Almost two years ago, my friendship with my (straight) best friend ended because I told her I’d been in love with her for years. She made it very clear that there’s no way she would ever return my feelings, but that she would like us to stay friends nonetheless. I told her I couldn’t do that, that it would just hurt too much to see her and know she’ll never be mine. Shortly after that, we graduated and moved to different cities and I never heard from her again. Until today, when she suddenly emails me that she wants to meet with me again. My first thought was to say no, because even after all this time, I’m still not completely over her. I think I still love her. But there’s also this hole in my life where my best friend has been. I have other friends, but no one who knows me as well as she does, no one I’ve grown up with, no one who knows I’m gay. I had built my whole life around her and it took me a long time to recover from this loss. And now that my life is halfway back to normal, she contacts me again. And I agreed to meet her next week, though I have no idea why. I don’t know if I should go or not. What would I talk to her about? How should I behave? How could I tell her I’m not sure if I can see her without hurting her? What should I do?
Anna says: I understand that you’ve still got a lot of emotional rawness going on with this girl, and that maybe meeting up with her will unleash some whirling dervishes, but I’m going to say this anyway. Put the torch down, woman! You sound like you’ve just come back from war and found your wife getting drilled by a sergeant. It’s been two years, and y’all weren’t even together. If I could teleport myself out of the internet and into wherever you live, I would shake you out of your mopeyness in order to make you see that this girl ain’t for you, and it’s not a big deal. There will be other people who make you feel awesome and special. Girls who actually like girls, but more to the point, girls who actually like YOU.
Don’t waste your time grieving the loss of something that never existed. So go on and meet her. Take the wind out of those fantasy sails and realize that you’re going to lose a great person in your life just because she doesn’t want to see you naked. That’s banana sandwiches, yo. Be her friend! Have coffee with her. Tell her what you’ve been doing these last two years, assuming it wasn’t all sitting around pining for her, in which case, make something up. Act like she’s a friend you haven’t seen in a long time, but don’t treat her like she’s your ultimate true soul mate forever. She’s not. Someone else is, and she’s out there, waiting for you to get your head out of your best friend’s [expletive], and notice that she exists.
I know you’re shook up. It sucks when someone we want doesn’t want us back, but there is a point where we have to get over ourselves, buck the [expletive] up, and move on with our lives. Speaking of, the part about how you “built your whole life around her” gives me considerable pause. It also seems pretty sad and isolating that none of your other friends know you’re gay. I wonder why that is. I wonder what’s preventing you from being honest with other people in your life. I wonder what’s preventing you from sharing this really important part of yourself with people. I really do. Maybe you live in a non-collegy part of North Carolina. Maybe you’re attending divinity school. I don’t know, but I do know that if your friends are really your friends, then they’ll accept you and your sexuality for what it is. If they don’t, then they’re not worth your time anyway.
I also know that you think this one girl knows you better than anyone and maybe that’s true at this juncture of your life, but it’s not in the long-term. If you decide to let people in, that is. Let other people know you. Let other people see what an awesome friend you are, okay? [Expletive], girl. And please, spend a little time diversifying your social circle. Be sure to add a queer or two, since they’re in season.
I’m also going to send you to my column from a few weeks ago, on whether exes can be friends, even though y’all haven’t dated.
My heart is broken, but not in the traditional sense. It’s broken in that I can no longer feel any sort of romantic feelings for anyone. I went through a pretty bad breakup, the only relationship I’ve ever been in. I spent years getting over it. I still don’t know if I am over it. I’ve tried moving on. I’ve tried signing up for dating sites and meeting new people, but nothing is working. I don’t feel a connection with anyone. It’s gotten to a point now where I can’t even find someone I think is cute enough to try talking to. I just feel very tired of trying to deal with people. I’m an introverted lesbian trying her best, but I’m just not getting anywhere.
