The dreaded friend zone. Did you cringe when you heard that phrase? I hope you did. It has been misused more than q-tips in the past few years.
You see, here’s what I thought the friend zone meant: when you like someone, and he or she likes you only as a friend. But most of the internet seems to think the friend zone means: when a guy is nice to a girl and expects to get in her pants for that, but when she denies said access, she’s relegated to being a bitch who is using him to feel good about herself.
Both sides of that second definition are disgusting views of how a whole group of people acts.
That’s not what happens. Not for real, I don’t think.
I happen to have a fair number of guy friends and female friends alike, but in my friendships with men, I have been and will continue to be on both sides of friend zoning, so I think there should be some etiquette to it.
1. Agendas for friendships — whether between men and women, men and men, or women and women — sometimes, though not always, differ. There is frequently social capital to be gained for women in having male friends, which makes some women try to make guy friends to seem more desirable. Sometimes too, guys “make friends” with women, hoping this will give them an in to getting into her pants. These people are not friends. They are not friend zoning you, they are assholes. They are using you. Okay, Internet? You weren’t friend zoned, you were trying to fuck them over.
2. Please never do favors for a friend in hopes that they will “come around” and like you. That’s not how liking works, and no one of any gender is waiting for their personal minion to show up and say yes to everything they suggest (okay maybe some apeshit people are, but that’s kinda rude, no?)
3. Don’t use platonic friends to “practice” your flirting. (Platonic, by definition, being a friendship that could be sexual for both of you guys, but isn’t). You’re just being a douchecanoe. Platonic friendships are some of the most valuable friendships on the planet.
4. Realize that there is a great likelihood that if you guys happen to have genders that line up with what you each find desirable, there is a great chance that one or both of you will feel something for the other person at some point. Pretty much everyone has thoughts cross their mind like what’s it like to cuddle with her? or what is he like in bed? , but I mean feelings that are deeper than that. It happens. If it’s you, feel free to ride out those feelings if you can. There’s something admirable about not putting the friendship at risk.
5. On the other hand, if you are making yourself miserable being around a person that you think is The One, and they keep referring to you as “like a little sister” or “the brother I never had,” well, you’ve got a problem. Can you take a break? Are you close enough to talk to them about it?
6. Sometimes, you are going to suspect that your friend has a thing for you. DON’T CALL THEM OUT ON IT. Who are you? Satan? I mean, what do I know about the situation? I guess nothing other than, no one wants to be mortified like that. Maybe they aren’t really madly in love with you like you fancy them. Maybe they are trying to get over you without you knowing. Help them play that game.
7. How? Don’t flirt back just because it’s an easy way to get attention. Yes, it feels lovely to have someone like you, even if you don’t like them back. Don’t take advantage of that. You’re the most powerful person to them right now. Have some integrity and keep your distance.
8. Also, don’t be obvious about it, but it’s not a big deal to bandy the word “friend” about a little more frequently than you otherwise would, if you suspect someone likes you. Subtlety is okay, they are likely analyzing every interaction anyway.
9. Don’t you dare try out dating them when you really don’t like them, especially if it’s “just to see if it will work,” when you pretty much know it won’t and that you will never see them as more than a friend. You aren’t protecting them from pain, you are doing something much crueler: suggesting that you are the solution to their problem. You’re not that heroic. Everyone likes people that don’t like them back sometimes, and they will get over it.
10. Remember through all of it, if you guys are really and truly friends, your goal should always be to remain friends. Even if that means taking a break for a bit, or not accidentally falling asleep together on the couch anymore, or not bringing them home on Thanksgiving Break or whatever date-y stuff you’ve been doing.
11. Sometimes, if you are the one doing the yearning, it helps to remember that you are idealizing them. You’re their friend, so you’re letting proximity intoxicate you. Remember some of the things they do that drive you insane — lucky you, you get an early glimpse of how they always send their order back when it’s wrong, or how much time they spend on Madden 25, or the fact that they are a cat person. Focus on those things. They aren’t that great. They just pay you attention. And who doesn’t fall for that? We all do.
12. Know that time can heal a lot. There’s a good chance, that given a bit of space, you guys can go back to being friends. Is it going to hurt when they find someone new to date, or tell you about their latest hookup, or even talk about the hot guy in their yoga class? Sure. For a while. And then, eventually, not so much.
13. If you guys do move past friend zoning, yay! No need to acknowledge it. Don’t ever be that person who casually brings up, “remember when you liked me?” UMMMM I FUCKING DO. Yeah. Similarly, trying to tease someone about how they never liked you back isn’t really funny, it’s just awkward. Additionally, if you suspect/know that a friend did like you, don’t wipe that memory out completely, because just a bit too much flirting/leading on can bring back latent feelings. Be delicate about it.