In my last blog post I deconstructed the social phenomenon known as the Friend Zone. I also promised that in my next post I would provide some practical tips about how to side step Friend Zone status. At first, I began to work on a list of 10 or so generalized recommendations (know yourself, don't settle, state your intentions; etc.), but then I remembered how empty I feel after reading many of the generalized Top 10 style advice articles which litter the internet. Since this is my blog, and it is as much an effort to shift the way we discuss important issues as it is a forum to share my thoughts, I decided that I would share a personal experience which might actually speak for itself. Here goes . . .
Due to my good looks, charming disposition, sheer luck, or intergenerational karma, many guys are attracted to me. This wasn't always the case. I had a really gnarly awkward phase from middle school through high school during which it seemed that I was not the apple of anyone's eye. Guys didn't start pursuing me romantically until I got to college at Princeton. I surely had a lot of trial and error in handling it. In the course of me dealing with my insecurities and inexperience while just beginning to date in college, I admittedly Friend Zoned a lot of guys. Looking back at it now, I foolishly felt the need to "stack" guys around me because I wasn't confident enough in myself to be alone or be fully present in any relationship. I'll go into this element of my life in another post soon (I promise).
In reflecting on my own collegiate Friend Zone experiences, it dawned on me that one guy did actually make it out of the Friend Zone. He became my boyfriend for a number of years, and he was, completely unexpectedly, my first love. I still hold him in very high regard, and I believe he is happily married to another fantastic young woman right now. Here's how he jumped off the bench and became the franchise player in my love life for a fun-filled spell.
For the sake of this article I'll refer to this fellow "My First."
My First lived right beneath me in my freshman dorm. As a result, he was always there when I needed my computer tinkered with or a bookshelf assembled. He also had a front row view to see all the other guys who I (ahem) entertained. No matter how seriously I coupled with or pined over someone else, he was that dependable guy pal I could chill with and cry to. Yes, I knew that he liked me, but it was really easy to ignore those feelings and just focus on the maintaining a friendship that was on terms which benefitted me. In my view, My First was squarely locked into the Friend Zone. Cool beans.
Why I Wasn't Checking For Him
Obstensibly there was nothing wrong with him, he just wasn't "that type of guy" to me. By "that type" I refer to the type who I would take seriously as a potential boyfriend or even hook up candidate. I mean, he had been homeschooled so he was a bit socially green. He wasn't more experienced, or cooler, hard-bodied, or wealthier than me. He certainly wasn't one of the "It" guys on campus or even frequently talked about by my friends and me. He was just a helpful, extra friendly and tech savvy guy who hipped me to Napster and would listen to me rant about capitalism in the dining hall. A few times he safely escorted me home after nights when I had imbibed too much. He never made a move or expressed his obvious feelings. We were just really cool . . .
In retrospect, I wasn't checking for him because I he didn't do or say anything to compel me to. He excelled so much at being my Go To Guy that I never even thought about giving him any play. His manners and politeness kept him from forcing the issue, and I had no reason to add complexity to the situation because "if it ain't broke. . ." He was a great friend, and I cherished that.
How He Broke Out of the Friend Zone
My awesome friendship with My First was abruptly suspended when he was politely asked to leave Princeton for the second semester of school because his party-to-study ratio got a little off kilter during the first semester. When news of his forced sabbatical rippled through our friend group, at first, I thought nothing of it. A few times, I wondered what things would have been like if he was around to remove a computer virus or what he thought about a Hiphop CD that I loved, but these were just subtle mind wanderings- no pining. We may have IM'ed here and there, but I likely did not send any heart eyes emoticons.
Unbeknownst to me, My First was undergoing a radical transformation back in Ohio. When he arrived back on campus in the fall to take a second stab at freshman year, he looked different, more suave, stylish and self-assured. The silly Busta Rhymes-esque hairstyle he had sported was replaced with a slick fade. He had lined up his facial hair and he had shed the odd pocket protector ready shirts for clothes that were actually au courant. (As an aside, that meant a lot of Iceberg back then! The horror...) Word of his "transformation" spread to me before I even saw him. When we did finally connect at the first party of the year, I noticed he was actually kind of attractive for the first time.
