Boy Coy: The Rise and Fall of FriendZone

The Plush lobby, like my Sunday afternoon, is refreshingly empty. Heather and I sit, swap stories, steal sips. Our mouths shake out, emitting lil’ gossipoids about Daily Wildcat things and copy writing and 20Somethingings.  It’s nice.

I hone in on my Blue Moon, prime to go beastmode on the garnish orange slice.  Nice. I pop succulent sections past my Usher lips, then proceed to stretch the peel above the glass. A butterfly-spray shoguns across the froth, adding a bit of extra spark to my citrus flavored brew. It’s a trick I picked up from a Japanese manga about bartending, so I feel like the Manganese Chef.

Across the bar, I eye a lady who resembles a lady she is not. My past self, like a teenybopper Linda Hamilton, is not privy to important future facts. So I stare.

As it turns out, this lady is not the lady she resembles. Unfortunately, eyebeams have crossed. I try to keep my eyes on Heather. Sending goo goo gos would betray fresh commitments; dust off old proclivities best left undisturbed. Oh, but the ego. Curious to see if I’ve piqued another person’s attention, I creep peeks.

“I think that girl’s looking at me.”
Service.

Heather lurks. “Lucky you.”
Return.

I study her conversation partner. His back is turned, but his posture is…intentional.

“I wonder what his game plan is.”
Slice.

“It could be nothing,” Heather quips. “You don’t have a game plan.”
Match point.

The grotesque little goblins from Cloud City must not have fixed my kinderdrive, since I fail to make the jump to nicerspace. “Naw dog,” I think to myself, “This broseph’s definitely in the FriendZone.”

*

I could tell you about the first time I heard the phrase “FriendZone,” but that would be false flavoring. It would be a sultry anecdote, justified by my creative non-fiction degree sensibilities, bolstered by my audience’s succulent ignorance about my personal life. Seems like a waste of taste, though. I’ll simmer my credibility for juicier topics. Promise.

So close, and yet…

I do know that no one had to explain it to me. “FriendZone,” I mean.  The phrase is typically only applied in a sitch where its meaning is evident, after all. Painfully evident. I don’t know, maybe you were one of the lucky ones.

Throughout college years this phrase served as the crush’s black spot. Co-eds avoided the FriendZone like hairy kids avoided a Star Pass pool party. Once the binds of FriendZone descends, ne’er shall they be hoisted. So sayeth the prophecy.

However, as much as the FriendZone was a curse, it was also a banner. Undergrads from all walks of life could sympathize and trade anecdotes about the crush-in-proximity. We were all Gordos and they were all Lizzie McGuires. And, of course, we were always getting an earful about Ethan Craft.

Sometime around senior year, though, the phrase got dropped from the Lexicon. The fog of ambiguity seemed to have been lifted from the field.

4th Avenue helped. No one, it seems, goes out to bars to make friends. You go to the bar with the friends you already have to meet people you’d never boned before or to just dance or whatever or maybe both. Depends on the drink specials, lesss be rrreal.

Real life helped. It’s difficult, near impossible, to get FriendZoned at your 40 hour. Besides, they have a new phrase for that now. It’s called “co-worker.” It’s kind of like FriendZone, but if you make things weird you just get fired. As a result, feelers are sent out clearly, calmly, and with obvious intent. Pussyfooting is hard to justify with pink slips on the line.

Perspective helped. A few years removed, it’s hard to register the “FriendZone” for anything more than self-induced denial. Selfish chicken soup for the libido. Sex-centered personal deceptions. What else would you call a propped up platonic relationships, baited so a crush would eventually realize their obligation to your worth? What was the game plan? A bad breakup, heart and head turned on to your long suffering efforts at romantic subterfuge? A realized Taylor Swift song, topped off with a dreamy simultaneous orgasm?

Come on, Michael.

*

Blue Moon tides begin to creep, and I sense the hour to cast off. One more glance at FriendZone bro, but I correct myself. Maybe Heather is right.

Maybe they are like us. Maybe this guy and that lady are enjoying the atmosphere and the simple pleasures of good company. Maybe, with the dawn of our 20s past, we have abandoned the platonic predications for good. Oh, how “maybes” linger.

