Lately I’ve been thinking about the infamous “friend zone” a lot. Maybe it’s because I’ve been living there for a while, or at least renting a shitty apartment there. If you’re at least 25, you’ve definitely been there – maybe even visited a couple times. It’s not a destination you look forward to. It’s a place you end up on the highway of love; with an overheating radiator and enough money for a one night stay. The place that sucks so much you think to yourself, I’ll leave first thing in the morning. But you don’t.
I recently checked in to the friend zone. I think it’s a combination of things that made me end up here. First of all, I’ve been out of a serious relationship for going on six years. Now don’t get me wrong. They haven’t all been lonely; some of them were actively horny. I’ve had plenty of flings, hardly memorable make out sessions, short-lived relationships and different sized and colored penii (I looked that shit up in urban dictionary, it’s questionably the plural for penis). After a while, I just started feeling really jaded and..older. I’m in my thirties now and the dating world is still quite scary. I told myself I wasn’t going to stand for casual anymore. I want serious; I want a boyfriend; I want the girlfriend title; I want health insurance or at least a freakin’ hulu password. If not the whole Sha-bang-a-bang – husband and kids – fuck universe, at least give me a boyfriend.
So I started to look at the men around me. Being single, people always tell me cliche things like “sometimes what you’re looking for is right in front of you.” Like it’s so easy. Like “oh, there’s a parking spot.” So I did. I looked in front of me, beside me, behind me, all around me- I looked like a paranoid tweaker. I asked myself, are there guys interested in me that I haven’t noticed? So I tried to seem more interested, more available to these potentials. Or at least I tried to. I started to look at the guys that share common interests. Didn’t take me long to notice a guy who runs in my literary circle. He was always kind, supportive, and an overall nice guy. Let’s refer to him as Mr. Nice Guy. Oh and of course Mr. Nice Guy is tall and handsome so I definitely took notice. I’m pretty sure when we first met he had a girlfriend. So it was easy to count him out and put him in the friend zone, or rather put myself there. We had met in a class and remained in a little group email we’d all use to send invites to events, readings, viewings, etc.
The first time Mr. Nice Guy and I hung out outside of the classroom crew he sent an invite to a short film festival showcasing his project. It happened to be down the street from my work, so I bought a ticket and went. Surprisingly, I was the only classmate that showed up. I don’t know who was more lame – him, for not having more peeps there or me, for being the only classmate there. Luckily, it didn’t feel weird. After the film, I joined some of his friends for celebratory drinks. It wasn’t too late of a night but fun. At this point, I was still happily in his friend zone. He seemed like a good contact to have. Plus he was genuine and seemed to have a general respect for women and humanity as a whole. If I were to guess, I think he was still in a relationship and I likely stalked her FB page back to her second grade “bad bangs” situation. At that time I was infatuated with this “friends with benefits” situation I was in – which, surprise, surprise never worked out. That story is for another day.
As time passed, we stayed in touch via emails but I wish we stayed in other touch, you feel me?? Later, we both signed on a writing project which seemed to keep us more connected than usual. Our next hang sesh would be the one that really reeled me in. A mutual classmate of ours, let’s call her Homeslice invited us to a writing/producing mixer. We decided to go and meet up at the event. Sidenote: I had gleaned from a conversation we had that he was single again so I made sure to try to look cute. I arrive a bit before he does, still late as usual but the fact that he was even later than me was kind of hot. I say this because every guy I’ve dated seems to be the early type and that never works for me. I was always late to the party, still am. Anyway, when he arrives he insists on buying me a drink. What a gentleman, I thought. We mix and mingle but definitely stick by each other most of the night. When the event dwindles down we decide we should carry on our Friday night in Hollywood. We stay at the bar for another round and a little shoulder dancing and head bobbing to 90s music.
