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Dating diary: What friends are for

Elizabeth Cullen is a freelance writer based in New York.

A friend indeed

Men may come and go (and come and go again,) but you'll always have your BFFs.

Best Friends
When my friend Annabel announced over lunch that after three months, Josh had asked her to be his girlfriend, I couldn't have been more psyched.

They had begun dating last fall, undeterred by Josh having to leave to work on a documentary in Helsinki for six months. Instead, they wrote lengthy, intimate letters and he frequently surprised her with bouquets of flowers delivered to her work.

It was the kind of slow, old-fashioned courtship that Annabel, with her checkered history of Craigslist flings and one-night stands, had never had. Josh had finally returned last month and by her own admission, they were falling in love.

"Except, there's one thing though…" she said rather nonchalantly. "I kind of hooked up with this other guy last weekend."

"Wait, what?" I was confused.

She told me the story. While she was walking home, "somewhat wasted," from a party at two in the morning, a guy stopped her to ask for directions. It could have been the beginning to any number of slasher flicks, but to Annabel, it was one of those New York moments that couldn't be passed up. After helping him find his way home, she decided to spend the night too.

I was a little taken aback. This was unusually reckless, even for her. Moreover, she had given him her phone number.

"But, why? What about Josh?" I asked.

"I'm not going to tell him," she shrugged.

I reminded myself that Annabel was my friend and we lived in a post-Sex and the City era, where women were allowed to be as sexually voracious as they chose. But I still felt judgment creeping into my every answer.

I had always supported her: during the times when she dated questionable men, when she danced at clubs with that dumb, accessible smile plastered across her face, and even when she whispered in tears that she thought her ex had given her an STD. But I couldn't support her throwing away a relationship that had so much potential. I racked my brain for the appropriate words to say.

"Annabel…" I began, thinking of how to finish the sentence. How do you tell someone the way to live her life when you've made plenty of your own mistakes in the past?

Three weeks later, she called with the news that she and Josh might not be working out after all. I wasn't surprised, but still played the part: asking questions, murmuring encouraging words, and mostly, just listening. Although I was disappointed at the outcome, I realized I had made the right decision to not speak and judge her that day. Being a supportive friend didn't always mean taking a stance, sometimes holding a person's hand until she figured it out was enough.

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