I’m 21, and I feel like I’ve missed the boat and if I don’t find a relationship now, I’ll be the old maid, the spinster. But I don’t know what to do. A few times I have found people who were kind of cute, who seemed interested, but I just started panicking and immediately pushed them away and cut off contact. It’s like I feel an intrinsic need to be with someone, but I’m scared of people, and no matter how many confidence-building seminars I attend, I can’t make that feeling go away. I think my ability to even have a crush on someone is just broken. My sex drive has also died, even “self-time” isn’t fun anymore. It seems like a chore. I’ve tried fixing up that part of my life by buying a few accessories, but it doesn’t seem to be helping. Its like all the self-help books aren’t helping. And therapy/a shrink is too expensive. Any idea what’s wrong with me?
Anna says: There’s nothing wrong with you. The only wrong thing is that you happen to be suffering from the unfortunately inevitability of being a 21-year-old. But the passage of time will, thankfully, hopefully, ensure you don’t suffer for too much longer.
Here’s the short answer to your dilemma: Don’t try so hard.
Here’s the long answer, since I have a quota to meet and crap: When I was your age, I’d been in one serious relationship that lasted longer than 6 months, with a boy I met in high school. He cheated on me and dumped me and then married the girl he cheated on me with. Unsurprisingly, this devastated me. For years, I could think of nothing else. Years! And then once the rage subsided, it was replaced by a sense of cosmic injustice. I thought, What have I done to The World in order to deserve this? Was it because of the time I set my Strawberry Shortcake cup on fire during my brief phase as a 5-year-old pyro? Was it for laughing so forthrightly at the woman in Wal-Mart wearing Tweety bird pajamas at 7pm? I didn’t know. What I did know was that I couldn’t meet anyone. I didn’t date for a really long time, give or take a few haphazard make-outs here and there. This wasn’t by choice. I desperately wanted to date someone. I even let friends set me up on a blind date with a guy who unironically loved the Dave Matthews Band and another guy who quoted scripture to me before suggesting we masturbate together. I think of these early twenties occurrences now, from the still-frustrating-but-infinitely-better vantage point of my late twenties, and am very thankful I am no longer 21.
The point of that little trip down Horrifying Memory Lane is to tell you that you haven’t “missed the boat.” You’re not even at the dock yet. There are so many boats waiting for you, some that will capsize, some that will drift idly along, some that will sink you so fast you won’t even realize you’re drowning. But boats there are, and boats there will be! So don’t worry about that. And please don’t use the word “spinster” again until you’re at least 45.
But back to the “trying too hard” bit from above. It seems like you’re doing things you think you SHOULD be doing, and not things you actually want to do. If you’re coming up with resistance (either physical or emotional) again and again, ask yourself why. You might simply be at a time in your life where being preoccupied with dating is a low priority. If “self-time,” as you call it, isn’t working for you right now, then don’t do it. It’s okay! I promise not to alert Good Vibrations.
Give yourself a break. Take dating off the table entirely, and focus on other things that make you happy. Go rock climbing. Learn to make gluten-free mac n’ cheese. Teach yourself how to give a lap dance. Teach yourself astrophysics by watching free lectures from Yale professors online. It sounds like you’re doing this somewhat. I don’t know what a confidence-building seminar entails, but it sounds awesome. Keep going to those. Our culture is so obsessed with dating and sex and if you don’t buy this Snuggie For Two then you’re going to die miserable and alone, and cold. It’s easy to fixate on what we don’t have, and to ignore everything that we do, in other words. But it’s not productive.
If you find yourself in a situation where other single people are around, don’t place undue expectations on yourself. If you have an, “I have to meet someone!” mentality, then you’ll feel like a disappointment if it doesn’t happen, which will probably be often because it’s hard to meet people! I know it’s hard to view being alone as a chance to “discover yourself,” but the cliche is true. You are a whole, amazing, interesting person who happens to be going through a dry spell. It’ll pass, because all things eventually do, but in the meantime, don’t stop living your life.
P.S. If you need more reminding, here are 10 reasons why being single is awesome.
Hailing from the rough-and-tumble deserts of southern Arizona, where one doesn’t have to bother with such trivialities as “coats” or “daylight savings time,” Anna Pulley is a freelance writer living in San Francisco. Find her at annapulley.com and on Twitter @annapulley. Send her your Hook Up questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.