You cannot convince someone to be with you.
By JoEllen Notte — Last updated on Oct 30, 2023
Photo: Mix and Match Studio | Canva / stray_cat | Getty Images Signature
If you ever catch yourself feeling bad about a momentary lapse in judgment, I invite you to remember that in 2013 someone (probably several someones) chose to add the term “Friend Zone” to the Oxford Dictionaries. It has been defined thusly:
“Noun. Informal. A situation in which a friendship exists between two people, one of whom has an unreciprocated romantic interest in the other. ‘I always wind up in the friend zone, watching them pursue other guys.'”
Great, now I don’t trust dictionaries anymore.
While there are plenty of men trying to figure out how to get out of the friend zone, instead of realizing that she’s just not that into you, they may use the friend zone as an excuse for why she’s not interested.
And I got all riled up about something similar while reading an article titled “How to Talk to a Woman Without Being a Creep” — the upshot of which was that showing women (and, you know, all humans) respect and not invading their personal space is always good.
Makes sense right? Why was I bothered? Well, I did something dumb: I read the comments.
The first (seriously, the first) comment on the piece said this: “But here’s the thing. If a guy is TOO respectful he gets friend-zoned straight away. Sometimes an inappropriate approach into a girl’s personal space is just that guy trying to show confidence and make a solid first impression.”
So much wrong with this, but I’m going to go right ahead and deal with this friend zone nonsense. Folks, the “friend zone” is not a real thing.
There is no place you can end up where someone who otherwise would have been intimate with you will not touch you because you were “too nice,” and so they just want to order pizza and have a Dance Moms marathon with you.
Now, allow me to be clear. Unrequited crushes are a legitimate thing, and they happen to all of us. But just as women a few years back were told to stop deluding themselves by thinking, “Oh, he’s just really busy at work,” or, “He likes me too much and got scared,” and instead to accept that “He’s just not that into you,” so too must believers in the friend zone accept that it’s just not real. (Also, your parents didn’t take your dog to go live on a farm when you were a kid.)
So that we can all feel a bit less like I’m yelling at you, I will now use my own life as an example: Two of my closest friends/confidantes are men.
One, who we’ll call “Tom” I have, in the past, had physical near-misses with. We never went through with it for myriad reasons mostly involving the timing of each of us exiting long-term relationships and him then entering a new one. But I do think had we faced long protracted periods of singleness together, something would have happened at some point (probably once and probably the source of some “Seriously, what was that?” humor for years to come).
The other male friend, who we’ll call “Johnny,” I have known for 16 years, and nothing has ever even come close to happening between us. Not because I “don’t see him that way” or think he’s “too good of a friend,” but because I’m not attracted to him and I don’t want to be with him.
Girls who hand you the standard “friend zone” lines are simply not attracted to you and do not want to be intimate with you. She’s just not that into you, dude.
I know. Ouch. I’m not saying you’re unattractive and no one wants to be intimate with you or ever will.
Take my friend Johnny, who we have established I am not attracted to. Many women find him attractive and want to be intimate with him. His last girlfriend was freaking gorgeous! There’s just something that doesn’t click for me, and that’s okay. My point is, as evidenced by my friendship with Tom if I had all the friendship-y feelings I had for Johnny and I was also attracted to him and he came on to me — yeah, I’d probably sleep with him.
My brother always says I try too hard to be nice when turning guys down and thus they always hear the possibility of a “yes” in my “no.” This means that when I say, “I don’t think we should see each other anymore,” men hear it as “Something could make her think we should see each other more! I’ll text her 40 more times!”
I want everyone to walk away from the situation with their dignity intact, but sometimes it feels like folks refuse to hear “no” unless it is presented as, “No. Never. Go away. I hate you. You suck. No! No! No!” I think that is part of what happens in these alleged “friend zone” situations.
A girl who does think of you as a friend (or at least a decent person) and doesn’t want to say to you, “No, I am in no way attracted to you,” instead says, “It’s just that I see you as more of a friend” — giving the situation some finality without having to make you feel bad. But she still doesn’t want to sleep with you.
Yes, we could avoid all of this if we would all be direct and honest. Also, though, we could avoid all of this if men could believe that “I’m not interested” was enough — if women weren’t told they have to offer an explanation as to why they aren’t interested, and then sit back and hope it will be good enough to stop the text barrage. (Also, am I the only one who stops texting when my texts don’t get answered? Dignity, people.)
Maybe I’m over-generalizing. Maybe there are folks out there who do turn down intimacy with people whom they enjoy very much as people and are attracted to because they fear ruining the friendship. But I don’t think it happens nearly as much as folks make out, and it is certainly no argument for warning folks against treating women with too much respect, lest you end up in this horrible vagina-free wasteland.
Because that is where the friend zone morphs from a silly thing that was said on a really old episode of Friends into a slimy trick of the trade peddled by PUAs, self-proclaimed “ladies’ men” and general jerks the world over.
There is a certain logic in thinking, “If I act like her buddy, she might not see my potential.” I see how people get to that. But somewhere along the line that turned into, “If I’m nice to women they’ll want to talk to me instead of giving me what I’m entitled to — because I’m a NICE GUY!,” and gave folks the excuse to behave badly.
If you use the term friend zone in the context described above, what I immediately hear is this: “I’m going to be a douche because I want there to be no mistaking that I feel entitled to access to your body and I don’t want to derail that plan by having you think I care about anything other than your vagina (and only insofar as it will be providing my penis with pleasure).”
If you say friend zone seriously, I know that you’ve bought into the myths that women owe you intimacy, that being “too nice” is a problem, and that friendship with a woman is a fate worse than death. And frankly, I think you’re a jerk.
Stop saying friend zone. That’s not a thing.
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JoEllen Notte is a writer, speaker, researcher, and author. She has been featured in The Daily Dot, AlterNet, Powell’s Books Blog, and more.
This article was originally published at The Redhead Bedhead. Reprinted with permission from the author.