I’ve heard quite a bit of debate about this whole “friend zone” thing. Some people say it’s the zone of no return where a woman places you when she doesn’t find you attractive but still wants to string you along. This is true. Others say that it’s a misogynistic theory created by frustrated men who can’t handle rejection. That’s also true. I’ll explain.
Here’s my take on it. There’s nothing wrong with having a woman as a friend. In fact, I’m not sure how anybody manages to make it to adulthood without having friends of the opposite sex. I know women whom I consider my friends. Some are single. Some have boyfriends. Some are married. We talk about life, work and dating, but that’s all we do. We talk. I don’t ask them on dates, call them all that often, or try to hook up with them. They’re friends, and that’s mutually understood.
I’ve also been friend zoned. In fact, early in my life I’ve been friend zoned so often that I’ve learned to see it coming and run for the hills. You see, it’s not just about a lack of attraction. Even if someone is not attracted to you, she could just reject you outright and leave it there. The act of friend-zoning is an intentional endeavor that only extremely selfish, toxic people engage in. The friend zone is very real, but the word “friend” makes it a misnomer for a toxic relationship, and I’ll show you why.
In order to explain the difference between the friend zone and an actual friendship, I’ll use a scenario. You’re at a bar with a female friend. We’ll name the friend Gina. You and Gina are talking about work and life. Gina says that you’re just friends, and since you take what she says at face value (like you should), you believe that she truly sees you as just a friend. Here’s how you find out if that’s true. You see a beautiful woman at the other end of the bar. This woman is a knockout. You have to approach her. You would be a fool to let a woman this smoldering hot leave the bar without giving it a shot, and since Gina just told you that she only sees you as a friend, there’s nothing holding you back. After all, the two of you aren’t dating or anything. As you make eye contact with the woman across the bar, she smiles and strokes her hair. Then in a rare show of boldness, she winks at you, twirls the straw in her drink, and beckons for you to approach. Ladies and gentlemen, here is where you find out if you have a female friend or not. A female friend will say the following:
Gina: “Grant, what are you doing? That girl’s hot. Go talk to her. Dude, she just gave you the green light.”
Me: “Are you sure?”
Gina: “Are you kidding? I’ll be fine! Go! God, do you need me to play wing girl or something?”
Me: “No, I’ve got it.”
Gina: “Ok then. Go talk to her before she leaves.”
Whether they are male or female, your friends will encourage you to do what’s best for you. Your friends will encourage you to talk to that woman across the bar. Your friends want you to succeed. Do you know why? It’s because your friends actually care about you. In fact, I guarantee that Gina has a smile on her face as she watches you talk to the woman on the other side of the bar. As you get her phone number, Gina might even clap for you and give you a high-five. If you end up dating or even marrying that woman from across the bar, Gina will brag about how she’s the reason you two are together. You sir, have a female friend, and a good one at that.
Now let’s use the same scenario and apply the friend zone. You’re at the bar with a woman who always says that the two of you are just friends. We’ll name her Joan. So you sit there talking about work and life, and because you take her words at face value (as you should), you genuinely believe that Joan sees you only as a friend. As she is talking about one of her ex-boyfriends, you spot a beautiful woman at the other end of the bar; the kind you just don’t pass up. She’s just flat-out gorgeous. She’s not just a hot woman at a bar either. Something about her just makes you want to talk to her, and since Joan just said she only sees you as a friend, there’s nothing holding you back, right? After all, you’re just friends. You’re not dating or anything. The woman at the other end of the bar smiles at you. However, she doesn’t just beckon for you to approach. She gets up and sits next to you with a smile on her face as she strokes her hair and maintains intense eye contact. At this point, all you have to do is say hello to get the conversation going. So you do. Her name is Tracey, and she’s a teacher who loves to go salsa dancing on the weekends. She’s also a yoga instructor and –
Joan: “Hey, Grant!”
Me( as I turn back and forth between Tracey and Joan): “Huh?”
Joan: “Don’t mind me. I’m just sitting here, you know.”
Me: “Yeah, could you hold on? I’m talking to-”
Joan(to Tracey): “Hi, I’m Joan.”
Me: “Yeah, Tracey, she’s a friend of mine from college. So as I was saying-”
Joan: “Has anyone told you that you look just like (Insert celebrity. It doesn’t matter who. She doesn’t really mean it)?”
Joan: “You do. I like your dress too.”
Tracey: “Thanks. Are you guys on a date or something?”
Me: “No! No, we’re not. Not at all. We were just talking about how we’re just friends, I mean-”
Joan: “Grant, come dance with me!”
Tracey(as she gets up to leave): “Later, Grant.”
Joan(as she grabs my hand): “She’s gone, right? Come on! Dance with me!”
Now that your potential partner has walked out the door, you decide to dance with Joan the Friendzoner. Of course, once you realize how selfish Joan is, you won’t dance with her at all; not if you have a backbone. You will walk out of the bar looking for Tracey, but Tracey will be long gone. In fact, she’s probably met another guy already. They’re probably dating right now. They’re probably getting married in a couple of years. Whatever you would have hoped to have been doing with the woman of your dreams, she’s probably doing it right now with another guy. Meanwhile, Joan the Friendzoner will continue to consume all of your time and attention, and if you ever even THINK about pursuing her as a romantic partner, she will raise her hand and say:
“We’re just friends. Why isn’t that good enough for you?”
