During the many years of my early twenties that I spent single, I often played the role of third wheel. Mostly, in Washington, I did this with my friends A and J.
A and I had become close friends at work: most of my memories from that time of personal drama/heartbreak are punctuated with a vision of running up some set of stairs to A’s desk and anxiously reading the look on her face as she slid her black headphones down to her neck. (Was she crashing on deadline or did she have a moment to hear my, always epic, saga?).
And then J moved into her group house in Columbia Heights, and a few weeks later we all hosted a dinner party, and I spent that night in bed with another housemate, to whom I talked about one time after that, while A and J spent the night together and remained inseparable for about the next four years.
The phrase “third wheel” has a negative connotation, but I don’t mean one in this case: I loved spending time with the two of them as a couple. I’d still run up to A’s desk at work, but then I’d also find solace in their kitchen, or backyard, where the two of them would ply me with homemade chicken and beer, smother me with joint bear hugs, and assure me that whatever guy really wasn’t half as awesome as me to begin with.
In other words: I confided in both of them, regularly, about my sex life. And I laugh now about how I responded when they tried to do the same.
“Eewwww!” I’d grimace, throwing my hands to my ears, whenever J would make some suggestive comment indicating that he and A actually slept together.
“How come you can talk to us about sex but we can’t talk to you?” he’d plead, half-joking.
“I don’t know, it’s just the way it is! You’re a couple, you don’t get to talk about sex! You’re like my parents!”