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 I am an infestation. I am a disease, a pox on the city, a plague on all who surround me. I am environmentally harmful pesticide. It is only in my absence that things are allowed to grow.

When I was in St. Louis, I had many close friends, but three primary ones: Matt, Chris, and Brian. For the sake of discussion, we'll leave Brian out of this conversation, since he has a sweet girlfriend who watched out for him and made sure he didn't get too crazy. Matt and Chris were like me — somewhat socially awkward, big sports fans, more comfortable sitting in a small group sucking down pitchers than in a large social gathering shaking hands and slapping backs, heya, heya, howya doin', how's the kids? And most important: We were all single.

This is a key point. When you're single, not dating anyone, living by yourself and your own rules, you have to answer to no one. This would seem to be a benefit. This makes it sound like being single is some deeply desirable activity. Our behavior betrayed that. Anytime we were out, we did not talk about our independence and freedom. We'd talk about how we wished we were dating someone. There is this one girl, yeah, I'd love to get with her, man, I bet she likes bigger guys with bigger arms, or guys who make more money, dammit, I can't believe Kobe missed that free-throw, yes, we want another round, dammit, why can't I find anyone? Deep down, anyone who talks about how much they enjoy being single, how they don't like being tied down, how it's so nice…don’t you believe them period.

They're looking for that special person to validate everything they do and everything they are, just like you and I, and until that person comes around, we're simply killing time and trying to look tough.

We did a lot of killing time in St. Louis, and then I moved to New York in January 2000. Within four months of my departure, both Matt and Chris had met the person they ended up marrying. (Matt's wedding is in a month; Chris's was last year.)

Lynda, my old roommate in Los Angeles, used to talk to me about boys, and I used to talk to her about girls. She couldn't figure out why men were so shifty, and I couldn't figure out why women were so aloof and hot-and-cold. It drove us nuts, and we spent hours trying to shed light on the other gender's mysteries.

I never solved much, but six months after I left L.A. in May 1998, Lynda met the boyfriend who's she been with since.

My girlfriend and I went out for drinks with six of my best friends in New York a couple of weeks ago. She didn't really know my close friends all that well, and we had been kind of cooped-up for a while, and she's gorgeous with lots of friends, so I shouldn't have been surprised at what happened. We sat and drank and my friends — all single, every single one of them — did nothing but complain to her that they didn't know any girls, do you know any girls, do you think they'd like us?

I don't have a single friend who's dating anyone. None. I'm the only one. And we're getting older now, so I'm not having to listen to the "Hey, Will, look over there, it's your testicles" jokes I would have gotten, say, three years ago in the same situation. One particularly socially thwarted soul, his head down, nodding listlessly, said, "So, Will, you have a girlfriend. That's, um, pretty cool. I don't have any friends with girlfriends. That must be nice. What's it like?" It was like The Chris Farley Show: "So, like, remember that time when you and your girlfriend went on that date? That was awesome."

Predictably, our night out ended with us all getting drunk and my girlfriend actually approaching girls in the bars saying things like, "The guy in the corner over there with the glasses and wavy hair: Do you think he's cute? I think he likes you. Is it OK if he comes over to talk to you?" All it was missing was a note with "Do you like me? Yes or No (Circle one.)" Needless to say, my friend didn't talk to her hiding under the table, muttering to himself. Also not surprising, after the girl was gone, he spent most of the rest of the night convincing us she wasn't all that hot anyway.

My friends' perpetual singledom and my perpetual serial monogamy is at odds in many ways, but the biggest is time. As anyone who's ever been in a serious relationship knows, sharing your life with someone is hard work. It takes effort and devotion and sacrifice and a willingness to look the fool to your pals sometime. As far as I'm concerned, it's always worth it, but that's difficult for someone who hasn't had sex in two years to understand. They just can't figure out why you'd skip the Celtics/Pistons game to stay in and watch Riding in Cars with Boys while rubbing your girlfriend's feet. It's at the point that if a friend gets on my case for not spending as much time with him as we used to, I shut him off and start considering him a whining girly man. I mean, honestly dude, I get enough of that at home.

And the worst part? I feel like it's my fault. It's just my history. For whatever reason, having me around seems to suck the courting skills right out of my friends. I feel like the minute they get away from me they'll finally figure it out.

But just so they'll get off my case, would any of you date my friends? They're short, dumpy, inexperienced, and sometimes veer towards the vaguely effeminate. But I think they could all use something more to complain about — so I think they should probably just date you.



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