The Friend Zone


Friends are not romantic options. Never mind that he is witty and sensitive and charming, never mind that she is cute and thoughtful and sweet. Friends should remain friends, of course. A good thing should not be jeopardized—what if it doesn’t work out?

Impeccable wisdom though the above may be, I am told that people continually disregard it. The heart has its reasons, after all. Attraction—oops—slips into infatuation. Then, there are ~3 directions this proto-love story can take. The first two—Happily Ever After and Interminable Waiting and Longing—do not concern us here. The Friendzone, however, is fraught with weirdness. It is here that some very interesting things begin to happen.

The first is a heightened self-awareness: the status quo is suddenly cast into abeyance. A wild oscillation of self-esteem ensues, between the highs of how-dare-they-reject-me—me!—and lows of how-unworthy-am-I. Both extremes are manifestly confabulated, but what they do serve to do is to prompt a critical reevaluation of the self in relation to the wider world. More likely than not, this appraisal is coloured by the lens of the Unattainable Other; rapturous throes of young love have a habit of wreaking havoc with one’s objectivity.

The second follows from the first. If attraction entails an apprehension of one’s incompleteness, then getting friendzoned is existentially very undesirable for it implicates remaining incomplete. As Orwell once wrote, to be defeated and broken up by life is the inevitable price of fastening one’s love upon other human individuals. Incompleteness transmutes into vulnerability, the unspoken prospect of heartbreak ever lurking at the fringes of consciousness.

At the same time, rejection is not enough to discolor the tenor of that undeniable leap of joy, that elation manifested in a hopeful heart racing faster when upon seeing their photo or receiving a message from them, that irrepressible grin to oneself upon thinking about him or her in one’s private moments. This, we think to ourselves, is something worth suffering for.

What, then, is the starcrossed individual to do? While I cannot offer advice on how to generate sufficient force to overcome the friendzone’s escape velocity, what I do suggest is to learn as much about oneself as possible while still in it (sorry). Self-knowledge shaped by such intensely personal emotions is invaluable, and the questions and responses evoked will doubtless provide plenty of memories to laugh or cringe at in five years’ time.

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