Lily Allen did it to Miquita Oliver – but is it ever OK to go after your friend’s crush?

Confession: Miquita Oliver and Lily Allen opened up about the time Allen slept with Oliver’s crush  (BBC)
Confession: Miquita Oliver and Lily Allen opened up about the time Allen slept with Oliver’s crush (BBC)

In the latest episode of Miss Me?, the BBC podcast that Lily Allen hosts alongside her longtime friend Miquita Oliver, the singer-slash-actor dropped a bit of a bombshell. Allen, I should add, is no stranger to making controversial pronouncements when she’s in the general vicinity of a microphone (as anyone who remembers her various album promotional cycles will surely be aware), and her podcast has been particularly candid. So far, she’s revealed that she lets her husband, Stranger Things star David Harbour, control her phone use, shared her plans to fly to New York in first class while her daughter sits in economy and even dared to call Beyoncé’s “Jolene” cover “very weird”.

But her latest comments seem to have got people really riled up – because they get to the heart of an age-old debate: should you ever go after your friend’s crush (especially when they’ve made their feelings clear about that person)?

TV presenter Oliver set the scene for listeners, taking us back to the early Noughties when she was hosting Popworld, Channel 4’s Sunday morning music show. “There was a pop star,” she recalled. “I found out that he fancied me. I told Lily that I liked him. Cue Lily gets herself to a festival in Japan and seduces him.” As it transpired, this took place a few years before Allen became a Reeboks-and-party-dress-wearing musician, and she’d had to get a job in artist relations in order to get backstage at the event. Allen queried whether Oliver had made her feelings clear, and was very quick to justify her actions, about two decades on. “I fancied him, so I was getting mine,” she said, adding: “By the way, I think pop stars are fair game, like, I don’t care.”

The two friends can laugh about the incident now, but Oliver admitted that she didn’t speak to Allen for about six months afterwards. “If I didn’t hate you so much for it, I would have applauded you,” she said of her pal’s vaguely machiavellian pursuit of the pop star. Allen, meanwhile, is clearly still pretty unrepentant about the whole thing (the closest she got to an on-mic apology was dropping a variation on the “I’m sorry you feel that way” theme). So was Oliver correct in taking offence to Allen’s behaviour, or was she being naive in believing that her crush should be off limits for her pal?

Allen, right, seems pretty unrepentant about the awkward incident (BBC Sounds)
Allen, right, seems pretty unrepentant about the awkward incident (BBC Sounds)

It’s certainly a murky issue, and one that seems to play out in pop culture again and again. Remember when Monica and Rachel butted heads over which one of them could go on a date with action star Jean-Claude Van Damme in an early episode of Friends? The former said she’d expressed interest first, the latter argued that she’d been the one to actually pluck up the courage to talk to him. In the Majorcan microcosm of Love Island, it’s an especially common motif: genetically blessed influencers-in-the-making squabble over whether it’s OK to set your sights on someone that another contestant is clearly crushing on. Infractions of “boy code” and “girl code” are solemnly cited. In recent seasons, where Islanders are more aware of how their scenes might be edited, they often go to circuitous lengths to avoid stepping on one another’s metaphorical (and perfectly manicured) toes.

Boiled down to its most basic principles, a situation like this one can feel a bit, well, high school. Indeed, it’s a scenario that many of us might have inexpertly navigated as teenagers – when the stakes of any romantic-ish interactions feel unbearably high. I was always far too drama-averse (read: shy and retiring) to ever be a main character in any such rows, but I can clearly remember sipping on my Smirnoff Ice at house parties, awkwardly looking on as friendships imploded over someone “getting with” a boy that someone else had been trying to woo over MSN Messenger.

How seriously you view such an infraction seems contingent on how seriously you view crushes. It’s obviously very bad form to start chasing after a friend’s actual partner or ex, because those are clear, defined relationships. But a crush is a more nebulous thing, existing in the realms of what-ifs and might-have-beens rather than in real life: can we really expect to lay claim to a potential love interest just because we fancy them? What if they hit it off much better with one of your pals – can you, as a grown-up, play the “I saw them first” card without feeling like a kid throwing a strop?

Despite all that, for many of us, taking a gamble on someone (or indeed, trying to finagle your way into a Japanese music festival to shag a Noughties pop star) just isn’t worth the possible friendship fallout. Yes, your mate drawing an invisible cordon around everyone that they find attractive is slightly dramatic behaviour, but the chances are that the bond you have with them will most likely outlast whatever romantic connection you think you might have. Unless you’re ever so certain that this person might be your absolute soulmate, why take the risk?

But if you do throw caution to the wind and cross that line? You can at least feel safe in the knowledge that the anecdote will make a good conversation starter for your confessional podcast.