“So, I caught feelings for someone. We can still be friends though.”

“We can still be friends though”, he said, like we had ever been friends to start with.

Maybe other people have different definitions of friendship, but, mine includes still being able to hang out together while I’m on my period. Mine includes getting to text them randomly without having to do math to figure out whether they’ll feel like I’m clingy. Mine includes being able to make plans a couple weeks in advance without fear that they’ll have gotten bored by then.

I knew we were not friends because I wouldn’t have continued sleeping with him had I genuinely believed he’d still want to hang out otherwise. We’d been sleeping together for about three months. He was an artist, and I found being around him to be creatively stimulating for me, but the sex was mediocre at best. He didn’t text just to say ‘hi’ or share a meme. He didn’t invite me to parties or to hang out around other people. He made it clear what he was looking for, and I was fine with that part of the deal. I knew it wasn’t going to last very long. He was a way to pass the time while I adjusted to my shiny new singleness. I would have far preferred to be friends if we could have been, but those positions were apparently filled.

I was willing to settle, at the time, but not willing to be patronized. Don’t tell me “we can still be friends” when we never were, as an attempt to avoid awkwardness. Just be honest. We might not have been friends, but I still deserve your respect.

I don’t think I’ve ever had a true ‘friends with benefits’ relationship, even though I’m sure that that’s what most of them would have called it. That, to me, implies actual friendship is a part of the equation. I guess we could call it ‘casual dating’, but the dating part always felt obligatory on their end. The dating part was something to be tolerated, because I’ve never been the kind of girl who likes just showing up to a guy’s place and immediately having sex. I need to be eased into it, I need to feel comfortable. To their credit, they tried.

It’s a relationship style I’ve fallen into accidentally more than I’d have liked to. It starts with a crush and a couple real dates, and then fizzles out eventually as I realize I don’t get enough out of my time with them to make it worth shaving my legs. It’s never really been fun, but sometimes Tinder will convince you to take what you can get.

I don’t blame any of them for my lack of enjoyment. They didn’t set out to do me harm, but I resent the friendship lie. If you have to lie about what a relationship was, then it probably wasn’t a good one. If you have to try and soften the edges of it to make it more palatable, turning ‘no strings attached sex’ into ‘friendship’, then that implies that at least one of you didn’t think casual sex was palatable on its own.

I know he meant well when he said it, but I don’t need men to lie to me to protect my feelings. Telling me it was ‘friends with benefits’ when it wasn’t just reinforces the idea that I am a delicate woman who can’t detach romantic feelings from sex, and that I must be protected from my own decision to engage with someone who doesn’t give a shit about me. I am a grown woman who knows what she’s getting into, and consents at her own risk.

This kind of lying also helps skew the perceptions of other types of relationships. If I did enter into a friends with benefits relationship, it would seem so much more serious because I’m not used to a ‘fwb’ texting me to just see how my day is going, or acknowledging my birthday. It helps confuse the signals between ‘this guy is just being nice to me’ and ‘this guy is madly in love with me’, which is already hard enough to tell the difference between.

So please, if we’re not friends, don’t pretend that we are. Just get used to telling women the truth.

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