The Secret Life of the Typical Third Wheel

Summertime is a like a breath of fresh air. During the summer you’re free. It’s a time when friends bond and families vacation and tourists become sunburned. Personally, I loved the hope that comes with every summer. I enjoyed the anticipation that coattails the heat and the thoughts that maybe this will be the best summer yet. But if summer is the breath of fresh air, the week before summer is feeling you get when your fresh air turns out to be contaminated with somebody’s fart. Exams have a way of doing that. They chase people away and turn people on each other, but most of all during exam week every single person in all of high school is like a ticking time bomb. Sadly, I can say that I’m one of these people. But I guess you could say I’m less of a bomb and more of a dam. I don’t really explode into millions of little angry pieces, instead, when my wall gets chipped, a floodgate of tears is opened that is very rarely controlled. I’d even go as far to say that my dam of tears drowns everyone in its path. And I love my friends, I do. But sometimes they are just plain stupid.
“So I was thinking, this weekend we should go to the carnival up at school,” my friend Emily told me.
“Sounds fun to me.” I replied. I was sitting at a cafeteria table at school, my face buried within my notes for Composition and Literature. It was my favorite class, but seriously the exams could be deadly. “Who’s all going?”
“Well…you and me, obviously, Damaris, Daniel, Will, and Grant.” The last names she told me were said really fast as if she didn’t want me to hear them. I looked up from my notes, intrigued now.
“Will and Grant?” I questioned her. Will was Emily’s most recent ex-boyfriend and Grant was her current one. Will was a freshman, Grant was a sophomore. Will was the jealous type and Grant…well I didn’t actually know that much about him. Somehow that thought didn’t help.
“Umm..?” Was all she replied. I set the pen I was holding down onto my Lit book and swiveled around to face her.
“Are you sure about that?” I asked her. I wasn’t against Will and Grant being together I actually thought it’d be fun. But that’s the third wheel in me talking. Whenever I’m around Emily and a guy, I always end up being the third wheel. Actually, I’m pretty good at it. You see, being a third wheel, or third wheeling as it could be called, is an art. It takes much more than just attending something with a girl and her guy. You need to be the life of the party, but you can’t outshine your girl friend. You’re just there to make things less awkward, so that usually means the third wheel is funny and lighthearted. I’ve actually considered going into the third wheeling profession. Maybe I’ll start a business. Rachel’s Third Wheel Rental. It sounds like a car dealership combined with prostitution, but it could be a place where awkward couples could go to rent a friend for the day to accompany them on their date and ease the tension. Ok who am I kidding that idea is crap. But I really am a great third wheel. The only time I really regretted it was when I decided to go to the pool with Emily and Will back when they were together. Since Emily and I lived near the pool, we could walk there. Normally I made her walk in the opposite direction and meet me at the outside of my neighborhood and then we’d walk there together. That day was no different. But when we arrived at the pool, Will was there kind of just standing around. Great I thought to myself when I saw him because right away I knew it was going to be hard work to keep this from being awkward. I thought it’d be fun to do a cannonball to kind of lighten the mood so I did. Emily then jumped in after me playing along. But Will continued to be awkward and did a very disappointing half-hearted leap into the water. I will admit there was a time when I had a major crush on Will, but by this day it was completely gone. Actually, I was rather pleased I didn’t like him anymore since I realized how much of a downer he really was.
Emily, Will, and I spent a couple hours swimming around. Mostly by swimming I mean we floated in the deep end talking while I did occasional flips underwater because I was bored. Emily just stood there and Will held her waist. At this point I wanted to shoot myself for coming and had already voiced my annoyance with Emily through some very strongly worded glances. She just laughed and laughed though, oblivious to my suffering. Eventually I could take it no longer though. I suggested we do something different, so we all went and got on our chairs. I attempted to make conversation which ended up failing. I’ve always loathed small talk and I try to avoid it wherever and whenever possible. But it’s really difficult when you can’t think of anything to talk about.So eventually after Emily and I had timed out all our discussions we sat there in awkwardness. I personally feel awkwardness is inevitable and it will find you no matter where you hide. It’s like trying to hide a gun in your bra while walking through a metal detector: you’re most likely to get patted down especially if the security guy is cute and notices a large lump on your breast. Emily however has a totally different concept on awkwardness. She feels that if you refuse to feel awkward, it will just go away. It’s a mind over matter theory. But basically the lesson I get out of it is if you keep sticking your hand in a huge fire, eventually you won’t feel it. It may or may not be true, depending on whether scalded hands will eventually go numb, but even if you stop feeling it the damage is there. The most horrible fact about Emily not submitting to awkwardness is that she won’t do anything to fix it because she doesn’t recognize it’s there. So basically she makes it worse through noninvolvement. She refuses to take her hand out of the fire. It’s almost like social suicide. At least it was in this situation. After about 45 minutes of roasting in the heat, I was getting light headed and really bored. So I hopped out of my chair, grabbed my towel, and said “I’m leaving, are you coming Emily?”
She just nodded and got up too. “Bye, Will.” I said. “This was fun.” Third-wheelers must also learn to lie through their teeth for the sake of saving the couple. He only nodded in reply too. Actually he looked a little constipated. Will gave her a hug and I stood awkwardly to the side. Will turned to me and I shuffled around. Then he gave me a hug and it was one of those I-feel-obligated-to-hug-you-because-I-hugged-her hugs. I cursed myself inwardly for even getting involved in this situation. But I mean honestly. So with one last “bye” I walked away. And I swear we couldn’t have been more than ten feet from the guy when Emily got a text from him saying “Come back.” She started freaking out. Oh God. I thought in my head. Oh and did I mention that Emily has this strange phobia of kissing Will? Well she does and it only makes everything all the more fun.
“Why does he want you to come back?” I asked her.
“I don’t know.” She replied, but I could tell she did know. She was grinning despite herself.
“Well…” I began. “Do you want me to come with you?” Rule number 1 of the Third Wheelers Club: never abandon the girl.
“Are you kidding? He’s gonna kiss me and he won’t if your there.” Ok so most people would consider this a ‘No, Rachel, please stay here.’ But in Emily Land it’s as close as you can get to a ‘Hell yes you’re coming with me.’ So I went. I mean what else was I supposed to do? Well to make a long story short, Will looked at me, walked up to Emily, gave her another huge bear-like hug, nodded at me, and told me he “just had to say bye again.” I think I actually threw up in my mouth. So after that day I vowed never to go Third Wheeling with Will and Emily ever again, and technically this Friday I wasn’t.I couldn’t care less about what Emily’s motives were for wanting to even make it the slightest bit messy. So I was really surprised when Emily answered my questions with “Will’s a little jealous." I was thinking No dip, Sherlock. When you talk to your ex about your current boyfriend they tend to kind of not take it well. If there’s one thing in the world I hate most about couples, it’s when they play games.

