THINK ABOUT IT: Dangers lurk in ‘friend zone’

By Samantha Higgins
The Scene staff

The “friend zone.” What is it? Where does it come from? Is it even real?

Let’s say a man meets a woman he’s especially taken with, like it’s electric — at least for him. He’s simply infatuated with her.

The woman, however, doesn’t feel that connection and immediately lets him know that she isn’t interested. She still enjoys this person as a friend and continues to talk to him and hang out with him, strictly as friends. The man can’t stop thinking about this woman. He just can’t control it.

When he approaches her about his feelings, she kindly tells him he doesn’t feel the same. They continue to be friends. He nurses his broken-hearted angst quietly and tortures himself in her presence, what is better known as living life in the “friend zone.”

What happened here? Did this woman “throw him into the friend zone?” Or did she simply reject him and he ignored it?

Before we go any further, I want to say that I’m writing from the view of a woman pursued by men because this is the situation I am most familiar with. Nothing is implied by this, and I fully consent that heteronormative relationships aren’t the only ones that include situations such as this.

That’s the problem with the idea of the friend zone. It’s never the truth. Just because you want something doesn’t mean it’s going to happen.

The friend zone historically comes from a place of male entitlement, the idea that even though she said “no” she couldn’t have meant it because it directly contradicts the wishes of him, a male, and we all know a man’s words have more bearing than a woman’s.

If someone tells you “no,” it means “no.” It doesn’t mean “hold out hope that I’ll leave my partner for you” or “try harder.” There’s a reason the mantra “No means ‘no’” exists, and when you think about why it exists, why we need to say it, it’s mind blowing. Why does my genitalia define the validity of my words?

Having feelings for someone who doesn’t feel the same is hard. It hurts and makes life unbearable for a while. I know, I’ve been there many times before. But nothing you do is going to change the fact that this person doesn’t feel the same and they never will.
The friend zone is nothing short of a delusion. It’s the intense belief that you could actually change someone else’s mind, let alone feelings.

Please listen to me: it’s not going to happen. Stop lying to yourself. Accept reality and move on. This advice comes from a place of solidarity, I get your pain but wallowing in heartache is extremely unhealthy for anyone. The best thing for you is to try to move past it and continue with your life.

The real danger of the friend zone is that both sides feel like the victim, and the argument can be made that both sides are. Using the scenario from the beginning, the woman never asked for attention and doesn’t want it. It makes certain situations awkward and causes her to tighten her circle.

Similarly, the man didn’t want to feel something for this woman and is experiencing emotional pain because of it. He can’t focus, especially if he has to continuously see the woman somewhere like work or school.

I know this isn’t how these things always play out. Another ending to the scenario is that the woman takes advantage of this man’s attraction to her and exploits it for various things such as money, control or simply an ego boost, what is better known as “keeping someone on the hook.”

I can’t stress how terrible a person who keeps someone on the “hook” is. What is wrong with you? What happened to you that makes you think that blatantly using someone is OK?

Again, I know it isn’t only heteronormative people who deal with these problems but the majority of the time it is women who deal with it. Or maybe I only see women in these situations because that’s what I’m used to and the argument that my ignorance is sexist or closed-minded could be made. I’ll concede that.

Then perhaps defining it as a question of respect is a better way to word it. It’s a lack of respect that this man who is infatuated with me can’t take what I say seriously and keeping someone on the hook is one of the most disrespectful things you could do.

Do you really care about someone that you don’t even have the decency to show respect to? Could someone who so obviously doesn’t respect you ever truly care about you? Do you respect yourself if you’re willing to do this to someone else?

Whatever the situation or gender is, the “friend zone” and the “hook” are both lies we tell ourselves to avoid the real problem, a severe lack of respect. So respect people.