Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Is this seat taken?

Get out!

Right now.

Don’t just sit there!

Run, run like the wind. 

Don’t pass go. Don’t collect $200. (Don’t go to jail either.)

It’s not worth it.

Let me shout it at us, IT’S NOT WORTH IT!

Oh no, we aren’t listening. 

It is too late.

We have become what no one should be.

A seat-filler. 

Or, in other terms, a safety net. A bench warmer. A back up plan. An in case of emergency plan. An insurance policy. The runner up. The silver medalist. The perpetual number 2 or 3 on the list. Pigeon holed. Put in the “friend” zone. On constant standby.

Some of you know exactly what I am talking about. You were burned before. Maybe you are still burning.

For those that have no idea what I am talking about stick around because if you haven’t ever been a seat-filler my guess is that you have sat next to one.

Before I go on let me explain what I mean.

I used to enjoy watching award shows.

While I watched, I laughed at the sometimes-funny jokes, enjoyed the musical numbers and scanned the audience.

The seats were always filled. Always.

Don’t celebrities have to use the restroom? Is that part of the reason why they are famous? You need good looks and camel-like bladders?

It was a mystery.

Then one night back in college, one of my friends in the dorm came back all decked out.  She said she had just come back from an awards show in which she was an official seat-filler.

She stood off in the sides and when a celebrity went up to present an award, scoot out early or use the restroom, she was escorted to their seat and sat down. She wasn’t allowed to talk to the “talent,” her job was to keep the space occupied until the celebrity came back. She was basically ignored by George Clooney.

And that is what I mean by seat-filler. You fill the space next to someone until the “real” person comes along. (This is different than the park bench relationship, which is mutual.)

The seat-filler is an awful place to be despite the clothes you may get to wear and whom you may get to sit next to.

You are temporary. Someone who looks the part but isn’t the part.

And it is very common.


I think a reason so many of us get caught up in this false relationship is simple.

We don’t want to be alone.

We would rather be with another person who isn’t exactly what we want or doesn’t love us back than be by ourselves.

This kind of relationship is not based on truth.

This phenomenon happens in nearly every kind of relationship. Romantic, co-worker, friends, families.

But for the sake of time, I will stick to the romantic kind, but please know, the same principals apply to all types. 

Here is what it looks like in a romantic context: Two people are friends. One person, the seat- filler, has romantic feelings for the other person that may or may not be expressed (or in some cases may or may not be known). The other person, the wanted-one, does not. These two people will spend a lot of time together. Will enjoy each other’s company. Will look like and sometimes act like a couple.

There is a problem. They aren’t a couple.

The seat-filler will always go above and beyond to express their love and affection for the wanted-one by being totally thoughtful and doing the dirty work. They will do things like buy presents just because, making sure their car has gas in it, being a shoulder to cry on, an airport picker upper, a therapist and the go to hang out buddy when the wanted-one is bored.   The wanted-one allows this to happen because it is flattering, they like the attention. 

The seat-fillers are usually taken for granted. Despite this they will perform their duties with relish. Hoping that if they hang on long enough, the wanted-one will have a change of heart.

Cue the romantic comedy finale, probably either in the rain, in a restaurant, airport or sporting event.

Kiss! And scene…

Except 99.9% of the time, that never happens.

The story ends badly.

Here is what really happens.

The seat-filler tries to make plans with the wanted-one. (Because the seat-filler is always the one making plans.) And suddenly the wanted-one is busy. All the time. And then poof! They disappear.

At first the seat-filler wonders why they were kicked out of their seat. Something isn’t right. Things seemed to suddenly change. And then it dawns on them. The wanted-one found the person who they really wanted to fill the seat.

Or this happens. These same two friends who spend a good deal amount of time together will have an awkward conversation someday. The seat-filler will work up their courage to express their feelings…

And get shut down.

Sometimes tactfully, sometimes not.

(In my case, I had one guy not bother to sit up during the conversation. He remained in a reclined position. Ouch.)

Oh yes, that is why I am writing this, for years and years I was the queen of the seat-fillers.

I spent so much time in the friend zone they named a city after me. It’s called FalseHopeCarrieVille And it thrived for years.

I can’t tell you how many times I sat across from guy friends and wondered what I was missing. Why we could laugh and talk for hours at a time and then they would tell me about their latest girl problems. Or keep telling me how great I was but then date girls who treated them poorly. 

I would beat my head up against a wall when guys would say how comfortable they were around me and then complain about how high maintenance or needy their girlfriend was.

How they would smile and laugh with me and then turn into these sullen, whipped boys around their crushes whom they could never quite please.

I would be dumbfounded. Frustrated. Flabbergasted.

If I heard, “You’re such a good friend” one more time I would lose it.

Hello!! Why not me? Give me a shot!

Didn’t they know how much more fun we would have? How much more I would enjoy them? How sweet I would be to them? How good I would be to them? How much I try to be a good person in general? How much I would love them?

Friends with benefits sounded great to me. Make it official and we are golden.

It was never golden though. That was for the people on the stage. Not for me. Not for seat-fillers.

Well, FalseHopeCarrieVille is barren now. No life there at all.

And good riddance. 

Here is the stone cold hard lesson I needed to learn. 

And what I hope to pass on to someone who is sitting in a taken seat.

I was the one who sat down.

I was the one who let them treat me that way.

I was the one that decided that the best that I could get was less than the real deal. 

I let someone’s opinion of me matter more than my own hopes, dreams and desires. 

I let someone else define my worth.

And when you do that, you are willing to settle to be a seat-filler.

And guess what, the wanted-ones can smell that a mile away. And they act accordingly.

How about another cold hard truth?

Maybe they just didn’t like me that way. (I still think I would have made some of them happier but whatever.) For reasons shallow or deep, their heart didn’t connect with mine.

And that’s okay.

But what is no longer okay is for all of us to keep doing this to each other. (Chances are most of us have been both.)

It is time to stop.

If you are the wanted-one in the relationship do the situation a favor. Have the courage to back away. Don’t take advantage of someone. If you care about that person release them. Think about the other person more than yourself and let them go. Be honest with what you want. What you really want.

If you are the seat-filler…


Do you hear me?


Put on your tux or your dress. Walk around like the low maintenance, highly enjoyable, sweetheart, wonderful catch that you are.

Be respectful. Tell the truth. Don't settle for scraps. 

Just because the wanted-one didn’t want you doesn’t mean you aren’t wanted, it just may not be by them.

Here is the big take away though.

You are wantable!

You are the wanted-one too!

Now get up and act like it.

Show everyone you can be a nice (guy/girl) and give kisses that will knock their socks off. And if you don’t know how, show them that you will enthusiastically learn how. 

Strut your stuff.

Find your own seat.

And when you sit down and someone comes and asks you if the seat next to you is taken be honest with yourself and with them.

Remember: A whole person by themselves is better than a half person in a half relationship.

You deserve to be the celebrity.

Join me and make a pledge to never be a seat-filler again.

Take that Clooney.

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