Over the last year, I have noticed an onslaught of movies which seem to promote the idea that “friends with benefits” or “casual dating” is quick and easy, not to mention convenient. It also, in theory, provides both parties with ‘instant gratification’. Quick. Easy. Convenient. I don’t know if I want these adjectives, which could also be used to describe hitting the drive through at a fast food restaurant, to describe my dating life. I would also argue that many people end up feeling very similar emotions, whether engaging in the fast food consumption, or the ‘canoodling’. Maybe it seemed like a good idea at the time, but after indulging, often follows the feeling of regret.
I personally have not been in a ‘friend with benefits’ type of relationship, but have counseled many of my friends who have. They told me that they loved the attention they were getting from the man they were ‘friends’ with. They said that it was nice to be told how sexy and attractive they were. They didn’t particularly like that their ‘friend’ would wait until after midnight to text them, usually asking if they would drive over to their apartment. They didn’t like that the guy didn’t take them out on actual public dates either. When they realized they were getting emotionally attached, they started to get jealous and clingy. I have noticed the progression from accepting that they were just ‘having fun’, with no promise of a relationship, to feeling used because there was no promise of a relationship. The realization was painful, and sometimes devastating.
When you find someone attractive and get along with him, I suppose it could be tempting to take what is being offered to you, even if a relationship is not ‘on the table’. This is not for me. The opportunities have presented themselves in the past, but it had always been easy to blow those men off. Until I met “Alex” (name changed), while I was taking my masters course. Being that my degree was in education, Alex was one of the only single men in my classes. He was handsome, funny, intelligent, and driven. When we ended up at the same table, I didn’t respond to his overt flirting. Why? I was interested in a guy who lived in Houston, and was focusing my efforts on that budding relationship. One night he asked me after class if I ever ‘casually dated’. Innocently I asked him what that meant, and he chuckled. “Obviously not!” he commented, and then probed into my personal life to find out that I had a love interest.
Fast forward a few years. We maintained contact off and on. He even came and spoke to my classes about the Holocaust. (He is a history teacher). About a year ago we went on one date. He tried to take me home to ‘watch a movie’. I declined. We did kiss goodnight (Hey, I am only human). I knew Alex was not a relationship guy, so when I left for the summer, the contact between us faded away.
Eight months later, he texted me out of the blue to tell me he really wanted to see me. He knows I am a Christian, and he makes fun of what a ‘good girl’ I am. Joke all you want Alex, but YOU texted ME. We hung out a few times. I could see where this was headed. Our chemistry and connection had ‘friends with benefits’ written all over it. He knew I was not going to cave, and I knew he wasn’t going to change either. We had come to an impasse. I have no regrets that we stopped seeing each other. Some people advised me to just have fun with him. Not to worry about a commitment. I know myself, and that would never have worked for me. If I met Alex on the street tomorrow, I wouldn’t be embarrassed or uncomfortable seeing him. I could look him in the eyes, flash a genuine smile, and even give him a hug. Some of my girlfriends have dragged me out of restaurants or other places, when one of their old ‘friends with benefits’ arrived. Especially if he was holding another girl’s hand.
Obviously, lots of people have friends with benefits, but I for one, cannot disconnect my heart from my body. I am a relationship person, and it would be counterproductive for me to be a FWB. Today I watched the movie ‘Bridesmaids’ with my friend Nishna. One of the previews for an upcoming movie was the new one with Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis, where they make a pact to just be friends with benefits. They show how the main characters are not allowed to say anything that sounds emotionally supportive to each other! How much do you want to bet that this movie will end up with the two of them falling in love? The movie creators know that this is the ultimate romantic fantasy that millions of women have right now.
‘Bridesmaids’ started off with the main character in a ‘casual’ dating relationship with a complete jerk. She pretended she didn’t want a commitment when she really did, because she was scared that if she asked, she’d be rejected. She ended out being kicked out of his bed and home, even scaling a gate that was locked. Everyone in the audience gasped in horror at the character’s humiliation. A girl beside me exclaimed, “Ouch!”
This movie only reminded me of what I am holding out for. I want to be pursued. I want to be adored. I want a man to call and arrange a proper date that starts well before midnight. So, no fast food ‘friends with benefits’ encounters for me. I won’t settle for fries, when what I am craving for is steak.