August 7, 2003
The Friend Zone
Jay and I met watching college hoops at Maloney's in March. He's a Syracuse fan who came to believe his team would only win when my tush was on the bar stool next to his. Apparently, I give good karma. Hoping to get lucky, Jay had me sit next to him for the entire NCAA tournament. It was the start of a beautiful, well, friendship.
See, I assumed Jay and I would quickly be making our own March Madness. But five months and an Orangemen national title later, Jay and I still haven't kissed. Oh, we hang out 24/7. We catch games, watch movies, grab dinner. We basically do everything but grab each other.
Do you know where you are? You're in the friend zone, baby.
Jay isn't my first foray into the friend zone. I basically pitched tent here. I'm a girl with three brothers who learned early on how to play nice with the boys. I used to think it worked for me, but now I know it works against me. Sure, men dig me, they just don't date me.
Guys like Jay spend hours talking to me about sports, music, movies and -- grrrr -- other women. I'm the cool chick who can help them pull other chicks. But why do they need other chicks when they have me? I can be a full-service station.
Frustrated with my always-the-best-friend-never-the-bride status, I turn to these very men for advice. Who better to explain how I end up in the friend zone than the ones who banish me there? So guys, why aren't I dating material? Why can we have an amazing friendship, but not a relationship? Like any single woman, I immediately assume it's because....
"You're not fat," said Rich, my college buddy. "You're hot. I'm sure Jay thinks you're hot. I'm sure Jay thinks of you naked. I mean, I have. We're guys -- that's what we do. Jay just hasn't done anything more than think about it. Neither have I."
Great. Not only has Jay considered hooking up with me, then exercised his out clause, but now I know Rich has, too. Thanks for the pep talk, Coach Buttermaker. Feelin' oh so much better about myself now.
"Maybe, you're giving out the friend vibe," suggested Matt, my old roommate. "Does Jay know you're into him? Are you hinting? Flirting?"
No, I just wear low jeans, tight tanks, and reveal my midriff because I'm hoping to get cast on a WB show. Of course I'm flirting. I majored in flirting. I rule at flirting.
"Maybe it's because you act like one of the guys," suggested Paul, as we downed beers at a Dodgers game. "I mean, you did meet him in a sports bar. And, problem is, guys date girls who can hang with guys -- not hang like guys."
Why? Don't guys want to date girls who share their interests? I mean, Adam shared a friggin' rib with Eve. All I want to share is some game highlights. Besides, I may have a soft spot for "SportsCenter," but I also have more curves than Mulholland Drive -- and they're just as dangerous to ride. So while I might fit in with the boys, there's no mistaking me for a boy. When I throw on a sundress and let my long hair flow, I make heads turn.
"But you also make yourself accessible," said John, last year's major crush. "Guys like a girl to be a challenge. You're an open book. You should be more mysterious, and less flexible." So I'm not exactly shy and I don't bother playing coy. But my flexibility? That's an asset, baby.
I also heard "You're too chatty," "You're too ambitious" and, my favorite, "You're too intimidating."
Intimidating? I'm 5 foot 2. Still, survey says, all I need to do to land a man is become an unapproachable, game-playing flirt, who doesn't talk, doesn't have goals and doesn't know a tight end from her rear end.
I don't want to be that girl. I make fun of that girl. I hated that girl in high school. Besides, an extreme makeover won't help me break through the friendship barrier. Jay's my friend 'cause he likes me. Changing who I am won't turn his like into love.
So what will? What will make guys look at me the way they look at other girls? Should I try to be a more traditional Jewish woman? Cook dinner, bake challah, make chicken soup? I heard guys date girls who make a mean kugel. Can I flip a switch? Wish upon a star? Click my high heels three times? How do I become the object of men's affection?
Truth is, there's nothing I can do but accept that some men and women are destined to be just friends. I have plenty of male pals who I've never once considered courting. They're good guys who show me good times and always keep me laughing. I truly treasure their friendship, but I don't want to jump them. No specific reason, there's just no click. No vibe. Plus, they have no hair. I'm kidding about the hair -- sort of. But I'm serious about the lack of spark. Guess that's how Jay feels about me.
And I can't force him to feel something he doesn't. A man's got to sense that snap, crackle, pop all on his own. Maybe one day Jay will wake up and realize I'm the one that he wants. But more likely, he'll tell me about some other girl he wants.
And then it's friend zone quid pro quo. I won't drop Jay's fun friendship over my unrequited like. But I will expect his tush on the bar stool next to mine, telling me that somewhere there's a man looking for a Cubs-cheering, sundress-wearing, spunky, sarcastic, slightly neurotic, overly chatty Jewish chick and assuring me that next year my UCLA Bruins will win the national championship. All while ordering me an ice-cold beer. Now that's what friends are for.
Carin Davis is a freelance writer and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .