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Before You 'Friend Zone' Someone, Read This.

"Ladies, every time you complain that there are no good guys left...remember that you left us in the friend zone."---Unknown

Dating

Although I tend to take in a lot of content on a weekly basis, I'm pretty intentional about looking for information—sometimes in the form of podcasts—that feature nothing but men and their thoughts and insights. To me, other than questioning my male friends (which I also do a lot), it's the best way to find out what actually makes men tick—and what doesn't. Why is this so important to me? It really can't be said enough that, a lot of women find themselves in the situations and/or patterns that they're in, due to the fact that, they are always asking women about what happens in the mind of a man rather than actual men. Sometimes, that is counterproductive, at best.

A great way to illustrate my point is a movie—one that seems to run on E! like Baby Boy runs on BET—He's Just Not That into You. While one of the main character's girlfriends was telling her that she wasn't hearing back from a guy she recently met because he was trying to figure out his approach, a guy in her life shot it straight and told her that ole' boy simply wasn't interested; that if he wanted her, he'd make the time and make it plain. Simple as that.

I thought about those scenes when I listened to a recent episode of Joe Budden's podcast. He and the guys were discussing the seemingly unavoidable question that so many of us seem to ask in our situationships—"What are we?" (at around the 45:00 mark). Joe's response was, "I be thinking that we both know what we are, we're just never gonna bring it up 'cause we're ashamed." (For context, he meant ashamed that he and a woman are basically doing all of the stuff that makes for a relationship, but at least one of them has absolutely no intention of making things official.) As they continued the dialogue, Rory said, "They think if it's not a relationship or marriage, it was a waste of time. And I think that's the weirdest concept on earth. We enjoyed the time, right? What was wasted?" (Again. It's always a good idea to see how men see things; they are not us, so it tends to be quite different.) As they continued to go deeper, Rory said something else that A LOT of women need to accept as being a part of a man's psyche—"If you have to question if we're together, we're not."

Let's rinse and repeat that—If you're wondering if you and some guy are together, no matter what you two may be doing or how long you've been doing it, you probably aren't. Not at least in his eyes. Ouch. And indeed. It's like guys friend zone women that they sleep with, without women even realizing it. Or rather, women think because they are sleeping with someone that it will get—or keep—them out of the friend zone. Clearly not.

That podcast discussion reminded me of another podcast that I checked out a while back. It's called Advice From A F*ck Boy. While I wasn't thrilled (at all) with women being referred to as bitches all throughout it (geeze), when Clint's guest said (at the 19:16 mark) that, "I flourish in the friend zone", it got me curious about how men actually perceive the friend zone. It also got me to thinking about why it can be relationally counterproductive for people to be so quick to put folks there. And just what do I mean by that? Let's back up in order to move forward.

What Exactly Is the Friend Zone?

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Not too long ago, I wrote an article on the site entitled, "The Word 'Platonic' Is Sacred. Literally." The CliffsNotes is that we use the word "platonic" way too loosely; that it only applies if you are in an opposite sex friendship where neither person has a romantic or sexual interest in the other. And sis, that is rare. Very. Otherwise, whether we realize it or not, our friendships with men are "friend zone" ones. The reason why I say that is based on the very definition of the phrase—"a situation in which a friendship exists between two people, one of whom has an unreciprocated romantic or sexual interest in the other". Crazy, right? While most of us are out here thinking that we put people in friend zones, the reality is most friendships between a man and a woman automatically have friend-zone-qualities, at the very least.

But because a lot of us don't see friend zones in this fashion, I'll tackle it from the angle that is most popular. You meet someone, they like you, you don't feel quite the same way, and so you send strong signals that you want to be just friends. This brings me back to the F*ck Boy podcast that I referenced. While a lot of us tend to think that we are slick-wit-it when it comes to putting a guy into the friend zone, apparently men are paying closer attention than we think. Clint and his guest (and friend) Steph shared how they know that a woman is actually in the process of friend zoning them (this is transcribed, by the way):

When women send one-word texts. "I'm gonna ask you questions because I wanna get to know you. And, if you're not gonna ask me questions, then I'm pretty much am like, I'm pretty much gonna get to a point in the conversation where I'm like, 'Aight. You pretty much don't give a f—k, so…' Respect other people's time; I'm not on your schedule."

When guys receive "Homie" and "Bro" references. "You're going out of your way to let me know I'm your bro."

When women go out of their way to talk about other guys. "If she's being that open with you about guys that she's dating, f—kin' or is into, she's probably not for you, dog."

When women attempt to project onto men that it's the guys who are too busy to hang out, so that bailing doesn't "fall" on them. "If time is even remotely one of your love languages, you will make time for people…If I wanna see you, I'm gonna f—in' see you."

When there is a lack of effort and energy. "That's what we, as guys, have to be really able to peep…if you're not putting no effort in, I'm not about to be out here chasing you."

I mean, if a lot of us were truly honest with ourselves, we'd have to admit that these signs are pretty spot on.

To me, that's kind of the sad thing about friend zoning (or at least attempting to friend zone) someone—it's not very forthcoming or honest. There's so much game playing and manipulation that, ironically, trying to do it can actually cost you a friend because it can make it hard for someone to trust you. Anyone who has been friend zoned before knows exactly what I'm talking about.

But that's not the actual reason why I'm touching on this topic today; I just shared that because if you're doing any of those things to a guy, he probably knows what you are up to. No, I thought it would be important to explore friend zoning because, not a week goes by when a single woman isn't hitting me about with some variation of, "Why God why…when God when?" in reference to where her man is. Then, as we talk about some of the guys who are already in her life—good men, mind you—she flippantly and dismissively says, "Oh…they're just my friends." OK, but my question is WHY are they just a friend?

Your Man Could Be in Your Friend Zone—and You Don’t Even Know It

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OK, I'm about to show all of my age by bringing this song up. Are any of you familiar with "Friends and Lovers" by Gloria Loring (fun fact: she's Robin Thicke's mother) and Carl Anderson? They used to play it back in the day on Days of Our Lives when Beau and Hope were trying to figure out what the heck they were doing. Anyway, the hook of the song says "So, I'll be your friend and I'll be your lover/'Cause I know in our hearts we agree/We don't have to be one or the other/We could be both to each other". Now looka here—there is some big time wisdom in that 80s pop song. Let's break it down in sections.

First, they didn't sing I'll be your lover and then your friend. But, unfortunately, that is exactly what a lot of us do. Either we are solely looks driven (check out "Should You Consider Dating Someone You're Not Attracted To?"), and by "looks driven" what I mean is, we have a type and we stick to it as if our lives depended on it (also check out "According To Experts, We All Have A 'Type'" and "Can Having A Type Hold Your Love Life Back?"). Or, we have sex way too soon with someone who we are physically drawn to. If we repeat this patten enough, we think that it's more important for there to be a sexual chemistry than an actual friendship. Not only does that way of thinking set us up to need to read other articles like "Don't Mistake A Great Sex Partner For A Great Life Partner", it can also program us into believing that an attraction is more important than a connection. I'm not saying you shouldn't have both; you most certainly should. What I am saying is the foundation should be the connection—the friendship. Most people live their lives like it should be the reverse.

Second point. A cute movie that I recently checked out isA Second Chance (Chico Benymon, Jennifer Freeman). It was all about two besties and their journey towards discovering that there were right for each other. A lot of the push back that they—catch this—put themselves through consisted of them thinking that, although they adored each other, liked the same things, could talk about anything, had each other's back and found each other attractive…they were friends and should be nothing more than that. What in the entire world?

I've been a marriage life coach for quite a while now and I'm here to tell you that what causes a lot of people to divorce is that they never really were good friends. Not only that but, what holds a lot of marriages together is, true friendship. "Just friends" can be a horrible way to look at a real connection with someone. If you've got something like what I just described with a man and you both are single, it's at least worth pondering why you don't think you two can be more than that. Why you can't be friends and lovers? In that order too.

Final point. Time is precious. Do you know how many people end up taking the long route, unnecessarily so, when it comes to realizing that they need to take a friend out of their friend zone and explore the possibility of being more than "just friends"? Please hear me when I say that YES, you need to have chemistry with someone and YES, you need to be attracted to them, including sexually. Yet also hear me when I say that NO, you don't have to have drama and challenges for something to qualify as being a relationship and NO, you don't have to rip each other's clothes off before bonding mentally and emotionally. In other words, don't think that just because someone is a good friend that they can't be a great lover too. Ideally, the friendship should come first and if you're not so busy out here "zoning" folks, you will be more open to seeing what else they could be in your life.