At this point I felt the energy shift a bit. Maybe it’s because it’s now just the two of us and it almost feels like a date. Or maybe it was just the whiskey making me feel frisky? Anyhow, we move on to the next bar The Hudson where he claims has better music. Have another beer. Talk some more. Vibe. When we leave the bar it’s closing time and we decide Mexican food from a hole-in-the -wall joint is best. I still stand buy it. I’ve never woken up after a night of drinking and regretted the food choice. The varietal of liquor or the man lying next to me in the morning, however…
We carry on conversation over a shared plate of cheesy Mexican grub. An overall lovely evening. I took a Lyft out for the night so I didn’t have a car for him to walk me to. I called a Lyft and we stood in the parking lot for all of two seconds before I was whisked away like a hoochie Cinderella in a Prius. The moment wasn’t even long enough to feel even a brief second of tension or significance. He was just a tiny figure in a rear view mirror. An anticlimactic moment of an otherwise perfect evening cut too short. Was I wrong to want a kiss? Probably. It’s not like we matched on Tinder. This is the trouble with real life dating. Sometimes, the signals aren’t always clear.
Time passes and just like any good memory, it fades. I forgot about the butterflies, his smile, his kind presence, the cilantro in his teeth I would have loved to pick out with my tongue. We texted, emailed, chatted from time to time. To be honest, I was the initiator of most of our communication but he always seemed very responsive and interested even if only as a friend. Recently, another opportunity presented itself to spend time with him. Although, I didn’t make it a “him and me” thing but more of a group thing. I invited Homeslice and Mr. Nice Guy to watch another classmate’s play. It was a horror show in the month of October. Since Halloween is one of my favorite holidays I thought, what a great way to ring in October. On top of that, it was Friday the 13th – even more exciting!!! I invited them both to grab a bite and drinks before the show since it was in my hood. I know a good spot – The Federal Bar in NoHo. Homeslice and I get there as planned and I get a text from Mr. Nice Guy saying he’s running very late. Not a problem, I tell him we’ll leave his ticket at the box office. Homeslice and I have a nice catching up convo and a cocktail before we walk to the theatre.
I’m slightly relieved that Mr. Nice Guy didn’t show up for the pre -party because I felt so nervous and excited to see him. Homeslice and I save him a seat next to us – I’m actually in the middle. Also, side note: I feel like I should mention Homeslice is a bad ass lesbian chick who’s in a committed relationship and poses no threat. Anyway, the show is great! A lot of fun and exactly what I wanted, expected and then some. We all walk toward our cars. Homeslice has plans in WeHo and invites me. I decline for two reasons: one, I wasn’t mentally prepared for WeHo and two, here was my opportunity to spend one-on-one time with Mr. Nice Guy. We say our goodbyes to Homeslice, then linger a bit. I ask him what he’s got going on after and he says “nothing.” Now this is how I perceived the situation. The awkward moment in the romantic comedy, where they both want to stay but one of them has to speak up. But looking back maybe he just didn’t have plans. So I go for it, “let’s grab drinks at The Federal Bar, I want you to check it out.” He takes the bait. We find a cozy little couch to sit on and he grabs us a round of beers. Another gentlemanly gesture that is quite misleading for a girl that’s crushing…hard. Guys- if you’re not interested in a girl…maybe don’t buy her drinks. ‘Kay? ‘Kay.
From my perspective, the conversation is great. We can talk about anything, nothing, everything. And we do. We even talk about dating. Imagine this movie montage of us laughing, smiling, talking while some eighties rom com song plays over it. That’s how it felt. I was like Julia Roberts, Katherine Heigl or Cameron Diaz, insert Rom Com Female Celeb in any movie. Next thing you know, the music fades and it’s back to the awkward goodbye on the street corner. He walks me to my car and I offer to drive him to his. He gets in and comments for the second, maybe third time of the evening how cool he thought my hood was. I look at the clock – 1:25 am. I decide I want him to see just how cool it was and ask him if I can kidnap him. One last stop on the tour of my hood…my favorite dive bar The Foxfire. If you haven’t been there, go. It’s the best shitty bar in Valley Village. Except for the lack of a pool table. But go there for darts. Or karaoke. Whatever, just go. He lets me kidnap him.
We get there just in time to squeeze in a drink and a game of darts. I win without apology. This is me on every date that involves games or competitions. Is this why I’m sometimes mistaken for a lesbian? #Winning. At some point he mentions he shouldn’t drive all the way back to the West Side. So like a lady, I offer him my couch. In my head I’m thinking “here’s our chance. Are we just friends? Possibly more?” He comes upstairs. Bow-chicka-bow-wow. I give him a blanket and pillow but I couldn’t just leave it there. Nope. I had to go further. I stare down at this 6 foot Mr. Nice Guy crunched on my small couch and I just can’t help myself. I casually offer to share my bed. I have never shown so much self contro in my life, as I did that night. If I was being honest with myself, I don’t think he really liked me. But then why did he take my offer for the other side of my bed? There was even this scene straight out of a movie where I roll over and face his back and he rolls over to face me. His eyes closed. I was inches away from his face. All I wanted to do was kiss him. And I just couldn’t. What a pussy. Maybe it was fear of rejection or fear of losing him as a friend. Maybe those are one in the same. Was it worth it? Doesn’t matter. Nothing happened. I barely slept. What a loser. I thought I had more balls than that.
