Dealbreaker: The Third Wheel Hated Me

The girl was great: Tyler, a bright-haired activist who confessed her crush on me after a feminist burlesque show. The dates were great: a Valentine’s Day dance party in a warehouse-turned-art-gallery, a night in watching old movies. The third wheel, on the other hand, was not so great. Her best friend — with an admitted infatuation for her — he showed up on all of our dates to hang out with her and sulk at me. And she wouldn’t make him leave.

Tyler and I met at my first experience of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” when she dragged me towards the screen to do the Time Warp in front of everyone. I immediately liked her bright hair and her enthusiasm for the campy and radical, but I was too cautious to assume that she might be interested in girls, much less interested in me. When she invited me to the burlesque show, I wasn’t sure it was a date until she actually started kissing me.

At which point Michael, Tyler’s best friend of many years, saw us and got pissed. “Why do you always do this to me?” he asked. “Why do you have to kiss girls in front of me? You know how I feel.” I was shaken—I wanted the kiss to be about me and Tyler, not a power struggle between Tyler and Michael. Tyler calmed him down and we left.

It was a weird incident, but I figured I wouldn’t be seeing too much more of Michael unless Tyler and I got a lot more serious, and I hoped that by that point, Michael would have gotten over his feelings somewhat.

Wrong. Michael showed up every time I saw Tyler, whether it was a casual hangout or an official date. He mostly ignored me and made sexual comments about Tyler. If any other guy had talked to her like that, she would have cut him down with a vicious comeback—I’d seen it happen—but Michael got a pass. She told me that he’d been in love with her for a long time, and it hurt him to see her dating someone else, and they were both trying to figure out how to navigate their friendship when his infatuation was so heavy. I tried to be understanding. I just told her that the dynamic made me uncomfortable, and asked if we could try to hang out without him.

So I was even more excited for our Valentine’s Day date than I normally would have been—because she’d promised she wouldn’t subject me to Michael. The night started very promising. We met in a warehouse-turned-art-gallery for a few hours of local music and dancing. She gave me a homemade valentine. We danced together. And then Michael showed up, and she wanted to hang out with him.

I broke up with her. It had finally become clear to me how bizarre it was to have the same third wheel show up on every date. It was even weirder that the third wheel was clearly trying to turn me into the third wheel. I thought Tyler was cute and interesting, but I also knew that there was a whole world of cute, interesting people who didn’t bring their hostile best friends with them everywhere.