You heard us, it doesn’t exist.
When I think of the friend zone, I always think of the popular rom-com trope of the best mate in movies.
You know the one, the ‘nice guy’ who dejectedly looks on while the female lead gets whisked off into the sunset on the back of a motorbike by her hunky boyfriend.
And the audience all roots for him and feels sorry for him because he’d go out of his way to do anything for her. But he’s been ‘friend zoned’, so everyone berates the girl for choosing the jock, because DOESN’T SHE KNOW HER REAL LOVE IS RIGHT THERE BESIDE HER?!! Except that he’s not, because, guys, friend zoning is not a thing.
You heard me.
This rom-com heroine didn’t ‘friend zone’ him; she simply isn’t into him like that.
For whatever the reason, she didn’t want to be in either an emotional or sexual relationship with this guy, and his feelings are unrequited. Should she be shamed for that? No. Should her ‘behavior’ in wanting a friendship with this person be considered ‘brutal rejection’? No. Do we have some sort of obligation as women to give every person who has feelings for us a chance in return for them being nice?
No, we certainly do not.
But the friend zone implications are exactly the opposite of that. The words are most commonly used by dudes who think that if they’re nice (i.e. display the basic form of human decency), then a girl should logically want to drop everything and immediately fall in love or into bed with him. It implies there’s a window of opportunity in every single platonic relationship where a friend could have maybe turned into a lover, but because of inaction or a wrong turn on the part of the guy, he ended up on the highway to friend town. And this is wrong. So wrong.
For one, it implies that once a man and a woman are friends, the possibilities for it to turn into something more are long gone. Just because someone has decided to be friends with someone, doesn’t mean that down the track something might not develop between them. The friend zone mentality paints friendship as some sort of permanent punishment; a runner-up prize, or something to be dodged. It says that the people who end up in the ‘friend zone’ did so because they weren’t full of enough testosterone to grab that woman and make her love him. Which, you know, is a little bit rapey.
And that brings me to the whole ‘choice’ dealio. The implications of the friend zone are that a woman has CHOSEN to not be romantically attracted to someone and has therefore made a conscious decision to put him in the friend basket. That if she wanted to, she could have flipped the love switch and all of a sudden be all hearts and flowers head-over-heels for her forlorn, lovesick bestie.
Let me tell you, if we could choose who we were attracted to, I would not still be single today.
Moreover, it implies that love is transactional. That if a guy does enough things, spends enough time with her, and is basically a decent human, that a woman has an obligation to flip that (unflippable) switch, and give her friend the romantic attention he ‘deserves’. And if she doesn’t? Well, she’s just mean and using her friendship to lead him on. Ah, an entitlement to love, how flipping romantic!
When you Google ‘friend zone’, it’s clear it’s thoroughly ingrained in our social consciousness.
Articles such as Avoiding the Friend Zone, or 5 Reasons You Ended Up In The Friend Zone And What To Do About It pepper the pages. Here’s a reason you ended up being friends with a girl you have feelings for: she’s just not that into you but she still wants you in her life. And that should be something to be celebrated, not something bemoaned over a beer with your mates, talking about how because you’re so nice to her you somehow deserve a look-in romantically.
Memes of girls harshly friend zoning ‘nice guys’ are everywhere, followed with comment after comment chastising the girl. How messed up is the world when people think being friend zoned is worse than finding out someone you thought cherished and valued you as a person only wanted to get into your pants?
Sure, some people don’t use it in that derogatory way. Some women have started to take back the term and talk about friend zoning guy mates as a way to explain how they don’t find them dateable. But even then, it still implies some sort of fault on the part of the person being ‘zoned’. Perhaps we need to consider taking it out of the lexicon altogether, because of the overwhelmingly negative implications it has.
Friendship should not be viewed as some sort of penalty box for the loser; it’s a relationship that should be celebrated, rather than devalued by this crappy term.
Images via weheartit.com and giphy.com.
Comment: When were you last shamed for ‘friend zoning’ someone?
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Elizabeth is a journalist and editor who’s great at providing relationship advice… for everyone but herself. She’s happy to share her own hilariously bad attempts at finding love, and in her spare time likes long walks down the makeup aisle. Follow Elizabeth on Instagram (@thebeautypalate) for all the beauty product eye candy and mouthwatering food you can handle.