wit & whimsy

The Friendzone

You know that little space between “girlfriend” and “girl friend?” That’s the Friendzone. As potentially depressing as it is to say, I consider myself to be an expert on the art friendzoning–for it is after all an art form. Sometimes I friedzone, and I don’t even know it’s happening–let alone the poor guy. (That’s how good I am.)

The Friendzone is the place where we corral the men we don’t completely want to date, but we still want them in our lives. As I mentioned in “Laws of Attraction,” each person we surround ourselves with sustains attractive qualities, even if said person isn’t necessarily attractive to our specific tastes. These are the people we friendzone. 

Mr. Collins is the perfect example of a man stuck in the Friendzone. As ridiculous as the man is, he found himself in a rather good situation at the service of Lady Catherine de Bourgh, though he didn’t have much else to recommend himself with. His manners were unpolished, thought not necessarily offensive (unless you’re Mr. Darcy and he skips social protocol by addressing you first–the impertinence!).

Poor Mary Bennet should have been his bride, possibly the only woman in the book who could’ve improved him in both manners and mind–rather than the toleration and coexistence that resulted from his union with Charlotte Lucas. 

Most guys obtain female friends in the hopes of the relationship evolving into something a little more…physical? Sure. Girls can have guy friends (though personally, I’ve never been able to successfully accomplish it).  But the difference is that once a guy is deemed a “friend,” it’s very difficult to move up into the ranks of “boyfriend.” 

Such a girl has deemed a guy suitable of being her personal confidant, but she doesn’t necessarily find him attractive enough to actually date. So instead, he is situated firmly in the Friendzone, where he must listen to all her problems (including boys problems), but alas, he reaps none of benefits of being the boyfriend. 

There are the occasional exceptions–the ”He was here all along!” stories. But I’ve never experienced such a moment myself. My friend Katie had that moment with her boyfriend Rob. Junior year of high school, they were set up by our other friend’s boyfriend, Rich. Everything started out sweet, all those adorably long text messages that you get in the beginning of a relationship–still shaving above the knee, if you know what I mean. But when she graduated a year early and moved away to college, she wanted to see what else was out there.

It took her a few months to realize what has been my daily struggle–good men are hard to find, so when you do find one, hold on to him. She bounced between frat party to frat party and kept finding the same sort of guy: well dressed in J. Crew, but with little interest in any serious intention of a relationship. (”I don’t want to be a traitor to my generation and all, but I just don’t get how guys dress today.” No words better encapsulate my sentiments about basic-looking frat boys.) After experiencing the horror of what it is to be single at a school dominated by the Greek system, Rob and Katie got back together and are still dating. (I suspect a serious proposal imminently.) 

Returning to the idea of a friendzoned guy not receiving the perks of a boyfriend–is this why guys get so pissed about being friendzoned? Because believe me, I can’t say I’ve ever received positive feedback from friendzoning. Sometimes I get frustrated–just because I’m nice to a guy and want to spend time talking with him doesn’t mean that I have to like him as more than a friend. Can’t a girl just be nice without having any ulterior motive?

This is where the stereotype arises that men and women can’t be friends–have you ever seen What If? with Daniel Radcliffe? (He plays a British med student–because having a British accent wouldn’t make him desirable enough, they had to make him a doctor, too.) Are all male friends secretly waiting in the shadows, hoping for a status upgrade to boyfriend?

I think something many men don’t know (or don’t consider) about the Friendzone is that if you’re there, she’s already taking you into consideration as “boyfriend material.” The difference is that you didn’t make the cut. This means she said “no” when she could’ve said “yes.” (I realize that’s harsh, but i’s the truth.) So as a compromise, she now gets to keep you with all your wit and whimsy, while continuing to look around for Mr. Right–or in my case, Mr. Darcy.

I often feel bad for men. In my personal experience, it’s much more common for a man to be the friendzonee, rather than the friendzoner. Men have to put up with a lot of crap from us fickle women. 

One of my best friends is firmly set on me marrying a kid we went to high school with. Granted, he’s adorable and very deserving of his senior award for “Nicest Guy,” but I’m not as certain she is that he’s my Mr. Darcy. I love to talk with him, and and he’s always available to listen to me, but I’m just not convinced that I feel “that way” about him. And if I’m not sure, then obviously I’m going to keep looking for something I’m sure of. 

I hope that I’m being clear that we women don’t friendzone for no reason. If you know that you’ve been friendzoned, it’s not because she doesn’t care. Once she knew it wouldn’t work or that there was no chemistry, she didn’t want to lead you on and hurt your feelings. 

It’s not intentionally bitchy–she’s just being honest. There is no ulterior motive for telling a guy “Hey, I’m just not that into you.” It’s saving both parties time and energy they could be spending with someone who could potentially be their Mr. Darcy or Elizabeth Bennet.

I started this post thinking I’d shed some light on friendzoning, and I hope I’ve done at least that. (Though, I don’t think I’ve quite gotten to the root of why it happens so often in my own relationships.) I have to believe that I friendzone for a reason. I’m not intentionally hurting anyone’s feelings, and in reality, I’m saving you precious time that you could be using to actually find a girl who loves all your little quirks that I just couldn’t get past.

