Dispatches from the friend zone
I am writing this from the comfortable land of the friend zone. Some readers may scoff and curl their lip with bitter scorn, but if we approach the term from a purely linguistic angle, it can be a blessing.
Essentially the term "Friend Zone," in its cruel pop culture identity, means you've been deemed inadequate by a friend for dating, copulation or any other exchange of fluids or physical contact that is not a normal greeting hug, etc. The cruel term was first coined in an episode of the 1990s sitcom "Friends," which thanks to Netflix is experiencing a baffling revival.
Even friendship cannot overcome the way of nature, and if you're not an adonis or half-way attractive it's not an easy road. A very respected mentor of mine once told me "when people say 'it's the inside that counts' I think of organs, blood, guts."
And yet at times trying to defy the way of nature proves to be a real test of friendship. If you turn a friend down and they suddenly cut you out of their life, it probably means the friendship wasn't genuine. And for the rejected, you should respect a friend's decision not to engage in procreation with you. And no, they are not playing hard to get or are too afraid to admit their feelings, they really just didn't like you.
Francois Truffaut once said that you really can't criticize a movie unless you made one yourself. In that spirit I write from experience having mustered up the courage to call a friend in the middle of work to make some grand pronouncement and other embarrassing leaps of faith. But the truth is the pain that lingers more than being rejected is losing a friend. After all, "love" does not cross boundaries, but friendship does. This is why some successful relationships arise out of friendships, because a natural bond was already formed.
In a letter to the scholar of Jewish mysticism Gershom Scholem, the great thinker Hannah Arendt explained why she didn't believe in nationalism or ethnic loyalty to one race or group. Arendt wrote "I have never in my life 'loved' any people or collective- neither the German people, nor the French, nor the American, nor the working class or anything of that sort. I indeed 'love' only my friends."
We're an increasingly connected yet increasingly lonely society. The rush to make money, make careers or attain status is producing a generation that runs at a hundred miles per hour with few links to anyone. A recent study by the American Sociological Review found that 1 in 4 Americans claim they have no one to talk to about anything. The study showed a staggering increase in feelings of loneliness in the United States.
It's essential to have at least one good, trustworthy friend in this kind of atmosphere. Solidarity among people is necessary and you shouldn't let the fact that you were denied a useless date get in the way of having a different kind of relationship with whoever it was that you wanted to lighten your wallet for. I was once told "did you ever stop to think you were more valuable to people in another way?" Fluff to cushion a rejection? Maybe. But at the same time there's a pearl of wisdom there.
The Russian anarchist and scientist Peter Kropotkin wrote an important book 100 years ago titled "Mutual Aid" which argued that the species who have survived the most through out evolution's long, bloody crawl have been the ones that form communities. I have too many countless memories of finding myself in an impossible situation and being saved at the last minute by the aid of a friend.
At The Corsair we have such a close crew that our phone numbers have at times turned into virtual life lines. I've had fellow staffers save me from rain storms, bad grades and other calamities. And some of us have come to trust each other to the level of family members. Even when some staff transfer to other schools next semester, friendships have formed that will remain long after our tenure here has ended.
So if a friend doesn't feel like acting out a cheap Nicholas Sparks movie with you, don't mope about it, be grateful you have a friend to begin with. Respecting someone's wishes entails genuine appreciation for someone.
In a society trapped in the cold vacuum of modern capitalism, be grateful to not walk alone.