The Magical Mythical Friend Zone

Friendship is a gift and we have the option to accept or reject. However, we shouldn’t lament the offer of such a gift if we desired more from the person making the offer. We’ve all heard that desire is suffering. My take on that statement is because we tend to desire that which we can’t control (e.g. other people), then we tend to suffer. We have no control over the desires of other people. Only in the flicks do we see examples of someone being a good person and then getting the reward of the romantic love interest. That’s a flick, not real life. I’m sure it happens in real life. We shouldn’t assume that such occurrences are the norm.

You’ve certainly heard the term friend zone. For those who haven’t, here’s what Wikipedia has to say. “In popular culture, the friend zone is a situation in which one member of a friendship wishes to enter into a romantic or sexual relationship, while the other does not. It is generally considered to be an undesirable situation for the rejected person.”

I’m of the opinion that the friend zone is a myth. Perhaps you’ve heard your friends talk about it or maybe you’ve been there yourself! It’s such a magical place because it only exists in the minds of boys. Now, before you get butt hurt and try to close this browser window, stay with me for a while and hear me out. Have you or one of your friends ever lamented being placed in the mythical friend zone? Maybe you should keep reading. The entire concept of a friend zone wreaks of male entitlement and the fallacy that we (cis/het men) are owed something by women just because we’ve expressed an interest or executed some kind gesture (helped her move, provided emotional support, etc.). When I listen to the reactions that men shout after women ignore their cat calls, they often have an undertone of consternation. “Someone’s acknowledging you!”, this one dude yelled as a woman ignored his elevator eyes and “how you doooin” with the intonation of dick-in-hand readiness. Really? Well, she should drop to her knees and thank you profusely for acknowledging her existence, right? No. She owes you nothing.

According to an Urban Dictionary user from 2003: Friendzone – What you attain after you fail to impress a woman you’re attracted to. Usually initiated by the woman saying, “You’re such a good friend”. Usually associated with long days of suffering and watching your love interest hop from one bad relationship to another. Verb tense is “Friend-ed”. “I spent all that money on a date, just to find out she put me in the Friendzone (said with eerie echo).” “You know that hot girl I’ve been talking to? She just Friend-ed me.”

Here are some of the cringeworthy bits from that definition. Fail to impress implies that there’s an ulterior motive to what should have been a genuine act of kindness. I’ll never forget a night that I was slightly drunk and a woman friend was drunker than myself. She wanted some company just because she wanted someone to talk to and she didn’t want to be alone that night. When I suggested that we go to her place and make sweet love (suggestions are safer than assumptions) she put me in check by saying, “I need you to be a friend right now, not a guy.” I found her phrasing to be quite sobering. That happened a decade ago and I still hear that phrase in my head when I’m thinking with my dick and my brain is reminding me not to be a dick.

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Another cringeworthy bit was, long days of suffering. Because, you know, that’s the only woman in the world for you and you must become a martyr as she unwittingly breaks your heart. Give me a fucking break! Just bounce. Explain to her in clear terms that you can’t be her friend because you like/love/lust her so much that it hurts your throbbing lonely boner and then bounce! [To explain in clear terms means that you must speak actual words to her ears, not a goddamned text message. Express your feelings with full use of vocal tone, body language, sock puppets, and an interpretive dance if necessary. But, for fuck’s sake, don’t send anyone a text message to tell them how you feel about them.]

I spent all that money on a date, just to find out… that you’re a dumbass and expected her to repay you in emotional currency? She owes you nothing. No one owes anyone anything. Establish a baseline of what your bond is with someone before asking them out. Is your adventure going to be a date or a hang out? Will sweet love be made afterwards? Get an understanding for these things before the adventure begins. Obviously, I’m not suggesting that you just ask her, “Hey! Are we boning later on?” But, you can have a mature conversation about how you’re attracted to her and suggest going Dutch. (Many women, who are not from the Netherlands, insist on going Dutch because they don’t want to feel as if there’s an expectation to end the night. She knows that she owes you nothing. She wants to make sure that you know this as well.)

