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Ask Jono: Being The Third Wheel

Ask Jono: Being The Third Wheel

By Jon_Skindzier

Dear Jono,

Let me start off by saying that, yes, you are very awesome and I love your column and if I ever saw you I would probably drop to my knees, sobbing wildly and weeping tears of pure joy mixed with pepper spray (possibly).

Now, I'm 18 and of the female side of the species, and I recently moved to a new school due to a really bad breakup with my old group of friends that resulted in bullying. I met a new group of friends and they are all very nice people, but there is a problem: they are all in relationships with each other and I am the only single one amongst them, which means, that I am basically every one's third wheel. "That is not a problem!" you declare, stroking your lustrous beard and clicking your tongue while swirling your glass of gin (possibly), "Third wheels simply need to be booted out!"

Well... This is the only group of people that are remotely nice to me at this new school, and I am good friends with all of them, and after the bullying and break up of my old group at my old school, I've had a very hard time connecting with anyone. I try not to invade their privacy and I keep away if they're having some private moment, but it's impossible sometimes. I try not to be annoying and all up in their face like most stereotypical third wheels, but because I'm new, I'm kind of clingy because I don't know where to go and I don't know what to do. They want to include me, they invite me to stuff and do general friend things, but I just feel awkward when they're together in their little couple and I'm just tagged on the side because I feel like I really shouldn't be there.

I don't really know what to do. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Also here is a picture I drew of you answering the thousands of emails you receive from various wayward young adults.

This is a hard one, because you've managed to put yourself in a scenario where the obvious answer ("give them their space") seems to lead to an undesirable conclusion ("therefore you must mope around by yourself in an abandoned junkyard forever"). But you've also managed to imply that I am some sort of respectable captain of industry, rather than a schmuck on the Internet. So I will polish my monocle, which is actually the lens from my broken glasses, and adjust my top hat, which is actually nothing, and deign to answer your question.

For the record, it seems to me that most people have similar discomfort when trying to deal with third-wheeledness. I mean, I never have a problem with it, because if I find myself the third wheel in a given situation, I just sit there obliviously going "HEY GUYS THERE'S A BEE OUTSIDE" and "ISN'T HONEY WEIRD??" as they struggle to make out despite my presence, and then soon they stop inviting me back and I don't have to worry about it anymore.

If you're acutely aware of people's feelings, though (e.g. if you are female), then I can imagine this sort of thing making you more uncomfortable than it makes me. You turn to them during the movie to share your hypothesis about the twist ending ("THE GIRAFFE DID IT!") to find them going nom nom slurp slorp and otherwise sharing mouth space. "THE GIRAFFE... is... a, pretty neat animal," you finish lamely, and then sit there in rigid silence for the remaining two hours. Or so I would imagine, anyway. I would just yammer on until someone hit me with a tire iron.

Your specific situation is tough, because I would normally suggest inviting along a friend who would fit in with this group so that you felt less left out (which you can't do, if this is your entire group of friends now). And when I put this question to other people, some suggested pointing out that they were making you uncomfortable, but I don't like that advice either; if this is a new group of friends that you're really happy to have, and you feel grateful when they include you, I think it's bad form to whip our a slide whistle and make the sad bweeooup sound effect every time they try to get romancey with each other.

I think the first thing here is not to get discouraged—don't feel like you're intruding so much that you just sequester yourself in your room until the heat death of the universe. You are, after all, not doing anything wrong. I mean, you could put a toupee on a cactus and bring that along with you, or carry a shrub that you could hide behind to give people their privacy, but really, they're the ones who are putting you in these situations. I don't fault them for it; I'm just saying that your only crime is being a human person who is single.

Instead, I'd argue that you should include yourself even more, but like a detective. Because surely somewhere, in the whole network of friends related to these people, is at least one decent life form that doesn't have an SO (or, perhaps, that reproduces asexually). You and this person (or amoeba) could hit it off immediately, just by being the only two single ones around. If that doesn't work, try spending time one-on-one with these new folks, outside of a group setting, where you can get to know them individually and not be the odd woman out. And above all, just try to be the kind of person that everyone really wants to hang out with. I know it sounds obvious to say "everyone likes nice people, and they live longer, and they are the bee's knees," but it's a true science brain fact.

What do you think LW should do?

Topics: Life
Tags: bullying, friends, awkward situations, advice, new schools, ask jono, third wheels

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