Monday, January 4, 2010

Engagement Fever and Friends Who Aren't Who You Thought They Were

Let me just preface this post by saying that this is THE YEAR (and by "this" I don't mean 2009 nor 2010, but this collection of the last few months) to get engaged. Everyone has gotten engaged. My brother, who to be quite honest we never thought would get engaged. I am so invested in the lives of some bloggers that I love to read that I actually squealed out loud when I read their engagement posts.

But there's one engagement that's really affected me, in a pretty terrible way.

He's been one of my best friends since we were 15. He was the mutual best friend of Big Relationship and myself, and all through high school the three of us were like the Three Musketeers. Lame reference, but it gets the point across.

The thing was, I was always attracted to him, in every way you can be attracted to someone; he's great-looking, he's funny, he plays guitar, he sings, he was super nice, and I loved spending time with him. Oh, and he was totally into me too, which always helps.

Of course, acting on those feelings would have screwed up my relationship with Big Relationship--more than it already was, I guess,--and so we never did. We slowly started to reveal our feelings for each other over the years, and when he went to college my junior year of high school (in 2005), we emailed and IMed constantly. Soon enough we were signing our emails with "I love you," and I considered him my best friend.

Big Relationship and I broke up my freshman year of college, and for the first time in our friendship with our Third Muskeeteer I was single, but he was not. He had started dating a girl a year older than him at his college, which was about an hour and a half away from Williams (in the town that our biggest rival school is located, hint hint.)

Big Relationship and I remained friends after our breakup (miraculously), and so we went Christmas shopping together that winter break (this was 2007 at this point). We ended up running into our friend at the mall, and all decided to grab dinner together. I didn't go in the same car as Big Relationship since I wanted to spend time with our friend who we hadn't seen in months.

That car ride was one of the most difficult interactions I've ever had. We struggled against so many feelings and mainly tried to hold back the urge to pounce on each other (okay people, at that point it had been about 4 years of pent-up, uncontrollable attraction) and it was at that point that we really started vocalizing our not-so-secret emotions. We emailed back and forth, said I love you, IMed multiple times a week, texted, and generally kept up a long distance relationship without, y'know, the whole relationship part.

Though our colleges were only an hour apart we never saw each other by the time he graduated (he's two years older so I was a sophomore in college when he graduated). Not to say we didn't joke about it, but we both knew in our heart of hearts that seeing each other would be too confusing and complicate things too much. And especially after I started dating L., the love of my life, I knew that I didn't want to do anything to mess it up.

He and his girlfriend moved back near my hometown, about 10 mins from me. Last Christmas we had a coffee date but it fell through, and I started to fear that I would never see him again. Above all else, he continued to be one of my oldest and closest friends, and I decided that if our attraction to each other precluded us from ever spending time together again, we had better just put it behind us.

The Tuesday before this Christmas, I got a text from him asking if I was free and if I wanted to meet up for dinner. I was elated at the prospect of seeing him, determined to keep it friendly, and curious to see him for the first time in two years. We met at the restaurant and he looked slightly older but sounded exactly the same, and I realized how much I had missed him and how much he meant to me all at once.

At dinner, I joked that we'd have to put our notions of one day acting on our attraction or being together aside for good.

"Why?" he asked. "Are you getting married?" He knew all about L.

"Funny," I had said. "No, but I would assume you would be soon?"

He didn't answer the question but made some sort of snarky remark, as is his custom, and I found myself feeling slightly sorry for his girlfriend who had been out of college for two years and was living with someone who seemingly had no intentions of proposing anytime soon.

After dinner (he paid), we sat in my car to talk a little more and to say goodbye. It was at that point that I realized he didn't intend on just keeping it friendly. He talked about how he felt that we'd never be able to move on and be happy in our relationships with other people unless we gave into the temptation that had governed our friendship for 6 years. It's like that quote from The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde: "The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it. Resist it, and your soul grows sick with longing for the things it has forbidden to itself, with desire for what its monstrous laws have made monstrous and unlawful." I'm pretty sure Wilde was talking about homosexual desire and not a deep attachment between two close friends, but I guess the feeling's the same.

When he leaned in to kiss me I told him that I couldn't; that though it might suck to hear, I was pretty certain that L. was the person I wanted to spend the rest of my life with, and it wasn't something I was willing to ruin. It was awkward and confusing and neither of us was really sure what to do. He argued that I came before his girlfriend and he came before L., and that in a way we were entitled to our feelings and entitled to act on them in order to move on, since if we hadn't moved on in 6 years, who was to say we ever would? The whole conversation was confusing and hard and when he left I found myself missing L. , who was home in California, more than ever. I called him right after.

About a week later, on New Year's Day, I signed onto Facebook. The top story on my newsfeed was an album called "Engagement." It was his. It detailed the entire process of his proposal, to her acceptance, to pictures of the ring and of them together. This coming from someone who hasn't added a new photo to Facebook since 2006. He completely has no presence on it whatsoever (he accused me of forgetting his birthday one year because he didn't even notice I had written happy birthday to him). Yet there it was, the new album, which I couldn't help but feel was horribly intended, at least partly, for my eyes.

