Three's a crowd

If two's company and three's a crowd, and if the third wheel is usually something that feels unnecessary, then I usually feel like the third wheel when I go out with people.  It's not that I feel less welcome than, say, the second wheel, but I do feel like an add-on.

It's not what others are doing, it's what I associate it with. When I was younger and in elementary and middle school, I was usually the last person picked for group activities, for teams in gym class, for pretty much anything besides academic projects, in which everyone could mooch off of me.  You know how there would be an odd number of people, and you'd have 10 groups of two and one group of three?

I was almost always in that damn group of three.  Not because two people wanted to be with me, but because the teacher or whoever stuck me with someone.

So yeah, I really dislike that feeling of being a third wheel.

And because I haven't really established my own group of people where I live now, and because this stupid dating thing is slow as hell, I usually end up tagging along with my parents.  Like I said, I don't feel unwelcome, but I do feel unwieldy.  It reminds me of being back in the third grade and waiting for someone to take pity on me.

It's that feeling that if I left, everyone would still have somebody else.  Feeling extraneous.  Not unwanted or unwelcome, but unnecessary.

I hate this feeling.

I know I'm not in third grade anymore, that no one's making my friends and family include me in their activities.  I know they genuinely want me there with them.  That's what makes this different from third grade. 

The other thing that grates is that I'm how old and the only people I have to hang out with are my parents?  It's...disheartening? Embarrassing?  Pathetic?

Despite knowing that my friends and family really do want me to spend time with them, I still often feel that I need to fend for myself.  That if I'm not careful, I will once again be left alone.  That no one will pick me out and say "I want to be her partner!"  I've never really experienced that.

I try not to let these feelings get me mopey, but, the fact is, they often do.  And these feelings stir up that nasty pot of loneliness, which sucks.  I feel like I am working hard, I am doing all the right things to meet people, and I still spend my Saturday nights with my parents.

The only question I can ask myself is: what the hell is wrong with me?

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akaMemily said...

Carrie, you expressed exactly what I have felt for so much of my life - wow. It's a crappy feeling and I wish I knew how to get past it.

I know what you mean about spending time with your parents and feeling too old to be hanging out with them. I always used to feel like the poor "spinster" daughter.

Now that my widowed mother has remarried I feel more like a third wheel with them than ever before. UGH! Let me know if you figure out how to end the dreaded curse of the third wheel!

Anonymous said...

I could have written most of this.

None of my friends would miss me if I left. Everyone has someone else, but I have no one: no one to confide in, no one to depend on, no one who actually likes me. They tolerate me.

They compete to be my lab partner, to work with me on projects, to sit behind me so they can copy my answers and cheat off my tests. They call me only for homework help . . . and I keep answering the phone, because I'm pathetic.

Melissa said...

Gosh, this resonates so strongly with me and I really empathise, particularly with your current feelings. For me, there are two aspects: the fact that the time invested in the ED has meant that I didn't do the making friends and dating that helps people to build social networks means that the 3rd wheel thing is a reality; but, also, I position myself in this way - as not quite an equal - and therefore reinforce the 3rd wheel is therefore a reality but one which I negatively frame, if that makes sense.

I think it takes time to refind yourself and rebuild relationships. For everyone. And I also think that you're a very very special person and it will happen for you. Maybe not in the idyllic way that we grow up hoping for, but I think as the connections come slowly, things start to feel better and the sense of inadequacy dissipates. You have so much to offer others, in so many ways, so please don't think it's you. xx

viviankiki said...

God, you have my support. I moved to Ireland from the states to join my husband and, though I LOVE his friends, at the end of the day it feels that, yes they are his friends.Despite having been here nearly 3 years, for many reasons (cultural, location, etc) I have yet to develop a support system here of my own.
These things are so tricky, forming friendships has to be organic, as well as effortful, so I relate to your frustration.
I have to admit though, I somehow am still able to say to myself that my situation is just different now, and I understand that it's not my "fault" and have neither guilt nor shame about my situation, because I know that's what it is, I haven't changed.
Basically, keep on truckin' girl, I have faith in us, and you're not alone.

Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul said...

I send my thoughts and support to you, Carrie. It's difficult to be at a different place than friends. I know it can feel isolating and disheartening.

Unknown said...

I've learned, over time, that this sense of disconnection and not belonging is a part of the human condition that if you could see into people's hearts most people feel at many stages of their lives. People just don't say it or show it. After all, I'll bet almost no one around you would guess that YOU feel this way.

Amy said...

nada -- and the invite stands for hanging out next week.

Anonymous said...

haha wow! You couldn't have a better post for the way I feel right now. I relate to your post and most of the comments too. I have been in a 'new' city for 2 years now and I still find myself alone on Saturday night...if anyone has some hints I'm all ears as I'm sure everyone here is. Making friends is tough :-(

hm said...

There are friends and a significant other waiting to happen for you. You rock. You will find them. :)

Carrie Arnold said...


Yes, I am definitely still up for the invite. My schedule is open, so let me know what works for you.

Anonymous said...


I completely relate to a lot of this post. I'm an adult, living with my parents and usually end up doing things with my parents because I don't really have a group of people to hang out with either. I think the same thoughts go through my own head: "what is wrong with me? Shouldn't I be out with friends on a Friday night?"

