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How to Be a Third Wheel
When it Comes to Dating, Three's Company, too -- Here's Why
By Matt Sullivan

It was after my personal record-breaking fifth "single guy hanging out with his couple friends" session of Labor Day weekend that I came to the conclusion: I -- like many single folk in their 30s that find their circle of friends coupled up if not married off -- am indisputably a third wheel.

Now, the phrase "third wheel" has a negative connotation in our culture, in part due to Hollywood propaganda portraying us "threes" as always obliviously overstaying our welcome (see, at your peril, You, Me And Dupree), or being covetous of our hosts' lot in life to the point of murder (The Talented Mr. Ripley). But after my couples' holiday weekend, I had an epiphany. No, not that that I was a lonely loser who needed to get a girlfriend immediately; that's more of an obvious observation -- epiphanies require more spin. What if I was not merely a "plus none" hanger-on, but a social superhero, rescuing friends' romantic relationships? Perhaps being a third wheel isn't such a bad thing. Remember tricycles? They were fun, right?

Inspired, I immediately began drafting a personal ad -- but not for myself. Rather, I'd pimp my sidekick services out to couples in need of three-rapy. This didn't involve being a sexual surrogate -- that would be awkward. Instead, the needs I would tend to would be more subtle, but no less important.

On to the advantages of the non-sexual threesome, the selling points of a real deal Third Wheel:

I provide extra space. An underrated aspect of the "party of three" phenomenon is the spare chair at a four-top table in restaurants, ideal for storing purses, gym bags, shopping bags and coats.
I'm a conversation catalyst. No need to suffer in silence over egg rolls anymore. Fluent in the languages of both celebrities and sports, I'm also a fresh audience that will make your old anecdotes new again.
I can turn your everyday routines into a vaguely exotic adventure. Feel like a boring old married couple because you're staying in again? Invite me over to watch American Idol and your evening will be instantly upgraded to "having company." Now that's grown-up in a good way! Additionally, I can make a mandatory shopping excursion to Whole Foods feel like a fun, festive field trip. Be my upscale tour guide and inform me about this brave new world. Who knew there were that many types of different cheeses? You did!
I'm an unbiased argument arbiter. Need someone to weigh in on a recent domestic dispute? Call me Judge Dude-y. Inevitably, my opinions will have you both nodding in agreement with each other -- that I am an idiot.

I can give voice to opinions that you agree with, but could never bring up to your significant other yourself without fear of sleeping on the couch. "I hate that he still wears the trucker cap. Thanks for asking him if it was part of a '2001 Ashton Kutcher' Halloween costume!" -- A whispered testimonial from a grateful lady-half of a couple I hung out with.

And fellas, I'm there for you, too. When a female friend bookmarked a wedding ring website on her boyfriend's computer, my jokes about the subject got big laughs from both members of the couple, whereas his previous attempt to tease her about it had only resulted in tears.

I can remind the couple of why they got together. Making a guy see his girlfriend/wife as a sexual being again -- and not just the person who whose bloody tampons clogged his toilet -- is a specialty. So what if she's no Megan Fox -- she certainly looks better than my callused right hand. I also do the same for the ladies, by restoring the male's dormant inner-bro. You know, the guy who the girl was initially attracted to before he was chemically castrated by one too many trips to Crate and Barrel.
I make domestication look liberating, not suffocating. A sample compliment I could give: "Your apartment is amazing -- so clean! It's like living in a honeymoon hotel, instead of a bachelor's prison." Ladies, you'll be proud of your upright-walking Cro-Magnon after you witness a true Neanderthal like me. That time he forgot the milk won't seem so bad when I inform you that my fridge is stocked with nothing but a couple of soy sauce packets from 2007.
I know if and when to leave. The Third Wheel is not to be confused with his impostor arch-nemesis, Captain Cockblock. I instinctively sense when a couple is feeling amorously inclined towards each other -- and then I can either quickly flee the scene, or help set up the web-cam.
I alleviate you from the pressures of double-dating. Who wants to keep up with the Joneses -- especially in this economy? There will be no catty competition or couple comparison-shopping when you're out with The Third Wheel. After all, you're obviously better than I am, simply by being in a relationship!
I allow couples to live vicariously through my pseudo-swinging single life, yet ultimately remind you that you made the right decision by settling down. Set-up suggestions! First-date jitters! Second date summaries! The Third Wheel allows couples to again experience these monumental milestones as they were meant to be ideally experienced -- as someone else's anecdotes, delightfully recounted for you in cringe-worthy detail while you safely cuddle in the arms of your significant other. "Thank Zeus we don't have to do that again, sweetie!" Indeed.

Sold yet? Yeah, me neither. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to find a girlfriend...



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