Hannah gets up from cuddling with Melanie and me while we watch cartoons so that she may primp for her date. This is the third time she will be going on sequential dates with the same guy and the first time she acknowledged to us that he even existed. She was not shy about telling us of her misadventures with the Social Anxiety Guy, the Republican, and even the awkward and unwanted advances of the Sonar Tech. This guy does not even have a nickname, he is simply Arthur and he makes her uncomfortable, daring to just spend time with her and not even kiss her. Had he groped her, I think we would already be giggling over his nickname but he couldn't be so good as to earn that.
It isn't that we don't want her happy or actually doubt she could find a guy who could materially contribute to her continued happiness as much as it is that we are selfish and don't want to lose her, not even a little bit. I began to tell Hannah this, that we could not approve of any guy who would curtail her cuddling with us.
"I wouldn't want to be with anyone who wouldn't let me cuddle with you two," she promises us.
I don't doubt her intention to remain faithful to our friendship, but I am all too aware of the previously established pattern. Significant others detract from friends. I know I am guilty of this, cloistering myself in my apartment with Melanie most every weekend, though I make obvious efforts to include friends in my plans with her. But I have had dear friends withdraw from me totally because they were sharing their beds with someone new. The most extreme case was Keilaina ostensibly vanishing for a year and a half, the entire duration of her relationship with Ian. When she finally escaped him, she clung to her friends to help her restore her equilibrium as an autonomous being, as non-intuitive as that might sound. Even those who aren't in such consuming relationships may cancel plan after plan to suit the whims of partners whose utility does not seem to extend past the threshold of the bedroom. One weekend deferred, then another, then another, and you find the only friend left to you is the one hearkening you back to the bed.
(It is not always as extreme as this, but there are only so many hours in a day and, for most, one's partner has dibs.)
If one's partner decides they don't like a friend (or vice versa), there is nearly instant stress. When dating Emily, her friends banned me from their Pagan events because I had written in glowing terms (and with Emily's editorial oversight) about an event I'd paid to attend on their property. They went so far as to mock my written apology, demand I delete that entry along with several others that involved my public Paganism, and further insisted I drive to apologize in person for sharing my thoughts online. Not a fan of such confrontation, I assured Emily I would let them have their ban rather than compromise myself. She raged at me for not acceding and said she raged at them for repeatedly insulting me to her because both made her life more inconvenient and uncomfortable. But, as I knew how important they were to her both as her friends and her coven, I did nothing to stop her from seeing them. And though I felt how they treated me was beneath them, I took pains not to insult them because I understand how crucial friends are and I refused to be the significant other who restricts his partner. And when Emily left me, she ran to their house, where her new boyfriend was waiting to spend the night with her (if I have my chronology correct). All the more reason not to run afoul of your partner's friends; they know all the secrets she is not telling you and their loyalty to her far outshines their general compassion toward humanity.
Similarly, I know a couple where one half seems to rub some people the wrong way. As such, the other half's social stratum has dwindled as people decline to hang out with her for fear that her partner will be there. These fair weather friends go on about how much they like her, but her positive qualities do not seem to offset his negative ones. She scorns those who spend less time with her because of him (rightly, in my opinion), but spends more nights home than she used to. Between them, I am just as guilty of valuing my loyalty over what I would prefer where I in his shoes. In a theoretical breakup, I would have her back no matter how badly it went and no matter how much it might be her fault. I would offer him my sympathies afterward, if he is the dumped rather than the dumper, for whatever they are worth. But if he dumped her, I would have to simply throw my lot in with her.
Back to the point, Hannah has been ours almost from the outset. When I first met her, she was dating someone - James - but he behaved in a way that was beneath our notice and seemed indifferent to her presence in his life. I met him only once, in passing and from a distance, and subconsciously seemed to know it wouldn't be worth remembering his face.
In the time we've considered her our favored companion, she has not had any significant and positive interaction with a man and it is unexplored territory to us that she is making the endeavor now. But, so as to not wither her sense of self-worth and belief that love can happen to her, it is something she very much needs. Melanie joked that she wished she could clone me so that a few aggrieved female friends, Hannah most of all, would have their own iterations of me to take care of them as I take care of her. I want Hannah to be happy, even at the expense of her spending time with us, even as that would make me that I was losing her friendship. (The last few years have seen the near terminal drifting of quite a number of friends for reasons of growth or a need to stagnate in private.)
Arthur calls and Hannah retrieves him from the door, bringing him to briefly meet us before shoving us out so she can begin her third date in earnest, getting her first kiss of this affair. He, long-haired and with a scruffy beard, sees me and instantly has a look of displeased recognition that Hannah excuses as his general demeanor. He seems to know me by name and mentions that he recalls my having long hair, which dates his memory at least three years. I find him somewhat familiar but I cannot process why he should think negatively about me. It has been a long while since I've done anything to wrong anyone else, much longer than three years, and I do my best to remember those who might wish to slit my throat in a dark alley. Days later and through a series of awkward conversation it is likely best I do not get into publicly (basically, it turned out that he was also taking Sarah the Vet Tech on dates without telling either woman, which is tacky but not strictly wrong), it turns out that he assumed I slept with Rachel, his ex-girlfriend of seven years (three years dumped) when I was thirteen. While I had a certain romantic precocity before I was seventeen, I didn't so much as kiss the aforementioned girl (she was too old for me and I took a shine to Rachel's age-appropriate acolyte Alison), so he has one reason fewer to dislike me.
Arthur assures Hannah that he understands that I was just trying to be a good friend to her and look after her in a situation that appeared likely to make her all the more bitter about actual love, but I can't imagine that assurance goes to the bone. Unfortunately, owing both to his initial misapprehension of my adolescent romantic commingling and his stated awareness of my prominent involvement in the awkward conversations that might have endangered his continued romancing of Hannah, I've given him all the motivation to be a significant other who would be less than pleased to have Hannah cuddled up with Melanie and me. (We wear the chains we forge in life.)
Soon in Xenology: Christmas, independence.