Morning comes. Not the way I imagined waking up next to him. I was supposed to wake up wearing his shirt and ask him how he takes his eggs. Instead we talked about taking him to his car so that he doesn’t get a ticket. I offer to give him a ride. He refuses saying he could just Uber. I insist I’ll drop him off and grab myself some coffee since I was out at home. We get to his car literally right before he gets a ticket from the meter maid two cars down. “I’m down to grab coffee with you,” he says. Pump your breaks, you mean this dream isn’t over yet? Now analyzing this (as a woman I find that necessary and obsessive), he could have just left it there. Why did he want to grab coffee? But obviously I’ll take what I can get from him. So we had coffee. We probably sat there for at least an hour. Just talking. He gets an important call and tells them he’ll give them a call back soon. We continue to talk for a bit and I eventually say “you should probably call them back.” So we wrap up our convo and walk to our cars. The longest friend date in the world. Total torture. We give each other a little hug and say goodbye. I drive away and can’t help but think, “what the fuck?” I’m now more confused about how I feel about him or how he might feel about me. All these feelings are swarming through me. Why didn’t I just go for it? Kiss him or say something. Damn it. What did all this mean? Why would he lay in my bed if he didn’t like me? Shouldn’t he have just said no. I mean a gentleman would say no, right? But he was a gentleman. I mean, he’s freakin’ Mr. Nice Guy.
I get home and I see that he made by bed. Ugh. Of course he did. Am I an idiot for not making a move on a great guy? Or is he so obtuse he doesn’t realize he’s leading me on? Are we both in the wrong here? A combination of the two? Maybe. The fact of the matter was, the opportunity passed. I text the following weekend just to see what he was up to. He didn’t seem to pick up on my hints. But he did invite me to his birthday dinner a couple weeks later. Which as fate would have it, I couldn’t attend. I wish I could have been two places at once but instead I went to a 40th birthday party with my best friend in town from Denver which I RSVP’d for weeks before. I couldn’t flake. Not my style. In hindsight I should have left the party early and try to make drinks after dinner but I didn’t. I chose friendship; I chose to hang out all night with my best friend in town. I don’t regret it. I do regret the night that I lay just inches away from my crush and did nothing. I guess in the end I didn’t want to lose him as a friend. I didn’t want to fuck up what we did have- which was a mutual respect and liking for one another. If he wanted more, he would make it clear. So I tried to offer to take him out for belated bday drinks but he wasn’t very responsive. He didn’t full on ghost me like Patrick Swayze, it was more like a half ghost. Like he heard what I said but couldn’t figure out how to respond. This man was a riddle. Or maybe too kind or too chicken to reject me. Either way. It felt like rejection. Which is what I was scared of to begin with!!! I might as well have gone for it.
In the end, I guess I should have been bolder, clearer. I should have gone for the gold. Go big or go home, they say. Gotta bet big to win big. At least if I went for it I would have gotten a clear rejection. Maybe the ghosting was him letting me off easy. But it just left me wondering, Why respond at all? Why give me your schedule? Why? Why? Why? But I’ll never know the answer to these questions. So my advice to those of you in the friend zone is this : GET OUT. GO GOR IT! Try to make a play, go for the touchdown, the pass, whatever. I’m not a sports person but you get it. I mean don’t be rapey about it. I just mean make your intentions clear. So that you clearly know and aren’t left with unanswered questions. Also, if I were hearing this story from a friend I would probably tell her “If he was in to you, you’d know. He’d make it clear.” So for once, I think I will take my own advice and let it go. We’re just friends. And I’ll just be here in the friend zone. That said, beware the friend zone. Thanks for reading.
If you have any thoughts, comments, questions, on this story feel free to share!
~ Lady Q