The Art Of Being A Third Wheel


Let me paint a little picture for you. You have just slogged through the hot, crowded streets to get to your office, you are sweating profusely, and you have about thirty douchey emails to answer. The phone rings, it’s your mother. She is calling to inform you that you are being forced to spend a week at a remote location with your parents, your sister and her boyfriend. And by “forced,” I mean she says, “it would be great if you could join us,” which we all know really means, “If you don’t join us you are in the doghouse for life.”

Immediately you start sweating even more, which you didn’t even think was scientifically possible. Panic sets in. Your brain is screaming holy shit how am I going to survive a week as the third wheel. I don’t think they have enough vodka in the entire state of Massachusetts to make that ok.

DEEP BREATHS. While it might seem daunting, being the third wheel for 24 hours or more is a situation that you cannot only survive, but you actually enjoy. The key to success, like on any frontline expedition, is to pack the correct survival kit. Think of it as your I’m not in a relationship, but you are and now we are all trapped in a house together tool kit.

Key Ingredients:


Very important. This is for when the couple you are with starts arguing for the 438th time about whose turn it is to pack the cooler, or when they go into some in-depth discussion about how they really need to replace the couch in the living room because the dog keeps peeing on it. That’s when you get to smugly think to yourself, “My life is so much cooler than yours.” I cannot overemphasize how much you should relish this thought — it will play a significant role in getting you through this. Think, “I learned how to make it rain at the strip club in LA last weekend and you went fertilizer shopping at home depot.” Then pop in those headphones and play that song from your DTF list that reminds you of the hot Italian lawyer you met at a cocktail party a month ago. Fantasize about how you could still meet that wealthy, intelligent, fabulous person because you haven’t settled yet. Doesn’t that feel good? Yeah. You are fucking cool. Your couch doesn’t smell like urine. You win.


Inevitably, your smug strategy will hit a wall. It may hit a couple of walls, in fact, either because you are stuck at a BBQ and everyone there is talking about the best preschools in the area or because you had to eat dinner at five o’clock with the local geriatric convention. That’s when it’s time to fire up the blender, make yourself some delicious aloe for the emotional burn, and just kick back. I’m not saying you should black out and go to the local bar where you then attempt to meet someone who looks like they could be an extra in the Jersey Shore. Oopsies. I’m just saying have a few cocktails, or whatever people who don’t drink do instead, to help you put it all back into perspective.

A Pen Pal

This person is your anchor and occasional lifeline. They are your witty and entertaining single friend, or maybe they’re just a bestie from back in the day. This is the person to whom you can text the occasional snarky comment or picture, and they will respond with an equally funny/ironic comment to remind you of how fantastic you are. They’ll help to remind you that you are on a very challenging “vacation” and this is not your real life. They will also force you to see the humor in the fact that the couple is sitting in the car outside the bar, steaming up the windows not because they are making out, but because they are releasing too much hot air during a domestic dispute.

If you don’t have this kind of friend, turn to the internet. The fact that the couple in question are flashing the lights and beeping the horn while you are trying to score big with a boat captain may not seem funny now, but it will be hilarious when you have to fit the whole story into a 140 character tweet.

A Hobby

Preferably one that involves a ball or a book. Activities are great distractions, and those that involve balls will usually spark the interest of the male half of the blessed union you are with. You will enjoy socializing with him, because he won’t want to talk. It will also feel so good to throw a projectile at 50% of the reason you had to leave the beach early yesterday because of a “tummy ache.” You should also bring something to do on the vacation that is a solo activity so you can entertain yourself. You don’t want to be that annoying person on the trip who requires constant attention. Get a fucking book already or a pogo stick or whatever and get some Me Time in with that thing.

A Wingman Contract

You need to draw up a document that reads something like: Look I’m here and I love you guys but we are going to go to the bar at night and you will help me sample the local cuisine. I will not be staying home with you and watching the sunset on the porch while we all stare into each other’s eyes over some delicious watermelon wine coolers.

Couples can actually be fantastic wingmen. Here’s why: When you are with a couple you often appear like an injured antelope on the African plans. Men/women will see you and think you are easy to separate from the herd. BECAUSE YOU ARE. It’s inherently clear that you want to be separated from the couple you are with. I mean you love these guys, but it’s not like you want to reenact the movie Threesome on your vacation. This contract is the assurance that they will come to the bar, they will stay and they will look fun.

Your Self-Esteem

You are on this damn vacation as a third wheel, you look fantastic, and you are having one hell of a time. You need to be high-fiving yourself all the way into your single bed. There may be moments where you think, “This sunset would look so much better if I had someone to hold hands with.” WRONG. It will look the same. Besides, this sunset looks damn fantastic no matter who you are with, and if someone else was here you might not have even noticed it because you would have been too busy looking at them for some probably-mundane reason. Realize this: you are the person you have always wanted to be. Independent, self sufficient, successful and able to appreciate and take advantage of vacations, opportunities, and local men/women as the opportunities arise.

Sarah Hall is a writer in New York. If you’re a boat captain, call her!

Image via STILLFX/

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