Can you really believe them when they say they are 'just friends'?
By Neelou Malekpour
When I was younger, I had several close male friends. As the years passed, that shifted as I realized either they were hoping to sleep with me by playing the friendship card, or as soon as they were in a committed relationship, it felt like “Neelou who?”
In my mid-twenties, I stopped keeping the company of male friends (unless they were gay)... with the exception of Gil, my best guy friend. Other than Gil, I firmly believe that there can be no true, lasting friendship between members of the opposite sex. Not a close friendship, at least.
If you peel back enough layers between two friends of the opposite sex who spend a lot of time keeping one another’s company, one always has feelings for the other.
And then, my hypothesis was proven, without a doubt.
Once upon a time I had a boyfriend who was cute, lots and lots of fun, said the right things, did the right things (for about five minutes), and I decided to fill in the rest of him before I even got a chance to really know him. After being together for some time, and living together for a few months, I awoke from my fantasy and realized he wasn’t who I thought he was.
Eric had a female “best friend” named Angie*. She had her body wash in his shower, her crap under his sink, was best friends with his sister (who didn’t like me much though she never bothered to get to know me). Angie hated me for no apparent reason. She and Eric would text incessantly, have sleepovers, study together, chill together and spend every waking minute together, but only when I wasn’t around.
Although it may seem like I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed, my only rebuttal is that hindsight is 20/20. And my perception was skewed because of Gil. He's the almond-butter-to-my-jelly-on-Ezekiel-bread and we’ve been friends for so many years. I ADORE him. He’s honestly like my brother.
Gil and I have traveled together, slept in the same bed together, been raging drunk together (with no one else around). We’ve even taken walks in the rain, but we’ve never, EVER engaged in any inappropriate behavior indicating any kind of romantic inclination. Gil proudly tells people he’s repulsed by me. I am, too. It’s quite functional.
Many of Gil’s girlfriends have been suspicious of me. They have questioned him, and fought with him, and been jealous. It’s draining and annoying and so not attractive. So I decided to be different: to trust Eric, believing his relationship with Angie must have been like my relationship with Gil. Yeah, that didn’t work out so well — they just got engaged last month.
I’m surprisingly not flustered about it. I expected this to happen, and to be honest, they make a pretty solid couple. The only negativity that lingers has to do with my own behavior during our relationship and right afterward. I’m happy stupidity is so painful because I’ll never repeat that mistake again.
My memory is a bit blurry surrounding a lot of what went down, but one incident shines bright like an ugly neon sign in the middle of the desert. It was late October/early November. Eric and I were a couple months into arguing about him and Angie’s boundary-less friendship and he was in a panic because he’d forgotten her birthday was in a couple of days. He and I were living in NYC and she was in LA, so there was essentially no way he could have gotten a package to her in time, even if he’d overnighted it.
He couldn’t tell his sister because she’d out him, so he decided to ask me for help. I knew Angie would flip her sh*t. It would actually have ruined her birthday, definitely her week, and probably her whole f*cking month.
Tempting as it was to let Eric drown and watch Angie suffer, I didn’t want to be an assh*le. I thought, "Well, maybe if I’m just nice, the Universe will pay me back with kindness and this bullsh*t with her will eventually dissipate." Eric asked what I would want for my birthday if I was her, and I responded honestly: that I’d want him to come visit me.
He looked up airfare prices and with such short notice, it would cost more than a grand to fly from NYC to LA. He looked at me in despair and before I knew it, I was using my airline miles and my credit card (there was a fee of a couple hundred dollars to book last minute) to get him on a flight to LA the following day so he could surprise Angie on her birthday.
I know. And FYI, I’m actually laughing out loud at myself while typing this. Thanks to Facebook, I got to see party pics, and other pics, and messages like best surprise ever for days.
Then Eric came back. I don’t even remember how, but I found out he had gone there, surprised Angie, and conveniently pretended he’d planned the whole thing beforehand. Just a bullsh*t story eaten up by all his friends and family, and a swooning Angie who thought Eric was the most thoughtful, loving dude. That particular scenario still irritates me, even writing about it many years later.
See, I hate that deep down, I knew their relationship was totally inappropriate, but instead of trusting my own intuition, I would listen to Eric’s lies. He wasn’t only lying to me and Angie, but I think he may have actually been lying to himself, too. That’s his karma, though, and Angie’s. I don’t think either of them needed to behave in the manner they did toward me, but that’s not my concern, and I’m definitely not in a place to judge.
My qualms are about myself. How did I not have my own back? How was I so loyal to someone so blatantly duplicitous? When I look back, I'm embarrassed for myself. I can’t believe I stayed in that relationship as long as I did — arguing with Eric, trying to create a case, collecting evidence. Feeling upset and angry with Angie. Wishing she’d be different. Talking about it with my friends in circles and generally behaving like an obsessed lunatic.
If something like that happened now, I would walk away almost immediately with minimal struggle. As cliché as it is, you live, and you learn. My boundaries are so strong now. I wouldn’t even think about sleeping in the same bed as Gil anymore. Inappropriate is inappropriate.
I don’t interact with exes, not even on social media. And I have VERY few close guy friends that are straight. Essentially, I operate on zero tolerance with regard to inappropriateness, weirdness, or other blurry energy from the opposite sex. And when it comes to men — when there are other women in the picture and I feel even an iota of warning in the pit of my stomach — now I listen to it.
My intuition is what guides me, regardless of what words are exchanged, what fake smiles are displayed, what the situation seems like to my rational mind. Thus far, I have always ended up being right — any woman who raised my red flag antennae eventually proved the underlying motivation behind the innocent guise of "friendship."
At the end of the day, it’s not about never interacting with the opposite sex, but having very clear boundaries. Such is life. Lesson learned. Past grievances forgiven. And now, only gratitude remains.
(*Obviously these are not their real names, I’m not that mean.)
Here I am with Gil. Just friends, and I actually mean it.
This article was originally published at xoJane. Reprinted with permission from the author.