I was enraged. Thoughts and accusations rushed through my mind. I couldn't understand what had happened. He never even seemed like he genuinely loved her; where had the proposal come from? How long had be been planning it? Did he have the ring with him when he tried to make a move on me?

Where did I fit in the whole equation? Was his attempt a test--to try for one last time to see if we had a shot, and if I would be willing to drop everything for him? Was be being a grade A douchebag and trying to have one last hurrah before committing the rest of his life to someone? Did he just want something that he knew he could get--did it even matter that it was me?

I felt horrible. I felt that he had disrespected our friendship, me, L., and his now fiancee. I waited for him to text me or email me or call me to tell me the news himself--which he never did.

We finally messaged a couple nights ago. I have the conversation here. In the interest of protecting his privacy I won't post the whole thing, but here are some notable moments:

I said that I saw that congratulations were in order, and asked if he already had the ring when he saw me. First, he said this:

Him: "No, but I had been thinking about it for awhile."

To which I responded,

Me: "And you just wanted to have one last hurrah before you did it."

To which he protested, and said that I "knew I was special." Did I?

Then, his argument changed. He said:

Him: "I was only thinking about it before. It wasn't until a week after you and I saw each other that I realized I wanted to ask her. But I have been thinking about my future for a long time."

So, let's try to get that straight. First, he had been thinking about it for awhile, the term "awhile" implying an extended period of time. Then that time span shortens drastically, when he realizes he wants to ask her a week after we saw each other, which would imply that he hadn't been thinking about it "before," that meaning before we saw each other. But then, lo and behold, he's been thinking about his future for a "long time," seemingly much longer than a week or "awhile."

Confused? Good. I was too.

Then this classic line happened:

Him: Why are you so bummed out?

That was fun. After trying to make him understand that his behavior was of grade A douchiness, I said that I didn't see how we could navigate a friendship from here, to which he responded "however we manage to."

I tried to make myself more clear:

Me: "So much of our friendship is predicated on our attraction to each other. Can we really maintain it and not feel weird about it after you're married?"

He continued to assert that I was being "inappropriate" (I WAS???), that I was coming off as jealous, that I was "thinking about it too much." I maintained my defense of marriage:

Me: "I take marriage really, really seriously. I really respect it. I'm not going to feel like I'm disrespecting yours in the future by continuing our friendship--from here on it's inappropriate to even joke or insinuate or anything about our relationship to one another like we always have."

His response? I'm sure his fiancee would love to see it:

Him: "It's inappropriate for us to kiss. It's inappropriate for us to date. It's not inappropriate for me to tell you that I want to [I'm sure you can imagine what he wanted to do], because we have an understanding between us."

I was horrified.

Me: "It is. You're getting married. Both words and actions count in fidelity."

To which he responded,

Him: "Not words. Intention."

I don't know what he intends to do, but as for me, I think it's about time to close the door on this friendship, which is hopelessly rooted in unrealistic ideals and insinuations that were once exciting and fun and wonderful to dream and hope for, but are now tawdry and inappropriate since he has given a ring to someone who is not me. I realize how lucky I am to have L., who I hope and am pretty sure would never be unfaithful to me, but would most certainly not make a move on another woman a week before proposing to me. I'm so sad at the prospect of losing one of my oldest friends, but out of respect to L., his fiancee, and most importantly myself, I don't think I can forgive the way he treated me and our friendship.


  1. i have a friend like this, and it's incredibly awful and awkward, because on the one hand, there's this person that i love as a friend, and on the other hand this same friend is trying to weasel his way into my relationship while HE has his own relationship. these men! where are they from?

  2. I think the faster you end this friendship the better. It's definitely inappropriate. I have an old friend like that and as soon as I stopped playing the games he stopped acting out of line. I still would never hang out with him one on one because he is THAT guy. Don't let guys like this get in the way of your happiness. Ugh can you imagine if you were his fiancee and you found out he tried to kiss another girl the week before he proposed? Gross!!

  3. Oh my goodness! How awful and difficult that must have been for you! I am so sorry. There are people in this world that come into our lives with an expiration date and it seems like he is past his. Unfortunately, the people who are most likely to hurt/betray/disrespect you in a way that really hurts are people that get close to you. I think you are being incredibly brave and I am so proud of you for seeing him for what he is. Take care of yourself! Lots of love! xo, KA

  4. Shady! I have had to cut some similar people out of my life and it has been very healthy- best of luck with that situation but it sounds like you have it under control.

  5. What a jerk!! Good luck with this situation, Im glad its not me, I would be on Americas Most Wanted by now for what I would have done to the scumbag.

  6. Hi -- thanks for visiting my blog! And boo on that evil guy! xoxo

  7. Dude that sucks. You can't be friends with him anymore, he's obviously incapable of friendship, at least with you. He is probably going to invite you to his wedding. Don't go! The poor girl already has to marry the jerk, it's best if she can at least enjoy her wedding day. Good luck dealing with the guy, but yeah. Cutting out poisonous friends is so refreshing.