I like my friend. When deep emotion is involved, like hope, it’s worse than being together. The curse of a crush. The what if.
I am in my 30s pining over a 28-year-old guy. You can say I delayed my love life because I was always looking and waiting for my life to get together, to be worth it. For me, that means finishing school and having a career I’m proud of, no debt, and a savings account. It took a while for me to finish college, and that was my first goal. For seven years, I was a part-time student with two jobs, with excuses regarding my love life like “I don’t have time” or “I don’t want to meet anyone to delay or distract my plans for moving 3,000 miles to start my career.” Or, the best one: “They always leave.”
Spoiler alert, I accomplished what I needed to do, I graduated, and I got the job and I moved. So, when I saw and met this handsome 6’2 guy, I was smitten. I am known as a serial crusher, but always from afar. Seeing him in the hallway and stealing a wave or a smile. Then I decided, new city, new me. I was going to be friends with him. I grew up watching Dawson’s Creek and One Tree Hill, so if I wasn’t going to meet and grow old with my high school sweetheart, I was going to have a meet-cute-sweep-me-off-my-feet-running-through-the-airport story. I was determined to have that story, so I wanted the guy to make all the moves.
But I decided to treat this differently. I was going to make the first move. I initiated first—for months we hung out but I forced the word “friends” whenever he was brought up. But then those annoying things called “feelings” crept up. I think I was pretty clear through my actions. I gave him attention, the flirty touching, the many invites to hang out. The ball was on his court.
I am a 30-year-old insecure, over-thinking, inexperienced dater. I don’t even think you can call me a dater—I don’t date. But I am a professional friend zone recruiter, because like every species in the world, I had a defense mechanism. It’s calling a guy a friend and treating him like one but expecting that guy to see through that and pursue me. It’s my defense to avoid rejection.
Fast forward one whole year. After countless “hangouts” and millions of Google searches of “how do you know if he likes you,” I still know nothing. We did have a night where he asked how I felt about him and I was caught off guard. I answered, “I like you, and if the feeling is mutual, cool,” all while throwing a double thumbs-up sign. Then I was told this was a mistake. I followed it with, “But if not, I like being your friend.” And this is where my inexperience comes in. That’s where it ended, and instead of digging and asking more questions to confirm what our status was, we just left it. And never had a follow-up conversation.
I continued to pretend I didn’t have feelings because if a guy likes you, he will make it happen. But when your feelings are strong, they sit there and manifest until you can’t contain them anymore. And your friends, being the angels that they are, continue to listen to the same story over and over, internally rolling their eyes when they hear his name. So instead of confessing, I decided to distance myself to avoid getting hurt even more. On the other hand, I did also love having him as a friend and having him around. Still, I didn’t want to confront him because I was scared of getting hurt and possibly losing the friendship.
I wish I had a happy ending for you. But I continue to repeat that I am worth it, I deserve better, and relationships should be easy—that includes all types of relationships. I used up so much emotional energy this past year on him. With the pandemic, I had months of almost no interaction, and when I thought I was over it, he texted, we’d meet, we’d catch up, we’d laugh. And though he should know, I was told that if I told him, it would set me free. So I initiated a dinner and practiced my speech, because I am not one to share feelings—I’m the girl that throws a double thumb up sign. But then he canceled on our plans and didn’t reschedule. Friends reschedule.
He gave me hope. I thought I found someone to spend time with and finally pass the “what if” part. But I tell myself that I am worth it—I deserve better.