third wheel

A couple weeks ago, I commemorated the six-year anniversary of my noble campaign of living life without a serious girlfriend.

I could have done so on my own, eating copious amounts of prosciutto and naan in my bed (I’m big on fusion when it comes to cuisine), but I was lucky enough to have two friends of mine—who are a steadfast couple, a beacon of hope in these troubled times—invite me out with them for a night of semi-fine dining, lots of booze, and bowling.

I accepted and embraced the fact that the couple invited me out with them because they didn’t want me to feel lonely on such a weird anniversary that I insisted on bringing up every year, despite having full knowledge of the buzz kill that it would bring.

When I was out with these pals, I constantly made sure to mention that I was The Third Wheel, so as to acknowledge their graciousness and selflessness in allowing and inviting me to an outing that was initially meant to be a date for two.

I don’t want my friends to feel sorry for me for being single. But I also don’t mind being Third Wheel.

This is going to seem counter-intuitive, but being Third Wheel has its perks, like:

Sympathy.

People sympathize with the Third Wheel because pretty much everyone has served in that same position at least once in their lives. They’re like “Aww, look at him. He’s romantically alone while the two people sitting across from him that he’s out to dinner with are giving each other butterfly kisses! Let’s get this dude a free dessert!” I don’t know about you, but I’ll let people feel sorry for me if it means I’m getting a free slice of cheesecake. (I don’t have much pride.)

You’re an appreciated buffer.

Couples are less likely to talk about serious stuff, or to get into a knockdown, drag-out fight whenever another friend is along with them. Your buddy may like having you along on some level, because he and his girlfriend will at least attempt to keep the peace while you’re around. You can’t go home with them at the end of the night, though…

The occasional free ride.

Sometimes, if the couple is flush, they’ll treat you to some things. For example, when I was out on my bowling excursion, the lovely couple purchased me a couple of shots. We did not toast to my inability to commit, though.

People-watching opportunities.

It’s kind of depressing (sometimes) to go out alone and people-watch (believe me, I’ve done it), even though people-watching is one of the most fun activities you can engage in outside of the bedroom and without the aid of technology. (This is arguable.) While the couple is engaging in PDA and whatnot, you can observe the quirks and interesting things about those around you. They’ll be less likely to get freaked out if you’re with people. Trust me.

Romantic research and fact-finding opportunities.

Bring your pen and notebook. Make your Third Wheel outing an educational one. Ask your friends about their relationship dynamic, and for some tips on what to do and what not to do while navigating the daunting road of monogamy. They’ll especially enjoy ruminating on what works for them. People really love to talk about themselves, especially when it makes them look good.

Dress and act as you wish.

When you’re the Third Wheel, you really don’t have to care much about your appearance or your actions. It’s not like when you’re on a date and you second-guess every little thing you do, and every little thing you put on, right on down to the color of your shoelaces. (Or am I the only one who does that?) When you go out with your couple-friends, you can just let loose and relax.

And a relaxed you is a happy you. Or, at least a little less-sad you.