Once Upon a Time, When We Were Just Friends (#50)

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You can learn a lot about a guy when you’re stuck in airport lines.

My Chinese-American fiancé and I were friends and dance partners for a long time before we got romantically involved. We spent a ton of time together at airports and hotels, not to mention the dance floor. We got to know each other very well.

There are tremendous benefits to being friends (without benefits!) before dating. You know if your friend is a cheater, an addict, or a guy with a lot of different girlfriends you never see more than once. These behaviors don’t just show up six months into a relationship. If you think the friend turned boyfriend was awesome before and just became evil because you began dating, start eyeing your neighbors. Because you’re the clueless random acquaintance on the 6 o’clock news, that invariably protests, “But he was such a nice guy!” after the police find body parts in Mr. Nice Guy’s freezer.

For everyone with an ounce of observational skills, however, having a friend turned boyfriend is a bonus. All the little unknowns you agonize over when you first date a guy are no longer unknown. Like “Why isn’t he texting back?!” Another woman might have figured Andy wasn’t into her when he didn’t answer calls or texts for hours, or even days. But I already knew the man turns in his phone at the door in his Top Secret Place of Employment. I also knew he subconsciously hates the phone/leash and “forgets” to turn it back on when he leaves the Top Secret Place of Employment. It makes me nuts, but I know it’s not personal.

Andy’s family didn’t do much celebrating, so I know he’s not big on gifts for birthdays or holidays. (Well, not yet. I Have Plans.)

I already knew the man drove like a maniac, and thus I did not automatically assume he had rage issues or a death wish the first time we went on a date.

For his part, Andy already knew I had a phobia of marriage. He knew I had a temper. And he knew I was ambivalent about kids. So he took none of those issues personally.

But there’s a flip side to having been good friends first. Especially when you spend so much time together. Once, I caught him eyeing a hot young thing on a flight to San Francisco. I laughed, nudged him, and teased, “So? So? What would you rate her?”

Andy was a tough critic, once he stopped turning red. “An 8. Maybe an 8.5.”

“Really?” I turned back around and checked her out. “Huh. I guess. Wait. What am I?”

Andy tilted his head to the side and assessed. “A 7.”

“Are you fucking kidding me?! I am SO a 9!”

Andy tried to change the subject. I changed it back, haranguing him the entire flight about how his grading scale was all messed up, how he’d clearly dinged me because I didn’t wear make-up, and how he would have graded me higher if I wore more revealing clothes. When he wasn’t laughing at me, Andy tried to talk about the weather. (He’s since told me that he’s had delayed flights to Hawaii that seemed shorter. He also swears that since my boyfriend at the time was a friend of his, I was firmly in the “friend” box, which colored my score. This is, of course, bullshit. But at least he made an effort.)

Some people learn from their mistakes right away. And then there’s Andy. One night, after social dancing, he got all googly-eyed over another hot young thing. “She’s just so, so beautiful!”

We were still just dance partners and friends, but I remembered how he only rated me a 7. I generously gave Andy a chance to redeem himself. “Hey, what about me?  Do I rate beautiful?”

He pursed his lips and did another critical assessment. “You’re pretty.”

Damned with faint praise once more! I could not believe any guy could be so honest. So STUPIDLY honest. But it was a refreshing change from guys who’ll say anything and everything and mean none of it. Perhaps his stubborn resistance against any pressure to say the easy, obvious compliment was one of the things that made me respect him.  Maybe that and hitting the hot tub with shirtless Andy helped me finally ditch my miserable relationship with Ethan. (Or it could have been the fact that Ethan only wanted to sit home and play video games.)

When Andy and I finally went out of our first real date, I spent hours on my hair. Yeah, literally hours – my hair dryer broke in the middle of styling and I had to run out and buy a new one. I put on makeup, wore heels, and dressed in the perfect little black miniskirt.

Shock, desire, and appreciation chased each other across Andy’s face when I opened the door. He breathed, “You look beautiful.

“No,” I reminded him. “‘PRETTY.’”

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Autumn Ashbough

WF writing about the humorous perils of life with Chinese-American significant other.

19 thoughts on “Once Upon a Time, When We Were Just Friends (#50)”

  1. Awww C’mon, take the compliment!! You made the effort, and he who does not give untrue compliments took the moment to acknowledge your effort. Good for him!! Beautiful!!

    1. Andy apparently forgot that I do not forget. 🙂 Also, I think he just laughed and groaned. About the fourth time I corrected him from “gorgeous” or “beautiful” to “pretty,” he finally realized and said, “You’re NEVER gonna let me forget that?”

      Nope. And if anyone ever rates me a 10, I’ll be like, “7.” 😉

  2. I think your theory makes sense: dating someone that has been a friend for a long period of time is a safe(r) bet.

    Unless you have a best friend who is childish, not too smart, kinda ugly and thinks everything in life is a joke. Let’s say you ignore all these red flags and at fall in love with him anyway and he likes you but HE IS NOT SURE. Let’s say for over two years you keep getting together and breaking up because he does not know what he feels for you. Let’s say this obviously breaks you heart every single time because you are crazy in love and frankly a little obsessed with this guy. Only few years later I realized it was a matter of pride for me, I couldn’t accept someone like him was just not into me.

    In this specific case knowing the person well wasn’t useful because I was stupid enough to think he would grow up for me. How lame. Thanks God I met Mr. B shortly afterwards.

    1. Wow, that sounds excruciating! Yes, sometimes unavailable is terribly, terribly attractive.

      There are so many exes I was so sad to lose at the time, and then later, I was all, “I escaped a fate worse than death!”

  3. I ended up but my girlfriend’s boyfriend (several years after they were done) and that was good. I knew exactly how he treated women! Even my crazy, self-absorbed girlfriend.

      1. Nope. Even though she was married to someone else for many years, she was angry because I hooked up with her old boyfriend. Anyone she had ever dated was off limits. She hasn’t talked to me in 20 years and we were besties.

        1. That’s just wrong. I mean, if you cared about someone at all, wouldn’t you want them to be happy? Even if it was with someone else? Too bad. When I heard that my ex Ethan, the one before Andy, was getting married, I was happy for him. But he, apparently, can never stand to hear about Andy and me.

          I think it smacks of unresolved issues!

  4. I am sure you look beautiful with or without makeup, with or without nice fancy dress. Honesty is the best policy, and it sounds like Andy knows that. Something that every relationship needs, no hiding and just being comfortable with everything out in the open – which comes with knowing each other well in the first place.

  5. I totally agree about the benefits of being friends (without benefits!) before you date. My fiance and I were flatmates – I didn’t like him at all when I first met him but we became friends over the months and then eventually got together. I agree it got rid of a lot of the crap that comes with dating – there was no pressure when we were getting to know each other as we didn’t intend on getting together which meant we just let it all hang out and saw each other all the time at our daggiest. Now years later we have lived together, worked together, travelled together and we always have that strong friendship basis to fall back on that means we can hang out like mates as easily as make out. I think it’s rare to successfully transition a friendship to a relationship but I am not really sure why… Some guys have even asked my fiance “how” he went from flatmate to fiance like there is some kind of secret ability to doing this and he plays it all mysterious but really I think it’s pretty straightforward!

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