I have always made the effort to befriend my guy friends' girlfriends.
After all, it's awkward meeting a strange girl who is close with your boyfriend. So many questions run through your mind. You wonder why they were never a couple. Or were they? How close are they, anyway?
I remember one of my ex's friends explained to me that she was so comfortable around my boyfriend that he was like her brother. I smiled, that was nice. "I feel completely comfortable walking around him naked," she went on. My eyes dropped to her huge breasts, and my smile faded as I looked over at my boyfriend, happily cooking us dinner. Yet she and I ultimately became and remain friends.
So I make sure my guy friends' girlfriends see right away that they've inherited a new pal, not a threat.
This has never been a problem until recently. Then along comes Shannon, my friend Darrell's new girlfriend. (Names have been changed.) Though she's very reserved when I first meet her, I love the jeans she's wearing and tell her how great they look on her. She immediately brightens up. For the rest of the night we take washroom breaks together, gossip about our favourite celebrities and make plans to hang out again.
At first it's great. She and Darrell are happy together, and I enjoy them both, together and separately. But soon the first signs of trouble reveal themselves.
Darrell, a bunch of friends and I plan to go out to a club one night. When he comes to pick me up, Shannon isn't with him. I ask about her, but from Darrell's glare and grunt, I realize this isn't a topic he cares to discuss.
That night he enjoys himself (a little too much) dancing, drinking and flirting with every girl who walks past, but since I'm doing the same thing on the other side of the room I decide to mind my own business.
The next morning at 9 am the phone wakes me up. I look at the number, turn off the ringer and go back to bed. Half an hour later, my mother comes into the room with the cordless in her hand. "A girl named Shannon is on the phone. She says it's an emergency."
"Chaka, I'm so sorry to wake you like this, but I need to know what happened last night."
"Um, what do you mean, 'what happened last night?'"
"How was Darrell acting?"
I don't know what to say. The truth is, Darrell hadn't behaved too boyfriendish the night before, but he hadn't done anything serious enough to warrant telling her about.
"Ah, he was fine."
"Did he mention my name at all?"
"I asked him where you were, and he seemed upset, so I left it alone."
"I see" is her whispered response.
"I'm sorry, but I'm exhausted. I need to go back to sleep. I'll call you later, OK?"
"Wait!" she screams. "One more thing."
I know what's coming. I can see it a mile away.
"Did Darrell flirt with girls last night?"
Here we go. Why me? Why this morning?
I don't know what to do. Darrell's been my friend for a few years. He's someone I trust and care about. My loyalties should be with him. But here's Shannon, a great person, and we've become close. If it were the other way around, I'd expect her to be honest with me.
"He flirted a little, but not much. I think he was too preoccupied with whatever is going on between you two." It's a slightly truthful sort of a lie.
She sighs in relief. I yawn and am about to end the conversation when she stops me again.
"Did he tell you what happened?"
I put my face into the pillow. "No."
Darrell hadn't told me what happened. But by the tone in her voice I know that she's about to fill me in on all the details. And for the next 32 minutes and 12 seconds she does just that as I stare blankly at the alarm clock.
Over the next few weeks, their relationship becomes more and more chaotic, and I feel increasingly divided. Shannon calls at 11:30 crying, Darrell calls at 11:45 ranting. Shannon e-mails me a two-page letter that she intends to send to Darrell. Darrell leaves a message on my cellphone telling me that Shannon is psycho and he's going to block her e-mail.
Darrell insists I respect our friendship by saying nothing to her about his actions. So I do. Shannon pleads with me to be honest with her, because my opinion could mean the difference between her staying in the relationship or leaving it. So I apologize. In the meantime, I'm stuck in the middle.
Finally, after weeks of this mental ménage à trois, I put an end to it. I let Shannon know I care about her but I have a history with Darrell and need to respect that. I let Darrell know that it may be best to leave me out of his problems with Shannon so I no longer feel I have to compromise my honesty to protect him. They both agree.
A few days later, they call separately to let me know the relationship is over.
I'm relieved. Now I can enjoy my friendship with both of them, and they can enjoy their lives without each other.
Two weeks go by. Shannon and I meet for cheesecake. Her smile looks all too familiar.
"You and Darrell are back together, aren't you?" I say fearfully.
She nods happily.
I'm exhausted. I can't take this any more.
"Great," I say.
She sips her drink and looks confused.
"Didn't Darrell tell you we're back together?" Her face is assuming a sour expression.
Oh, no. Here we go again.