Thought Catalog
November 28, 2011

The Friend Zone

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What is the issue?

On understanding a ponderous situation.

The Friend Zone is both stigmatized and empathized as a type of relationship experienced between a usually attractive female (known herein as Subject?) and her futile courter, an earnest male (herein Partner?) who desires a romantic relationship with her, specifically to engage in acts by which such status is defined, but “settles” for a platonic[1] friendship, which shall be referred to herein as the Emotional-Union??. While the Friend Zone is not gender specific, i.e. subjects and partners can be male and female, respectively, the one under examination is far more common and perilous. We may attribute the Friend Zone to one of the following reasons:

  1. Partner? hopes that somehow his grim loyalty to the non-physically rewarding friendship will convey his good character, that he will “break down” or readjust Subject?’s sensibilities and transcend the conventional constraints of “shallow” physical attractiveness that Subject? doesn’t feel towards him; that it is simply time until she comes to recognize the deeper and profound aspects of their actual “love,” which finally having been excised, will culminate in copulation.
  2. Partner? actually has resigned to a platonic friendship, somewhat “well-adjustedly,” in the sense that he is able to view the platonic relationship as merely an unfortunate logistical disparity, that he is happy and grateful for what actually is indeed a good friendship, seeing the greater macro-emotional and ultimately more redeeming “level” they are on; though, of course, by definition of the Friend Zone, his motives are not completely platonic, otherwise the word “zone,” like a fence, would not need to be employed.
  3. Subject?, often an emotionally confused young female with maybe some masochistic or self-hating tendencies, doesn’t feel like she deserves or even wants to be treated well; or rather, she wants these things, but not in collusion with sexual intimacy, for the existential implications or liabilities of her unhappiness (we assume she is still unhappy, and forever will be) if acquired would be too ponderous to bear. The Friend Zone, in its concession to a demoted form of love, however cynical, is “romantic” in a tragic sense.

It is overall an unpleasant feeling; in fact, a horribly emasculating feeling, often exacerbated by the relationship status of Subject? with her boyfriend[2] (herein, Object?), which can range from a committed long-term relationship, to simply a one-night stand, or pedestrian “f-ck buddy,” or any of the various kinds of physical encounters any of the many men in this world may have with our Subject?. These timeless acts, to no fault of their conspirators, will be referred to as the Carnal-Union??. Ideally, as women are led to believe by popular film, music lyrics, novels, etc., the Emotional-Union?? and Carnal-Union?? are embodied in one suitor, hence, happily ever after. After experiencing grave dissonance between these two paradigms during, usually, late high school or the onset of college, Subject? will resign to (put prosaically) getting f-cked by one guy and listened to by the other. She pastiches the two men into one, which only sounds postmodern, but precedes that ethos timelessly.

Often, painfully, Friend Zones take place among a network of mutual friends, such that Partner? is friends — or, essentially, needs to maintain diplomacy — with Object?, a bro enterprise which may be successful (Amicable??) or unsuccessful (Non-amicable??). Subject? will also have a group of female friends (Council?) with whom she heralds them the details of Partner?’s futile efforts to court her during a bi-weekly Girl-night?? whose gender exclusivity and time frame is evident in its name. Council? will simultaneously think Partner? is “sooo” [non-sic on emphatic repetition of ‘o’] sweet and such a nice guy, while feeling pity and mild derision for him. Contradictorily, many members of Council? will call upon Partner? when they too need to talk on the phone, or have someone to have coffee or drinks with, without the “threat” of being seduced or expected to sexually perform in some manner; as such, Partner? is further reduced to being the universal friend, negotiating various Friend Zones at once. As a general rule, the heaviest member of Council?[3], who emotionally needs Partner? the most, who perhaps masturbates to Object?, whose veiled hatred of Subject? manifests in an inward self-hatred, is too broken to call upon the former two parties for their respective capacities.

