Harris O’Malley on the cold, hard truth about the friend zone.
One of the most frequently asked questions I get is about the dreaded “friend zone.”* How to avoid it, how to get out of it, why do well-meaning nerds keep getting stuck in it… It’s the nerd equivalent of The Bermuda Triangle. It is the Phantom Zone of geeks. It is Oan Science Cell of Love. It is the Chateau D’if of l’amour. You get the point. It blows goats and like death and taxes, it’s more or less inevitable when people are chasing the girls that they like.
And here’s the thing: the Friend Zone as we know it? Doesn’t really exist.
I know, I know. “Whaaaaaaaat?!”
The cold hard truth of it is, when you’re hearing “I just want to be friends”, “I like you but…” or the equally dreaded “it would ruin our friendship”, you’re not being thrown in the Friend Zone. What you’re hearing is generations of social pressure telling women that they can’t risk being direct for fear of offending someone. The words may be “You’re just such a good friend to me,” but the intended meaning behind it is “I don’t want to sleep with you.”
Y’see, there’s nothing inherent in friendship that precludes a sexual or romantic relationship; the act of simply sleeping with someone doesn’t magically change everything about a person except for the knowledge of what they look like naked and the fact that they make reallygoddamn goofy faces when they’re having sex. Sex, in and of itself, is neutral. It’s only what goes on in people’s heads that adds significance and meaning to it. And that’s where the Friend Zone comes in.
Because women have been taught all their lives that being direct and risking making someone upset is the gravest of all social sins, they couch their refusal in gentler – if misleading – terms. Now, their reasons for refusing will vary; it could be as simple as she doesn’t find the other person sexually attractive. She could be attracted to somebody else, but doesn’t want to bring it up. She could legitimately be afraid that having sex would complicate or change things – which is a topic for another time. But the end result? She doesn’t want to sleep with you. Hell, depending on the woman, she may not even want to be friends with you, but again: socialization says she can’t tell you this. So you get let down gently… and she inadvertently shreds your self-esteem into brightly colored confetti.
Now, is there a way of getting out of the Friend Zone?
Actually… yes. Yes there is. But that, my friends, is a whole different post.
This article originally appeared on Paging Dr. Nerd Love. Reprinted with permission.
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