I’m the poster child for why you should never hook up with your friends. Putting a life long friendship on the line seemed worth it at the time, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t see it coming. My whole summer had seemed to lead up to this moment. The tension was as palpable as the mid-June humidity. The daily plans, the most sexually charged flat-tire change that has ever happened…the friendship that went from casual and the most mundane and comfortable relationship in the world , to the most complicated after only one night- I could have predicted it all.
We negotiated the terms, navigated the newness of our “friends with benefits” status. We hid it from our mutual friends and rendezvoused behind buildings and bushes, in cars and on moonlit golf greens. It was everything that a summer romance should be….except that this wasn’t a summer romance. It was a fool’s paradise and we were too busy basking in the sun to notice the rapidly approaching tidal wave.
Before I knew what was happening, I watched my importance reduce in his eyes. I received only secondhand invitations to events I did not know about. I got pushed on the back burner because I could easily be reheated and was still within a quick reach.
That’s the thing about friendships- it’s okay if you neglect each other a little bit….it’s even kind of expected. You can fight and move on- you stay friends. In a romantic relationship, every fight, every misstep has potential to end everything, and once your feelings deepen for a hook-up, its game over. Your friendship is gone and whether or not it’s one sided, you’ve entered into the shittitest romantic relationship imaginable.
The problem is, despite all the warnings, this relationship is born out of something- there’s a reason you haven’t hooked up before. Whether you’re lonely, newly single, vulnerable or just suddenly attracted to each other, those factors do not change just because you decide to be an intelligent individual and end things to save the slivers of friendship you have left. You have to deny the loneliness, the attraction and the vulnerability, actively, every.single.time. you’re with them.
So naturally, instead of mustering up any will power, we continued this way…with 2AM backseat meetings, slick errands at parties requiring us both to leave and get “supplies” (whatever that means), and illicit workplace interludes.
And then I realized I was in love.
It didn’t’ happen at first. It waited…and then it snuck up and punched me in the face, right after I watched him be particularly adorable with his then-girlfriend.
We pick our scabs to keep hour hands busy. That’s what hooking up with your friend is like. You have this undisturbed, beautiful piece of skin and you drag a razor through it the moment he drags is fingers tenderly across your face. So you agree to stop- to mend the wound. You bandage it by hanging out only in groups, in public places, soberly, and you go above and beyond to be “just friends”….sending each other encouraging advice about significant others, asking questions about first dates and potential love interests. But eventually, against your better judgment, you start to pick at the tender flesh. Whether it’s hanging out alone at night, seeking comfort on a bad day, a lingering touch, a quick glance at a mouth, eventually you pick. You pick the scab until it starts bleeding again- it’s inevitable. Do you know how long it takes a cut to heal if it keeps being interrupted? It doesn’t. It never heals. And that’s what these hook ups are- an interruption in an otherwise unscathed friendship.
So we stopped. We ended it. And for a year we didn’t speak…we just healed. It healed into a moon shaped scar on my soul- a reminder. Sometimes it itches when I’m with him and it takes everything I have to not scratch the hell out of it- but healed wounds should stay healed and you shouldn’t hurt yourself just to scratch an itch.