The Not-A-Friend Zone

The friend zone is the place men and women get sent when the person of their interest sidelines them to pursue some jerk who will eventually break their hearts — but, like, totally not like you, though, you’re special.

The friend zone could really be called the place where men and women go to fawn over their disinterested friends.  I’m not hating. The friend zone was my dating life from about the age of five until I was thirty, then one day it hit me: I wasn’t being a friend at all. I was guilty of falling into the “friend zone” trap, which isn’t being put in the friend zone; it’s believing that there is a friend zone, or, really, believing that I was entitled to my friends just because I wanted them. 

always considered myself the Ross on Friends, the good guy waiting passively in the wings for a girl to come to her senses.

Pause.

If that last sentence hits you weird, it should. It’s a lot weirder when you say it out loud than when you write it in your diary. 

Would a real friend really spend all of his time hoping that their friends relationships fail? Would a real friend constantly disrespect the wishes of their “friend’ by pursuing them after they have been asked to stop? Would a real friend complain about how stupid their “friend” was for not being with them, undermining their judgment and independence? Now, before you answer yes defensively,  would you do the same thing to a friend you weren’t interested in? Would you want your platonic friends doing the same thing to you?  Of course not, that would be a pretty crappy friendship.

I remember getting into a fight with an ex-girlfriend about her guy friends trying to sleep with her. I told her that if her friends were constantly trying to sleep with her, they weren’t actually her friends, they were suitors. I would like to say that how hypocritical I had been hit me immediately, but it didn’t. It was years later when I read an article about the simultaneous fear and urge for women to date men, who are both their biggest threat and desire. I don’t even remember if the article talked about the friend zone. It talked about men’s angry response to being rejected and the danger it presented. I didn’t want anyone to be afraid of me, I was Ross.

Then I really thought about Ross. He was obsessive, greedy, and at times malignant. He dated and married several times all while being “in love” with Rachel. He sabotaged her relationships. He constantly challenged her mental acuity, sense of responsibility, and judgment…. but he loved her, they were “Friends.” (See what I did there!) In any other situation, someone like that would be considered an enemy, but because he wanted her, it was okay.

It’s not.

It is a sense of entitlement. I hate entitlement. It is saying that because you want someone they should be forced to want you, despite their own personal choice. Just think about that in the reverse. Should you be forced to date someone just because they are attracted to you? You like women your age, but someone 20 years older likes you. Do you have to date them? Take it a step further. You are heterosexual. Should you be forced to date someone homosexual who happens to have a crush on you? Of course not.

It is about respecting the choice and independence of the other person. I’m not saying it’s easy. We are all the victims of media messaging telling us the good person will eventually win and get the person of their dreams, but we know from real life that sometimes they don’t. Sometimes winning is finding someone who actually wants you.  In your friend zone moments,  you don’t understand how great it is to be picked, to be personally picked, because a person wanted exactly you. It’s the best feeling in the world, to know that you are special, to know that someone with free will and judgement that you respect wanted you back. It’s a lot better than resenting someone into liking you.

Again, it is hard. We all still root for the underdog in the movie and hope the skinny, broke, acne-ridden teen ends up with the supermodel, but maybe we can separate fact from fantasy and write a better ending in real life.

So here’s my promise, aside from the fact that I am getting married soon, I promise to be your friend because I want to be your friend. Friendship is the only goal of my friendship with you. It’s not a foot in the door.

Also, if there really is someone toying with your emotions to keep you around, is that really someone you want anyway? Is that person really even a friend?

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