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The Cambridge Dictionary defines being in the friendzone the state of being friends with someone when you would prefer a romantic or sexual relationship with them. Let’s dig a little deeper.

So… They’ve got their eyes fixed on you, their attention focused on your every word. The trouble is, this is the person you recently told about your persistent diarrhoea, your problems with your new partner and why they don’t sell decent cheese in your local corner shop. They’re your friend… but they don’t see it as “just” that. And, contrary to popular belief, the friendzoner often finds it just as sad and uncomfortable as the person who’s been friendzoned. 

“I just couldn’t stop thinking about her,” says Justine, 28. “In fact, I still do. But wanting to be in a relationship with her even though I knew she was straight just seemed to eclipse everything. Looking back, I feel bad that I put her in that position.” Like many others, Justine kept her flame ablaze for a long time before she finally submitted to the fact that the object of her affections wasn’t and would never will be able to reciprocate. “It must have been a good five years before I saw the light,” she explains. “It took a very emotional stand-off for us to establish that we were coming from totally different places.”

Brush off

Eleanor, 39, spent a long time trying to brush off a male friend who she’d only recently met, felt an affinity with and never expected to make any moves on her. “He wouldn’t take no for an answer,” she recalls. “I could see he was a good guy, but despite the fact I was openly bi I just didn’t feel attracted to him, even though it was clear he expected me to be. His friends were less polite than he was, making some really offensive statements about bisexuals being ‘up for anything’ and the like. I ended up feeling as if I owed it to him to date him.”

Steve, 40, was attracted to his best friend from secondary school right up until the end of his 20s, when they were still good mates. “We had too much wine one evening and it all came spilling out. I woke up the next day with a splitting headache and an even more dreadful mental state. After all we’d been through – sickness, failed relationships, even a very ill-fated crash diet – it seemed so unfair that I’d laid this bombshell on him. Unfortunately, he felt the same about said bombshell, and we haven’t spoken since.”

Gay “with exceptions”

There was a similar obstacle for Andrew, 21, except with a twist. “I generally feel attracted to men,” he admits, “but I just had a thing for my female friend.” Andrew believes it’s possible for some people to be gay “with exceptions” and that it’s a bona fide sexual identity. “I wasn’t going out on the town looking for girls like most of my friends, but she was just special. I don’t know what could have happened as she kind of drifted away with her new husband before I had chance to broach the subject.” They exchange Christmas cards, but he’s never felt it was quite the time to ask if his feeling was mutual. 

The rising popularity of the MRA (Men’s Rights Activists) and the Incel (involuntary celibate) movement over the recent past has only served to enhance public knowledge of the fact that some straight misandrists are dangerously bitter that they can’t get a girlfriend. Likewise, women have given up – or claimed to have given up – on the dating pool in droves. Even women who love women. The sheer dogged determination of men like Eliot Rodgers have shown that even good-looking idiots can get away with the murder of six young women for the simple fact that they are “still virgins” at 22: Alleged Gunman Elliot Rodger’s Chilling Manifesto – YouTube. Rodgers opened fire on a sorority dormitory before taking his own life, apparently because he was resentful of the fact that women consistently turned him down. MRAs and Incels also came up with the term “sexgating”, as a way of describing the idea of being prevented from having sex because of female inclinations. 

Thigh-gapped supermodels

The friendzone doesn’t have to be a bad place, though. Everyone needs someone who’ll rush round with chocolate when they’re feeling down, listen to their problems when they’ve already repeated them 80 times, and know exactly what book to give them for Christmas. Bumping uglies is by no means a pre-requisite for this sort of intimate relationship. So don’t shoot anyone because you fancy your friend. Relish those friends for what they are, because we all need them in the end. 

If you’re still suffering after reading this, you can find a multitude of other media about the “friendzone” to gorge upon, from the song “Pink Triangle” (Pink Triangle – YouTube), by Weezer to the film “Chasing Amy” (Chasing Amy (1997) – IMDb) and to the book “The Friend Zone” (The Friend Zone: the most hilarious and heartbreaking r – Paperback / softback N 9780349423401 | eBay). It’s undoubtedly tricky territory, and represented in creative works on a wide scale. Sexual attraction is never simple and barking up the wrong tree has happened to most of us at one point or another. Well, apart from the thigh-gapped supermodels and the hunky action film stars, but that’s another story for another time… 

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Charlotte Dingle

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