Friend Zone behavior resembles “normal” behaviors exchanged among friends. The differentiating factor(s) are the mutually complicit, however dissonant, motives of Partner? and Object?; specifically, getting support and getting a chance. In ways, it is a sad union. Here are some examples of key Friend Zone dynamics:

  1. Partner? consoles Subject? during a +40 minute phone conversation (offering 8-9% of the dialogue) regarding Object?‘s failure to attend, however late he was expected to be, an important “thing” which Subject? had, like, srsly said, like was totally important, followed by a “follow up” conversation the next day in which Partner?, disappointingly, is to learn that everything is like totally okay now and stuff, as Object? finally came home last night to portray his virile love to her, by way of her mouth, he being a non-verbal type.
  2. Partner? eventually conveys his frustration about the Friend Zone, sincerely asking Subject? why, since they get along so well and everything, why she isn’t physically attracted to him, to which she replies that it’s not him but her, that (as alluded above), she’s just not used to, or even likes to be treated nicely. While somewhat true, this is ultimately a placation.
  3. Difficulty in defining if a dinner is a “date,” i.e. if he (with post-feminist awareness, obviously) should pay for the dinner under the auspices of a “date,” or not, a vagueness further made problematic if there’s a socioeconomic disparity between Subject? and Partner?; meaning, she’s either of commensurate age but broke, or younger and simply without as much money. In a twist of irony, and perhaps in observance of the imbalanced dynamics, Partner? often pays for this non-date anyways.
  4. Semi-affectionate hugs displayed towards each other at the end of these faux-dates, whose awkwardness is in direct correlation with the cognizance of the ongoing strain of Friend Zone, by which Partner? is becoming increasingly hurt; the couple must reciprocate each other’s warmth without her breasts squishing into his chest (they can touch). Partner? may supplement the sensation of her breasts though layers of clothing with a visual imagining of what they might look like.
  5. In an act of entitlement, Subject? gets unfairly jealous when Partner? receives romantic interest or attention from another woman who she considers, oddly, a competitor; it is not sex she is concerned with, but having attention diverted from her. Here Subject? will criticize the female competitor, making assertions about not only the prosaic matters of intelligence and looks, but moralistically, saying she doesn’t think the female competitor is a nice person, which ironically, because our desperate Partner? has difficulty with discretion, she is often not.

Put cynically, the Friend Zone is the result of lack of resolve on both parties, where (1) Subject? consciously communicates vaguely regarding the emotional boundaries of the friendship, at times manipulatively alluding to either the possibility of “more,” or there actually being “more,” knowing how lonely and emotionally compulsive Partner? is, as either some sick “power trip,” or to secure his blind yet not completely innocent loyalty; or (2) Partner? endures Friend Zone out of Darwinian weakness (i.e. sans libido) and ultimate laziness, unwilling or unable to find and secure sexually/ emotionally available mates[4] the proper fashion, and so, in a way, is using Subject? also, for the kind of “built in” incidental vicinity to a warm female body that the friendship offers. Put short, Friend Zone participants are incomplete beings without engaging in said pathologies.

Friend Zones sometimes last for years, decades even, though usually its fate is precluded within 2.0-2.5 years by one of the following: (1) Partner? simply “gives up” and the friendship slowly dissolves, his failure and resentment implicit in his cordial reticence, (2) Partner? finally “makes a move,” which is not met favorably, and the friendship quickly dissolves, in most part due to the anger and humiliation felt by the former; or (3) the Friend Zone is successfully elevated into a romantic relationship after a final courtship displayed by Partner?, but this is extremely rare and destined to fail within a few months, as Subject? irrevocably views Partner? as a subordinate beta-male whose very patience, understanding, acceptance, and nurturing temperament, which she has openly appreciated and employed for so long, is ironically that which precludes the actualization of complete spiritual-and-sexual love (i.e. the Emotional-Union?? and Carnal-Union??) as these supposedly good/ rare attributes are perceived as, and punished for, being too effeminate, and of all the things she isn’t really looking for. TC mark

image – Martin Beek