This article was originally published on my blog July 27, 2014.
For those of you who are either married or have just crawled out of a Siberian prison camp, the Friend Zone is a platonic relationship in which one person (stereo-typically a man) is interested in romantic/erotic relations, while the other (stereo-typically a woman) would rather remain “just friends.” The Friend Zone is a pop culture term coined by an episode of Friends. It is used both a noun and a verb, and is the subject of fiery controversy in the dating world.
Here’s how the Friend Zone works: Boy meets girl. Boy and girl become friends. Boy is sexually attracted to girl. So the boy continues seeing the girl, building a friendship, earning her trust, hoping and praying that she feels the same sexual tingling for him as he does for her. Then this happens:
The Friend Zone is a type of unrequited love. It is not like the noble, courtly love of medieval poets such as Dante, who composed sonnets and a religious epic to a woman he had only spoken to twice. What makes the Friend Zone such a torturous place is that even after the lover is rejected, he is still closely within her social sphere--in dire cases he remains her best friend. This leaves the lover on edge; perhaps she will change her mind, perhaps, he thinks, we just need a little more time together. Even though he tries to see her as “just friends,” he can’t help it if he keeps loving her, too. It’s so tantalizing for the male that it’s agonizing, like dangling a carrot over Bugs Bunny’s head.
I even published a short story about the Friend Zone. Read it here.
In the Friend Zone, the woman does not (usually) intend to torment the male, but because of nature of infatuation, the way it overpowers a lover’s brain if he does not have the disciplined rationality to control it, it is impossible for him to see her as simply another friend, even if he desperately wants to. With time, he may discover things about her character, her past, habits, or lifestyle, and the Friend-Zoned party’s feelings may erode until he truly doesn't have any romantic sensations. Unfortunately, it usually it takes a sharp turn of circumstances to force the shake the lover to his senses—such as if the woman will falls in love with someone else who was never her friend.
I must emphasize a certain point here. The Friend Zone is NOT exclusive to gender or sex. Many women have also fallen victim to the Friend Zone. I recently spoke to a female-friend who described her friends’ experiences being Friend-Zoned, and they were all girls. If you consider the gay and lesbian community, gender becomes completely irrelevant in the Friend Zone. Almost everyone who has ever attempted to approach another human being for sexual relations has been exiled to the Friend Zone—whether you’ve been put inside of it, or if you’ve put others inside of it.
I consider myself the Supreme Fuhrer, the Great Khan, the Almighty God-Emperor of the Friend Zone. I am 23-years-old. I have encountered and befriended scores, if not hundreds of girls throughout my college years who, at one point or another, I felt the draw of sexual/emotional magnetism, had attempted to show myself as a valuable mate for the purpose fo a long-term commitment. Virtually none of my attempts have succeeded. I did not always ask them out directly, but then again, it’s usually clear to me after a few months in what manner a female regards me without even asking. I have been on the other end of the dilemma, too: I have been forced to put one or two girls inside of the Friend Zone as well, for very honest reasons (for example, I put down an alcoholic, and another with Dissociative Personality Disorder). I know I'm not the WORST case, but I'm not a fresh shrimp, either.
All that said, I consider myself absurdly qualified to lecture on the subject.
There are plenty of people, generally women or sympathetic men, who vehemently assert that the Friend Zone does not exist, dismissing it as the conspiracy of angry misogynists and young white men complaining about their inability to have sex. The rejected member of the relationship will, of course, be heartbroken, but mainstream feminism notoriously stereotypes the rejected lover as a young man whining and bitching about his inability to acquire sex. This only exacerbates the frustration of rejection—if the lovelorn lad even attempts to confess his feelings honestly, he will be attacked for acting as if he were entitled to sex or a relationship from the girl. The misandry is subtle, veiled by good yet misguided information, but definitely present. Some deniers go to such extremes that they blame the Friend Zone as an pretext for rape.
The following was a comment posted on Doctor Nerdlove’s article about the Friend Zone:
“It’s a fictional state created by people who feel entitled to another person's affections. Men (because it's often men) will try to befriend or do favors for women, seemingly altruistically, but then get upset when they don't ‘reward’ them with romantic interest. Get this - women don't owe you anything! No one owes you a relationship!”
Now that I’m old, out of college, and gazing ahead to the rest of my life, I’m basically drained to a state of apathy toward romance. So I have the hindsight to tell you that the Friend Zone is very, very real. Recently it happened to me with a co-worker. I feel the sexual magnetism toward her, as I’m sure scores and hundreds of other men have felt, but in my heart-of-hearts I’ve acknowledged that even attempting to ask her out would be impossible and disastrous. But my feelings, be they dimmed and disillusioned, will never vanish—a little fragment of my mind will always hope that there is a deeper reason ever moment she speaks to me, a deeper reason why she’s invited me to her party, or a deeper reason why she offered to watch a movie with me (Shit, she’d better not read this). I've realized that as long as I actively screen these thoughts, remove them, and never ever act upon them, I can survive in the Friend Zone. At my very core I know she wouldn’t be “the one,” if there is such a thing. Sometimes you don’t even know why or how you know, you just do.
