By JACKSON BIKO
Remember John Terry, the English footballer who recently had an affair with Wayne Bridge’s ex-girlfriend (who by the way was his good friend)? Remember how Bridge got his knickers in a twist when he became privy of that, uhm, indiscretion? Remember the ruckus?
The question that this love triangle begets is not even whether footballers really can’t keep their shorts on, but why it’s such a big fuss why a man can’t date his friend’s ex-girlfriend…especially if she looks half as sticking as the woman in question; the devastatingly lovely Vanessa Perroncel?
This saga goes to the heart of the male code, a set of rules passed down generations of men. The rules are many and the good thing is that years might pass, but they are never subjected to a referendum to find out if they still stand.
Although, some of them might be unrealistic and impractical most of these rules are quite solid and useful and men try and live by them because they create order where potential anarchy dwells.
For instance the code states that; you can’t date your friend’s sister – unless you are marrying her! Neither can you date your grilfriend’s friend. Or stand up and walk away before the round of beer throwing has done a full circle.
Or snitch on your friend regardless of your moral obligation or Christian affiliation. Or watch the honour of your woman being tramped, even if she is on the wrong. And so this John Terry saga ideally violates this code.
Question is, when is it permissible to date your friend’s ex-girlfriend? Is it after your friend has started dating someone else and he looks adequately smitten with the new find? Does a man wait for six months?
Or do you wait for him to choke on a fish bone, save his life then date his ex because now he owes you with his life? But what does the woman in question feel about it? Does she even care? Is that likely to affect your relationship with her?
More pertinent, perhaps, is the definition of friendship.
“If I drink beer with him every week, then I don’t think it would be proper for him to date my ex-woman because even though I’m over her, I feel like the three of us will always be caught in uncomfortable situations.” Says 35-year-old Hakim.
But he quickly adds that if the man in question is someone who he merely works with and occasionally catches up with over lunch or bumps into in the elevators, then its fair game.
Ronald, 33, doesn’t quite see what the fuss is all about.
“They have broken up. I think it’s a bit immature for my friend to feel bad about it if I started dating his ex, it’s even selfish and dog-in-a-manger-ish. I mean, doesn’t everyone have a chance to happiness, or should we all be miserable and alone because you will feel sore that now I’m dating your ex?
I she not allowed to move on or is the problem the fact that the person she chooses to move on with is your friend?”
But for some men like Paul, 35, it’s not even a question of whether it’s proper or not, it’s a question of ego and vanity. “What does that say about you as a man, going around playing on the worn field that your friend has played on?
Isn’t that like picking the remaining meat from his left-over bones? I think it’s mighty un-classy for a man to do that, I wouldn’t do it because it would make me seem inferior in the eyes of my friend and all those around us.
Of course, the aggrieved party would be forgiven for thinking something fishy was going on all along between the two.” Paul thinks it’s demeaning and unworthy of a man to stoop that low.
Whereas most of the men I interviewed didn’t quite see it as an issue to date their friend’s exes as long as “they talked about it before hand”, 90 per cent of the women categorically said they would never date their girlfriend’s ex-boyfriend.
Loyalty was cited as the major factor. “I would never ever consider it,” says Paula, a 29-year-old management consultant. The curious thing here is that she sees nothing wrong with dating her ex-boyfriend’s friend which some people would call double standards.
She defends it; “Simply because men can handle such things, I think that when a man leaves a woman, for the most part, he is done with her and so his friend dating me shouldn’t present a problem…I think.”
Jen, 30, says she would feel like a piece of property if she dated two men who happened to be friends.
“I would feel like they are passing me around. The most sensible thing to do would be to date outside that circle because chances are the problems you faced with one guy are likely to come out in his friend as well.”
But John Terry’s case is a bit different when you think about it. He didn’t only date the friend’s ex after they had broken up, he sort of swooped down on her not too long after they had broken up.
He took advantage of their break-up and started presenting overtures even before Wayne Bridge had collected his toothbrush from her apartment.
That presents a different facet to this scenario, that there is a good chance that he had been lusting over his friend’s woman even as they were still together.
“And what is wrong with that? I think every guy has always looked at his friend’s wife or girlfriend in a way that is not biblical,” Jeremy*, 36 and married says, “It’s a guy thing and it only gets disrespectful when you start acting on your thoughts.”
Or, he means, if your friend catches you staring at her bum as she pours you juice…disrespectful and very embarrassing, I suppose. Jeremy doesn’t seem to have mastered his 10 commandments from the good book, or he chooses to ignore the tenth one that states clearly that thou shall not covet – among other things – your neighbour’s ass.
(I’m using the word ass here as a pun, but indeed the bible clearly uses the word ass in reference to donkey. I don’t think the church will make noise over this)
But men generally subscribe to the code that your friend’s wife or girlfriend is a definite no-no, unless you want to kill your friendship. Terry, the naughty footballer, kicked out that cardinal code.
He went behind his friend and pounced on his ex-girlfriend (not that she complained) and therein lay the deception, and not necessarily because of the fact that he dated his friend’s ex girlfriend.
Ray says, “I wouldn’t date my friend’s woman because it’s foolish, if anything, half the time I would be privy to information about her that my friend might have shared with me, things that I probably don’t want to inherit from him.
And secondly, there are no guarantees that the relationship will work, I think I would bet more on me and my friend being friends for much longer than I would with his ex-girlfriend.”
Sam, 32, said it would all depend on longevity. “If my friend had a short fling with her then I don’t see why I wouldn’t date her, I don’t think it’s bad to date a woman who only went out with my friend for a few months, which is not an adequate time for anything solid and binding to form!” he then adds, “but it also depends on why they broke up.
If it was because she was a control freak, or a cheat, or a woman with a mouth on her, I wouldn’t touch her!”
Some men preferred to put it in a blunt and simple way.
Conrad, over a Facebook chat interview said, “Look, it’s a lose-lose situation to do something like that, so why date her? I think what Terry should have done is to sleep with her once or twice and walk away. That way, nobody is hurt.”
But Conrad’s virulent testosterone aside, the undeniable truth about stuff like this is that couples might walk away from relationships for one reason or another and the break-up might even look final and irredeemable, but in some cases, it’s never really over until the fat lady has sung – and we all know the fat lady sometimes likes to take her time.
While women handle break-ups by doing hurtful stuff that range from torching the man’s suits, stalking him to gathering all her girlfriends for a night of tears, wine and inspirational you-deserve-better-than-that-jerk talk, men handle break-ups differently; by being macho.
They perch on tall bar stools, thump their chests like baboons and tell their friends “It’s good riddance anyway. My life is better without her; I just noticed that I sleep better now.” No man will ever admit that they are hurting.
Hurting? What’s that!? In fact no man ever sits with his pals to do a post-mortem because it’s weak and momentously embarrassing. Everybody tries to be superman. Nobody wants to come across as being fickle because there is never any room for the weak in Manville.
The weak drink Amarula. The weak wear skirts, roll over and die. And so with this phoney and elaborate deception, it gets harder to certify how deep the cut of a break-up really goes, and consequently, it becomes tricky for any man to start dating his friend’s ex because – as sure as politicians will always find something to disagree about – someone is always silently and secretly leaving the torch burning.
Someone is always hoping the phone will ring and the voice at the other end will be saying they haven’t been able to sleep since the break-up (or something equally ridiculous) and that they will want a second shot.
What happens then if you had already moved on with their close friend? And what happens when there’s a baby in the mix- like in the case of Wayne and Vanessa?