In the past few weeks, I’ve seen a ton of whining on the various social networks I spend far too much time on about “The Friend Zone”. One of the more charming complaints was a “picture” 1 I saw on Instagram that relayed the following message 2:
All of you single girls asking where all the “decent guys” are? They’re in the “friend zone”, where you left them while you ran off to go [court gentlemen of ill-repute].
At the time I saw it, that post had a bunch of likes and a pair of comments: one was simply “#PREACH”, which made me roll my eyes so far back into my head that it’s a wonder I can see even now, and the other was the more troubling “Waiting for the ‘friend zone doesn’t exist’ comment”.
I’m not here to make that comment; The Friend Zone is absolutely a thing that exists. As a matter of fact, it’s actually the title used for two, completely distinct situations, which most people tend to mush into one thing, which is why the term makes me want to punch whoever is whining about it in the freakin’ windpipe.
The first (and far crappier) situation is one where one party reciprocates just enough of the other party’s romantic affection in order to keep that person under their thumb. Maybe they like having that other person around to make themselves feel better, maybe it’s a relationship of convenience, but, either way, it’s lame, and certainly no “friendship” in any sense of the term. That situation gets my sympathy, because the poor schmuck who is being used likely has no idea that it’s happening, which is why they refer to that relationship as “complicated” as compared to being stuck in The Friend Zone. Still, in my book, the term applies.
But that’s not what most guys 3 who wine about being in The Friend Zone are talking about. They’re talking about The Friend Zone where they “secretly” 4 have feelings for a lady/dude/robot/sandwich 5, and they’re hoping that the kindness and caring they show for this “friend” will one day translate into a romantic relationship. This concept is the foundation of hundreds of romantic comedies and sitcom plot lines, and has fueled the belief that the ever-suffering buddy will eventually get their friend to realize just how special and awesome they are. They’ll get married, live happily ever after, and when they eventually tell this story to their future babies, the friend who stuck by their oblivious object of affection will seem to be the ultimate hopeless-romantic protagonist. Everyone wins!
Here’s the problem: This situation basically boils down to being “friends” with someone in the hopes that, one day, they’ll let you see them without pants on. Your displeasure about being stuck in The Friend Zone is based on the fact that you have yet to see the action you clearly deserve despite the numerous theoretical punches on your friendship card, and that makes you bitter and cynical. It also makes you manipulative, a crappy person, and the textbook definition of “not decent guy behavior”.
I get it — friendships can get muddled with non-platonic feelings. In fact, if you’re genuinely friends with someone, and they happen to have naughty-bits that are pleasing to your brain chemistry, the odds are that your shared interests and pre-existing ability to connect with this person on a deeper emotional level than other people will result in some confusion. I mean, they likely check off a lot of the “Ideal Things for a Romantic Entanglement Partner to Have” list that you keep running in your head, so it’s bound to happen every now and again. But if you plan on having a varied group of friends, you need to (a) figure out how to address these feelings like an honest-to-Batman adult and (b) handle the potential rejection while deciding if continuing the friendship is possible. And if you really do want to keep the friendship alive, you need to figure out how to get your brain to recognize that, and not sit around thinking that if you stay, some day they’ll realize what they could have had. The “friend who was in front of you the whole time that you didn’t realize was your soulmate” trope hardly ever works out in real life, and realizing that is the first step to getting past it and moving on with your life. 6
So, please, people, I beg of you: stop your bitching about being in The Friend Zone. It’s a train of thought that will only lead to Depressed-and-Lonely-ville, and it’s a crappy place to hang out, and chances are that you’re probably better than that.
I have no real button to end this on, so I’m just going to go make some pizza rolls and drink a Capri Sun. Like an adult.
- I use the term “picture” lightly, considering that it was really just white text on a black background. ↩
- Cleaned up for grammatical correctness and language as my mother reads this blog and while I’ll quote other people who are swearing all the live-long day, there’s gotta be a line somewhere. ↩
- From this point forward, I’m going to refer to the inhabitants of The Friend Zone as dudes, because that’s where my experience comes from. However, I’m sure there are ladies who are in the same boat, I just haven’t encountered them. ↩
- Although it’s really about as secret as my well-documented love of bacon. ↩
- Whatever tickles your fancy. I’m not here to judge. ↩
- If you’re sitting there yelling “But you said hardly ever, so there’s a chance!”, you’re right. It’s the same chance that you’ll be struck dead by a piano falling out of a blimp while you were riding your unicycle to a Jessica Biel-Jennifer Lawrence co-hosted orgy that you’re the guest of honor at, but it still exists, I guess. ↩