Everybody does it. I’m sure there isn’t one couple out there who hasn’t tried to make each other jealous at some point. But even something as common as jealousy games within couples still has the power to tick me off big time. Ok and I know even I’m a culprit, but that’s probably the main reason I think it’s so bad. My first red-handed moment took place in grade school. 6th grade is the year where cliques start emerging big time and everyone just wants to fit in. That’s when the “cool girls” become the cool girls and the outcasts stay outcast. I know in 6th grade I floated right down the middle. It was a fragile system in my case. One action could tip my scale a little more towards the side I didn’t want to be on: the outcasts. I was like a little robotic moon floating around the sun, the sun being the people who could bump up my status. Don’t get me wrong, I never used any of my friends. Actually, I was always kind of surprised they liked me as much as they did. In 6th grade I was definitely not the most attractive child. My brown hair was bobbed at my chin with bangs chopped straight across my bushy eyebrows. Oh and let’s not forget my bent glasses and glittered up grin. The boys were definitely not “coming to my yard” for milkshakes so to speak. But I was in that group who was pretty inclusive. We were the “sporty girls”, the “tomboys”, or whatever you’d like to call us. And being the athletes we were, we had the authority to talk with the cool girls and the humility to not exclude everyone else. It was the place to be, just not the place to be. Despite the evident imperfect perfection of our clique everyone still wanted to be those cool girls. And I’d even slave over the chance to be there. I remember one night, in sheer frustration, I spent an hour in front of my mirror plucking my eyebrows. I about killed myself in the process for an outcome which wasn’t even that great. The only way I could even keep my status up as high as it was was because I was funny. I could make my friends laugh. It was a trick I had mastered ever since kindergarten when I actually was in the in-crowd and surrounded by the most hilarious people I’d probably ever meet-my glory days. And maybe that’s why my friends liked me so much, because I could make them laugh. But it still wasn’t enough to give me a little status bump. I was comfortable with my friends. Everything changed though the day that I decided I liked a boy in my class. The boy’s name was Tom. Looking back, I’m not exactly sure why I liked him. Maybe it was because of his cute boyish face or his quiet shyness or maybe it was just because he was new and a different face to look at it. I was head over heels for him in a preteen infatuation. Well Tom came to the school, made friends with people in the cool crowd, and immediately took residence up there. The rest of us were probably standing around like ‘What the hell? How’d he do that?’To this day, whenever one of my friends brings up 6th grade I’ll still agree unanimously that “6th grade was definitely the best year.” Honestly, I’m not exactly sure it was for me, but the sheer peer pressure was enough for me to convince myself it was. Maybe it was because of the unnecessary heart ache I caused myself. Who knows? But there’s one day in 6th grade that really stands out to me. I’m not exactly sure why it does, because it really is just a random day.

