I have a friend whom I have known for almost a decade and each time we meet I feel as if I’m in an undeclared sexual negotiation. Sometimes months, even years go by before we see each other despite regularly speaking on the phone. Whenever I see him I find myself party to the same conversation about his hunt for a side chick. Now you may be wondering why I would even entertain this man’s foolishness? But honestly, he’s a really nice guy (sexual issues aside) and he had never aggressively and openly expressed an interest in me. Instead, for the past few years he has chosen to drag me into these hypothetical conversations.
Here is some back ground: We are both from a culture believe it or not, where it is prevalent in fact normal for a man to have a wife and a girlfriend and juggle full families with them both for the rest of his life. Usually one or both women are aware and at least one is accepting. This culture exists (though not exclusively) in that small percentage of educated and financially secure black men and women who prefer to date solely within that class and fraternity of people. Unfortunately, this fraternity is generally composed of more women than men creating the imbalance of mates. In essence it has become a normal and expected part of this culture to share a man.
When I just met my friend, he was (and still is) married but I was single and focused on completing my second degree. We met in an organization where I was in a position to help in his line of business and our friendship blossomed from there. Occasionally, we would meet for dinner outside of a professional setting and soon discovered that we enjoyed each other’s company. He never wore a ring but I knew even before he told me he was married that I was not interested in him romantically. As we got to know each other over the years, I learned that he was a financially secure self-made man married for more than fifteen years with multiple children to a woman significantly younger than he is.
He often complimented me especially on my figure and wit but never really tried to be anything other than a friend. He would offer advice and support where I needed it but as far as I knew never saw me “that way”. Over time however, I watched him grow increasingly frustrated during our talks and he would go from asking for photos of my boobs (to which I said no) to annoyance at insignificant things. The very next time he saw me again we would be back to talking like old friends and I would think all was well again.
Eventually I was to tell him that I found someone and at this point he said that he was happy for me and would start to “behave himself”, whatever that means. Fast-forward a few years and I am now married with a son, he comes to my city and we go to dinner with my toddler in tow. During this dinner this damned hypothetical conversation comes up again. He shares this story about a sexy intelligent woman he likes who he thinks likes him too but he is not sure. Being accustomed to women aggressively pursuing him, he shares that he is unsure about how this woman feels because she has never expressed it. He worries out loud that maybe because of his “situation” she is waiting for him to offer a financial incentive for taking that on. Then he scoffs at this idea, saying that would amount to prostitution and he does not pay for it so she would have to be in it for the real deal. At this point I am expected to offer friendly advice as I take on the role of this hypothetical woman and try to explain what she might be thinking. Then speaking from her perspective address all of his concerns. After starting to feel like I’d reprised this role too many times I declined to engage him this time and instead ate my dinner in silence. Soon he becomes engrossed in something on his phone, so we agree it is time to take me home.
When we get to my apartment building I invited him to meet my husband, he declines, says it will make my situation real and he doesn’t want an image of my husband in his head. I insist and he complies. As we were walking towards my apartment, he finally asks how come I never got with him even and especially while I was single. I told him simply because he is married and a friend. As soon as we step into my apartment my son runs to hug his dad, my husband, who was in the preparation stages of cooking looks at me with this stranger behind me smiles and greets us. I make introductions and my husband immediately engages him in a conversation about the football match he is watching and they talk like longtime friends who didn’t just meet for the first time. My friend looks visibly disappointed and eventually leaves. Though he was in town for almost an entire week he never returns my calls and I never hear from him again except in a voicemail a few days later that said he enjoyed seeing me and had gone back home.