If you follow Lucy on Twitter, you may be aware that she recently went for drinks and dinner with a former colleague – let’s call him Ryan. Not in itself a noteworthy event, but for one thing: Ryan has a girlfriend.
Lucy doesn’t know Ryan very well. He was one level senior to her on the same team but she didn’t directly report to him, so they came into contact only sporadically.
When she left, he gave her his personal email address – not unusual, since in Lucy’s industry people move around a lot so work email addresses quickly become obsolete. What was slightly unusual was that when Lucy sent him a polite follow-up email so she could keep in touch for future opportunities, he suggested meeting up for a drink.
At this point Lucy began to wonder if his interest in her was entirely professional, or whether there was more to it than that. Ryan is tall, handsome, successful and articulate, all qualities Lucy’s looking for in a partner, and she had already noticed that he didn’t wear a wedding ring. Could he be single? Could he fancy her? It seemed unlikely – guys like that are never single – and even if by some miracle he did turn out to be not shacked up with a hottie 10 years his junior, the chances of him fancying her? Next to zero, obvs.
But even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, ever-optimistic Lucy still clings foolishly to the hope that one day she might find an exception to both of these rules.
She canvassed opinion from Twitter (always a risky thing to do, TBF), and the response was almost universal. He’s definitely flirting. He’s clearly interested in more than just work stuff. He likes you.
So she allowed herself a brief moment of optimism, until it was swiftly and resoundingly flattened when, in a follow-up email, Ryan mentioned that he had a girlfriend. Mystery solved. His interest was entirely platonic after all, which was slightly disappointing but not really a major disaster. Lucy hadn’t really expected that anything would come of it. And Ryan could still be a useful work contact, or maybe a fun new friend. Who knows, he might even have a hot single mate he could set her up with.
But when she announced on Twitter that she was going to go for a drink with Ryan anyway, all hell broke loose. Her notifications exploded with a torrent of suspicious critics demanding to know why she, a single woman, would think it remotely appropriate to go for a drink with someone else’s boyfriend.
One feared Ryan’s intentions were less than honourable…
… while a third suspected Lucy of being up to no good…
Of course none of this surprised her in the slightest. It’s not the first time Lucy’s come under fire for being friends with attractive men who are in relationships. There was Jack, her Work Crush, and before him, Michael, The Married Man. Both times, the Twitter judge and jury descended on Lucy’s house with tiki torches and pitchforks, ready to string her up for the heinous crime of daring to be friends with a guy she thinks is attractive, even when she knows he’s already spoken for. How dare she? How fucking DARE she target him in this way, like some evil temptress. How would his girlfriend feel, they raged, knowing he was having a drink with another woman? A woman who has shamelessly made no secret of the fact that she’s single, and that she occasionally has sex, and who is therefore clearly a predatory huntress, going about all day looking for men to lure into her lair and seduce with her conniving single-woman wiles.
The thought makes her ROFL with actual LOLs. Yes, she knows these people haven’t met her, but some of them have read her ramblings, so surely they must know by now that Lucy’s just about the last person any girlfriend needs to worry about. She’s been single for four fucking years, and been on hundreds of failed dates. The idea that Lucy could somehow magically ensnare a guy she fancies – and not just any guy, but one who already has a girlfriend – is ludicrous. She wouldn’t have the first idea where to even begin.
And that’s assuming she wanted to – which she’s made quite clear she doesn’t. Lucy’s never been involved in cheating and never would – she’s learned the hard way that she definitely doesn’t like sharing, and she could never respect or trust a guy who cheated, so why would she want to get involved with him?
Yes, you might point at non-monogamous Charlie over there and say Look! Lucy’s proved she likes shagging other people’s boyfriends! She’s clearly a man-stealer! But that’s quite different. For one thing, Charlie pursued Lucy, not the other way around. And for another, Charlie is in a verifiably ethical open relationship with a woman who has approved his extra-curricular activities. It’s an entirely different thing.
So no, even if Ryan were interested in Lucy, which he clearly isn’t (or why would he have mentioned the girlfriend?), where’s the harm in going for a drink?
And yet it’s quite clear that plenty of people still think it’s inappropriate for a single woman to go out for a drink with a man who has a girlfriend. But why? Can single women and attached men not be friends? Must Lucy now de-friend all her guy mates who are in couples? Or is it only the attractive ones who are out of bounds? Is the problem that Lucy said she thought Ryan was handsome? Maybe it’s OK for her to be mates with men who have girlfriends if they’re hideously ugly? Because of course in that case there’s no risk – Lucy’s not a threat – whereas if she thinks they’re attractive she will of course be unleashing every tool in her single-gal arsenal (which presumably looks a little something like the fembots from Austin Powers) in order to bewitch the poor, unsuspecting boyfriend into banging her in the pub toilets after half a pint.
