Pub Table, 7 pm. You’re surrounded by your friends. Feigning nonchalance, you click your phone on and hold it up, waiting for the greek chorus of approval or rejection. “Oh, I almost forgot, here’s a picture of that guy I went on a date with last Thursday!”
The reaction will be universal: either there will be coos of delight as a picture of a 6ft2 guy smiling benignly on a beach in 2017 is passed around the table, or there will be clicks of tongues as your mouthiest friend pipes up and says “You’re really going to date another guy who skates?” You think nothing of it. These are your friends, they know you better than you know yourself, if they walked into a room full of men Naked-Attraction style, they could pick out your type in three seconds flat. You switch your phone off, vowing to swipe left on any Tinder profile where the guy is holding a skateboard.
In female friendships, this entitlement to an opinion about your friends’ relationships has obvious precedence–men are fucking terrifying.
Sometimes, spotting a red flag in a man before your friend does and dragging her away can be both a time-saving and potentially life-saving manoeuvre. However, the assumption that as women, our female friends are the best and only people to decide who we should end up with has started to piss me off.
My very first boyfriend was egged on by my best friend at the time without my knowledge. She gave him a stream of information on my likes and dislikes: what music I listened to, what films I watched and what he should do in order to get me to go out with him. Once we were official, I asked my supposed best friend why she did all this. After all, I had never expressed an interest in my now-boyfriend to her or anyone else. Her answer? “He’s the only boy at this school I’d let you date.” At the time, I thought it was lovely. I had a great boyfriend and a best friend who not only approved of the match, but had effectively orchestrated it.
A few months ago, I was sitting in a KFC with a man from work named Tom, who I would start dating in the following weeks. One of my friends was sitting opposite us on the phone with her own boyfriend. We were pretty oblivious to her until it became apparent that she was saying something about someone with nice tits. That person was me! She was auctioning me off to a friend of her boyfriends who’d seen a photo of me on her story. She asked if I was interested and I said no. She then turned back to her phone and reassured her boyfriend that by the end of the night, she’d have me on the phone to his friend. I told her I wasn’t interested again and she looked to my left at the man who I was in the beginning a relationship with. She put two and two together. She did not approve.
Over the following weeks, a campaign to change my mind was put into motion by this girl. She would ring me up and tell me to go out on double dates with her boyfriend and his friend. She would tell me how unattractive she found Tom. She told me how much more her boyfriend would like her if she managed to get his friend a date with me. In the end she came into work with her boyfriend when she wasn’t on shift and demanded to see Tom and tell him about how much this other guy fancied me…after which I found a deserted corridor and had an anxiety attack.
It all comes down to control. A lot of us have internalised the idea that women cannot pick their own sexual and romantic partners, and we project our own desires onto our friend’s relationships.
I’ve done it. You probably have, too. Maybe you haven’t shown up at someone’s work and demanded to confront the person they’re dating, but you’ve probably told a friend you didn’t like their boyfriend because you personally didn’t find him attractive. It’s hard to know when to intervene about a friend’s partner. Our mistrust of entering into relationships (especially with men) is perfectly valid, but it’s an ongoing and worthwhile battle to know whether it’s your intuition or your internalised misogyny talking.
Your friends are allowed to have partners that you personally wouldn’t choose, because they’re autonomous people with their own sets of desires and neuroses that cause them to gravitate towards the people that they do.
Desire and love are all deeply complex things and if we try to dictate who our friends project these feelings onto we undermine them as people. Even if your friends aren’t picking wisely, if they’re trapped in a cycle of partners who bring them more chaos than peace, as long as they’re not in actual danger, give them the space to figure it out. Trust that your female friends are as intelligent and self-aware as you know they are. If they leave you for a partner, let them come back.
If they can’t see that they’re falling in love with the idea of a person, allow them to have an image shattered. Your words will probably fall on deaf ears, anyway. Trust me, as much as you may be looking over at their love life and clawing your eyes out, they’re definitely looking over at yours and doing the same thing. Give your friends the space to pick for themselves, and they’ll end up choosing wisely.
About the Author
Eliza Harrison is a nineteen year old actress and writer based in London. Eliza is currently studying for a Bachelor’s in English. She enjoys going to the gym, charity shopping, reading and, most importantly, annoying her boyfriend.
Follow on IG: @zazharrison |