We've all heard that story: a guy meets a woman, they get along, he wants to be more than friends and he asks her out. To his surprise, she says no and he wonders, after being so amazing to her, what he did to be put in her "friend zone", a place where he cannot advance beyond being a friend of hers other than a "good friend", a "great friend" or perhaps, depending on how wonderful a friend he is to her, even "best friend"...but all hope is lost...why bother being friends?
Many men fear the strange yet fearsome friend zone, believing that if one woman puts him there, then word will spread throughout all womankind that this man is an inhabitant of the friend zone and should be avoided at all costs — at least for relationships, anyway. Except...
It's nonsense: the aforementioned hypothetical man never did anything to be put in the woman's "friend zone" because the friend zone does not exist. Why, you ask, do I believe this?
Well, it's because I think that a woman not being attracted to a particular man is no different from a man not being attracted to a particular woman; when a man doesn't have any attraction to a woman, do we usually say that he "friend zoned" her? Almost never, because we know that a man might have several reasons for having no romantic interest in a woman. If a woman simply does not have any romantic feelings for a man then in most circumstances there is little that the man can do about it; he might not meet her physical tastes, his personality might not be one that she would consider relationship material or she thinks they have too different/too similar interests. There wasn't some evil place the woman put him in to taunt him and no woman ever woke up one day thinking, "Hmm...I'm going to add him to my friend zone!".
The friend zone mentality assumes that men must treat every woman as a
potential relationship, regardless of her opinions, feelings or even
suitability for a relationship; thus, it considers male-female
friendships to be wrong and that any man who is "just friends" with a
woman is a failure with women. It propagates the myth that a man must
make a move on a woman upon or soon after meeting her, otherwise he will
become one of her friends and there will be no chance of a relationship;
it also dismisses the possibility that a man and a woman can develop a
relationship with each other after being friends for months or even
Often when a woman says that she doesn't want to advance to a relationship
she says it's because she values the friendship; on some occasions, she says this to preserve the man's feelings, but on others she says it because she honestly
believes that the friendship is valuable and does not want to ruin it! This is still not placing a man in any sort of friend zone and it isn't usually a vindictive act; either someone is into you or they're not (although, as I said above, sometimes the feelings can change, which is further evidence that there's not some anti-relationship zone you can be placed in to on a whim with no hope of redemption).
I'm still unsure about the origins and intentions of the friend zone. Is it designed to shame women for picking and choosing men when men already do that to women, or is it to instill fear into men that if they don't act in a certain way they will forever be condemned to only being friends with women? Perhaps it's both.
Regardless, I don't think that men should worry about the mythical yet menacing friend zone. There are billions of people in the world and thousands in our neighbourhoods: all because one woman doesn't want a relationship with a particular man doesn't mean that every other woman will share her opinion; women's tastes in men are as diverse as men's tastes in women. I am optimistic; there is someone for everyone.
Even if the friend zone did exist, there is nothing wrong with being someone's friend rather than a potential relationship partner. Besides, a good friend can help you find someone with whom you have a mutual romantic interest!
What is your opinion of the friend zone?
 This post covers the heterosexual man perspective, as the term "friend zone" is usually applied to them more than any other group. I have yet to hear it used in the context of gays and lesbians.