TORONTO ONTARIO – There are around 1 billion men, women and children coexisting together on the planet Earth currently; at least 50% of the population today are hooking up with one another. Men and women are all dancing around secretly each other hoping to find their Mrs. or Mr. Right.
We have even come up with different terms in order to define what we have with someone else: fuck buddies, just friends, friends with benefits, hook ups, wheeling, boyfriend, girlfriend, dating, open relationship, engaged, and marriage.
It’s the term just friends that really gets me though. It predates back to us as children rolling around in diapers, developing our first crushes and pretending that you don’t want something more with your best friend, when you really do. Even as adults, men and women are still using the phrase just friends in order to define their relationship with somebody. I used to think that when a guy calls a girl his friend, it means he considers he or she as just a friend and not as anything more than just someone to have fun with. As I get older I now see that that is not the case.
Are we lying to ourselves? When we use the term just friends, is there a hidden meaning or is it just that? Are we really just friends? Or are we simply afraid of rejection? So we leave it as a friendship in order to avoid the fear of rejection and being hurt by the other person. Think about it, how often have you down played your feelings for another person because you were afraid they might not feel the same way about you? Be honest. I know I have done it with at least four different men on at least ten different occasions. My most time recent being with the ginger.
He and I have been friends going on ten years now; we first met in high school, we both dated other people over the course of our friendship and introduced those people to each other. For almost the entirety of the friendship I have had feelings for him on and off. It wasn’t until this past fall that I confessed my true feelings to him, thanks to a little help from liquid courage, despite my friends telling me how bad of an idea it was. I even had a backup plan in case things went south, I would just blame it on too much to drink and pretend that I didn’t have any memory of my confession. Secretly I was still afraid of being rejected by him. Luckily it had the opposite outcome and I am happy that I did tell him.
The weekend after my confession, we hung out and we ended up hooking up on the roof of his parents building, which seemed like a good idea at the time but in late September with no shield from the wind, it couldn’t have been a worse idea. I didn’t know how to define what we were to each other after we first began hooking up; so I used the term friends with benefits, which led to a whole new line of questions like; can we really just be friends with benefits? I still wondered if maybe we would continue to just be friends or maybe a little extra. Maybe I shouldn’t go on faith and take another big risk with my heart? I even tried to ignore my growing feelings for him but that failed epically.
Our relationship, despite my best efforts to keep it as just a friends with benefits thing, progressed on past just sex and friendship. I found myself falling fast and hard for him, with nothing to break my fall when I finally hit the ground. He had found a way to break through all of my armour and all of my walls and in him; I found a kind of comfort I had never experienced before. Since we had been friends for so long it also made it easy, we had already leap frogged over the awkward stages of meeting each other’s friends and family, having already had privilege of experiencing it as friends. We know how to handle one another on our best and worst days and to this day, the ginger is still the only person I have yet to fight with. Sometimes as we get lost in each other’s eyes we both begin to laugh, at nothing and everything all at once.
To think, we both spent years lying to our friend’s and ourselves, saying we were just friends…
A few weeks ago, I went out for brunch to place called Muddy Ducks with him. They serve a large breakfast buffet there and if you aren’t hungry before you walk in, give it 5 minutes to let the wafting smells of good food fill up your nostrils and I promise you will be. We sat down at a table with a view of the road, which I found rather distracting. All around us waiters and waitresses buzzed around tables serving their chatting guests tea and coffee.
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From the corner of my eye, I caught my ginger staring at me with this huge grin plastered on his face; I looked at him and smiled back. We had been dating for over a month now and I was completely caught up in the honeymoon phase of our new relationship. I looked around and noticed there were couples just like us, everywhere, each sharing that same wistful look of love in their eyes as we had.
We ate our first plate of food and joked about anything we thought about. It was around the time of my second plate that while I was pouring syrup on my pancakes, that I overheard a conversation between two parties of young teenagers. A young boy and girl in high school stood on the other side of the table, shoulders touching, as they piled bacon and pancakes onto their plates.
They flirted with each other as the boy dropped bacon onto her plate for her, then from behind the two, another younger girl came up behind them and in a loud high pitched voice said, “you two are so cute” Automatically the other girl said, “we are just friends…” Meanwhile the boy who had turned bright red at this point, silently bowed out of the conversation and returned to his other friends sitting around their table.
It was in that moment I thought; do our friends know our own feelings better than we do? Can they tell when two people should be together, even if those two people deny it with all they have? And is it really true that the best relationships start off as a friendship and then grow into something more?
I was so absorbed by what I had witnessed and my thoughts that had followed, that I was completely unaware that I had just walked past my new boyfriend, who watched me quizzically as I sat down across from an older lady at a different table, across from our own. She watched me in pure shock. I looked her straight in the eyes as I began to sit down, still not registering what I was doing. It took me a good five minutes to realise what I had just done and I grew beet red. At this point the ginger was laughing at me and the lady’s friends were all returning to see me getting up and removing my plate from their table. They looked just as surprised as I felt. After I just kept repeating sorry, I’m so sorry, over and over to the ginger, he just laughed and made jokes at me and to this day I will probably never live that one down… at least until he eventually forgets.
After spending years denying myself any possibility at having a real relationship with the ginger, in fear of losing a friendship that I cherish. I kept telling myself that we were just friends when the latter was something so much better. We have a great friendship and an even better relationship. So maybe what they say is true, maybe you really should date that person you says is just a friend and maybe just maybe, it will be the best thing you could ever do for your heart.
Born and raised in Toronto, E. V. Hutcheon studied journalism at St Lawrence College in Cornwall Ontario. She currently lives in Toronto with her family, three dogs and a rabbit, near the Humber River.
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