The Friend Zone
This comic has been going around as of late; I’ve seen it on Facebook, reddit, and the like. A friend linked it to me and we talked about. I like it; it’s a good piece of art, it’s creative, funny, and amused me. It also made me feel the slightest bit uncomfortable. When I first read it, something seemed off about it, and it’s been on my thoughts.
Now, it’s a bit much to ‘disagree’ with this. This comic seems autobiographical- I have no doubt this happened to the Artist, in some form or another. When our REALLY NICE GUY says “What about the time you got wasted at a party! Any other guy would have taken advantage, but I drove you home safely instead!” it’s something that may not be the most common/representative examples of this “nice guy” behavior, it’s certainly something i believe has happened more that once, and at least of of those times was with the Artist. That said, something doesn’t sit right with me.
There is a bigger picture here, I think. First, you know how the messages we give to women in our (American) culture are like, horrible? We have ads that tell girls that they’re not pretty enough, Disney sends all sorts of messages (people traditionally cite Beauty and the Beast, but I friend of mine contests this, so shout-out to you, Kayla! <3) that aren’t very feminist, and there have been a dearth of strong female characters in many periods of American media. Average girls are fat and acne will make you die alone. Well, a lot of the messages that these “nice guys” get are not much better.
A lot of the messages guys get, especially if they are awkward and new to dating, never had a girlfriend, etc, is that relationships evolve out of friendships. This is an easy, very comfortable thing to believe; for someone who wasn’t been in a relationship before especially and even those who have, it seems that a relationship is also an extension of friendship. So the way to pursue relationships, with that assumption, is to find a girl you’re attracted to, become her friend, then try to turn that friendship into a relationship.
In high school, I wrote a piece, though never published it, about what I then called the “Lets be Friends Event Horizon.” This was before the term freindzone was popularized, or perhaps I just hadn’t hear it yet, but the idea stems from the “Nice Guy Model” of relationships; meet girl -> find you are attracted to her -> become her friend -> ask her out. The “Lets be Friends Event Horizon” occurs when you become a close friend with someone, such that she’s not willing to risk the friendship or definitely doesn’t see you like that, etc. (Notice that this model isn’t very effective; not that it is horrible in and of itself, but it requires a huge amount of time to even see if a girl is interested, and not from what I’ve seen, effective. But to each their own.) This is more or less what I’ve always assumed the friend zone is, but there are also a few other connotations the word seems to have picked up.
So understand when this happens, there isn’t necessarily this “I want to fuck my friend” mentality, it’s a bit more complicated than that. (There are also a lot of people who want to fuck their friends.) A lot of times it’s unrequited attraction; men want relationships too. You know when you get that butterflies in your stomach feeling when you fall for someone? Yeah, sometimes they don’t feel that or all. Keep in mind the type of guy who winds up in this situation, isn’t having a lot of success in the first place, and has likely tried this again and again, and failed each time. So it is understandable that there is a lot of frustration with unrequited feelings in this situation from the guys end. And the most comfortable things about this “friend’s first” mentality is that it delays the onset of actually having to ask a woman out, until some arbitrary level of comfort is reached. And that can take a lot of time. Because of the nature of this approach, in that it avoids coming out and communicating the desire for a relationship from the onset, what happens is the girl has no idea that this is happened in the guy’s head. It comes out of nowhere from her; it’s assumed the desire is purely sexual (which isn’t often the case, there are emotions involved, even though obviously there is physical attraction.) A girl might not even realize that the friendship was part of a courtship; understandably, this lack of communication is a problem, and feelings on all sides get hurt.
And my point of contention is this: I don’t think all guys in this situation are like the comic portrays; obviously the villain here is an ass, we can all see this. But what it seems in most cases, when things get to this stage, it’s a young (hopefully) guy learning a harsh lesson - “I’m not interested, and not obligated to go out with you just because you asked.”
The last point i want to comment on, is the “nice guy” idea; somebody thinks they’re a nice guy and girls date assholes, essentially. I would content that most people think they’re nice- most nobody wakes up ready to begin a day of puppy kicking. So some sort of cognitive bias there. Plus, if a guy is close friends with a girl, she’s more likely vent about the bad things her boyfriend does than the sweet things, in my experience, which leads to the possibility of someone misinterpreting anyone she dates is an asshole, other than “me, a nice guy.” Nice guys get another message from, well, somewhere- if I’m nice to girls, they will want to date you. Which isn’t really true- people want to date people who are attractive, which means whatever given traits that people have that they want to date- a lot of people are nice.
I was going to tell a personal story in this post, but it’s not more more than “I liked a girl, she didn’t like me, the end.” I can say I’ve been on both sides of this, and they both suck, but what’s important is that people empathize with each other- no, this girl’s not a bitch for not dating you, no this isn’t some supposed nice guy asshole that just wants to get in your pants. It’s not fun, but it’s part of life. People are complicated; relationships are complicated. Friendships are complicated; someone wanting to take things further doesn’t mean he doesn’t value the friendship. A lot of this is a failure of communication, and stems from fear of rejection. So I think things are a bit more complicated.
Also, if the Author of this comic, happens to read this, I really do like it, and you should keep making cool stuff. Your superheros made me smile. I think this is a link to your blog!