Fantasies and feet planted, I walk the redhead outside. I hold the door, because she is my sister and love to shower her with courtesies. We are friends, and there is no zone to behold.

Boy Coy: For the Love of the Deal

Editor’s note: This column was written by (*gasp*) a boy. No matter your scientific, expressed, or preferred gender, you too can write for us! Direct interest to servingteatofriends [at] gmail [dot] com.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a type. The list of 5’7”+ fair-skinned brunettes I’ve courted (or attempted to court)  easily provides sufficient data points to identify a trend. Data analysis would also reveal that the most genuine romantic experiences in my history were spent in the company of stark outliers. It is likely this very pattern that draws my attention (and this post) to the talk of types.

Anna’s Ron Swanson-referencing investigation of the deal breaker phenomenon sent my synapses in the direction of another equally hilarious NBC sitcom. In fact, the 3rd season finale of “30 Rock” features long-suffering protagonist Liz Lemon garnering media adoration for a conveniently relevant catchphrase: “…That’s a deal breaker, ladies!”

A cursory Google of the phrase turned up this delightful webpage, complete with an informative collection of Daily Deal Breakers. I was particularly amused by the accompanying image of a disheveled male 20-something: Deal breaker incarnate, it seems. While initially put off by his application of cadet grey slacks and navy pinstripes, my mood relented to sympathy under the influence of his pitiable “give-a-guy-a-chance” anti-swag. I began clicking through countless disqualifiers, determined to determine if Mr. DB was being held up to the draconian standards his expression implied. Many deal breakers (“If your man owns a mint-condition Hellboy figurine”) came off as a bit unfair. I quake in fear when I consider my girlfriend may put the axe on our relationship in response to the unrelenting torrent of Dragon Ball Z and Pokémon analysis that comprises my Facebook profile.

Gotta' deconstruct 'em all!

Others (“Your man wants to plan your honeymoon around Comic-Con”) registered as perfectly viable scenarios to alter the deal. In fact, the most common theme among Deal Breakers revolved around the stereotypically masculine lack of consideration or respect for a partner. My favesies on this end of the spectrum included “Your man disappears and then shows up after seven months of no contact” and “If your man has seven cell phones, but won’t give you any of their numbers.” Though thoroughly entertained, the page nearly failed to appear in this post because of its inconsistencies with the initial deal breaker conversation. Previous posts had debated the merits of a physical criterion, not  selfish habits that might delegitimize the validity of a long-term partnership. Furthermore, commenter Katey pointed out how the reliance on visual analysis is an unavoidable component of modern dating:

 “Most of the guys I date have similar attributes. I am attracted to a certain type of man, and I don’t see anything wrong with that. I also expect that if I guy asks me out, that I already meet his basic appearance requirements. I don’t want to find out later that he is not attracted to my brunette locks. Shallowness is part of attraction. Do not tell me that any of you are going to walk into a bar and, purely based on looks, let everyone be an option to you. That’s not how it works. We all have a type and we all have deal breakers.”

She’s right.  It would be unrealistic to consider any human being as acting in error for evaluating potential suitors with a “basic appearance requirement.” Likewise, it would be unfair to call someone out for establishing a preference for certain physical qualities.

Things become counterproductive, however, when these aesthetic sorting algorithms rationalize a continued relationship despite the appearance of Lizlemonian-mode Deal Breakers. This practice is grossly common among my heteromale peers. I have watched many XY’s willingly succumb to the allure of the trophy-girlfriend, only to be bemused as they continuously gripe over a litany of incompatibilities. Then again, this pattern is often the dominant motivation for relationships in the first place. If affirmation minimums and convenient orgasms are the signs of functioning companionship, our physical markers seem perfectly adequate for selecting a status-changer.

Reprogramming our brain’s inclinations for attraction is impossible.  Still, a more challenging approach to why we agree to go on dates in the first place may bear more fruitful results. At the very least, an adjustment may help to retool a system that Anna accurately describes as rewarding, “a consideration that happens in two seconds over one that is more generous and more time-consuming.”

Granted, it’s reasonable to assume commenter Geoffrey speaks for most of us when he notes that he would, “go mad if I had to go on five dates with every person I met.” On the other hand, should we accept dates as the sole medium for getting to know someone we happen to find attractive?