A recent dating phenomenon, the “friend zone,” as it’s called, is a situation where, after asking someone out, they respond by offering friendship. When a simple, “No, thank you,” will suffice, friend zoning places a person in the ambiguous purgatory of the dating universe; suspended in an ever-ambiguous realm, stuck between paradise and damnation, the friend zone is the “you’re-not-bad-but-I-don’t-want-to-date-you” copout, a way of rejecting a person without really rejecting them.
And it has happened to the best of us.
I, for instance, have been friend zoned on a number of occasions. After meeting a girl at a bookstore, getting her number, and engaging in a long conversation, I was subsequently – and unexpectedly – friend zoned.
“You’re really cool and interesting,” she wrote to me in a text, “but I’m not exactly available. I am,” she added, “interested in making new friends” (my emphasis).
I mean, let’s get real: is everyone that eager to make new friends? I don’t know about you, but I stopped taking friendship applications in college. In fact, the last time I walked up to a stranger and asked them to be my friend was probably in the fifth grade on the schoolyard playground. But as we adults have learned, real friendships are based on more than vague common interests and once-off encounters.
Signs that you’re in the friend zone:
• When she refuses to go on a date but wants to “hang out”
• When she uses words like “nice” to describe you
• When she purposely skirts questions about her relationship status
• When she tells you she wants to make new friends
Another girl, a cute Starbucks barista who I asked out, once gave me a similar rationale.
“You’re a nice guy and everything,” she said, “but I just got out of something, and I am only looking for friends.”
To me, friend zoning is almost entirely a one-way street, meaning the girl always seems to use it as a rejection tactic rather than the guy. And the reason is simple: antidotal evidence suggests that men typically ask women out more often than women ask out men, thus creating a situation where available but uninterested women need an escape plan.
Delegating and labeling someone as a friend, rather than just outright rejecting them, is that escape plan.
Finally, friend zoning takes on the appearance of politeness but is, in truth, disguised discontent. At its core, friend zoning substitutes certainty for ambiguity, leaving hope in the mind of the rejected person that maybe, someday, their friendship can be something more. In this way, friend zoning is a way of prolonging hope for romance where there is none. And, in this way, friend zoning is harmful to both parties in the long run.