Recently, a friend wrote an article for the Daily Star about the "friend zone." Knowing that I've covered the friend zone in this article as well as this one, she asked me for an interview (they should really just give me a column and pay me already). Given that the friend zone has it's own Wikipedia page, it's definitely something relevant to many people.
|If anyone actually gets this joke, you have my eternal admiration|
However, there's a lot to the "friend zone" that I think is worth mentioning. I corresponded with her over e-mail about my perspectives about this. Here's what we discussed:
Me: "Ok, so let's just clear up something up. First of all, even the term "friend zone" is contentious because it's ultimately a verbal prophylactic for avoiding hurt, intimacy, and awkwardness. I've actually blogged about the friend zone before as well as whether or not men and women could "really be friends." There's some great commentary there, but to answer your question, it really goes back to rejection. No one wants to be rejected, and no one wants to feel bad about rejecting. Sometimes you like someone as a person, but just aren't attracted to them. It's a lot easier to deal with if you're the person who is desired, though."
"How common do you think it is?"
Me: "I think it's quite common. And especially as the way that dating has started to change and the Internet has allowed for new spaces of personal engagement, I think people get close to others in new ways but don't necessarily create attraction. In these cases, if intimacy is generated, it can lead to "friendship," but could also lead to liking someone as more than a friend."
"How is it different in Lebanon? What about the rest of the region?"
Me: "I'm not sure it is necessarily different in Lebanon than other places. In many parts of the region, men and women can't even BE friends, much less talk to each other outside of family gatherings. So, I can't speak for other places. I know that in Jordan, the Internet is often used as a place for individuals to meet and court (Kaya, 2009). However, in Lebanon, men and women can speak together much more openly. But because of the pressures that society, family, and others place on marriage, I think that it can make some people feel like if they meet someone they like a lot who is also compatible with their religious or social background, they HAVE to go for them! If they do and get rejected, they could feel really down about their prospects. So, it isn't a funny thing—it does have very real consequences and effects."
"When and how do you think someone should reveal their feelings to their BFF?"
Me: "That’s a great question. I'm not even sure if there really is any research on this topic (e.g., moving from an intimate relationship to a romantic one). But I think part of the way to deal with these feelings and the fear of the unknown for revealing feelings to someone you are close with are the following:
1. Be honest with yourself. Are you friends with this person because you really like them? Or is it only because you feel attracted to them? I think your own sincerity is the first step to reflect on.
2. How have your conversations about relationships gone in the past? Do they flirt with you? Do they talk about the opposite sex with you? Generally speaking, even if you're friends, if they are talking to you about their romantic exploits, chances are you are just a friend for them and they just like you as a friend. You just need to be aware of the signals they give. If you touch their hand, do they touch yours? Do they do really sweet things for you, even without you asking? Also, how much time have you spent with them in person? People are often quite different online than in person. If you really like someone but haven't really spent time with them face-to-face, that could be an issue because it's easy to romanticize a person from afar.
3. If you decide you do want to reveal your feelings, then you just need to be prepared to hear that they may not feel the same way. And then accept it. If you really care about them, you want them to be happy. You aren't obligated to receive their love just because you are nice and sweet to them. But they should also respect you and your feelings as well. This of course is the ideal situation, and I'm sure many people have very different experiences with it."
"What is your experience with the FZ?"
Me: "I've definitely been "friend zoned," but also "friend zoned" others. My experience, though, in the past was very much one governed not by rationality or real concern for the other, but was really driven by my own feelings and my own desires. I definitely think men and women can be just friends, but it's not necessarily easy."
"How does someone get out of it without messing up their friendship?"
Me: Not sure you can. Again, take into consideration what they want, and respect their decisions. If they don’t want a relationship, if you don't think it’s possible, do you really care about them? If so, can you be just friends? I often think many of these kinds of personal relationships are really fueled more by lust and attraction than by real love.
"Who do you think suffers the most from being in the FZ? Men or women? Why? And any other anecdotes or anything else you'd like people to know on the subject would be great."
Me: "That’s a great question as well. Of course, my experiences are biased towards men suffering more. But really, it's quite even. In the Arab world in general, I think women tend to suffer more, in general. I'm thinking here of the 29 year-old woman (for instance) who really likes her friend, but he doesn't want to be with her romantically. She’s under a lot more pressure than he is."
That's it for now! Stay tuned for some great content coming up over the next few weeks. And of course, thank you so much for reading!
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Update: So, when I mentioned that the "Friend Zone" term is contentious, I wasn't kidding. In an article titled, "The 'Girlfriend Zone' Flips the 'Friend Zone' Myth on Its Head," it tackles some of the contentious issues with it, and also directly challenges the entire notion--including the victimization status that is often attributed to the person being rejected or ignored. It has some really good insights and arguments, and is well worth the read!
Kaya, Laura Pearl. 2009. "Dating in a Sexually Segregated Society: Embodied Practices of Online Romance in Irbid, Jordan." Anthropological Quarterly, 82(1): 251-278.
P.S. A fun Cyanide and Happiness comic for you: