There’s been quite a lot of online anger flung around the concept of “the friend zone” lately, as precipitated by the (MOSTLY ON POINT, IMO) Nice Guy shaming blog “Nice Guys Of Ok Cupid.” Some people think it is mean, as these are real human beings with feelings who are being shamed here (no matter the fact that they have completely fucked up ideas about women, friendship, and the degree to which anyone ever “owes” another person love or sex.) Yet others think it is fine, because the need to collectively reject and expose the worldview of the “nice guy” supersedes any momentary pain that may be inflicted on these feminism-challenged emotional dullards. I’m not going to rehash all of the feminist (and just plain human decency-related) reasons why it is totally messed up for any man to think a woman should reciprocate his affections just because he is her “friend”(I use scare quotes because these men and I have different definitions of friendship), as I think they are self evident to most readers of The Gloss. But I will speak a bit about how the concept of “the friend zone” has hurt me personally.
Here is something you should know about me: once upon a time, I was a young person very badly in need of some solid friends. I didn’t fit in at high school, or college either. Who would hang out and watch movies and eat food and talk shit and take in musical performances with me? There were times when it seemed like the answer was “no one.” More than once, I started hanging out with a male person who seemed to want to be my friend, only to discover that male person had “feelings” (romantic or otherwise) for me. At which point, things didn’t go so well.
I’ve been burned more than once by dudes who dropped me like a hot potato once they realized I wasn’t going to fuck them. Do you know how that made me feel? Like someone who was appealing for my female parts only, and boring in every other way imaginable. It made me feel, quite frankly, like shit, and only contributed to my semi-low self esteem at that point in time. And one of the worst mistakes of my life was partly the result of someone using the concept of “the torturous friendzone” to manipulate me into doing things I didn’t really want to do. “If you don’t start dating me, I might withold my friendship, which you need,” was basically how my “friend”‘s line went.
As a result, I began to reject straight male friendship completely. Rather than risk having that horrid thing happen again, I sought out friendships with women and gay men only (yes, some women are attracted to other women, but the queer women I know do not generally try to fuck straight girls), and eventually I built up a pretty solid friend group sans straight males. To be honest, I didn’t miss them at all.
Of course, there’s something to be said for having a diverse group of friends, and I’ve been lucky enough to acquire a few solid straight dude buddies since then. Of my decently close hetero male friends (say, people I wouldn’t feel weird hanging out with one-on-one), one is someone I used to date. Several came to me by way of frequent (and I mean frequent) group hangs. Some are former roommates. Some are friends of my boyfriend, or boyfriends of my friends. But virtually zero of them are the result of the type of one-on-one platonic “friend dates” I like to go on when I’m getting to know a woman, because those still terrify me when straight men are involved. (Less so now that I have a boyfriend, but still a little bit. No, I was not friends with him first.)
Is this whole thing my fault for being a terrible judge of character to the point that I opened myself to emotionally scarring experiences? Maybe. But maybe the concept of “the friend zone” is also entrenched in our culture to the point where some otherwise decent men fail at being good friends to women. Food for thought, at the very least.
And lest you think that I’m some kind of friendship fascist who’s opposed to all romantic overtures on the part of platonic friends, I am not. Plenty of people have met their SOs that way. You just can’t be a dick about it. In my opinion, when you are attracted to a friend, you are allowed to make it known to your friend once, and only once. If that friend doesn’t feel the same way, you are not allowed to bring it up again, because it will make your friend fairly uncomfortable, and that’s not what friends do to each other. If you drop your friend because she won’t fuck and/or date you, you were never her friend to begin with, and she is totally justified in applying the “Nice Guy” label to you. If it hurts you too much to be around her, you can take a little time to mope, but if you really like her as a friend, you’ll get over it. (Also: you will start going on dates with other people.) I think that’s more than fair.
Commence the dumping of men’s rights haterade upon me!