What's more, he actually looked me in the eye, making eye contact and seeming like his youthful shyness was gone. A little tingle went up my spine, and I took note. When I asked him about his time away from school, he let me know that he had not wasted it playing Diablo on his computer. He had gained perspective traveling throughout Thailand and Europe and earned money with a lucrative side business. My First was no longer just the funny, helpful, and nice boy beneath me. His experiences (including the adversity of being asked to leave school) had made him an admirable man. Just when the weight of my miscalculation hit me, he totally mind-effed me even more. He got a girlfriend.
Let's just say that I did not respond well to the idea that My First had gone and gotten himself a girlfriend. Here's where I will attempt to make a long story short. I'm doing this out of a desire to keep this already lengthy blog shorter than Moby Dick and also out of my own modesty and pride. I will neither admit nor deny the fact that I hope and wished for, and may have even instigated, their breakup because that is not important here. What I will say is that I created reasons to see him in situations that were increasingly more intimate and less exploitive or exploitive. Instead of me dropping off my computer with a note saying "Fix this" in his dorm room, I'd ask him to come over to share a chicken parm hoagie and beer while we reorganized my music collection. I'd be sure to have intoxicating Glade candles burning and wear the most well fitting yoga pants and tank top, sans bra. He always obliged, but would leave just as the task was done and I was feeling him even more. Seeing him be an awesome boyfriend to a girl who would rapidly become my nemesis drove me crazy. I wanted him.
Things reached fever pitch when we began what I will refer to as "the Arrangment." I had a French class at 9 a.m. each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday which it was literally IMPOSSIBLE for me to wake up in time for. One night I lamented to My First about this graduation-threatening situation knowing that he would help if he could. And did he! Each morning at 8 a.m. he would thoughtfully walk into my dorm room and wake me gently, or roughly, or with a funny joke about how badly I snored. I depended on him and actually looked forward to waking up on these days. As I look back on it, this simple activity accomplished may feats.
First, it tacitly kept me from sleeping with other guys. That would have been awkward AF. Second, it helped me realize the real benefit of his generosity in a relationship context. Yes, he had done lots for me before, but they were sporadic actions that I could have readily replaced. Many people could fix my computer but I could only trust him to know that I leave my door unlocked. If you can trust someone, then loving them is easy. Third, it created real live physical contact between us. Each morning, he would touch me to wake me up, and I grew more accustomed to the the potential that we had physical chemistry. Lastly, it made me realize that he could move inside my world. Seeing a woman when she first awakens is one of the most intimate things you can do besides, well, the "do." He never told anyone about The Arrangement. He never missed a morning. He took pride in making the waking up experience a joy. Day by day, we grew closer.
Deep into The Arrangement, My First told me that he wanted me to be his girlfriend. By that point, I was already committed in my mind. The wake ups became an, uhhhm, event in-and-of themselves. In fact, we moved them earlier in the morning to 7 a.m. because they became more involved. Soon enough, we were an item. He was out of the friend zone. Yayyyy.
The more I think about, My First did each and every thing that I would recommend to someone trying to escape the Friend Zone. He hit reset. He focussed on learning more about himself. He changed the cosmetic things which would make him more appealing to me. He learned how to be a great boyfriend by dating other girls. He helped me to understand that he would be a great mate. And he spoke up for himself. He switched the game up on me, and it felt amazeballs.
Thank you for reading this post. I'd love it if you share your Friend Zone experiences along with this blog on your Facebook page or Twitter timeline.
Fall Down the Rabbit Hole
Read this article.
Laugh at this video.
Seriously internalize the message in this video.
Remember each day that You Are Worthy of Love!Soundtrack to this Post: