Tuesday, January 8, 2013

I was a teenage "friend-zone" victim

There are a lot of fascinating things about the tumblr blog Nice Guys of OK Cupid. Whether you think it is a cruel, troll-driven exercise in schadenfreude, or a clever, simple take down exposing some dark strands of misogyny and narcissism, there's no denying it's just a really clever idea. Social media and dating sites have coaxed us (especially the younger generations who don't remember the time before) to post our pictures and intimate thoughts in the public domain. There is almost no editorializing and very little speculation. NGOOKC is simply taking people at their own word, and it is usually, enough. 


The whole "girls like assholes" and "nice-guys can't catch a break" sentiment is so enraging and blatantly ridiculous I can't even spend any time breaking that phenomenon down (not today anyway, no promises for the future) but the thing that really make me go "hmm" is the whole "friend-zone" lament.

Intellectually I know that the "friend-zoned" concept is problematic, and not only in the case of our "rape ambivalent" friend above. (You guys, he's such a hopeless romantic!) The "friend-zone" implies for men every relationship with a woman is a journey toward sex, that getting "stuck in the friend-zone" means that their ultimate goal was thwarted. Not only are they disappointed that this friend doesn't want to have sex with them, but they are angry, in some cases, really angry that they have somehow been "duped" into being friends with a woman, "conned" into being there for her, with absolutely no sexual reward! Bum-mer!

Yeah, yeah I know that none of that is cool. But here's the thing...I kind of feel like I spent some time being "friend-zoned" myself, and this NGOOKC thing has sent me on a soul search of how my experience in the "friend-zone" is different from the sad, misguided Misogynists Nice Guys of OK Cupid.

Me, freshman year. That's a Stussy cap by my feet.
In high school,  I wasn't what you would call an instant hit with the fellas. I mean, I had a sense that I had a lot to offer...I was funny, smart, there was even a pretty face beneath some of the baby chub (that still hung on until I was about 17) and I had an active sexual imagination. (yep, girls have those too!) But I found myself stuck in the "friend-zone" pretty often. For me, that meant I was often "in love" with my male best friend. Keep in mind, we were not already best friends like Keith and Watts. I didn't wake up one day and I realize I was in love. We became best friends because I thought I was in love and it was the only way I knew how to get close to someone. I spent a lot of time pining away over these boys, cultivating a weird, drama-fraught friendship because some attention was better than none.  They weren't way out of my league or anything (I'm not sure I even really believe in "leagues" to be honest, but for the sake of clarity I will use the trope), they were mostly nerdy like me. But they usually had girlfriends throughout, and THEY KNEW I was in love with them most of the time. They completely played into it, as I imagine it was pretty flattering, and on some level they did like me. So if I was friends with them in the hopes of getting into their pants, and they were "leading me on" in some way even though they had no intention of dating me and were involved with other people, how am I different from the poor saps of NGOOKC?

Well, maybe I'm not. Maybe I was just as angry and bitter and the time but didn't have a public forum in the same way to air my grievances. But I don't think so. Here are a few important differences between my experience in the "friend-zone" and what it seems like these guys are experiencing.

1) I wasn't angry with the objects of my affection.  Frustrated sometimes, confused at others, but I don't remember feeling angry at them, because I understood they didn't owe me anything. They liked me as a friend, that's all. It made me sad, and resulted in some pathetic poetry, but I didn't blame them for ruining anything because I understood that it wasn't all about me, but the result of many circumstances beyond my control.

2) I didn't think the girls they chose were bitches, or assholes, or that I was better than them. Did it bug me when they like thinner, prettier, quieter girls instead of me? You're damn right it did. But it didn't make me angry at them, or the other girls for that matter. If anything, it was a pain I internalized and turned on myself. Of course they liked girls who were prettier, thinner, more popular. Who wouldn't?  What bothered me was not that they chose them over me, but that I wasn't more like the girls they chose (btw, I am not saying this is a good option, merely pointing out how it was different that how NGOOKC process this experience.) Often it was the girlfriends who hated me, because even though she was supposed to be #1, for some reason their man kept me hanging around, confided in me, enjoyed my company. I imagine this was confusing and annoying to them.

3) I was still grateful and enjoyed their friendship. While there were peaks and valleys in those relationships, ultimately we were friends, and on the day to day, I had fun in those friendships.

4) I was a kid. We are talking experiences I had in High School and early college. By the time I hit 20, I was over it. I either moved on, or got over my sexual attractions where they weren't reciprocated to let a platonic friendship grow. To allow this shit to go on into your 20s and 30s is just indulgent. 

 As an adult looking back, I might have advised myself to branch out a bit. Spending a lot of time with someone who is never going to reciprocate your feelings is not a good idea. Not because you are never going to get laid and that is the ultimate goal, but because it might be distracting you from other possible friends and relationships. There may have been other boys that might have been interested in me that I didn't even notice because I was so focused on the drama of those friendships. But whatever. I was a kid, and I learned a lot and in the end we had a lot of good times together.

And maybe, just maybe, being "friend-zoned" might have actually been the best thing for me. I learned that friendships come in many forms, and that I could be close with a boy without any pressure of sex. I never felt insecure in terms of "hanging with the guys" because that is what I was used to. I learned a lot about what guys were looking for in relationships by being on that end of things, and if I meet a man who doesn't want to sleep with me, it doesn't wreck my self esteem or make him a write-off.

Maybe me and the NGOOKC aren't so alike after all. And yes, the differences in our experience in the friend-zone is going to be inherently different and men and women. But I know a lot of men who have been in the friend-zone and came out the other side of it as normal, non-psychopaths, so I am sure it can be done. And for this reason it is important to examine, expose and even ridicule the guys on this site, because its not OK to take a basic human experience and turn it into a personal tragedy.


  1. this is well written and makes good points. xo

  2. You made several good points here. When you get rejected and see that person go for someone else, it should be a chance to look at yourself and see what needs to be improved. It isn't a good idea to just always blame other people for not wanting to be with you. It seems like most people hold much higher standards for the people they want to be with than they hold themselves to.
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