Dear Julie: “How Do I Deal with Always Being the Third Wheel?”

DAME’s Friendkeeper assesses a couple-heavy friend situation, and helps a woman see that her friendship with a stoner may go up in smoke.

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Dear Julie,

I recently ended a two-year relationship. It sucks but it’s not the worst thing that’s ever happened. We split pretty amicably and there were no kids or pets to divvy up. But what really sucks is that, though I never thought about it before, it’s now painfully obvious that all of my friends are coupled up. Last night I was the ninth wheel at a dinner party. This weekend I’ll be the fifth wheel on a beach excursion. And it’s not like my friends are constantly PDA-ing all over the place or being super, I don’t know, couple-y, but as a newly single person it’s something I can’t help but notice and feel self-conscious about. I’m guessing this feeling will pass, but what can I do in the meantime? Stick it out with these guys till I’m coupled up again? Secretly hope for a breakup in the group? (God, I’m terrible.) Maybe I’ll just hibernate with my HBOGo and a snack nest till being “single” doesn’t feel like my defining status. Is this my fate?

Single no Mingle


Dear SnM,

I’m glad your breakup wasn’t too bad. It’s still hard. Any sort of new personal status feels strange. And there’s the part about how you feel and the part about how people perceive you and, actually, the part about how you think people perceive you, which oftentimes has nothing to do with what they’re really thinking.

When I was newly single, it felt more comfortable to be around either other people who were single, divorced, or in the process of breaking up, or a dog. Fortunately for me, almost everyone I know fits that category. (I do know some happily married people but I could sit here and list them for you so clearly not that many.) The thing is, no one can feel like a fifth or ninth wheel and not feel lousy. It reminds me of when I was in tennis camp and there were three kids in the group and I was always partners with the teacher (and it’s not because I was the worst one and he wanted to balance it out, it’s because I was so good he wanted to observe my technique from close up).

Anyway, it’s simple. If you have more fun when you’re out with your friends than moments that you’re thinking “Oy, I’m Eleanor Rigby,” then go. If you’re not, then go out with your friends when it’s not a couple jamboree. Though I’m in a couple now, I almost never do couple-y things. I feel like unless it’s a party, there’s no point because you just can’t really talk to anyone when there are that many people. And I am sure this isn’t your fate so if I had any advice for you, I’d say try and enjoy this time where you get to choose your own Netflix and pizza topping.

xx Julie


Dear Julie,

I have a good friend who is a major pothead. No judgments, I am down with that. But she is really prone to spacing out. She’ll ask a question, like, say, “How do you know so-and-so?” and I’ll recount the story, and she’ll appear to follow along, smiling and nodding, and the second I finish, she’ll ask, in all seriousness, “So, how do you know so-and-so?” And I look at her, and say, gently, um, I just told you. And then she’ll shake her head and say, “Oh, right. Sorry, I spaced.” This has happened more than a few times. And it’s hard to get mad at her, because she’s so nice, but I know that talking to her is always a gamble, that 85 percent of what I tell her is going in one ear and out the other—she registers none of it. And then she says things like, “We’re such good friends but I feel like I don’t really know you.” Well, it’s not for lack of trying. It’s hard to know anyone if you don’t have an attention span—I know she meant that nicely, but I got really irritated that she was putting the responsibility on me for her failure to stay awake, since she’s baked half the time. And to be honest, I really have no sense of her, aside from the fact that she’s a kind and devoted friend, will do anything for you (except, maybe, listen, though she’ll try), and she’s very generous. Because she is all of those things, I want to stay friends, but it’s a weird friendship. What does one get out of a friendship with someone who is incapable of being present, who you feel like you will never get to know, or who will never get to know you, but you know is a good soul and a devoted friend in other ways? Do you just set your expectations accordingly and, as the stoners say, roll with it?


Tuned In and Turned Off


Dear TIaTO,

Eh, I am writing this to you from France, so my forgiveness to you if my English is not so well. Nah, just kiddin’. (About my English, I really am in France.) But your letter reminded me that I spent three months on a Learn French language app and I can barely remember the word for orange (which is orange) so maybe someone has been secretly putting pot in my pumpkin muffins.

Anyway, all of our brains work at different speeds at different times. Have you ever been very stressed out and you left your keys in the door and your wallet on the counter of Bloomingdales? I only say this because—especially as we, and the people we love—get older, patience with this stuff can be really useful. But this stuff is also super annoying. Especially if in this case, the lack of attention appears to be self-inflicted.  

My feeling is that if this is the way she chooses to live, she’s not going to get the gift you get when you are more present in life. I am also wondering if it affects her responsibilities. How does a person like that work? Or cook dinner? If it seems like those things are a danger, you might mention it if she seems to be stoned so much. What exactly in her life is causing her to need to be in a haze for all of it? Also, if there are times when she isn’t stoned, try to schedule your hangouts with her then.

I think when you say she’s never going to really get to know you, you are right, she is not getting much of what you say. But I think an even bigger part is that when you are with her, you are hiding your real feelings about her. You’re probably annoyed and irritated and not being authentically you. Maybe you can try to be honest about that.

Other than that, I would say sadly she’s never going to get to really know you and vice versa.

xx Julie


Got a platonic problem of your own that could use the Friendkeeper’s advice? Fire away: [email protected]. No situation is too uncomfortable or too small and all details are kept confidential.


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