In the late 2000s, one of my favorite things to do (besides put disinfectant ointment on my navel piercing or try on jewel-toned velour tracksuits) was watch The Pickup Artist on VH1. The host, Mystery, had a tattoo of a pair of women's lips on his neck, a soul patch (with a labret piercing right through the middle of it like a bull's eye), and a large, fuzzy faux fur top hat with steampunk goggles strapped around it. On the show, he advised shy, introverted dudes falling somewhere on the dorky spectrum on how to hit on women.
One of his most popular techniques was negging, where a man gives a backhanded compliment to a woman in order to get her to desire his approval. He had all the answers and brand-new-to-the-dating-scene 19-year-old Dana was fascinated.
But, as an adult, I now know two things that the contestants on that show should have figured out before signing their contracts with VH1: Men who look like Mystery don't get laid and never trust someone with a dead Muppet on their head. And openly insulting women? Not the best way to get a girl in your bed, bro.
But I digress. The Pickup Artist was where I first heard the term "friend zone." And I really wished Mystery had never introduced that term into America's lexicon. Because when I hear "friend zone," I immediately think of all the hallmarks of "bro culture." If there was a Bro Culture Museum, it would be filled with red Solo cups, unopened boxes of Magnums, shitty cologne, Ray Ban classic wayfarers, and an entire room would be dedicated to the term "friend zone."
The problem with the "friend zone" is that it's a reaction to a woman's lack of consent. A man lands in the "friend zone" as the result of a woman essentially saying, "I want you in my life, but I don't want to sleep with you," and instead of respecting that woman's boundary, the man typically ends up doing three things:
- Moping about it.
- Talking to friends about it behind her back.
- Trying to get her to change her mind in weird ways instead of doing it with any genuine sincerity (i.e. doing favors).
A woman doesn't want to date a depressed man. She doesn't want to date a bitter or resentful man. She doesn't want to date someone who talks about her behind her back. She doesn't want to date someone who tries to manipulate her. And she certainly doesn't want to date someone who doesn't respect her.
Because here's the thing: A guy who says he's in the friend zone is assuming that the girl who friend-zoned him doesn't have a brain in her head. I will guarantee these guys that, at some point, the woman they're agonizing over has thought about dating them. She has made up her mind not to pursue them. That decision may have taken five seconds or five months, but it happened. And anyone trying to do things to get her to change her mind is working under the assumption that a woman can't make up her own mind and needs someone to do it for her.
I don't allow men into my life who would ever use the term "friend zone" to refer to their relationship with any woman. Because one of the hallmarks of a strong friendship is respecting each other's boundaries and doing things for the other person out of the kindness of their heart — not just for the possibility of a sexual encounter.
And because my real friends — my true, respectful, lovely male friends — know that if I hear another dude with American flag swim trunks on his dad's boat tell me he is in the friend zone, I will not hesitate to push him overboard, no doubt ruining the leather on his Sperry Top-Siders.