The idea of the Friend Zone has been floating around various media for years, I’ve been accused of it time and time again. If you’re unaware of the concept, you’ve been hiding under a rock – but let me quickly break it down for you. From my perspective, the Friend Zone appears to be a non-issue created by dudes who don’t understand basic mutual attraction. Like magnets, two people will either be attracted or repelled from each other. Unlike magnets, humans have an emotional field, and if you like someone but don’t want to bang their brains out then that’s ok. It’s called friendship. What some men seem to think though, is that if a woman likes you enough to be your friend then that equates to a Free Pass to your bangable future together. The Friend Zone is a common complaint from self appointed Nice Guys who assume that time spend with a woman is an investment, and in the event that you don’t get a Romantic Return on your investment then you are immediately sectioned to the Friend Zone and are in her eyes a completely non-sexual object. Like a table. Or a lamp.
The term has been bandied about the Interwebs for years, but it was really shoved into the limelight in the 2005 Ryan Reynolds film, Just Friends. This movie should have been more aptly named Zero Consent in my opinion but what do I know about movie titles. If you’ve not seen it, do. The film sums up the Friend Zone from the male perspective beautifully, but as several feminist bloggers have pointed out there is no greater scene than this:
Chris: What about Sheila? You making any headway?
Ray: We’ll see. I’m taking her to lunch today.
Chris: Oh, whoa, whoa whoa. Don’t – don’t do that. Okay? Don’t do lunch.
Chris: That’s like the express lane to the friend zone.
Ray: What the hell’s the friend zone?
Chris: See when a girl decides that you’re her friend, you’re no longer a dating option. You become this complete non-sexual entity in her eyes, like her brother, or a lamp.
Ray: I don’t want to be a lamp.
Chris: Yea well then don’t be her friend, okay? Take that guy for example…
[points to a clumsy guy and a gorgeous girl skating together]
Ray: You mean that couple?
Chris: No, I mean the guy that *wishes* they were a couple.
Ray: What is your point?
Chris: My point is – Call Sheila, Ray. Call her right now. Move your day date to tonight. Play the entire thing aloof and no matter what you do, kiss her at the end. ‘Cause friends don’t kiss.
There are so many thoughts that are wrong about this, but mainly what men are assuming is that friendship is like an infection and once it sets in they will lose any possibility at a romantic future with us. Like losing a limb, it will be gone forever. Friendship is not a disease. Hope is not lost forever if she tells you she wants to be friends. There isn’t one window of opportunity with a woman. I know from repeated personal experience that love can grow from friendship, and attraction can smack you in the face at the most inopportune times. The Friend Zone paints a solid friendship between a man and a woman as this sad pathetic thing that leaves at least one party longing for the other, catering to [her] every whim. The Friend Zone – a male invention – paints the male half of that wonderful friendship as weak and unmanly. This, my friends, is just one of the many ways that the patriarchy harms ALL of us.
There is also the issue of consent, and please allow me to be super clear on this, if a woman tells you she is not interested DO NOT ASSUME THAT MEANS YES. Consent is everything. If she said she wants to be friends, you have to be ok with that. “I really value our friendship” isn’t girl-code for “Not today but try again tomorrow” ok? Don’t be Creepy Guy. Tell her once, if she turns you down then think about it. Do you value her presence in your life? Maybe you were always meant to be just friends then. Just because you spent all this time with her during your Investment Phase does not automatically make her obligated to give you sex. The lack of a Romantic Return does not make her a bad person. It makes you a dick if you assumed she would just bow to your will simply because you changed her light globes a few times.
Lets come back a little and chat about basic chemistry. This is a real thing, the butterflies and the typical falling in love stuff. I’ve been on so many dates where the gentleman has been perfectly nice, attentive and even attractive – but they have all been missing that one crucial element. Chemistry. This is something that is either there or it isn’t, Boy Chemicals and Girl Chemicals are either compatible or they’re not. This isn’t rocket science, it isn’t that hard to understand. If you are a Friend Zone believer, then you probably have never once had someone crush on you and not feel the same way back.
I’ve been “guilty” of knowing that a guy is into me and not returning his feelings. I’ve felt obligated to return his feelings, even if I knew I felt the same way and guess what? The “relationship” didn’t last. When this has happened, I’ve not only lost respect for myself because I wasn’t honest from the start, I’ve also lost a perfectly great friendship. On the flip side, I’ve also been in the position of being Friend Zoned myself. A few years ago, I was crazy-ridiculous in love with my best friend. He was (and hopefully still is) completely oblivious to this. Although after I publish this piece I guess the secret is out. This went on and on for years, all through our time at uni, even when I had other dates and boyfriends. I knew he didn’t feel the same way, and it’s only now that I understand why. Thankfully my saying nothing only meant that our friendship is now stronger than ever. I get it though, unrequited love is a bitch. I have to tell you though, it never once occurred to me that the reason we never got it together romantically was any reflection on my ability to awesome. I never once complained to my other friends that I had invested all this time in him and therefore he “owed it to me”. I totally got it that the attraction I felt was one-sided, which is why I kept quiet about it. This person that I shared everything with, and I kept this massive secret from him. And now I guess we have no secrets.
Let’s come back to this assertion of obligation and entitlement. Entitlement is completely a male privilege thing. You feel entitled to her undying love and adoration because you sat up with her while she cried over her loser boyfriend who never treated her right, or because you kill all her spiders or because you paid for dinner those couple of times. You think that if you’re nice enough to her for long enough then you’re entitled to some kind of payment for that. Sorry, you’re not. Those are just things that friends do for each other. What you’re actually doing is removing the right for a woman to choose who she is attracted to and has relationships with and transforms it into the man’s right to be her boyfriend. In other words, a dude is entitled to a woman once he’s made a sufficient investment in her. If she disagrees, and heaven forbid if she’s interested in someone else, she’s a bitch who led you on–or worse, a slut.
By now I’m sure that there are a few of you that are fucking seething. You’re sitting there feeling all brave behind your keyboards and you’re going to send me an Angry Tweet or a Pissed Off Email. That’s cool, you’re allowed (except if you mention the word Nazi or Feminazi or threaten to kill/rape/harm in any way me or my family or friends. Be cool.)
I get it. Yes, there are women who take advantage of good men just like there are men who take advantage of good women. There should be some give and take in ALL relationships, and you’re not getting something out of your friendship with a woman then you need to consider why. Maybe she is taking advantage. Yeah, it’s shit and you’re not being very nice to yourself by letting the other person do that to you. But maybe you need to look at yourself, and consider why you allow someone to treat you like shit, not assume that there is some global phenomenon of women mistreating men. Because it really goes both ways. Be honest about it though, if your friend is having a hard time in life, then it makes sense they will be doing more of the taking than the giving in your relationship currently.
The Friend Zone as described by the dudes who whine about it doesn’t exist. In reality, it’s just about whether or not someone is as into you as you are into them. Sometimes they’re not, and you put yourself out there and they kick your heart to the curb and it HURTS. And broken hearts are a global phenomenon. They’re the reason poetry gets written and songs get sung–or one of the big ones anyway. If you’ve got a broken heart, I feel you. I really do. I really, really do. If you’ve got a broken heart, drop me a line and we can have a chat.
But the Friend Zone? It ain’t no thang. Quit trying to make it one.