Why is the friend zone a myth? Because being accepted as a friend should be a mutually beneficial relationship wherein the only reward you seek is the pleasure of the other person’s company. (Having a good time with your clothes on is a real thing.) We should be grateful for the friendship of a good human the same way we should be grateful when someone trusts us with a valued possession. The first time my mom gave me the keys to her precious Lincoln Town Car, I was honored because I knew how much it meant to her. I didn’t like the thing and it drove like a boat. But, I still honored her gift by taking care of it and filling its enormous gas tank before returning it to her. Assuming that everyone that offers up their friendship values that relationship as much as my mom loved her Town Car, all friendships should be honored (or dismissed). Accept friendship with gratitude or reject it with grace. Say it with me gentlemen, “Oh, I’d like to be more than just your friend. *cue Prince* I wanna be your… Lover!” *dance moves for emphasis* At that point, the two of you can have a grown up conversation about what each of you wants from a friendship or a romantic relationship. That conversation could be the start of something beautiful or the end of something frustrating before it gets that far. The friend zone only exists in the mind of those who choose not to communicate their feelings. Once again for the people in the back. The friend zone only exists in the mind of those who choose not to communicate their feelings.

“Come on, Jet! She knows how I feel about her it’s so obvious.” Look, I’ll be the first to call bullshit when a woman claims that she had no idea that someone was interested in her. It’s hard for me to believe that as emotionally intelligent as many women are, that they’re constantly oblivious to someone’s attraction to them. But, whether they’re aware of your feelings or not, it’s not a woman’s responsibility to know how you feel. It’s your job to express it clearly. Don’t express it with chores. Don’t be her handyman in hopes that someday she’ll slip and fall on your dick (and thusly fall in love with you because sex means love, right?). That only happens in porn and it’s laughable then. Express your feelings with your words *gasp*. Be vulnerable for a few seconds and be brave enough to know that your love/like/lust may be unrequited. She owes you nothing.

It’s worth mentioning… I’ve always had more women friends than men. I fucking live in the friend zone and I love it! Here are three reasons why.

1.) I know my friends better than I’ve known many of my lovers and many of my lovers have become my best friends. I once read some dumbass internet meme or e-card that read “If two past lovers can remain friends, either they never were in love or they still are.” WTF!? I disagree with that statement, 100% and I’m willing to bet that it was written by a butt-hurt bitter bear. Here’s a better angle on post relationship friendships, IMO.

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2.) Friendships tend to last longer than relationships and no one judges you for being polyplatonic* like they do when you tell them that you’re polyamorous. *Polyplatonic is a word that I’m intending to mean one who sustains multiple friendships. You’ll find different interpretations of this made-up word on the webs. Every non-asshole sustains multiple friendships. A mother of a 10 year-old told a group of us how she explained polyamory to her daughter. She explained, “the same way that you have friends you take to the movies and different friends that you play with outside, I have different friends that I do different things with.” She left out the details of her grown-up play dates. Nevertheless, the kid understood the gist of it. We are all polyplatonic (with the exception of assholes). Many of us can boast several decade-long friendships. How many of us can boast several decade-long romantic relationships? While we may have high expectations for our friendships, those expectations aren’t anywhere near as high as what we expect from a romantic partner.

3.) The platonic friendships that I have with women help me to communicate better in my romantic relationships. Men, how many times have you had a communication breakdown with a woman and chose to seek counsel from another man on how to communicate with that woman? It should be obvious why that’s problematic. I’m not suggesting that all women know how to communicate with all other women. I’m just saying that men should seek the counsel of someone that thinks differently (not just one of their bros) when faced with a communication breakdown. It’s the same logic as to why you shouldn’t represent yourself in a court of law. Please know that women in our lives shouldn’t be required to give free emotional labor for the sake of our evolution. Seek consent first, then seek counsel from the sage women in your life.

It’s worth mentioning… Women experience unrequited love and lust. Through an entire conversation with a friend on the matter she never lamented being placed in the magical mythical friend zone. She actually said, “Women “friend zoning” men is a totally absurd and sexist concept… that being said, I have had sex with quite a few of my friends and I don’t see why good friendship and occasional fun sex can’t peacefully coexist.” Here’s one of her stories (in her own words-pasted here with her consent):

“There was a guy with whom I briefly hooked up in [city name] and he contacted me because he saw I moved to [new city name] and he lives there too. I presumed it was for sex, and I was totally fine with that, invited him over to “hang”. About twenty minutes and a few beers in I start making a move on him and he protested “Wait, was this a booty call? Aw, man! I thought you wanted to be friends!” I apologized, and then somehow we still had sex (despite the booty call being framed as some kind of insult) and the next day I apologized again in a text. It felt like I talked him into something and I felt bad about it. Then he completely just disappeared, never responded to my texts, never heard from him again. I guess what I’m saying here is that some people cannot disconnect sex from monogamous love and can’t connect friendship with intimate sexual contact.”