I was sitting in my class room at my table. Well much to my obvious joy Tom was at my table. I was so pumped I almost jumped up and down on the table and had convinced myself that I would turn on my 6th grade charm to snag him—a thought that makes me gag now. And thankfully, I wasn’t alone. Also at my table was one of my best friends, Mary. Mary had this air about her that nothing could touch her. She went with the flow and had the most infectious laugh you’d ever hear in your life. She was one of the most athletic girls in our grade and that didn’t go unrecognized along with her evident beauty. If you talked to her today, Mary would probably start complaining about her skin care regime and how “her face will never clear up”, but I thought she was pretty. Even I could tell Tom liked her and my mind was pretty naïve to actual flirting. And just the thought of him liking her released this vicious jealously dog in me—actually it was probably more of a cat, snarling and hissing. The only thing that I really regret about it was that I centered my evil jealousy cat on Mary, one of my best friends. I never did anything outright obvious to her that showed my contempt, thank goodness, but the thoughts were there. I wanted so badly to make Tom jealous so he’d like me. However, my ignorance towards how to actually go about it is quite a tragic story. I tried making him laugh…failure (and a major blow to my self esteem) and I tried looking gloomy seeing them together (to this day I’m still not sure how I thought looking like my dog just died would help anything and it never did). After months of miserable failure, I finally gave up. I even kind of gave up on liking Tom which became a huge relief to my system because I had put so much stress on it. I had become a free woman, taking liberty from the evil 6th grade boys who had sat there sadistically poking my jealousy cat. Ever since that day, I can’t say that I’m immune to jealousy, but I’ve really tried to keep from using it against people. There’s that saying for guys “Bros before Hoes” and I think 6th grade was when I really learned that lesson, only the girl version. I was finally taking my sisters before misters, my chicks before dicks.
But I can’t just tell the story of Tom and pretend like I actually listened to the little fortune cookie that hit me in the head one day that said “boys suck” because there is definately more tragic stories, stories that could even ruin friendships. And that, my dear friends, is why you must cherish your friends because, like a wise quote says: "You go to high school to find your bridesmaids, not your husband." Though this isn't centered just around high school, I think you get the general concept.





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asdfkmlk said...
May 11, 2011 at 11:05 pm
great rach.
 
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