For the Abolition of the Friendzone
Updated: May 26, 2022
Listen to this piece on Episode 4 : "This is Where the Magic Happens"
At best, the friendzone is naïvely used. At worst it’s plain selfish. We have all either been the giver or recipient of the friendzone. This behavior must be abolished, and I’ll show you why.
I thought Darius was cute when we first met. Not love at first sight, but a second glance approval. Seed planted in my mind, it was time to see whether this thought would grow. He wanted to go to the play I was interested in. Invited me to the military ball because he thought I would be good company. Talked about boring things that interested him and then I realized there was no movement here. No heart palpitations, no giddiness. Somewhere between the second hello and the third goodbye I’d done that perfectly protective thing of being present and pretending to be interested. I sat in my bed with the phone on speaker thinking through how to politely end our conversations, already I wanted things from some other guy that I can’t recall anymore. His attention didn’t provide it. His thinly veiled attempts to spend more time with me weren’t welcomed. So, I chewed on the thought of whether our similarities could bring us together then blew that out like Double Bubble and stepped into it, covering myself for years to come in my own cocoon while I put him in the friendzone.
And whether you are naïve or selfish, the thing is, putting someone in the friendzone is planting a seed you never intend to water or fertilize or prune. It’s real estate in your relationship garden, yet you’ve actively deprived it of the things it needs to flourish. At best you’d say, if it’s hearty, it’ll still grow, but we all know that rather than properly digging it up to be replanted in someone else’s garden, you kept it around barely hanging on to life.
And that’s the thing about friend versus friendzone. You’re not a real one if you’d do a real friend like that. Could they have not been a beautiful rose bush in someone else’s garden? Couldn’t they have been a prized pumpkin in someone else’s patch? But you took one glance and gave it no real chance to go anywhere.
Darius messaged me on Facebook one day while I was still holding onto his friendzonedness (my word) like the naïve or selfish woman I was (you be the judge). He was deployed out at sea and wondered if we could write from time to time. Now this is how friendzones were supposed to function! No pressure with us being so far apart. Plus, I was a talkative girl and writing was my thing, so I wrote back. Essays. Told him everything about things that mattered to me and waited for his reply messages until they stopped. A “meh” moment, but I wasn’t heavily invested (remember the definition of friendzone) so we lost touch and my bubble floated on.
I knew zero partners by my mid-twenties, still floating along in my bubble because I hadn’t found something that I couldn’t name but thought I would know when I met it. There were only first dates and then friendzones (you see the tragedy here?).
Darius and I messaged on social media from time to time over the years, but all on my terms. Any detection of flirting and I reminded him of his status. Take it or leave it, because though I never gave him a real chance, I kept him in the garden and glanced over every blue moon to see if the relationship was still hanging on. Not fully friend, not simply acquaintance, stuck in the stagnant friendzone.
Until that one post in December 2019 that peaked my curiosity. Hmm, this plant isn’t supposed to have flowers. Why hadn’t I noticed it was a fruit tree before? More concretely, it was his voice that caught me off guard. There was something matured and easy going in that deep voice that told me that I wanted to know something more about him. That I’d missed an opportunity to build a true friendship; that maybe I’d prematurely stunted the relationship’s growth.
My Double Bubble gum cocoon felt fragile for the first time in a long time. Did I know he was direct? I wanted a straight shooter. Was he confident when I first met him? Because I liked this confident man he’d become. And he’s stable? Whaaat? The college girl version of me that friendzoned him didn’t have a clue he showed signs of stability back then. And when he said he wanted to come visit me? When he booked his rental and his hotel for a New England January to come hang with me? I knew this was the thing I was looking for and could name once I saw it: Darius. And had I stopped glancing at the friendzone area of my relationship garden instead of putting my full attention into it like the rest of my true friendships, maybe I would have seen it earlier.
In January 2020, I stepped out of that cocoon, donned my wings, and got rid of the friendzone. The results were instant. He had done nine long years of friendzone. Once out of that joint, he found himself in a new garden full of sunlight and fertilizer and water. He had me pull up some weeds in that garden that stunted my growth. I accepted that every bud of his wouldn’t bloom in every season. And that relationship grew from the day I abolished the friendzone, to the day we made our relationship official, to July 2020 when we walked down the aisle. A lot of relationships didn’t survive the pandemic, but mine thrived and now I’m a friendzone abolitionist for life.
So, if you’re for sure you don’t want a relationship, kick them out of your relationship garden. There’s no occasional contact needed because you have no cares to give. But, if you’ve got a good human who you appreciate, don’t stunt the growth and don’t withhold the care of getting to know them and letting yourself be known. Let the friendship grow where it may. Because there are unrequited longings to be avoided, lifetime friendships to be cherished, and even some love stories for the ages to be had when you own that everyone loses when we use the friendzone.