Because here's the thing that is also true about male and female relationships—oftentimes, our male friends are drawn to us on some level; they simply don't act on it out of respect to us. This means that they aren't nearly as quick to friend zone us as we are to friend zone them. This means, you may be in your own way when it comes to finding "the one". You may already have—he's a friend of yours.

Some folks belong in the friend zone; no doubt about it. All I'm saying is, if you can't seem to find "him", he might be closer than you think. A man shouldn't be disqualified just because you were friends first or because he's not "your type". If there is some sort of spark, don't be so quick to put it out. The best of lovers are friends first. The best of married couples can certainly vouch for that.

Want more stories like this? Sign up for our newsletter here and check out the related reads below:

When He Just Wants To Be Friends, But You Want More....

My Eureka Moment For Why I'm Not Into 'Nice Guys'

What A Man Should Expect If YOU Ask HIM Out

Unpopular Opinion: Men And Women CAN Really Be "Just Friends"

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When I was ten, my Sunday school teacher put on a brief performance in class that included some of the boys standing in front of the classroom while she stood in front of them holding a heart shaped box of chocolate. One by one, she tells each boy to come and bite a piece of candy and then place the remainder back into the box. After the last boy, she gave the box of now mangled chocolate over to the other Sunday school teacher — who happened to be her real husband — who made a comically puzzled face. She told us that the lesson to be gleaned from this was that if you give your heart away to too many people, once you find “the one,” that your heart would be too damaged. The lesson wasn’t explicitly about sex but the implication was clearly present.

That memory came back to me after a flier went viral last week, advertising an abstinence event titled The Close Your Legs Tour with the specific target demo of teen girls came across my Twitter timeline. The event was met with derision online. Writer, artist, and professor Ashon Crawley said: “We have to refuse shame. it is not yours to hold. legs open or not.” Writer and theologian Candice Marie Benbow said on her Twitter: “Any event where 12-17-year-old girls are being told to ‘keep their legs closed’ is a space where purity culture is being reinforced.”

“Purity culture,” as Benbow referenced, is a culture that teaches primarily girls and women that their value is to be found in their ability to stay chaste and “pure”–as in, non-sexual–for both God and their future husbands.

I grew up in an explicitly evangelical house and church, where I was taught virginity was the best gift a girl can hold on to until she got married. I fortunately never wore a purity ring or had a ceremony where I promised my father I wouldn’t have pre-marital sex. I certainly never even thought of having my hymen examined and the certificate handed over to my father on my wedding day as “proof” that I kept my promise. But the culture was always present. A few years after that chocolate-flavored indoctrination, I was introduced to the fabled car anecdote. “Boys don’t like girls who have been test-driven,” as it goes.

And I believed it for a long time. That to be loved and to be desired by men, it was only right for me to deny myself my own basic human desires, in the hopes of one day meeting a man that would fill all of my fantasies — romantically and sexually. Even if it meant denying my queerness, or even if it meant ignoring how being the only Black and fat girl in a predominantly white Christian space often had me watch all the white girls have their first boyfriends while I didn’t. Something they don’t tell you about purity culture – and that it took me years to learn and unlearn myself – is that there are bodies that are deemed inherently sinful and vulgar. That purity is about the desire to see girls and women shrink themselves, make themselves meek for men.

Purity culture isn’t unlike rape culture which tells young girls in so many ways that their worth can only be found through their bodies. Whether it be through promiscuity or chastity, young girls are instructed on what to do with their bodies before they’ve had time to figure themselves out, separate from a patriarchal lens. That their needs are secondary to that of the men and boys in their lives.

It took me a while —after leaving the church and unlearning the toxic ideals around purity culture rooted in anti-Blackness, fatphobia, heteropatriarchy, and queerphobia — to embrace my body, my sexuality, and my queerness as something that was not only not sinful or dirty, but actually in line with the vision God has over my life. Our bodies don't stop being our temples depending on who we do or who we don’t let in, and our worth isn’t dependent on the width of our legs at any given point.

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