In American sitcom Friends, Ross is described as being in the friend zone. Credit: Youtube.com.
The friend zone. Three dreaded words for most men. The Wikipedia page for ‘friend zone’ credits the sitcom Friends with popularizing the phrase, with Joey describing Ross as "the mayor of friend zone". Since it became mainstream, the friend zone has been a terrible place where nobody wants to end up.
For anybody unfamiliar with this cultural obsession, here is a brief description from Urban Dictionary:
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.
Examples: "I spent all that money on a date, just to find out she put me in the Friend Zone (said with eerie echo)."
We’re meant to pity the poor men who fall into this 'trap'. And it is usually, though not always, men who describe their relationships with women in this way. Men are supposedly only interested in women as sexual objects; failure to attain the sex that we think we're entitled to calls into question our masculinity. We’re also supposed to believe that the relationship with the friend who has friend zoned you has zero value, because it is sexless.
“You’re such a good friend” is seen as an ultimate slur, she is described by said man and his friends as a “bitch” (or worse) and is accused of leading on the poor, innocent male who merely wanted to get her into bed.
Men will often advise their male friends on how to get out of the friend zone. How to manipulate your ‘friend’ into sleeping with you. Use another woman to make her jealous. Ignore her and wait for her to come crawling back: how could she cope without you?! Because women are so stupid, apparently, that they need to have your greatness confirmed to them through mind-tricks. This narrative makes out like heterosexual male-male relationships are the only genuine friendships that exist.
If you don’t believe me just look at the comments underneath this Youtube song about the friend zone.
What this all means is that some men simply do not want to be friends with women. Society often tells us that it’s impossible for a genuine friendship to exist between a man and a woman. Men are only interested in sleeping with women and if they do not, it is because the women are being selfish and “not putting out”.
It’s also narcissistic. The world does not revolve around men. The fact that said woman only sees the man as a friend might have nothing to do with the way he looks, his interests or anything else. It might be entirely unrelated to him.
Like many men, I have previously been described as being in the dreaded friend zone. I have been ‘just friends’ with a woman that I had deep feelings for. Several of my male friends looked down on the fact that I spent a lot of time with this person and didn’t have sex with her, as if this is the only real reason to hang out. One of my friends would regularly ask, “have you shagged her yet?” despite being aware of the situation.
When I said that I didn’t care and it’s not about that, I was told to “sack it off” and to “come and get lashed instead”. It was as if it was impossible to justify spending time with my friend unless I was having sex with her. This is true for a lot of men who have close female friends. Lad culture sees the friendship as completely meaningless.
These male friends derided me and her (to me) for hanging out. They reduced her to being a sexual object and in the process didn’t respect her, or me, for wanting to spend time with her and appreciate our friendship.
One friend chimed in and said “Mate you’re long gaming hard. It’s pretty tragic.’’ It wasn’t easy being friends with someone I had deep feelings for, but it was made a million times worse by hearing misogynistic comments from my supposed friends.
I think part of it, for guys, is that they feel like they’ve been replaced. They feel threatened by their male friends having close female friends because they know that often the friendship is far more real. I think the very nature of my male friends’ misogyny was one reason why I preferred spending time with this particular friend. With her I could be far more open and honest, I was more myself with her than friends I’d known for most of my life.
I think deep down my male friends 1) want a hug and 2) are jealous that we don’t have the same closeness. All our masculine bravado gets in the way of forming real, deep relationships. Many of my women friends and I engage with each other intellectually and emotionally, but with some (not all) of my male friends, they’re more concerned with who they’ve matched on Tinder than social injustice or the way they feel deep down.
The reality is that in any good friendship both parties have a profound and positive impact on each other’s lives, regardless of gender or whether there is close bodily contact or not. I got a lot out of the friendship and really valued the time spent with this person, as I do from all of my close friendships. She wasn’t leading me on by spending time with me, because we were friends and funnily enough, friends spend time together.
I was never in the friend zone, nor is anyone who is referred to as such. Because the friend zone doesn’t exist. I was just very good friends with someone who I deeply cared about and my life has been far better off for her presence in it.
Let’s stop talking about the friend zone. Instead, let's just be there for the people we care about. Let’s respect the opinions and wishes of those around us and let’s try to have a positive impact on all of our friends, whatever their gender.