Picture this: You’re single and decide to go out with your roommate. Then her significant other shows up. At that point, some might start to dread a night of being pegged as the "third wheel." But what should one do? Bail? I say accept it: Embrace being the third wheel. I have.
I’m single and I love it. Both of my roommates, however, are in healthy, loving relationships, which often leaves me the third (or in this case, the fifth) wheel. But let’s be real here — it’s still one of the most entertaining wheels one can be (although, if you can be a Ferris wheel, always be a Ferris wheel).
Of course, I had a little bit of doubt at the beginning of these relationships. I wondered if my roommates would ditch me for their boyfriends and if I would be stuck alone in our apartment all the time. Popular culture reinforces this idea by making fifth-wheel status out to be the worst thing in the world: Society has made it seem like when a couple invites a single friend out, they do so out of pity and trap that friend in a night full of previously determined activities.
But it turned out I had nothing to fear. Both of my roommates' boyfriends have actually become great additions to my life. In fact, having them around gives me a sort of grading scale with which I can evaluate other boys in my life. The things I like and dislike about both of these guys gives me a good idea for what to look for in future potential boyfriends.
These boys are very different. I'll affectionately refer to one as "Dad Boyfriend" and the other as "Nerd Boyfriend." "Dad Boyfriend" lives up to his moniker by dressing and acting like a 35-year-old stuck inside a 21-year-old’s body. When I fifth-wheel with this couple, it's mostly spent doing laundry (so exciting, I know). "Nerd Boyfriend," however, is a super smart kid who can usually be found discussing things like how temperature would affect him if he were water. Nights fifth-wheeling with him and my second roommate are spent watching Star Wars and doing homework. Not bad, right?
Hanging out with my roommates and their respective boyfriends in both of these scenarios has become natural. The boys made an effort to integrate themselves into my life, so I have in turn become close with them. We've spent nights getting French fries after parties, watching movies, and, in one memorable instance, going to Best Buy to get rid of a television.
I think I've never felt pushed aside or out of place because the focus was never on any of our relationship statuses. I never felt like a single person surrounded by couples: We all acted as if we were friends rather than just connected through my roommates.
In fact, I found that there are perks to being the third (or fifth) wheel. I can leave whenever I want to and am never hindered by another person. My roommates' boyfriends sometimes get the low-down on guys I'm interested in and I often get my own side of the booth at restaurants.
Of course, being the third wheel isn't all sunshine and rainbows. There have been times when I felt bombarded by their love for each other and felt it was painful to witness. But most of the time I find it refreshing to watch these couples interact, and I appreciate their incredible relationships. I know to take a step back when I need to, and I know when to give these couples their own space. It's all about balance.
Ultimately, the term "fifth wheel" is a label meant to highlight one's relationship status in relation to others and to ultimately make single people feel less important than their friends in relationships. But being single doesn't inherently inconvenience friends who are in relationships. Significant others will come and go, but your friends are your friends. If you enjoy their presence, no designation should exist to make you feel bad about spending time with them, no matter if they have a partner or not.
Yes, sometimes I am alone in the apartment while my roommates are out on their dates. But that just means I don’t have to wear pants and can watch Netflix while eating Nutella out of the jar. And it’s wonderful.
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