Think about Lizzy and Mr. Collins. She rejected him, and that allowed him to move on to Charlotte–a woman who could accept him for what he was. A fundamental part of the friendzone is the unwavering resolve to not settle for something that is less than what we want.

At times, I’ll admit, it can be an option used too frequently–an eject button if a relationship moves too fast or we start to have doubts. I’m certainly guilty of overusing it myself. But the main takeaway is to ensure that both parties involved can find a happier ending, and isn’t that what we all want? Isn’t that why we date? 

The point of dating is not to just keep on dating; it’s to find love. We date so that after the twists and turns of life, the unreciprocated “I love you”’s, that weird guy who you went out with that one time who braided his beard, after all the no’s and uncertainty, we may all find a happiness that equates that of Miss Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy’s epic affair of the heart. 

Rostam’s Departure Might Be Just What Vampire Weekend Needs

The news that Rostam Batmanglij is leaving Vampire Weekend could be construed as the band’s death knell — if not literally, at least creatively. The group’s best-known factor has always been Ezra Koenig, a gifted singer-songwriter with a knack for masking his melancholy with cosmopolitan wit and whimsy. There is no Vampire Weekend without Ezra Koenig. But anyone who identifies as a Vampire Weekend fan or who pays any attention pop’s critical mainstream realizes Batmanglij contributed just as much to this band. His sonic framework lent depth and flavor to Koenig’s musings, both providing a musical pedigree to back up the intellectual posturing and charging the singer’s detached narratives with emotional weight. Koenig rendered Vampire Weekend catchy and clever; Batmanglij made them great.

Never were they greater than on 2013’s Modern Vampires Of The City, an album that confirmed frontman Koenig and producer-arranger Batmanglij as one of pop’s elite partnerships. With all due respect to the band’s underrated rhythm section, Chris Baio and Chris Tomson, and to producer Ariel Rechtshaid, who was on a roll that year, MVOTC was the moment Koenig and Batmanglij elevated their potent creative chemistry to genius level.

No one loved that album more than me. “[2013’s] most beautiful, timely, resonant record,” I called it. “An instant classic LP that sealed Vampire Weekend’s legacy as one of the finest bands of their generation,” I called it. It is so obviously one of the finest albums my generation will ever produce. It turned me into a Vampire Weekend stan forever. So why am I more or less OK with Batmanglij leaving the band?

For one thing, Vampire Weekend have never been a live powerhouse. Although their shows are always fun, these guys are merely proficient performers with an increasingly amazing catalog. None of them are known for their electric stage presence. So it doesn’t really matter whether Batmanglij is on stage with them. They might even get better by replacing him with a handful of new musicians — like, say, these guys — and bringing their live show more in line with their studio sound.

Vampire Weekend didn’t really sound like a traditional four-person rock band on Modern Vampires Of The City anyway. That’s a big part of the album’s appeal, the way it transcended the rock band paradigm, gracefully defying easy categorization. At a time when countless indie bands were plunging headfirst into mainstream pop and R&B, often in ways that felt like craven crossover attempts, Vampire Weekend evolved in a way that felt natural and good and right. Their metamorphosis was timely, but it yielded timeless results.

The far bigger fear for fans would be losing out on the studio collaboration responsible for all that goodness. But the message from both Koenig and Batmanglij is that the new Vampire Weekend will not really be post-Rostam in any practical sense. Per Rostam: “Ezra and I will continue to collaborate on future projects + future VW songs.” Per Ezra: “Rostam and I sat down at his house & talked abt whether our collaboration was dependent on being members of the same band. We both firmly agreed that nope, it was not. In fact, we agreed that our collaboration was more important.” It sounds like the change is largely semantic, a chance for Batmanglij to pursue his own vision and assert his own agency. These days, it’s a lot more prestigious to be a hotshot freelance producer than a supporting player in a rock band.

It’s relieving to know that Batmanglij will still be around to apply his magic to Vampire Weekend’s music. But it’s also intriguing to know that he won’t be around all the time. After dropping a masterpiece like Modern Vampires Of The City on us, the band can’t just retreat back into their wheelhouse. They need to find a way to keep growing, and tweaking the lineup is one exciting way to try. Having closed out an exceptional coming-of-age trilogy — their preppy white analogue to The College Dropout, Late Registration, and Graduation, if you will — it’s time for a radical departure. It’s time for Vampire Weekend to make their 808s & Heartbreak.

I mention 808s in part because my original Kid A comparison didn’t quite fit, but also because as a blueprint for Vampire Weekend’s next step it might not be so far from the truth. Koenig has already proven he can do amazing things outside the context of his main band, and one of the best of them was his depressive sing-song rap verse on iLoveMakonnen’s “Down 4 So Long” remix. So maybe they’ll make a whole album of that! I’m not sure I want Vampire Weekend to veer off in a direction I can so easily predict — though an Ezra Koenig rap mixtape is certainly welcome — but if they’re going to keep up this hot streak, some kind of transformation is in order. And Batmanglij’s quasi-departure is nothing if not some kind of transformation.