"I just want to be your friend, is it ever going to be enough?" Emily Haines, Metric
As it so often goes, inspiration struck me today while listening to a song by Metric, sung by Emily Haines, who just happens to be one of my feminist role models. The song was “Gold Guns Girls.”
A few days ago, I did a post about slut-shaming. I wanted to talk now about the opposite extreme: “The Friend Zone.”
Now, “The Friend Zone,” as I understand it, is a metaphorical penal colony where some men, usually the ones who believe themselves to be the perfect hypothetical boyfriend, are exiled by a ruling tribunal of heartless women who want to ruin their lives by enjoying their company, but not having sex with them. (The nerve of some people! I’d rant to a therapist about it, but they’re not allowed to have sex with their patients, and apparently people aren’t allowed to share their feelings and develop a rapport unless they are also willing to have sex with the other person.)
The “friend zone” concept was apparently initially supposed to apply only to a situation where one person develops unrequited romantic feelings for another, but the latter person wants to remain friends with the former. Usually, there’s some outside factor that’s forcing them to maintain an active relationship, though. They might be co-workers or classmates, or share a large number of mutual friends.
I could understand why this could be upsetting. After all, it’s a crushing experience to find out that the person you have feelings for doesn’t feel the same way (probably the origin of the word “crush”).
But the thing is, it’s almost always viewed to be the woman’s fault. The guys who claim to be “in the friend zone” usually think that if only the women would just date them anyway, even though they don’t want to, this wouldn’t be a problem for him! In reality, this whole situation could be avoided if he would just accept that there’s usually very little overlap between the people any given person likes and the people who like them, and stop expecting every woman he meets to fall in love with him.
Now, women can have feelings of unrequited love too, of course. Some of them even consider themselves to be “in the friend zone.” However, while I’ve met literally dozens of men who use the “friend zone” to vilify women, I’ve never met even one woman who uses it to vilify men. Most women I know either use the term ironically or understand the advice I’m about to give the men who use it:
If you think you’re “in the friend zone,” consider:
- No one is forcing you to stay friends with this woman. If you can only see her as a woman who won’t be your girlfriend and not as a friend, then you’re not doing anyone any favors by continuing that friendship. You’re just making yourself feel like shit, and trust me, if that’s how you really feel about her, she’s better off without you.
- If her friendship means enough to you that wouldn’t want to cut off all ties over something like that, then you have no reason to be complaining. Again, she’s not forcing you to be her friend even though you’re feeling hurt. You can EITHER be her friend and stop blaming her for your feelings, OR you can continue blaming her and stop being her friend. You can’t have it both ways, and only the first way makes you not an asshole. (Or maybe you could just talk to her. Odds are, if she wants you as a friend and you’re okay with being her friend even though she doesn’t think of you romantically, you should be able to work through it.)
Which brings me back to my original point. Metric’s song (Gold Guns Girls) is about a woman who, much like Haines herself, has grown fed up of all the bullshit she gets from a sexist society. She pleads with the unnamed friend, reminding him of how they had been there for each other when no one else was, and saying that she just wants to be his friend. She asks “is it ever going to be enough?” Judging by the rest of the lyrics, I’d assume the answer is “no,” since the narrator realizes that even if she gave him everything he asked for, “enough for her” will never match “enough for him.” It will never be enough as long as he values his needs over hers.
And that’s what I’m trying to say here. No matter your gender, please remember that no relationship that starts because you insist your wants and needs are more important than the other person’s (which is what “the friend zone” concept does) is going to be healthy for either person. I could probably fill a book with the names of women I’ve had unrequited romantic feelings for who later became very close friends of mine, and do you know what? I can honestly say that I’m happier having moved past it and embraced a wonderful friendship than I would have been if I had sulked about being in “the friend zone” or cast these women out of my life rather than have any contact with them that wasn’t exactly what I wanted.
Please consider that. In this situation, you can choose your level of happiness. You can be really upset (friend zone), you can sweep the issue under the rug and go on with your life as if it never happened (stop having her as a regular part of your life), or you can explore a different aspect of this relationship, accept what you have, and try to make the best of it (make an effort to move past it and be friends anyway). If you find that you can’t be friends despite this, then do both of you a favor and move on. “We both wanted different things out of the relationship” is pretty much the best reason to cut and run before anyone gets seriously hurt.
But sulking about being in “the friend zone” is the coward’s way out. It’s choosing to be upset. It’s putting an ultimatum on somebody you supposedly care about that they must either love you or lose you. It’s as bad as calling yourself a “nice guy” and then wondering why “the girls all go for assholes.” It’s misogynist bullshit, and I’m sick of hearing people blame the girl for not sharing feelings she didn’t know about, rather than just admitting the situation sucks and moving on with their lives.