Rosie Green: Is he a keeper? Ask my friends

Will my boyfriend pass the mates test? And more importantly, will I?

These are the two questions I have been contemplating. After six months of living in a blissful bubble of two, where pretty much the only external personalities we need to factor in are my dog and his cat (a somewhat stressful pairing as the former likes chasing the latter around the kitchen island and eating its Whiskers), the time has come to assimilate
our social worlds. To meet (be appraised by) each other’s friends.

Rosie Green

My mates had started to think of my boyfriend as a phantom figure; an imaginary cover that I had fabricated to save face and provide material for this column. Winter plus extended bouts of Covid-induced isolation meant that, up until recently, we kept our social world small.

However, my friends started getting antsy; they were threatening to pop out from behind pot plants in restaurants in order to force an introduction.

Around this time a survey* arrived in my inbox about relationship milestones. It said the average couple meets each other’s parents and close family first (at one month) before saying I love you (three months) and going on holiday (six months).

My boyfriend and I may not have followed this pattern, but I suddenly found myself keen for him to meet my friends because I felt it would solidify our relationship. It’d mean that our lives are more intertwined; the relationship more real.

Do I also want my pals’ validation? Hell, yes. Here was my thought process: if they
think he’s great then happy days, but if conversely they call him out as a creep, then
that will get me thinking.

Research shows that friends are a better predictor of relationship stability and longevity than you are. They are a natural reality check. In my case pals are more likely to spot the red flags that I might overlook (too distracted by his blue eyes, washboard abs and charming chat to notice a lack of personal hygiene or an off switch when it comes to Stella Artois).

So it matters. In fact, I once read a study which showed that when one partner doesn’t get on with even just one of the othe partner’s friends, the couple is twice as likely to break up. No pressure then.

I was a little anxious about the big introduction because I knew my friends wouldn’t hold back. On my midlife dating journey so far, they have pulled no punches about my dates. (‘He looks like an 80s maths teacher’ or ‘That level of Lynx Africa is a hard no from me’ are just a couple of their previous assessments.)

Way back in my teenage years my best friends were even harsher on the boys I went out with. Each love interest was assessed on their trainers (Adidas Gazelles acceptable, moccasins not), musical taste (house and indie acceptable, soft rock not) ‒ and unless you fitted into their mould you were not allowed in the inner circle. No exceptions tolerated.

At least the requirements are now more relaxed – they will generally welcome anyone that can fix them a good gin and tonic, although a penchant for Michael Bolton would still be a problem. But those days have left me with a few scars and a small part of me was worried that my friends would be too judgmental.

Anyway, a dinner was finally arranged. My friends were welcoming and he was charming. Seeing them chatting gave me a warm fuzzy feeling of happiness. Until I realised they were regaling him with stories of my past embarrassments. Like the time I missed my honeymoon flight due to a misreading of the 24-hour clock or the day a bollard leapt out at me and dented my shiny new car on its first day in my possession. They were lifting the veil on my carefully cultivated image of sophistication and sorted-ness.

Afterwards their verdicts came in by text.

‘He’s lovely.’ ‘Much better than the last one.’

‘A keeper.’

Now it’s my turn to go up against his panel and I shall bring my A-game. Let’s just hope there is easy parking.