I’ve never heard any woman complain of being put in the friend zone. I think that’s because women haven’t been conditioned to believe they’re owed something by the object of their affection. “I came over to his house, helped him study for that big test, and I didn’t even get so much as a reach around! He must have put me in the friend zone, m’eh!” I’m willing to bet that sentence has never been uttered by a woman, ever.

There’s this unspoken mentality associated with dating culture about the order of operations for friendships, loverships, and partnerships. I get the impression that many people are more comfortable going from first date with a stranger and moving towards a romantic connection than they are being friends first and then moving towards a romantic connection. I think this is why so many men dread the mythical friend zone. “If she thinks of me as a friend, we’ll never transcend into a romance! G’ahhh!” While everyone is entitled to their own idea of how to go about dating, that will never make sense to me. Shouldn’t we be friends and get to know each other without the mask of trying to present our best selves? I’d rather get romantic with a friend I know well, over a stranger who just looks/smells good. As an alternative, let’s just be friends and stay friends with no sexpectations! That would be nice.

“Jet! Men and women can never be just friends. One will always want to fuck the other.” I don’t know what world you live in, but we can be and we are friends. There are women in my life with whom I’ve been friends for 20 years. I can’t speak for them, but I have not desired sexual relations with them… and before you assume… yes they’re attractive (to me). On the flipside, I’m able to compartmentalize sexual contact and not turn it into a need for romantic involvement. i.e. I’ve totally had sex with friends who (we’ve agreed) will never be more than friends and no… things never got weird. How is that possible? We spoke to each other. We had deep conversations about our emotional needs/wants and we spoke from a place of compassion and respect. There were no assumptions or entitlement.

Release your entitlement and hold your desires lightly. Remember, don’t nobody owe you shit. If the woman you desire offers her friendship, accept it or reject it with respect and grace. Just because we crush on someone doesn’t mean that she’ll feel the same or reward you with a moral dessert because you were a “nice guy”. People should have agency over their body and their emotional adventures. It may break your heart that she doesn’t like you in return, but that’s okay. It doesn’t mean that you’re in any zone, friend.

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(Emotionally) Putting Out

Recently, a client explained that she’d decided to *big gulp + deep breath* “put herself out there” in regards to her dating life. Immediately I began to wonder, “WTF does that mean for her?” Hell, what would that mean for someone like me?!? In the age of Uber drop-offs, Tinder hook-ups, and Facebook break-ups, what does it mean for a woman to “put herself out there?” Well, I’ve never been a woman and I’m not going to front as if I have the slightest clue what it feels like to be a single female diving into the deep end of the dating pool, especially within the Me Generation that has a reputation for breaking up via text message. *shakes fist* “These damned, kids!” No. I’ll leave that blog post to someone else to write. I do know what it’s like to be a* Black/Heterosexual/Polyamorous/Male that’s been in the shallow end of the dating pool, wading towards infinity.

*It’s worth mentioning… Categories may shape my experience, but they do not define me as a human being. We all have more dimensions than any several categories.

As a [see above for a refresher on some categories provided to me by society] human, the concept of putting myself out there is interesting. The societal assumption** is that the male is supposed to approach the female in the courting process. “Hey girl! Hit me off with those digits!” “Hey girl! Do you come here often? Let’s go to my place and see if you cum there often!” Well, let’s all be glad that I’ve never been keen on the whole “approach some strange woman in a bar and try to take her home” thing. I’d be getting slapped on a regular basis! Yeah, not my thing. But, wait! If I’m not the Mack of Frama-Lama-Ding-A-Ling, holl’in mo’ game than a referee, then how am I supposed to put myself out there!?

**It’s worth mentioning… That some may view my musings as heteronormative. I don’t think (nor have I ever thought) that heterosexuality is the “normal or preferred sexual orientation.” However, I am heterosexual and I write from my own worldview. My good intention is not to offend. But, we all know what they say about paving the road to hell.

My understanding of the phrase means to let the world know that I’m available and interested in dating and/or pursuing a relationship. Since I’m Polyamorous, I’m currently courting a few people. But, I’ve decided to put myself out there to find a Primary Partner. Two recent conversations helped me to come to this decision.

