Stuck in the friend zone
My exploration of the boundary between friends and something more
Considerably unique in comparison to its less complex counterpart — flat-out rejection — it seems friend-zoning is a fine art that requires keen logic and preemptive instinct to be carried out properly.
To that end, I guess you could say I set out on a bit of an investigation to uncover the most efficient way to friend-zone a guy. How can I send a clear yet discreet message of romantic disinterest without causing awkwardness that will kill the prospect of a friendship? Is it something I say? Do I have to dress a certain way? Carry myself in a particular demeanor?
These thoughts began their fermentation process on a night in my dorm with my roommate, we’ll call her Haley, and our friends, we’ll call them Allen and Gabe. I’d been texting a guy I met at a party a couple weeks earlier, “Shane,” and with every flirtatious iMessage, I came to the realization that I wasn’t feeling it.
Shane is a nice guy, a pleasant conversationalist, and he often invites me to get dinner. Naturally, I’m uninterested — but these things we can’t control, I suppose. As a first year from Connecticut who hardly knows a soul on Grounds, however, I feel that I’m in no position to pass up any potential friendship. Rejection, therefore, seemed a less-than-ideal move.
I decided to interrupt my friends’ less-than diligent studying — nostalgically watching a DVD of reruns of “The Amanda Show” is totally going to help us on our Spanish exam tomorrow, right? — to get their opinions on the subject. I posed the question to the panel, “Guys, what’s the most efficient way to friend-zone someone?”
“Try to set him up with another girl — tell him you have a friend that is just dying to meet him,” Allen reasoned.
“No, no, tell him you’re so happy you finally found a gay best friend at the University,” Gabe said.
“Better yet, just casually change your clothes in front of him — like he’s one of the girls,” Haley suggested.
After some deliberation, I came up with what I deemed to be the foolproof, infallible friend-zoning one-liner. I determined the perfect way to send a message of clear friendship is to be in a guy’s presence and passively wonder aloud, “So are we, like, good enough friends for me to ask you for guy advice yet?”
Brilliant, right? It delivers an ideal level of casualness and clarification of my intentions, helping to prevent making the situation too weird. So, equipped with my new weapon of choice, I felt I was ready to take on the test: accepting Shane’s offer to grab dinner at O-Hill.
So, in my preparation — or, rather, a deliberate lack thereof — for the outing, I pulled out all the stops for relationship boundary establishment. I threw on sweatpants and a tee shirt, a combo I stylishly paired with the rubber flip flops I rock to the shower every night. I enjoyed a delectable spoonful of crunchy peanut butter and didn’t bother to pop in a piece of gum or a mint on my way out. I even went as far as to surprise him by bringing my hallmate, Sarah, along for the fun! Basically, I fancied myself pretty clever in all the ways I was subtly dropping this kid some hints at reality.
As we sat at a table in the dining hall, I was still anticipating the unsheathing of my foolproof one-liner. I’d prepared my attractive array of oatmeal and cereal side dishes just for the occasion. But I wasn’t quite prepared for the monumental plot twist that took place next.
Shane looked up from his plate in time to catch one of his female friends from his building walking by. To my surprise, he called her over and had her sit with us. He then proceeded to turn his back to me and chat with the girl casually, leaving me alone with my cardboard-flavored breakfast goods — my hallmate had ditched me for a takeout box. Then, when the girl left the table, Shane turned to me and asked, “So you ready to head back?”
After all my deliberation and planning, it seemed it was me who was being tossed into the friend zone.
Seriously taken aback, and without having finished my dinner, I nodded and before I knew it, I was back in my room. As I reflect, I guess I deserved to be cut down from my high horse that night. Maybe you can’t really develop a foolproof way to communicate, because when you apply it to real life, some people just don’t follow the script.
Victoria’s column runs biweekly Tuesdays. She can be reached at email@example.com