Like I said earlier, the term friend zone is a misnomer. It has nothing to do with friendship and everything to do with attention and ego boosting. She believes that you’re supposed to like her unconditionally. You’re supposed to always desire and pursue her. However, the very thought of her desiring you in return is just out of the question. In fact, she might have a boyfriend, but she’s most likely sucking him dry as well. Everywhere she goes people get used and hurt, and you’re no different. You are dealing with a selfish, controlling, parasitic person. She is not a friend, and your relationship is toxic at best.
Some people will say that you didn’t do enough to attract her to you. They might say that your game needs work, and that if you knew how to attract women, this wouldn’t happen to you. I disagree. Even if you failed to attract her somehow, she had the option of rejecting you outright. She could have shut you down and left you standing there. Instead she chose to keep you around to help her feel desirable. To her, you are a toy with the sole purpose of boosting her self-esteem; a self-esteem that she can maintain on her own, without using you, if she tried. When Tracey, the beautiful, confident, open, and honest woman at the bar came along, she threatened Joan’s self-esteem. She threatened to steal her toy from her. So Joan the Friendzoner did what she had to do to protect her own interests. She blocked Tracey and kept you for herself. Gina, your real friend, would never do that. I’ve never had a female friend who would.
Your female friends might block other women from talking to you, but only for good reasons (i.e.: she was domestically violent with her last boyfriend, she has an STD, or she’s been convicted of triple homicide). Your female friends will only do that if they’re looking out for you, and even then they’ll back off and let you decide for yourself. If things don’t work out, they’ll encourage you. They’ll also tell you about yourself if you need to hear it. They will do almost all the same things your guy friends do because they have your back just the same. When you meet Tracey, your female friend is happy for you.
Friendzoners come in all shapes and sizes, but they all sound alike. They tell you to keep calling them, but they never call back. They tell you to keep trying, but they never meet you half way. They wait until you pay for dinner before telling you it’s not a date and that “we’re just friends”. They never contribute anything but lip service to your relationship, but they expect everything from you. They want boyfriend benefits (usually money and attention), but they have no interest in making a girlfriend’s investment; and I’m not just talking about sex. I’m talking about a mutual appreciation and respect for one another. Without that, you have a lopsided and unhealthy relationship.
Friendzoners have mastered a hustle, and they’re using it to play you. Once you figure it out and walk away, they’ll try to draw you back in by flirting and feigning interest. If you’re smart, you’ll see it for what it is; another hustle. When you refuse to come back and give them the attention they crave, they’ll hate you. They will hate you because they can no longer control you, and that disrupts their world view of men as objects for their amusement. Despite what some websites and magazines might tell you, there is no benefit to “getting out of the friendzone”; not unless getting out means walking away and seeking your own happiness. Never try to play toxic people at their own game. They’re better at it than you are because they’ve had a lot more practice.
Female friends sound alike too. They tell you to stop calling Joan the Friendzoner. They tell you that interested people act interested. They tell you to never settle for less than mutual respect, and while they tell you that, they pay their half when you meet for lunch. After all, that’s what friends do when they meet up and there’s no reason to change that just because she’s a woman and you’re a man. They tell you that you deserve better than how Joan the Friendzoner is treating you, but your life won’t improve until you take action and do something about it. They tell you to man up and walk away from Joan the Friendzoner. As a matter of fact, they ask if you’ve met Tracey. She’s a teacher and a yoga instructor and you guys would get along great. They introduce you and Tracey at a party and when the friendzoner swoops in, the conversation goes like this:
Me: “So Tracey, Gina tells me that you’re a yoga instructor.”
Tracey: “Yeah, I love it so much, and-”
Joan the Friendzoner: “Hey, Grant!”
Me: “Hey……what’s up, Joan?”
Joan the Friendzoner: “Want to dance?”
Tracey( as Gina glares at Joan): “Do you guys know each other?”
Me: “We’re just friends.”
Joan the Friendzoner: “Dance with me!”
Me: “No, I’m kind of busy-”
Gina(as she steps between Joan and me): “Hey, Joan! Wow, I love that dress! That guy over there wants to buy you a drink! Come on, let’s go!”
Tracey(as Gina and Joan walk away): “What was up with her?”
Me: “No clue. Let’s dance.”
Tracey(with a wink): “Sure. I hope you can keep up.”
Me: “Not a problem.”
So there you have it, folks. Is friendship with women a bad thing that you should avoid at all costs? Absolutely not. In fact, having friends from both genders is the way to go. You just have to choose the right friends, and that’s easier said than done; but not impossible. Is the friend zone real? Absolutely, but it’s poorly named and subsequently over generalized. As a result, we have yet another reason why men and women don’t understand each other.
So how do we fix this situation? I propose that we scrap the term “friend zone” altogether and call it what it is. If you are in this situation, you are not in the friend zone. You’re in a toxic relationship, and you’re being used. If you really need a name for it, I suggest we call it “Dead-Ended” because that’s pretty much where the relationship is going; a dead-end. Instead of swearing off friendship with women, or getting bitter and frustrated when you reach a dead-end, just turn around and walk away. Keep walking until you find what you’re looking for. All of your real friends will be walking with you. They’ve been walking with you all along.
G. Miller (c)