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Auntie SparkNotes: My Friend Flirts with Too Many Girls

Auntie SparkNotes is on vacay this week, so we’re publishing a few of her vintage gems!

Dear Auntie,

So I have a dilemma. There’s this guy, whom we’ll call James. I’ve known him for over 7 years now, and he’s a good friend of mine. He’s always been very popular with the ladies, because he’s smart, talented, funny, and friendly. Up until a few months ago, I liked him, and I held out hope that he liked me, but I came to the realization that he’s just a very flirtatious person and I’m over him now.

Now there’s a girl whom I’ve known since the beginning of the year (we’ll call her Sarah) who was introduced to me by James. She was one of the reasons that I got over him, because they were always being really flirty in class and everything. She’s a year younger than us, and isn’t really in our same friend group, but she’s very popular.

Then there’s another girl (we’ll call her Rachel) whom I met at around the same time. She’s in our friend group, and is our same age. I’ve only been going to the school for a few months now, but I was told by a friend that while I was gone the past few years, Rachel and James had liked each other and been flirty. Recently, Rachel told me that James had confessed his feelings for her, and she had done the same to him. They had agreed that they didn’t want a relationship (because they’re “too young”—we are in the latter half of high school, however) but she has real feelings for him.

At this point, I got very uncomfortable because I had seen James flirting so intensely with Sarah—unbeknownst to Rachel because she’s not in that class, and doesn’t know Sarah very well. Without bringing up Rachel, I confronted James about him and Sarah (in a teasing way, just asking if he was planning on asking her out) and he got all defensive, sending a super-long reply explaining that to avoid a relationship in high school, he tries to like a lot of people a little so he doesn’t end up liking one person a lot.

To me, this is total BS. For goodness’ sake, he told me in middle school that he wouldn’t mind having a relationship with the girl he liked against his parents’ wishes! Yes, he flirts with everyone and leads tons of girls on (which I don’t think is cool), but he’s clearly more interested in Sarah and Rachel than anyone else. I’m not the only one who thinks this, either. I also think he and Rachel are perfect for each other—they have many of the same interests, and she really cares about him. And I know that Sarah has many other options in terms of guys that are interested in her.

What should I do, Auntie? Should I let James get away with his messed up ideas about love just because he likes the attention? I don’t want Rachel to be hurt like I was (and I’m not the only one). Should I confront him about it? Should I talk to Rachel? Again, I’m worried it will hurt her.

Well, sure, Sparkler. Of course you are. And of course, the part where you’d be potentially throwing a wrench in the happiness of the nefarious flirt who didn’t return your feelings—a disappointment you’re still feeling pretty salty about, even if you’re technically “over” the guy in question—has nothing to do with it at all, right?

…Yeah, not so much. And alas, darling, this is the part where Auntie SparkNotes is duty-bound to inform you that your stated rationale for interfering in James’ love life is a bunch of obvious baloney. You might be peripherally worried about him hurting your friend, but what really bothers you, clearly, is that he’s flirting with all these millions of girls at one time, enjoying the hell out of himself, and not getting so much as a sliver of comeuppance for it. Which is totally unfair, right? It’s ridiculous! He shouldn’t be rewarded for his unrestrained smarm! He should be murdered! …Or at the very least, publicly humiliated by being forced to run nude across the town green with the words “I’M SORRY LADIES” emblazoned on his butt.

And look, don’t get me wrong: it is totally okay for you to wish that James were more sincere and more discriminating about who he pays attention to and how. But while your wishes are your business, James’ personal philosophy of flirting is not. You don’t get to police his ideas about love, no matter how messed-up you might think they are (and no matter how much they might contradict something he said to you about relationships back in middle school) — and you especially don’t get to police his relationships (or lack thereof) with other girls.

As infuriating as they may be to witness, they are utterly and absolutely none of your business. And even then, it’s hard to completely square your description of James’ ubiquitous flirting with your claim that he’s “leading girls on,” when all parties involved are presumably capable of observing his behavior the same way you have and realizing that he’s an indiscriminate flirtmobile who cozies up to anything in a skirt. (And while I know it was painful to find out that he didn’t return your feelings, the unfortunate truth is that a person who gets hurt when the neighborhood lothario fails to fall genuinely in love with them is a person who needs to recognize the difference between a charming person and an interested one. That wasn’t a fun lesson to learn, but it was important.)

Meanwhile, it’s also worth noting that your desire to meddle in James’ relationship with Rachel isn’t just inappropriate, but unnecessary—seeing as they’ve already discussed their feelings and mutually agreed not to take things further. Whether or not you think they should date is irrelevant; it’s not up to you.

What is up to you? Just this: If you feel that this guy’s flirtatious personality says something rotten about his character, and if you can’t in good conscience keep being friends with him under the circumstances, then that’s valid — and it would be your cue to distance yourself from the friendship and let him know the reason why. (“Your behavior is misleading and it’s hurting people. I can’t just sit here and watch anymore.”) But that’s as far as it goes. And if you want to remain friends with James, then you’ll have to do so with the understanding that he’s entitled to strike his own balance between mindless flirting and meaningful relationships, even if that balance seems dumb to you.

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