It is a truth universally acknowledged that a woman columnist on the Internet will eventually have to write about the “friend zone.” And thus, my turn has come.
As someone who was bullied a lot, I can tell you: there is nothing nicer than a friend. Not only do they have your back, they actively push you to be a better person. You might say a romantic partner does the same thing, but as per the advice of an agony aunt, I will not “date anybody who is not as cool as my friends.”
Of course, you might say, the “friend zone” isn’t really about friendship, it’s about being more with someone who just doesn’t realize what a great pair you will be! You have friends! So many friends! But you want to be MORE than just friends with this special person. Why, if they got over their prejudice/prudishness/fear/confusion, everything will be gravy! Mere friendship does not compare to #truelove
FYI, there is a reason why I’m not gendering the above. It’s true that cis women are usually the ones being accused of friend zoning someone (typically, a cis man), but I’m not writing this piece as someone who is a recipient of said accusations.
I’m writing it because, for the longest time, I was the accuser.
How dare you reject my love! Don’t you see how amazing we would be together? Why are you pushing me away? Why are you saying I’m just a friend to you?
Yep. I did hold those beliefs. I like to think I never acted on them, but chances are, somewhere in time, a person I loved and cared for sincerely was feeling awkward and creeped out.
This is a point I want to drive across: I don’t believe every person who uses the words “friend zoned” to describe a failed romantic advance has bad intentions. It takes guts to share your feelings with someone. When you get turned down, disappointment is natural. You can fall off your bike and laugh it off, but it will still sting.
What’s not cool is making the other person feel responsible for your own hurt feelings, or that they have to help soothe your ego. No, they didn’t build up our hopes to callously dump us; being rejected is part and parcel with the whole romance thing.
The bit about the “friend zone” which is, to me, my number one peeve, is that it sets up a false hierarchy. “Friendship” is all well and good, but “romance” or, to put it crassly, “sex” is the best. It adds to the entitlement of “you just like leading people on!” by suggesting that being friends is somehow not good enough. What’s next, people? Are we going to start saying “You’re only good for one thing!” when someone rejects our advances?
Let me tell you about one of my closest friends. The two of us have never met in person. We got chatting online and we worked out way up to texting and letters, and for over seven years, we have been there for each other throughout some of our biggest successes, and our worst lows. People have assumed I’m in love with that person because we’re so much in each other’s lives. The truth of it is, I do love them, but not in a romantic or sexual way.
And that’s alright.
Let me tell you about someone I did love romantically. They, too, started off as a friend. Then I started feeling differently towards them, and eventually, I worked up the guts to confess. They did not feel the same way. I thought I could still be their friend, but it hurt too much, and so I pulled back.
It wasn’t because of anything they did. They remained lovely, even though I felt like they had led me on a bit, that they had friend zoned me. The truth is, I was too invested in the idea of being their girlfriend to appreciate what we already had. When you’re sold on a certain outcome, anything else is bound to feel like a downgrade.
But it is not.
For all the stock we as a society put on romantic love, I can tell you, my friends have been the ones to save me from the pits of despair. My friends are the ones who I turn to and whom I will slay dragons to help. My friends are the ones with whom I share the most of my life with. They are the people who will meet me after a long time, and it would feel like we didn’t part at all. They are the people I trust the most.
Why would you devalue that with some false hierarchy?
Why would you want to?