Dater X: The First Big Fight

It was bound to happen.

Things with The Big Easy have been so (say it with me) easy, I knew we were headed for our first fight. Unsurprisingly, it was about El Guapo, who I hasten to point out I have not seen since our margarita-fueled bed romp several weeks ago. Not that I haven’t wanted to, and not that I haven’t made plans to, which is where the “first fight” part of the story lies.

For one thing, I don’t know too many women like me. I know plenty of smart women, plenty of strong women, plenty of women with plenty of male friends. But I don’t know too many women who have been single for as long as I have and who are still interested, as I am, in one day being taken “off the market” in a permanent way. I also don’t know too many women who can successfully have platonic relationships with men for a significant length of time. I’m sure they exist – hell, I’m one of them – but for the most part, the women I personally know tend not to have enduring, years-long friendships with men without one or both of them developing romantic feelings for one another. So while I have occasionally slept with my male friends (and no, not all of them!), they remain firmly in the “friend” category, which makes them about as much of a threat to my significant other as my female friends.

What can I say? I’m an undateable goddamned unicorn.

As I wrote about El Guapo, it has always been my expectation that, when someone like The Big Easy came along and made a … well, if not “honest,” at least a less dishonest woman of me, El Guapo and I would remain friends. Our fooling around was never especially tender, and I truly don’t think it ever occurred to either of us that we might be laying down the foundation for a relationship. It certainly never occurred to me. So when I met The Big Easy, my longtime friend El Guapo, who talks baseball stats with me for hours on end and sneaks me free drinks when I sit at his bar and makes fart jokes in front of me (sometimes punctuated by actual farts, because boys, amirite??) went right back, in my head, to just being my friend.

My head is a nice place to be, most of the time. It turns out that it’s just not the most realistic place to be.

Having had plans all summer to attend a certain baseball game together towards the end of the season, I balked a bit at going once The Big Easy found El Guapo’s cigarettes in my apartment and trotted out a jealous streak that was all the more surprising because I don’t share it; in my mind, friends are friends and that’s that. I badgered The Big Easy into agreeing to attend the game with us, and a few days later, he confessed that he was completely uncomfortable with the idea and proposed that I go alone, then meet him for a drink afterwards to introduce him to El Guapo. Sweet and reasonable, but I felt pretty sure that it was a one-way ticket to Things He’ll Hold Over My Head Later-ville, and I told El Guapo I wouldn’t make it to the game after all.

Flash forward to this week, when El Guapo – someone who, until The Big Easy came along, I saw almost once a week to watch baseball and have drinks and generally enjoy each other’s company – texted to ask about getting together to watch baseball and have drinks and generally enjoy each other’s company. I said yes and we put a plan on the books. And then I brought it up with The Big Easy, who just about lost his damned mind.

He was pissed about a number of things, including that he interpreted us not going to the baseball game as me “taking a break” from El Guapo to give our relationship room to grow. Which, yes, is a thing that I want. Our relationship is growing. But the simple truth is that I don’t see my friendship with El Guapo as something that is in any way related to our relationship, except inasmuch as I’m a better girlfriend and a better person when I feel happy and comfortable and fulfilled, and spending time with my friends makes me feel all of those things.

There was a great deal of heated talk, and The Big Easy and I went to bed, if not angry, certainly not resolved either. The next day, when we got back into town to head to work, he pointed me towards the subway I needed and stalked out of the station without a goodbye kiss. Hurt and angry, I went home and stewed. Why should I have to give up my friends when all I do is try to be as transparent as possible? I thought. Why am I being treated as though I’ve done something wrong when all I’ve been is completely, brutally honest about everything??

That afternoon, The Big Easy called me from work. He told me that he didn’t like the way he’d been acting, and that he understood that my friends were important to me, but that me spending time with someone I used to sleep with felt disrespectful to him. I don’t agree that it’s disrespectful if it’s not my intention to deceive him, and he doesn’t agree that I can see and do whatever I please with whomever I please. Which is a pretty nasty disagreement, because neither of us seems able to completely concede the other’s point.

So where does that leave us? With a second cancelled plan for me to hang with El Guapo, and with the understanding that we’ll both try and work on it: me, on seeing things from his point of view; him, on trusting me enough to give me the freedom that I’ve become so accustomed to and that I’m not sure I’m ready (or ever will be ready) to give up. And while we’ve had a very good week since then, and I’m relieved that we agreed to work on it from both sides instead of one or the other of us conceding entirely, it’s hard not to feel like I found a land mine and might not have sufficiently detonated it to ensure the safety of myself and those around me when we cross this field again.