- It’s like Mordor, only colder…
The Friend Zone is not a needless burden, a fictitious illness of the emotional hypochondriac, or a prison in which one locks himself into even while he holds the keys. When it happened to me in my college years, I believed what they said about the Friend Zone. I wore myself away attempting to eradicate every trace of infatuation inside, but it only made me love the girl even more. Love is like cancer—most often, even after chemotherapy, it will eventually resurface. Love dies in half-lives, slow and painstaking, but it never dies utterly. Few people will understand. The pain and loneliness of the Friend Zone is not fabricated, but real, at least for a few honest men. I’ve “moved on,” as they say, yet I’m still aware of being in the Friend Zone.
On top of that, my co-worker doesn’t believe in the Friend Zone.
Even though this phenomenon is real, feminists have a secret weapon against men who have been exiled. The pissed-off girls who are the victims of unwanted romantic proposals nearly always strike down their rejected, lamenting admirers with this argument: A woman is not obligated to give away sex for the kind acts of a man.
- Makes you wonder if Morpheus has ever been burned?
Okay. Sounds perfectly humane—after all, women are NOT slot machines that a boy can insert “kindness coins” into until sex comes out, be it a trite and worn analogy. This is the most common defense against the existence of the Friend Zone, and it puts anyone who dares to use the word to utter shame. Nobody with a single fiber of empathy can stand up to the harsh reality that, no matter how a lover feels, a woman is free to act as she pleases, and persisting to ask her for a relationship is a violation of her human rights. Face it: You can sail across a stormy ocean, climb to the smoldering pit of a volcano, fight off an army of screaming ninjas with nothing but a fishingpole, but if your friend/paramour raises her palm to your face and puts you down, there’s not a single thing you can do. It’s the boy’s fault, she’ll say (coolly and without a shred of remorse) because he didn’t take the hint, and the boy can’t blame her, because she never asked him to do anything nice for her.
- Here we have Link, the most friend-zoned character in videogame history.
Sucks, don’t it?
While the argument may be true, it is undeniably cold and callused. The female who sets up this rhetorical wall between her and her suitor is absolutely devoid of sympathy. She exhibits an extraordinary lack of ability to see from her heartbroken lover’s perspective, and doesn’t even deserve the lover’s attention. The feminist’s argument that the Friend Zone is resorted to by whiny white boys who want sex is, ironically, sexist to its very core, because it makes a broad and highly misinformed assumption about men; that men are only interested in sex.
I have never asked a woman for sex in my life. In fact I’m a virgin, thanks in part to my Christian upbringing, which has taught me to
obsess over cherish one woman in my life instead of attempting to bang entire brigades of them. The rest of it I just assume I’m “the nice guy” that no girls every find quite handsome or “good enough” for a relationship. Whatever. I’m done with it.
When there is mention of the Friend Zone, women claim to be blamed, belittled, and deceived. She feels blame because can’t control how she feels for a man—but neither can the man. Isn’t it belittling to tell a man that his plight is a farce, a childish fiction used to heap blame on someone else? Isn’t it deceiving, after a woman says you are handsome, you are kind, and asks to see you for months, that once you propose taking another step, she then calls it all off for a mere friendship? Every situation is unique, I will attest, but let us avoid these rash generalizations.
Contrary to the widely held belief that the Friend Zone is an attack against women, it is a spectacular demonstration of the power women wield over men. No matter how badly her lover wishes for a relationship from her, or even just sex, women are the gatekeepers of romance, the referees of the game of love, or for some forlorn lads, the unwitting masters of our misery. And unlike men, their domination is ingeniously justified.
On the other hand, people stuck in the Friend Zone are not rendered entirely helpless. I’ll admit, albeit reluctantly, that there is an element of truth present in denials of the Friend Zone—but I say it’s a matter of perception. This is different than simply wiping out the Friend Zone and moving on because while denying it works for some people whose infatuations are fleeting, for those of us who are more strongly and consistently afflicted by love, it’s a similar struggle an atheist will experience when attempting to convert to Catholicism—one cannot simply force himself to believe something, to alter his perspective, without sufficient evidence, or else the result will be superficial. We lovers simply can’t assimilate with what the majority believe to be true. We know how we feel, and damn it, there must be SOMETHING we can do about it.
Ali Binazir once described a country called Justfriendistan, “a territory only to be rivaled in inhospitability by the Western Sahara, the Atacama, and Dante’s Ninth Circle of Hell.” Think of the Friend Zone as a cold, lifeless desert. When a lover is banished to the Friend Zone, he may never escape it. He may very well die in it.
But if he has the tools, the skill, and the strength, he can irrigate the land, grow gardens, build a house for himself—in turn, one can make the Friend Zone a livable place. You will not thrive in the Friend Zone, but it is possible—even preferable—for a man to survive without the petty luxury of a romantic partner.
In the visible, nonmetaphorical world, simply recognize the sensations you feel for the women all around you, acknowledge them as real, but do not allow them to control you, ever again.
- Or maybe she knows, and just doesn't care...
Women make for loyal friends. That’s terrific, but they have also made it very clear that they are not interested in romance, intimacy, or eroticism unless it is on their own impossible terms. As feminism continues to march upon America, I see women becoming more terrified and repulsed by the notion of cohabiting with males. It appears the Friend Zone is about to grow very crowded.
I am assured by one thing: by the end of the summer, I’ll never see my co-worker again, and soon I’ll forget she even exists. Women will come and go—you can’t help being attracted to them, but for don’t go chasing after them. Whether the Friend Zone exists or not, no woman is worth the maddening riddles woven into her words and actions.
In other words, befriend women, but never, ever chase after them.