Fuck the friend zone.
Before you throw your phone across the room in a feminist rage, let me elaborate. I’m not saying fuck being in the friend zone. I’m saying fuck it as a general concept, because I don’t think it actually exists. Saying someone put you in the ‘friend zone’ is essentially just a way of blaming them for not being attracted to you. It’s the relationship equivalent of a participation ribbon, as if being friends with someone is less worthwhile than dating them. It doesn’t help that the phrase is almost always used derogatorily toward women, as a complaint that despite the fact of man performing acts of basic decency, the woman won’t reward him by providing sex.
Listen, I get it– it’s hard out there. In the shark tank that is the New York dating scene it’s natural to look to your friends, and sometimes you can’t help it when the feelings creep up. Or maybe you met someone new, and you figure the best way to get in is to keep your intentions hidden (for now). But how you deal with these feelings and intentions is the true marker of whether you’re an adult or an adult baby.
So I say death to the friend zone. Not only can we be less sexist but, goddamnit, we can be more precise. For your consideration I offer up these five zones more accurate than the friend zone to help you navigate the turbulent waters.
The “Let’s Get a Drink Sometime!” Zone
This zone (and its cousin, the “Let’s Get Coffee Sometime”) smacks of more false promises than the 2nd Ave subway line. But you have such great chemistry in your flirty texts! But he/she retweets you all the time! Sorry homie, the stars are not aligned for you. Even if you make it to the stage where you have concrete plans, the inevitable something-came-up message is going to come, and the Sisyphean cycle of making plans will begin again. You’re better off giving up now because it’s never going to happen. Oh, and do yourself a favor: be the one who stops texting first.
The “We Made Out Once But Let’s Never Talk About It” Zone
We all have one of these people, that friend of a friend we ended up outside a bar or a house party with after a few too many. The make out was ill-advised but you probably had a good reason to celebrate at the time, like maybe you got promoted or you finally got Hamilton tickets (just kidding, no one gets Hamilton tickets). As you kissed on the street two homeless men shouted “Get a room, we’re trying to do drugs!” a phrase I wish I were not drawing from memory. And as quickly as you came together, you parted ways onto your respective trains, wondering what the hell just happened. Will it happen again? No. Like a trip to the Ripley’s Believe It or Not! museum, there are some things that should only be done once. The next time you see each other, an awkward first glance seals the pact—we must never speak of this again.
The “It Happened in a Dream and I Still Feel Weird About It” Zone
Have you ever woken up in the morning feeling as though your life might never be the same? That’s what it’s like after you have a steamy dream about one of your friends, your coworker; your mailman, even. Someone you had once considered in a purely platonic light has invaded your sleep, rocked your world, and now you can’t stop thinking about them. You wander around in a daze, not sure if you’re actually attracted to them viz. the dream or just morbidly curious because of it. When you meet them again in real life you’ll struggle to keep your cool, as if terrified they’ll telepathically know what your sleeping brain made them do. On the outside you’ll treat them the same, but on the inside you’ll always wonder if reality would match up to your dreams. My advice for anyone stuck in this zone is to watch a lot of Full House, in hopes that a young John Stamos can cleanse your sex dream palate.
The “I’d Be On You in a Heartbeat But I’m Perfectly Happy as Your Friend” Zone
While this might be commonly be mistaken for the Friend Zone, the difference here is in the way this zone distinguishes between attraction and infatuation. The attraction is not the basis of the friendship, but more of a footnote. You’re not going to do anything about the fact that you’re into this person, but if they ever revealed romantic feelings for you then oh man it would be SO ON. In a way, this zone is sort of the opposite of the Friend Zone, because the friendship is granted more importance. It says “Hey, you’re someone I value having in my life regardless of the nature of our relationship, but if you’re ever into me too, I’d be more down than the fucking South Pole.”
The “In Another Life, But Not This One” Zone
This zone is reserved for that singular person in your life who always makes you wonder what could have existed had things been just a little different, had you made different choices. You suspect that somewhere in the multiverses there exists a version where you’re together and it’s beautiful. Maybe it’s the universe next to this one. But all you have here is the wisp of Something Else. This zone is the hardest of all to remain friends in, I think, because in a way it forces you to watch this other version of your life pass you by, receding on the horizon and disintegrating like a dream before you can catch it. It’s okay to be sad or bitter about this zone, but don’t let it rule you, or rob you of a healthy relationship with someone who is otherwise important to you.
I’m going to get real on you for a second, so buckle up: sometimes we don’t get what we want. Sometimes, two people can be attracted to each other and, in spite of that, a relationship is still not feasible. Sometimes things like distance, differing career paths, and the classic bad timing can thwart a relationship that would otherwise happen.
Sometimes loving someone is not enough.
But as the coolest dude ever, Albus Dumbledore, once said: “It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.”
You might disagree with me. You might still prefer to wallow in your self-serving hunch that the Friend Zone is a very real thing that sucks in very real ways, like all unrequited love does, and it’s perfectly within your right to do so. But if you truly think that you’ve been friend-zoned, and are “friends” with someone right now solely because you want to date them, then take two fucking huge steps back and think about exactly what it is you’re doing. In fact, ask yourself this question: if this person were to make it explicit that they did not want to become sexually or romantically involved with me, would I still want to be their friend?
If the answer is no, congratulations! You can’t possibly be in the friend zone, because you were never their friend in the first place.