Overwhelmingly, my experiences with getting romantically involved with a friend have been disastrous. My theory is that if the spark isn’t present from the beginning, kissing isn’t going to change that. Infatuation starts from the top of the rollercoaster when the thrill is at its peak and you unconsciously coast downward, not the other way around. And when infatuation fades you either find yourself blissfully in love or just bored and ready to move on to the next thrill ride.
Exhibit #1: Graham.
While dating Dave, my high school Sophomore-year boyfriend, I was ushered into a new group of friends. Dave’s best friend was Graham. Graham and I got along really well. We connected on so many levels. Specifically, Graham and I shared a love for music. He introduced me to the Beastie Boys, Nirvana, Green Day and Rage against the Machine. He owned an old Chevy Camero and we would cruise around town blasting punk and rock music as loud as we could. Graham and I shared most of the same high school classes so we would walk the halls together. In class, he was the prankster and I was the brainiac who would roll my eyes, but secretly find him hilarious. I was in a constant state of laugher when we were together. Graham had blond hair and dark eyes fringed with gorgeous long eyelashes. He had a loud, infectious laugh and a smile that was filled with straight white teeth. When I saw him at a party I would naturally gravitate to him. Like me, he was very touchy so, although we were just friends, he was always grabbing my hand or walking with his arm around my shoulder. He was about five inches taller than me so my shoulder fit like a puzzle piece under his arm. When we danced, my head fit perfectly on his shoulder. I liked his touch, but wasn’t sure if I liked his touch like that. I only had eyes for Dave.
Dave eventually lost interest and broke up with me after six months of blissful, juvenile monogamy. I was heartbroken and continued to pine for him for the next six months. Through that, Graham continued to be my friend and filled the lonely cracks. One year after going to the Sophomore Spring Ball with Dave, I asked him to Spring Ball again hoping for a repeat romance. We had a great time but at the end of the night when I asked Dave if there was a second chance for us, he sensitively shook his head “No”. I was crushed, but was relieved to know once and for all that things were over.
Graham was there to help me pick up the pieces from my fallout with Dave. We were closer friends than ever. One afternoon we were sitting in his car, chatting. He asked me if I was ready to move on. I was so ready. He hinted that he wanted to take our friendship to the next level and how would I feel about that? Inwardly, I admitted that I enjoyed being in his arms, dancing with him, holding his hand and sharing my feelings with him. But I wasn’t sure. I wondered what it would be like to kiss him. Would I enjoy it? Kissing Graham would unquestionably have consequences. Steering our relationship onto a romantic path would either augment our friendship or ruin it. What if I hated the kiss and he liked it? Then things would be weird and our treasured friendship, lost. What if I liked it and he hated it? Then I would be pining for a boy, again, for the next six months. It was too much to take in at that moment. More than anything, I just wanted to feel worshiped and spoiled. Was that so wrong? I was tired of yearning for a lost love. I was ready to live in the present. I left the door open when I answered with a coy, but hesitant, “maybe…..”
Ever since our conversation, Graham’s contact was more than friendly embraces. Every time he’d reach for my hand or put his arm around my waist, I couldn’t help but read into it. I would analyze my feelings after each encounter. Being with Graham was so comfortable. I decided the prospect of exploring new territory was more appealing than losing him as a friend.
The night of our first kiss was a warm spring evening. I had decided to let go of my hesitancies and return his flirty advances with vigor. He was pleasantly surprised. After seeing a movie we were lingering by my truck. There were no awkward stares, no waiting and wondering. He took me into those familiar arms and kissed me.
Yes, pleasant. My world didn’t rock. My knees didn’t buckle. My heart kept its same pace. It was pleasant. That being said, I smiled afterward, all the way home, and the next morning when I woke. I was happy. Life was pleasant.
It was fun having a boyfriend again. Everyone knew that we were great friends so the gossip of our hook-up spread like wildfire. I’d get smirky smiles and thumbs up wherever I’d go. Having a boyfriend was so much fun! I was in love with being in love, though I was not in love.
Things didn’t change much between Graham and me. We still cruised around town, went shopping for CDs, attended parties and spent most of our time together. We were still great friends, just kissing friends, friends with benefits. What did change in our relationship was my sudden awareness of his bad habits. When we were friends I thought his wild side was funny, but now that he was my boyfriend, I was concerned about his drunkenness, foul language and his crazy driving. We fought more. We were both passionate people. However, the fire was only present when we were fighting, not while making up. Kissing Graham never progressed past “comfortable” and “pleasant”.
Friends with benefits turned out to not be beneficial to our friendship. After 6 months of average kissing and escalating fights, I decided to break it off. Not only did I Iose my friend, but I generated a foe in the process. He was angry with me that day, that year, and probably still to this day.
I missed my friend.
Exhibit #2 Sam.
Sam and I had been friends since kindergarten though there was always an unspoken crush on his part. As kids, he rang my doorbell on Valentine’s Day and handed me Almond Roca and a rose. In high school we would go for walks and drives. He was calm, mature, a good listener, very respectful and brilliant. People knew him as serious and studious, warm and friendly. Every time I came home from college, I would call him. At our high school reunion, he was the first person I looked for.
I was attending Brigham Young University one summer when Sam called me. I was surprised since I hadn’t heard from him in over a year. He stated that he was driving through Utah on his way to Harvard and wanted to see me. I was ecstatic. When he showed up at my door, my jaw dropped. He had gone and got gorgeous since last we saw each other. I jumped into his arms and he about crushed me. He said that he had been taking boxing lessons and it showed! He was a blond, tan, muscled Adonis who had just walked out of an Abercrombie and Fitch ad. I appreciated his new brawny look, but memories are stronger than muscle: I wasn’t attracted to him. He was still Sam, that chubby kid who stole my Halloween candy. We went to dinner. I drove him up to Squaw Peak lookout (BYU’s make-out spot) so I could show him Provo from above, with absolutely no intention of making out. The poor guy was being bombarded with mixed signals.
The next morning Sam came by my apartment to say goodbye. He sat on the couch, took a deep breath and dropped the bomb. He started by telling me how beautiful and smart I was. Awwhhh, that’s sweet. Then he proceeded to tell me how he had been in love with me for years. Uh-oh. The sermon continued as my head was spinning. I heard snippets like “We could have a long distance relationship” and “Was there a chance for us?” Oh no.
For a second, I wondered if there could be chance for us. I knew him so well and he was absolutely wonderful. I suppose I could give it one eensy, weensy chance.
I decided to kiss him. My decision was 80% sympathy-based and 20% curiosity-based.
He was sitting on the couch so I walked up to him and knelt on the floor so our faces were close. I hugged him, then looked deep into those familiar blue eyes and sincerely said “Thank you”. He was nervously looking at me with high hopes. I usually let the man initiate the first kiss but in this case, I had the upper hand. I had to make my decision. As my brain was screaming “Don’t kiss a friend, don’t kiss a friend, don’t kiss a fr…” I hesitantly leaned in for the kiss.
If you believe, like me, that being friends with a boy first ruins the “spark”, you’re right. Although he was technically a great kisser, there was no leading excitement, no hunger behind the kiss. I gave it a good minute, just to make sure. After the kiss, I knew what I had to do. I gingerly said “You know this won’t work. We live in different areas of the country. We are such great friends and I don’t want to ruin that. I know there’s someone else out there for you”.
I knew there was someone else out there for me too.
Was Parke the one I had been waiting for? I was certainly ardent about the man from my computer screen. Would kissing Parke get filed away in the folder termed “Friendships ruined by curious kissing”? I had learned that lesson before and as wary of making that same mistake twice, err, thrice.