Why I think the Term "Friend Zone" Needs to Go
2018 is in full swing! Final resolutions are still being made, as we attempt to put the woes of last year behind us. If there’s one thing that I wish everyone could let go of is the use of the word “Friend zone”. I’ll admit, that I've been known to use the expression frequently, but that's in the past. Yes, the word itself may be harmless, but it’s the implications in the deeper denotative meaning that I’ve identified problems with. I’ve grown into the understanding that the arbitrary concept is distorted. Emotions are mixed with entitlement crafting a concept that is quite skewed.
Now, let me take this opportunity to explain why I believe we need to all wave goodbye to the term “Friend zone.” (Spoiler Alert: it’s because it's not real)
Google the expression and you’ll find numerous videos, articles, even songs, giving a play-by-play of what it’s like to be trapped in the friend zone. All these source offer, plenty of advice on how to remove yourself from this said “zone”, but here’s my take. It does not exist, and if you think it does, then just note that you’re probably are the one putting yourself there.
For those of you unfamiliar with the phrase, let me provide you a quick definition. “Friend Zone” is a term that describes a state of rejection when expressed attraction for someone isn’t reciprocated. Some, see it as relationship purgatory, others view it as a waiting room for emotions before they taking a second attempt at pursuing the relationship. In other words, it’s a made-up land that we send ourselves to, to sulk, be bitter, and often complain. We sit there and mope about being wronged by someone who isn’t attracted to us.
My friends both, male and female, constantly complain about being placed in the friend zone. I’ve found that guys are quick to toss themselves in this “zone” when they complain about being rejected (that’s not to say that my ladies don’t do it too, we do).
A key assumption about the friend zone is that once you’re in there you’re stuck. Relationships are turning into more of a game with the friend zone is an added play. Once rejection strikes, you’re placed in a jail of unreciprocated feelings; Now you’re forced to sink into the quicksand of potentially lost love. Don’t let my exaggerated humor it distracts you from the key sentiment. I simply hope to illustrate how the notion is just a tad melodramatic and unnecessary.
First is the issue of entitlement. If you’re interested in someone, that’s great. Just note that no one is obligated to reciprocate romantic feelings towards you. You don’t owe anyone a chance. Similarly, they don't need to give you a chance either. Expressing interest in someone takes courage. I completely understand that it’s not always easy to express when you’ve grown fond of someone, however, let’s not get confused. Telling someone you’re into them doesn't guarantee a return in those feelings. After someone communicates that they aren’t interested, we as individuals need be able to digest it and then move on.
Early last year, one of mine called me out for “dumping him in the friend zone without warning”. He was angry, upset, and accused me of playing games, by not letting him know that he would “be stuck in the friend zone”.
The confrontation was uncomfortable since I never came close to suggesting (through actions or speech) intentions of pursuing him romantically. I felt like I was being put on trial, for not being interested in someone even though I valued him as a great friend. Clearly, that was the issue. The fact that I just wanted to be friends.
I was left with the odd sense of guilt. But after some time, I said wait?
Why should anyone feel guilty for not wanting to pursue anything past a friendship with someone?
Sure, It hurts being on the receiving end, but I think having a term to describe that implies that it is a faux pas if you don’t want to pursue a romantic connection with someone. Not being romantically attracted to someone isn’t shameful. It has nothing to do with being a heartbreaker. You should never feel forced into returning feelings for someone.
Our minds are the only things that put us in the friend zone. No matter what side of the “zone” you are the word has ill effects. For the person put in the “friend zone”, realize that yes, rejection hurts, but we’re often the ones labeling ourselves in this arbitrary category. Creating a self-inflicted struggle, we place ourselves in this negative territory, which often results in going after someone who has stated they feel otherwise.
If you face rejection forcing your attraction on someone who isn’t interested in many cases is frustrating and a turn-off. Pursuing someone who clearly does not want to be pursued is far from flattering. Instead, it can be rather offensive and annoying.
Another dimension of the “friend zone” is when you may feelings for a friend, but never speak on it. When placing ourselves in the “just friends category”, it becomes easy to misinterpret platonic interactions as someone showing interest in you. Again, only we are placing ourselves into this unnecessary box.
Another close friend of mine, Josh, recently was complaining about how he’d been fried zoned, by one of his best friends. After discussing what he meant, he told me that over the course of a few months his female friend kept asking him to study, go for lunch, and watch movies. At first, I understood why Josh put himself in this category. As the story went on, Josh later revealed that he never disclosed to her that he’d caught feeling for her.
From his perspective, he felt like she was leading him on. Josh was crafting a pseudo-romance by misinterpreting their encounters as mini-dates. Meanwhile, she thought they were just hanging out as friends as their interactions were all every-day experiences that friends enjoy together.
Although I was empathetic to his emotions, I explained that he should have revealed to her that he was romantically interested in her. Though Josh thought I was being insensitive, he eventually came around. After he stated:
“Wow, did I really just friend zone myself?’
I knew he understood.
He saw a glimpse of how he should have stated that he had developed feelings for her. We laugh about it now, but the frustration he was in could have been reduced. Do you see the pain we put ourselves in by stating we’re in the “friend zone”?
If we don’t make it clear that we have feelings for someone, we shouldn’t expect them to see us as anything more than just that -a friend. Additionally, It’s important to not be quick to confuses someone being nice, and friendly to them being interested in you.
Lastly, the term friend zone creates a false notion that it’s a bad thing to just be someone’s friend. It also adds a fear of pursuing someone when you equate rejection into being dumped into a “zone”. It’s not a failure to be friends with someone. I’ll admit that rejection hurts. No, rejection sucks, but sticking ourselves in this imaged land allows us to brew resentment, only making the sting worst.
That’s not healthy for you, or the person who may have rejected you. It’s time to move on. Furthermore, sometimes a friendship may be better than a romantic relationship. Friends should be valuable connections in everyone lives.
We all should respect ourselves enough to see past this imagined idea. Remember, you shouldn’t feel bad about not wanting to pursue someone. Just as, you shouldn’t feel entitled to someone’s attraction. You are not in “the friend zone” unless you put yourself there! It doesn’t exist. I hope I could set that straight because that’s what friends are for!
So, until next time,
That's just me,