There’s a bit in When Harry Met Sally when Harry says to Sally, ‘Men and women can’t be friends because the sex part always gets in the way.’ But is this true? Putting aside all the myriad varieties of sexuality and gender that weren’t on the agenda when that film came out, can two heterosexual people be friends, without one of them wanting to shag the other?
Harry believes not, because – to paraphrase – ultimately we’re all animals and if we like someone enough to be friends with them we probably want to bang them too. But Lucy knows it’s possible to be friends with men and NOT fuck them because, well, she’s done it every day for the last 22 years. In fact for as long she’s been an adult, she’s never once shagged a friend, nor even kissed one, apart from once, in about 2003, when she drunkenly snogged her mate Gavin on the top deck of a night bus for about 20 seconds before realising it was a bad idea.
Now, this could be lack of opportunity. Or because she doesn’t fancy most of her male friends. Or because they don’t fancy her. Do the reasons matter though? The point is, it’s possible to be friends with someone and not fuck them. And even if one of you does fancy the other, does that mean you can’t be friends?
Because that’s the point. All the people who gave Lucy a bollocking for going out for an entirely platonic drink with a man she finds attractive, who possibly finds her attractive too, seem to live in a thrilling fantasy world where fancying someone automatically, instantly, and without further ado leads to furtive sexting and fumbling in dark alleyways. As though everyone in their world is a prize-winning pickup artist who only has to say ‘How YOU doin’?’ Joey-style, and the other person immediately drops their pants. As though in their world there are no adults, with commitments and responsibilities and morals, only fuckboys and scarlet women whose only purpose in life is getting naked as soon as possible with whoever’s nearest.
Why do they think that, though? Does such a world exist? Maybe it does. It’s all very well for Lucy to sit on her high horse, polish her halo, and wave her clean track record about for all to see, but not everyone is as crap with men as Lucy, and not everyone is as rigidly puritanical when it comes to infidelity. People cheat all the time; just look at the statistics. Are the people judging Lucy doing so on the balance of probabilities – OK, they might have picked the wrong girl this time, but in general, is their assessment accurate?
Is it a truth universally acknowledged that a single woman in possession of a healthy libido must be in want of someone else’s boyfriend?
And here’s the problem: maybe. Not all of them, for sure, but some. Lucy already knows of two ‘single’ women in her social circle who are involved in affairs. And for every cheating boyfriend, there’s a woman he’s cheating with. So although it’s depressing to think it, there is a risk. If a guy goes out for a drink with a girl who’s not his partner, there is a chance it could lead to more than just friendship. And if Lucy’s critics have been cheated on before, she can understand why they’d be suspicious.
But just because some people cheat, doesn’t mean everyone will.
Would Lucy be suspicious if her boyfriend went out with another woman? She doesn’t know. She hopes not, though it would depend of the level of trust in their relationship. But then, if she didn’t trust her boyfriend enough to let him go for a drink with a former colleague, that’s not the sort of relationship she’d want to be in anyway. If he doesn’t make her feel loved and secure enough to know that he won’t do anything to hurt her, surely the relationship is doomed from the start.
Shortly after she got together with The Ex he announced that his ex, the girl before Lucy, had asked to meet him. Of course she wasn’t all that comfortable with the idea, but she would never have stopped him going. He was also friends with a number of girls whom he’d had flings with in the past, but again she’d never have banned him from being friends with them now. You simply can’t do that – it’s far too controlling. You have to trust your partner, or what’s the point? Happily, The Ex never gave Lucy any reason to feel insecure or suspicious, and to the best of her knowledge, her trust was never abused.
Just as Ryan’s girlfriend’s trust was not abused either. Lucy and Ryan had a couple of drinks and a burger, chatted about work and their shared interests, and went their separate ways at about 9.30 pm. No furtive fumbling in a side street. No tonsil tennis in a tube station. Just two people, who find each other interesting, having a nice, entirely platonic time together. And they might do it again sometime.
Let’s hope the critics don’t find out…
What do you think? Was Lucy wrong to go for that drink? Can a single woman be friends with a man she finds attractive (or vice versa)? Let me know in the comments!