“Oh. My. Gosh.”
I turned toward my sister as we walked over to her car.
“What?” I asked.
“That Anthony,” she said meaningfully, “He just seems so great.”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa!” I responded, immediately figuring out what she was implying. “There is absolutely nothing going on between me and Anthony, and there’s not going to be. He’s not my type at all!”
“Well,” she said in an annoyingly older-sister-ish way, “I’m just saying, if you ever did decide to date him—“
“Stop it!” I interrupted. “It’s not going to happen!”
It was the summer before my freshman year of college, and I was enjoying my newfound independence. I had signed up for a summer program on campus at my new college in Texas, halfway across the country from my hometown in upstate New York. When my older sister came to visit, I was excited to introduce her to all my new college friends.
There were other guys in my summer program who I thought were cooler (and, secretly, cuter) than Anthony, but for some reason my sister singled out the quiet, soft-spoken blonde guy from Missouri. But that was just a fluke, right? Sure, we had become really good friends (he was really thoughtful and easy to talk to…), but it was obvious that we were just friends… right?
The summer ended, but throughout that fall, more and more people kept asking me in that same meaningful, annoying tone of voice, “Soooo?? You and Anthony?” No matter how many times I told them that they were wrong, it just kept happening. And, honestly, I was starting to suspect that Anthony really did have a thing for me.
So, naturally, I did the smart and mature thing: I avoided him.
Back then, I didn’t have a cell phone, which made it pretty easy to blow poor Anthony off. Every time I came back to my dorm room, there would be a note scribbled on the message pad from my roommate: “Anthony called. Just checking in.” Or, “Anthony called. Are you free tonight?” Somehow, I was just too busy with my new group of friends to return his calls.
Poor Anthony. I think it was pretty obvious that I was trying to put some distance between us. The phone calls and facebook messages intensified, with me giving more and more lame excuses for why we never hung out any more.
Finally, Anthony sent me a serious message: “We need to talk.”
Now, I’m not someone who’s naturally good with conflict. In fact, I hate it. So when we finally sat down together in the cafeteria, I was not looking forward to the conversation.
Anthony told me point blank that he had noticed that I was avoiding him, and he wanted to know why. He asked if he had done something to offend or hurt me. At first, I hesitated. But finally, I just broke down and told him the truth.
“Everybody keeps pushing us together and asking if we’re dating, and it’s driving me crazy!” I blurted out. “And then I started hanging out with other people, and you got super clingy and wouldn’t leave me alone!”
He looked hurt, but apologized. He said that he didn’t mean to be clingy, he had just really missed me, and had been going through some really hard stuff. One of his good friends from high school had died a couple of weeks before, and he was having a really hard time handling it.
When I heard that, my heart sank. I realized that I had been being really immature and selfish. I had assumed that Anthony’s phone calls had been all about me—that he just wanted to hang out with me because he was obviously totally in love with me, and that having him hanging around would put a crimp in my cool new social scene. During that conversation, I realized that what he really needed and was asking for was someone to be a friend to him, like he had always been to me.
When I first met him, I didn’t think I was going to date Anthony, but my sister and my friends kept pushing us together. It took two and a half years, but eventually I realized that they were right. Sometimes, the people who really know us and love us know better than we do what we really need. Since they’re outside the situation, sometimes our friends and family can see things that we can’t. When we’re trying to make decisions about something as important (and confusing!) as dating, it’s smart to listen to the people who already know and love us.
My friendship with Anthony strengthened over time, and at the beginning of our junior year, Anthony and I started dating. Four years later, we got married.
I’m not sorry that I waited a while to start dating Anthony. The fact that we were already best friends meant that our relationship had a firm foundation to build on. In fact, a new study just came out showing that husbands and wives who are each other’s best friends are twice as happy as those who aren’t.
Although it took me a long time to realize it, now I freely admit it: you were right, big sister. He really is a pretty amazing guy after all.