Have you ever noticed that certain people completely lose the “I” in their lives when they become part of a couple?
Chances are good that you either know a “we” monster, are guilty of being a “we” monster, or both. I have personally been commended by more than a few friends for Precious-in-a-Relationship’s striking resemblance to Single-Precious, so I’ve earned the right to be smug and condescending towards these creatures. If you’re at all familiar with these people, you can agree that they have it coming.
You’ve known your pal forever. Together, you’ve laughed your way in and out of dozens of relationship adventures, and up until now you thought of this person as a reliable confidant(e) and maybe even a partner-in-crime. You feel like you know this person pretty well.
Then your friend finds herself (let’s assume it’s a female friend for our purposes, although guys are equally as likely to undergo this ugly transformation) in a relationship that is more functional, at first glance, than any of her past attempts at coupling up.
At first, you’re thrilled for her and look forward to the juicy tidbits she’ll no doubt be imparting as she and her new beau fall for each other. You naturally expect her to be less available as she’ll be busy running through a meadow picking flowers and gazing longingly at her new love – or something to that effect (read: doing it like rabbits) – but you still figure that, as your friend, and as a civilized human being, she will continue to be a bright, positive force in your life. So you’re absolutely not ready for what comes next.
It starts out with minor annoyances. Suddenly every sentence out of her mouth begins with “we”. It’s “we prefer to minimize our dairy intake ” or “we’re not sure what we’re doing this Friday, I’ll have to check with Pete” or “we don’t care for that restaurant – I know I said I liked it before, but it turns out I don’t”. You find yourself playing an internal game of Make Her Say ‘I’, but it backfires, because it takes her down a different, but equally obnoxious path:
You: So how are your parents?
“We” monster: Oh, they’re okay. I can’t wait for Pete to meet my dad. I think they have some key things in common – you know, not in a creepy way or anything…
You: HEY, did you check out the sale at Marciano? They had some crazy deals!
“We” monster: Yeah! I got this fabulous dress. Pete absolutely loves it on me. I think I’ll stop wearing my shorter skirts, though…it’s less appropriate now that I’m with Pete, don’t you think…?
You (vein throbbing in your temple): How’s that urinary tract infection? Getting better?
“We” monster: Yeah…Pete’s been so great. He totes took care of me and when he went to fill my prescription, he….wait, are you okay? Oh good, for a second I thought you were having a seizure – your eyes rolled right back in your head, did you know that..?
It’s not that you don’t want to hear about Pete. You normally love to hear about this kind of thing. But she’s taken things to a level where she doesn’t exist in her own mind without Pete’s thoughts, Pete’s feelings, Pete’s opinions. So you stop asking about her stuff. You know she’ll be telling you anyway, since she can’t help herself. Still, somehow – SOMEHOW in this godforsaken universe – she manages to link everything from the price of gas to your upsetting encounter with the sketchy old guy who works at the convenience store back to something funny Pete said this morning, and you’re right back to the Pete-and-I Show.
This we-are-the-most-fascinating-couple-ever-to-walk-the-planet phase eventually comes to an end, and you think to yourself, “I made it! I made it this far without telling her where to shove whatever Pete said this morning! We’re still friends – things are going to be great from here on in!”
Mind you, you’re not surprised when she subsequently goes missing. She’s too busy for everyone but Pete, and just when you’re about to have her photo plastered on milk cartons, she resurfaces. She goes out of her way to book a phone date with you – after first making a colossal production about how you’ve been MIA. You let this go, because you’ve already let so much go, and besides, you’re really looking forward to a juicy, stimulating conversation with her.
Well, you can continue to look forward to one, because it’s not going to happen today. You get her on the phone, and she proceeds to spend the entire so-called “conversation” interrupting you to coo at her “cuddle muffin” who can be heard in the background, and who apparently requires her attention during every nanosecond of the (increasingly useless) phone time that she’s deigned to grace you with.
You: I’m really worried about this job interview. What do you think I should –?
“We” monster (clearly turned away from the phone): Baby, what are you doing? No don’t use those, use the other ones. And baby, can you have a look at my laptop when you’re done? Yeah, it’s still doing that thing… (suddenly talking into the phone again) hey chica, I’m listening. Why’d you stop talking?
You: Uh…listen, do you need to get off the phone? You sound busy.
“We” monster: Of course not! Go on, I’m listening.
You: Okay, well I sort of need you to talk me thr—
“We” monster: BABY! I don’t know if you want to do that.
You (bewildered): I’m sorry, what?!
“We” monster: Oh – sorry, hon. Hang on a sec…BABY. What are you doing with that?”
At this point, you wonder what you could have been doing over the last fifteen minutes you’ve wasted attempting to talk to the “we” monster. You could have started the laundry, unloaded the dishwasher, stared at the wall…all are more interesting alternatives to your current predicament.
The bullshit continues on for another quarter of an hour because apparently, your time is not as precious as the “we” monster’s time – apparently the spectacle you were held hostage to witness is something you should be grateful for, even if you were praying for death the entire time. You vow that you will never again be stuck on the phone with her like that, even if you have to “accidentally” hang up in order to put a stop to it.
