NOT in love with you. Platonic friendships are soooo 2009.
Truth: Women have no trouble dishing dirt and secrets with their girlfriends a la Sex&The City. But with members of the opposite sex, we become mumbling mutes, heavy on the mute side. We have enough trouble admitting our feelings to ourselves, so guys, if a female friend gives that awkward laugh and says “Of course I don’t have feelings for you,” chances are she’s thisclose to making out with you like two lonely high schoolers. I don’t know how much clearer we can make it. 

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some ‘research’ to do. I just found out what town she lives in. But I don’t care, really. This is purely for research purposes.


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