You know when your friend gets a boyfriend, and for whatever reason, you know it’s not a good idea and that it’s not going to work out? And you say “I dunno, I feel like it’s not a good idea, and that it’s not going to work out…” But your friend is stubborn, so obviously they go on dating the person anyway, despite all the signs that they shouldn’t, and then they have a fraught and complicated relationship that doesn’t even last that long, and after the inevitable break-up, you, the loyal friend, are forced to deal with sometimes years of emotional aftermath?
…reading this week’s Modern Love column in The New York Times was sort of like that.
The author starts out giving us a rundown of how emotionally effed up and lost she was, which is generally not a great place to start a relationship. She describes starting to date because “it seemed like something people did.” She then meets a guy who basically wins her over by being straight up persistent, even though she isn’t crazy about him, but she basically had nothing else going on, and he was kind of rich.
This is the point in the story where I, the reader/Loyal Friend, furrow my brow and tell her, “Well, it just doesn’t sound like you really like him that much?”
And then comes this part:
“He had a trust fund and spent it heedlessly on toys and clothes and eating out. I accepted his gifts and ate the meals and stayed constantly at his side, even quitting the coffee job so we could be together.
He was affectionate, tender; told me I was beautiful, that he loved me. I was broken, exhausted, lost, and I let him take care of me.”
And this is the point in the story where I, the reader/Loyal Friend want to shake her by the shoulders and tell her that she needs to figure herself out, that she can’t rely on a man to fix her, that she can’t rely on a relationship to make her happy. This is the point in the story where I scream at her for quitting her job to live as a sort of modern-day concubine to a guy who is starting to seem more and more like a jerk to me.
What I never understand about this sort of relationship is that, while it’s definitely needy and all encompassing, it never seems … fun?
For example, the author describes a typical date:
“I picked at my food, nodding that, yes, I liked the wine, and, yes, I understood it was hard to select a wine that would complement our different meals and I’m sorry I wouldn’t order the veal but I just couldn’t and I thought the wine was fine with my pasta and vegetables and julienne of hot peppers, and, yes, it did seem possible that we might be the most attractive couple there.”
It sounds completely miserable, but at the same time, I can feel myself pursing my lips and trying to curb the judgmental tone in my voice when I tell her, “Well what did you expect? You don’t have to stay with him, you know.”
At the end of the column, the author finds lasting love and happiness, and as her reader/hypothetical loyal friend, I am happy for her.
But also a very tiny, immature part of me wants to sit back in my seat, smile smugly, and say, “I told you so.”
This piece was originally published on How About We’s blog The Date Report.