And the next time, you’re not stuck on the phone. The next time, you meet her at a coffee shop or a bar or a restaurant, and you arrive excited and ready to rock it out – back to basics with the friend you love. But guess what? HE just happens to be there, ready to share the evening with you – even though you distinctly remember setting aside this time (and spurning other friends, or even a date, in the process) to spend, as she put it, true quality time together, which *surprise* has been lacking of late.
You spend the entire evening being made to feel as though you are encroaching upon their time as a couple, and once again, you wonder why you aren’t somewhere else, doing ANYTHING other than being forced to stand witness to these horrible people and their dull, selfish antics.
If you’re like me, at this point, you’re chastising yourself for being such an idiot, and you vow, once again, that this friend is done using you as an unwitting audience to her ridiculous, Harlequin-style sideshow act.
The next time she calls (usually at least six months later, when you’ve conveniently forgotten how irritated you are), she’s weepy and says she desperately needs the ear of a true friend. There’s trouble in paradise and she begs to see you as soon as possible, so that you can talk her through it. You resist the urge to tell her she doesn’t deserve your support; you genuinely want to provide it. Also, although it hasn’t escaped you that this outing is all about her (and that she hasn’t offered you any real support in eons), you are actually morbidly curious to know how exactly the train is about to derail.
Shockingly, she does not show up with her “cuddle muffin” – she shows up alone….and is immediately apologetic – not because it’s been so long since you had a one-on-one date with her – but because she won’t be able to stay long. Cuddle Muffin has had a last minute emergency: he needs a new suit for an important interview, and while he’s known about it for a while, he’s only just realized that time is running out – your friend absolutely must be there to help him pick out the right one. You understand, of course, right? She’s sorry and she’ll make it up to you – presumably before the start of the next millennium.
I’d love to say that this is the last straw. But let’s face it, you tend to award more chances to the “we” monster than are actually called for. Over the next few months, she hits you up for fun times every now and then – and it doesn’t take you long to notice that these times coincide with the instances when Cuddle Muffin is busy having a boys’ night out or is otherwise occupied.
The most amusing (and simultaneously infuriating) encounter with the “we” monster comes when her relationship self-destructs. If it doesn’t self-destruct, it quickly results in co-habitation and you pretty much never see her or her idiotic boyfriend again. If it does self-destruct, the “we” monster will come slinking back, all available and desperate for human contact, and sometimes has the nerve to attempt to monopolize your free time. She may acknowledge that she’s been an asshole (don’t hold your breath for this), but make no mistake: she will probably return to her assholery as soon as her next relationship materializes. It’s the nature of the beast, so to speak.
Despite the fact that I spend an inordinate amount of time listening to the little devil on my shoulder, I’ve been known to grant the “we” monster way more opportunities than she deserves to redeem herself…but when I’m done, I’m done.
To the “we” monsters reading this, here are five things you need to know:
1. The life and times of you and Cuddle Muffin may seem exciting to you and Cuddle Muffin. However, I most certainly am not riveted enough to languish on one end of the phone line while you have mundane exchanges about irritating minutiae during 50 to 75 percent of our supposed conversation. My time is precious (like me). If you’re that busy, call me when you’re interested enough to pay attention. And FYI: no one appreciates being half-way through a story, only to realize, after you abruptly make a comment directed away from the phone, that you haven’t been listening for the last several minutes. Get a clue, and some manners.
2. Being in a relationship shouldn’t cancel out any opinions or interests you had before. It’s okay not to want to share your love of trashy magazines with your new love right away, or if you want to keep your crush on your favorite bartender under wraps. However, when you just up and do a 180 on issues you were solid on before you met Cuddle Muffin, your friends don’t miss it – and they don’t respect it either. You just come off as pathetic and weak.
3. I might grant you a few reprieves after you ditch me over and over again at the last minute to hang out with your partner, and I might even let it go when you quite blatantly treat me as a bouche-trou (French for space-filler) when Cuddle Muffin ditches you. But once the trend becomes clear and unmistakable, expect to reach my voice mail a lot. If the rest of your friends have any sense, expect to reach a lot of voice mail, and to spend time alone staring at the wall – which is what I would gladly be doing instead of sitting on the phone with you while you pretend to participate in a conversation with me.
4. I’m not expecting you to be as available as you were before – if I don’t hear from you for six months, I guarantee you I won’t be anywhere near as pissed as I am when I show up for what was supposed to be one-on-one time with you and you’ve brought fricking Cuddle Muffin along. Or if you cut our get-together short to go and be with Cuddle Muffin. And I’m not buying the whole “extenuating circumstances” crap. It’s ALWAYS extenuating. Bottom line: either be available or don’t. Do not delude yourself into thinking that you are doing me any favors by making half-assed appearances.
5. Stop assuming I’m bitter or jealous when I am short with you. I’m short with you because you’ve been obnoxious and rude. And the next time you go into histrionics over how long it’s been since you’ve been able to nail me down for some bonding time, I will bitch-slap your ass into oblivion. Don’t try me.