Just know that you're not alone in these feelings - I wish I could make it better for all of us that feel like this.

Katie said...

Me too. I am intellectually in agreement with Laura - I think this insecurity is a part of being human. But emotionally I can't believe I've managed to get to 26 and still have virtually no friends! I met most of the friends I do have online (including my boyfriend, without whom I would have no social life at all), and I even manage to feel invisible online most of the time, as every time I go through a busy period of my life my blog seems to keep getting hundreds of view but the comments die away to nothing. I've always felt that I am very easily forgotten, and I really don't mean that in a self pitying sense, it just seems to be true that unless I'm making a huge effort to put myself out there, people forget me. I do try to make friends, but I clearly suck at it. Maybe one day I'll work out what it is I'm doing wrong. Anyway, there are a lot of people here identifying with you, so hopefully that helps a little :)

Yali said...

I love it when my morning blog read includes your updates :)!

I can relate...I feel that those of us who end up being thinkers, creatives, tinkerers with life start out as oddballs and outcasts.

Remember, you are not alone!!

hm said...

I think it is wise to realize too that, amidst all the other falsehoods that the media portrays, having a group of friends you hang out with every weekend like they do on sitcoms is not (at all) realistic. Some of us get a taste of that type of social experience in high school or college. But by the time people enter adulthood, it's rare to live like that. (Think about it- who do your parents go out with most Saturdays? Each other, and you!) Having close, trustworthy friends though that are available to hang out sometimes (I find it difficult to work that in more than once a month, honestly- realistically, every 3 or 4 months-) and available regularly via email/phone for talking when you need to talk- that is important. Friends don't materialize out of nowhere though- a good place to find them is in places where you share common interests, hobbies, etc. You study your options, and put yourself out there- offer a hand of friendship. There are an awful lot of people out there who are also lonely and would be glad to take friendship that is offered to them. Remember the old saying "You have to be a friend to have a friend?" It's true- don't wait to be "chosen"- be the one who chooses others.

Angela Elain Gambrel said...

Nothing is wrong with you. You are just discovering who you are underneath the years of anorexia. Your world will eventually widen and include other people, it is just harder because of a few things: being new to the area, not being in your own place yet, and the fact that while freelancing is very rewarding, it also is a very lonely profession (I feel the same way about grad school. It's not like we can all get together and write papers for fun or anything.) I'd hang out with you if you still lived in Michigan, and we would have a great time because you are a very interesting person.

About dating. You know when I found someone worthwhile to date? When I decided to stop dating. It was in the mid-1990s and I had answered some newspaper dating ads (remember this was pre-Internet) and dated some real losers. Finally, I said the hell with it, I wasn't going to date anymore, that I was sick of wasting my time and I'd rather stay home with a good book and my cat than endure one more awkward evening. I started going to the movies and out to eat by myself, and joined a group I was interested in for myself and not to meet any men - a writer's club. Then I met David through the club. I still find it funny.

Anonymous said...

I could have written this, too. My anorexia didn't start until I was 24. I'm now 50 and still in the trenches, but I was an overweight child from age 9 and on. I was always among the last chosen for any team or activity in phys. ed., but if they needed a brain, of course, I was first on their list. I lived in fear of the phrase "Choose a partner" because unless my best friend was there, I'd be on my own.
To this day, I avoid all situations where you might be asked to take a partner, like a yoga class or whatever. I even do it in elevators - I wonder if anyone would choose me, if the dreaded phrase were uttered.

Anonymous said...

Most of the things I wanted to say have been said.

I would add that there's a sense (if I'm wrong, then I'm sorry) that you'd not want to be your own friend, given the choice. It seems like you've lots of really great qualities, so that would be a shame, but is something we can always work on.

People are naturally drawn to those people who feel good in themselves. Doing activities you enjoy is one way of showing that confident bit of you, and meeting new people who might make good friends. Getting yourself to a place where you think "I'm alright" and would be willing to entertain the idea that you might just be good enough now, and that you that's here might be the best you you're going to get is the best course of becoming more confident. Harsh, but true.

I think it's also a bit about expectations. We can't expect friends we've made recently to automatically fall into deep friendships. That can take months and years to achieve that level of closeness. But we can keep the friendship going so it gets the chance of being deeper.

This has been something I've struggled with, and accepting that I haven't tons of people to call on is part of it. But the friends I do have are a result of working hard to maintain contact, whether via a weekly phone call, texting or ideally meeting up every few weeks. It's hard sometimes and the ED-style thinking and wanting to be alone has to seriously be fought off.

Cammy said...

I'm WAY backlogged on reading blogposts after my trip and the holidays, sorry for the tardy comment. Just wanted to make 2 points: 1) I totally understand how you feel and have often felt like it didn't matter if I was there or not, kind of like my presence was being tolerated but not wanted, and 2) You are one hella cool lady! I have known you for YEARS now and find you endlessly interesting, insightful, and worth going out of one's way to talk to. Really enjoyed our meet up (where there were only two wheels, no possibility of being a tagalong third wheel!) and can't wait to do it again soon!

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I'm a science writer, a jewelry design artist, a bookworm, a complete geek, and mom to a wonderful kitty. I am also recovering from a decade-plus battle with anorexia nervosa. I believe that complete recovery is possible, and that the first step along that path is full nutrition.

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