I talk often about how girl-dating and the romantic kind are pretty much the same thing…minus the making out. Some of this I predicted (what to wear on a first date??) some of it not so much (no one could have anticipated the wandering eye dilemma). The other day I encountered a shocking and completely unexpected friending-as-dating quandary: Those three little words.
You think I’m making this up, don’t you? I assure you. I am not.
I got a voicemail from a potential BFF who wanted to see if we were still on for our scheduled dinner date later this week. I listened to the message at work, excited that someone took the actual phone call route. And then, just before hanging up, she said it. “Ok, love you, bye!”
Really? You love me? I understand that “love you” doesn’t carry as much weight as “I love you.” I also realize that a “love you” between friends is often just a throwaway, certainly less meaningful than the same exchange with a potential mate. Some girls are just the “I love you” type. They’ve mentally attached it to goodbye, as if it’s one word.
Still, I was a little jarred. I’ve met this friend four times. It’s a little early to be throwing around the L word, no? The last time we met she asked me to remind her what I did for a living. Now that’s love.
When I heard the message, I unknowingly did my best Scooby Doo impression—there was an entire head spin. I stared confusedly at my phone. I think my exact word was “Er?”
It’s kind of fascinating to be on this side of iloveyou-gate. I’ve been the one to say it too early before. That’s just no fun. I remember saying it—I was young and stupid and probably in that I-know-he-wont-say-it-back-but-maybe-if-I-say-it-he-will-and-there’s-only-one-way-to-find-out headspace—only to get a blank stare in return. Good stuff. But how the tables have turned. Yesterday I was recipient of those premature three little words—or in my case, two little words—and had the same reaction as my guy did. Blank stare.
Women tend to “love you” other women willy nilly. I have a vivid memory of such an exchange with a friend in high school, and my boyfriend saying to me “Do you really love her?” And though I think there comes an age where we grow out of these haphazard declarations, some women just don’t catch on. It’s in their DNA or something. They have lots of love to go around.
The point of all this is to say: It is dating! Every time I think that comparison has run its course, something else happens that makes me say “See! See what I’m talking about?!?” When I started this search, saying “I love you” too soon wasn’t on my radar as one of the possible dealbreakers. Now it’s up there with doesn’t watch TV and moonlights as Cher. (Wait. Scratch that. I would love a Cher doppelganger. And maybe I could use a little less TV. I said maybe.)
What’s next? Meeting the parents? Probably.
Do you say I love you to friends a lot? What about new friends? Was I right to be surprised or is that “love you” expected? And the question that is really as old as time: How soon is too soon?