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The Friend Zone

I've become a big fan of the new Supergirl TV show as a non-grimdark variant on the superhero trope. (I also loved the very grimdark Jessica Jones, so I can swing both ways.) One of the concepts the characters discuss is something called the "friend zone," which is a term I vaguely think I've heard of before that means the kind of limbo you can get into with someone you have the hots for who doesn't return the favor. They like you, but only as a friend. Kara (Supergirl) is in the friend zone with Jimmy "James" Olsen, and her best pal, Wynn, is in turn in the friend zone with Kara. The characters discuss this as though it's a fate worse than death and talk about strategies for getting out of the friend zone and into a more satisfying relationship.

I find the terms of the discussion irritating. Mind you, I've been in the friend zone before. In fact, I was in the friend zone with someone I had the hots for for a decade once. When you're in that zone for that long, maybe it's a sign that you're making a choice. Maybe the choice is that it's okay to be "just friends," because friendship is valuable thing too. I'll always remember that somewhere in the middle of that decade of longing, when I was feeling particularly frustrated, janeehawkins asked me, "Can't you just enjoy having this beautiful woman in your life?" I did my best to accept that it wasn't going to go where I wanted it to go, but to be honest I did eventually -- *finally* -- disappear from her life for a year or two after we had -- *finally* -- gone out on a few dates that got my hopes up and then it became clear that nothing had really changed. But you know what, she eventually contacted me again of her own free will, and I was finally ready to do what Jane had suggested. It's probably a decade later, and we're still good friends.

Of course I come at this from the perspective of someone who has never felt that I had to be in a relationship in order to be happy. I think a lot of the logic around the concept of the friend zone is that if you get stuck there you stop looking for someone to reciprocate your romantic longings. Since I've never had any luck at creating a long term relationship, I probably have a different perspective than many. What's interesting to me (and sorry if this is TMI) is that of the six lovers I've had (average for males of my age group according to at least one study reported on the internet, so IT MUST BE TRUE!!!!) I'm still in contact with five and close contact with four. Those four still express a lot of affection for me, and vice versa, so although we are not still in a relationship, we're still in a friend zone. And it's a very valuable friend zone to me. It feels as though I fell in love with people that I still love, and that gives my life a sense of continuity and stability. Throw in my one-time obsession, with whom I came very close indeed to becoming a thing, or so it seemed to me at one point, and I've been known when drunk to cry out, "All my old girlfriends still love me!"

It's not the same thing as a long term domestic partnership, which I've had with Denys instead, so I haven't even really missed out on that. It's a weird old world, and I'm very grateful indeed to be in the friend zone with so many of my old lovers or near-lovers. There are worse fates. And indeed I'm in the friend zone with somebody else even now, not because she isn't interested in me but because she already has a boyfriend she's happy with, and due to everything else that's going on in my complicated life right now I'm perfectly okay with it in a way that I was never able to be in that previous decade-long friend zone. There's still a lot of love to be gotten from friends, and the love of friends is a visceral source of power for me right now. Yes, I've been skirting around the desire for sex throughout this piece, and you know what, I'm going to leave it at that, because I have pretty much zero wisdom to offer on that front.


( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 3rd, 2016 10:05 pm (UTC)
Good thoughts. I've found "the friend zone" most frustrating when I've most desperately wanted a relationship. Now I see it as made up of ego -- how could SHE not want ME?? -- and loneliness. I'm still egotistical but a lot less lonely, so that helps. ;>
Feb. 4th, 2016 05:02 pm (UTC)
Let me see if I understand this. Of the following situations:

1) You continually have the hots for them, but they don't reciprocate, so you settle for being friends;
2) You had the hots for them, but they didn't reciprocate, so your interest faded away, but you remained friends;
3) A friend of the preferred gender whom you might developed the hots for if they'd been similarly interested, but they weren't, so it never happened;
4) A friend of the preferred gender but neither of you have ever had any hots for each other, and this was obvious from the start;

I take it that 1 and 2 are "the friend zone" and 3 and 4 aren't? If so, bah on the concept. Yes, the past informs the present, but it doesn't dominate it. I don't think of my long-ago unreciprocated interests any differently in terms of unsatisfied longings than I do my other female friends for whom I've had none. In fact, for most of these, comparing them with B., I think, "Good thing I didn't wind up with her."
Feb. 4th, 2016 09:36 pm (UTC)
I may be overthinking this, but considering the age group this concept seems to be aimed at, the fact that "friend zone" and "endzone" rhyme probably isn't a coincidence. In other words, it's drawing attention to the difference between "scoring" and not scoring. Now it does seem to me that I feel differently about the women I've had sex with than the people I haven't had sex with. There's a sense of greater intimacy, even if the sex happened thirty years ago and they've since married or otherwise partnered with somebody else, which almost all of them have. But the thing that I've been realizing lately (I'm slow, I know) is that the love I get from people I haven't had sex with is of no lower quality, quantity, or importance to me. For that matter, the people I almost certainly feel closest to of all are my family members, none of whom I've had sex with, thank you very much. If I'd had children with any of my lovers, no doubt that would make a huge difference, but at this stage in my life the sexual dimension just doesn't seem as big of a deal as it did when I was younger. So again, if friend zone is meant to contrast with the endzone, it just seems a little silly to an old fuck like me.
Feb. 5th, 2016 12:55 am (UTC)
Maybe I misread this, because I thought, from your post, that "the friend zone" wasn't [for a straight man] about ex-girlfriends, but about women you never had a relationship with because while you fancied them they weren't interested in you. Ex-girlfriends are another matter, one I find hard to generalize about. I'm no longer in touch with any of them, for reasons ranging from we just didn't have anything in common after all to she moved across the continent and married somebody else to (in the case of one I did stay in touch with) she died. So ...
Feb. 5th, 2016 01:00 am (UTC)
In my piece I talked about continuing friendship with old lovers being a kind of friend zone, where you're now "just friends" and no longer in a relationship. It's not exactly the same thing, because you do have that history from them, but it's a variation on the friend zone, at least in my mind.
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )

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