When my father took ill a few thousand miles away my brother was there to help my mom deal with his deteriorating health. My brother is a single father and he talked about how difficult it is to balance that with watching the slow decline of our Pop. He mentioned how he thought it would be easier to deal with such challenges if he were married. Before he began to explain what he meant, I was picking up what he was putting down. We spoke in agreement about the luxury of a partner that could help with the emotional weight of life. [Update: This happened a few months ago. Pop is doing well and still talkin’ shit. The family and I agreed that it didn’t really make sense for me to come home. So, I call him once a week just to send some love through the phone.]

In a separate incident, not so far away, I was humbled by a conversation with a regular in one of my [Group Exercise] classes. After the class ended, a man walked up to me and introduced himself by name [we’ll call him Jeff]. I found the introduction odd because I had seen Jeff in my class dozens of times. At the time of this odd introduction, it did occur to me that I hadn’t seen him over the past month or so. The introduction got stranger when he asked for my name. Because I know how horrible I am at remembering names, I conceded and we shook hands as if it were a first time meeting. Jeff went on to explain that he had been in a car accident and lost some of his memory. He said, “My wife tells me that I used to come to this class often.” My jaw dropped and I’m sure that I did a poor job of hiding the change in facial expression. The re-introduction made sense and it was an emotional reality check for me. We’ve all heard the gentle reminder to be kind to people because we don’t know what someone’s going through.

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It’s a completely different feeling when you’re faced with the experience of learning what someone else is enduring. At that point, it’s no longer some cliché from a screen, it’s very real. I found myself playing the macabre version of what if after that encounter. What if I lost my memory? Who would help me put the pieces back together? Would I have to give myself a series of tattoos as mementos? It would be nice if I had a wife or a partner to help me with the emotional weight of recovery.

I’ve been adamantly independent since I left home at 18. I’ve certainly had plenty of help along the way. [For all of the friends and lovers reading this that have washed a dish, fed a cat, or just listened to me vent without interruption, you know who you are and I perpetually thank you.] But, with such determined independence I’ve grown accustomed to doing everything by/for myself. The two aforementioned scenarios have acted as stark reminders that, despite preparation, I’m not meant to bear certain types of emotional weight alone. So, maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if I started using the P[artner]-word again. With this post and two new online dating profiles, I’m officially out there, World!

It’s worth mentioning… I still don’t know WTF “out there” means. I was never hiding or hidden. I’ve never rejected the notion of a Primary Partner. I have certainly had my “Fuck-That-Shit!” moments of angst after a former Partner told me that she’d wait for someone better to come along (that’s not an exaggeration, that’s what she confirmed when I called her out.) But, I’ve always accepted love in my life in the spirit of friendship, aroused physical connections, or both. Now, I’m just showing a profile picture and writing about myself and my ideal her as if I’m shopping on Amazon. [Yes, it feels that weird to me!] So, if you see me on OKC or PolyMatchMaker.com, now you know why. I’m seeking a Polyamorous friend that will be there for me in more ways than I can possibly list. I’ll know her when I meet her.

Special Note: The last time that I had a dating profile was 2010 and I swore that I’d rather stab my eye out with a rusty metal dildo than ever fill out another one of those goddamned “this is why you should pick me” biographies. In my 24 hours back in this online dating world, I’ve noticed that women still do three silly things with their profile pictures. [Before anyone tries to derail this special note, I’m aware that men do the same or worse shit with their profile pics. But, I’m not searching for them, so write your own post about the dumb ass Bro photos. You can also read this post to understand why you will continue to receive dick pics.] 1.) Group Photos. I don’t know what you look like well enough to know which one is you. Furthermore, why is that your default pic? 2.) Faux Diversity Photos. That picture with your one Black friend doesn’t say anything about the diversity in your circle. That picture with the orphans from your trip to Africa also feels shoehorned. 3.) Self-objectification Photos. I understand that your profile states that you’re just here for casual encounters. But, when all of your pics are of your ass or cleavage (with no face) I’m dumbfounded. WTF!?

Back in Parochial school we sang the hymn, “No Man Is An Island” and I’ve often tried to remind my clients that accepting support and love is a sign of intelligence and strength. Strength is a choice and I’ve made the choice to accept the support and love of a partner because I’m following my own advice.