I saw this post on Buzzfeed and decided that it’s time to unleash a tirade because the whole “I’m a nice friendzoned guy - You’re an entitled misogynist” is starting to really grind my gears… Here’s my response.
Whoa, Buzzfeed. Way to hate “nice guys”. While this particular type of guy does deserve all the vitriol, I can’t say I’ve met one. That’s not to say I deny their existence, I just never happened upon one or at least I haven’t noticed.
But you are portraying the whole “nice guy and friendzone” issue way too flat. These days, whenever these words are spoken, a picture pops in everyone’s heads: a pure, almost angelic, innocent girl who just wants a friend, and a boorish misogynist who believes he’s entitled to a romantic relationship and/or sex, just because he acts nice. Note that in this situation people always take for granted that he fakes being nice and never means it.
Now, in real life it’s a lot more complicated. I do not deny that the situation above happens. Maybe even frequently. But the guy’s not always a devil and the girl’s not always an angel. From my personal experience (no, I’m not a saint, I too have done some wrong things in that department, but I’m not the guy described above, either) and from what various acquaintances of mine, both male and female, have told me (no they’re no saints either), I can add some variations to the scenario. So, here goes:
(Disclaimer: In all example I have described the guy as the one that is attracted to the other and the girl as the one not returning the affection. This does not go to say that there are no gender inversions, though I have rarely encountered them. I presume that there are, and they are no less. However, I am writing that disclaimer after the rest of the post. As such, I will not alter the genders - that way the “attracted” and the “not attracted” will also be better tracked through the text by their gender pronouns.)
1. Guy likes girl. Guy also genuinely wants to be nice and befriend girl and so he does. Girl wants to be friends with guy too. Guy tries to show his feelings, but girl remains oblivious.
Why did this happen? The guy sent a message, but for some reason it wasn’t received. Maybe he is inept at showing his feelings - not everyone is a suave Casanova. If that’s the case, he should find a way to convey his feelings and then see what will happen.
Does the guy have the right to be angry? Yes, of course. Something in this universe is not going according to his will. That sucks. Does he have the right to be angry at the girl? Absolutely not. She is not obligated to read unreadable signals, and even if she were, she does not owe him romance and/or sex (I will insist on writing the romance bit because too many people dismiss everything as some sexual urges).
2. Guy likes girl and also wants to be friends, girl “only” wants to be friends (inverted commas because I cannot see friendship (or close acquaintanceship) as something undesirable). Guy reveals how he feels, girl gets the message and politely rejects him, careful to not hurt his feelings.
As in the previous example, he has every right to be upset. He’s being rejected, of course he’s not supposed to celebrate. But he still has absolutely no right to blame her. She doesn’t owe him her romantic affections or sexual affinity. She does, however, have to decline with basic respect applicable to any human being, let alone a friend or close acquaintance. Which she, in this situation, does. Congratulations, lady, that’s how it’s done. For real. And he has to take it with grace.
Personal example to this one (blend of 1 and 2): I was in love with a girl in university. We were on friendly terms, I tried to show her I like her (not-quite-adeptly-asking-her-out and stuff), she remained oblivious (okay, I doubt that a bit). Then once she told me about her love problems (I don’t believe she did it on purpose). At first, I was furious, not at her (duh), but at the way things were. Guess what? I spent half a year drunk yelling “I WAS LIKE SOOOO NICE TO DAT BIATCH AND SHE REPAYS ME BY CUTTIN’ ME OFF”? No, nothing like that. I calmed down, called her, we had a civil conversation in which I confessed, we agreed (more like said it at the same time) that there’s no guilty party, and then I gradually got over her. We’re still on really good terms and neither regrets it.
3. Guy likes girl and also wants to be friends. Girl “only” wants to be friends. Guy shows his feelings. Girl gets the message but purposefully ignores it and behaves as if nothing happened.
Now that’s not quite nice and good. Undeserved ignoring of any kind is not OK in my book. The guy has a right to be angry at that turn of things, and can confront the girl about faking obliviousness. He still cannot, however, demand romantic/sexual “reward” for being nice.
Personally, I have a light example of this. Before the previous story, there was a girl I briefly had a crush on. It was pretty obvious. She never seemed to notice. Some time after she got a boyfriend and meanwhile I got over her, then one day we mentioned my past feelings in passing and she confessed she was faking ignorance. Despite the “you know, that wasn’t cool” speech, we remained great beer buddies to this day.
4. Again, guylikesgirlandalsowantstobefriendsgirlonlywantstobefriends. Guy’s message may be not properly received or received but ignored. When asked by someone else if anything romantic and/or sexual is going on between them, the girl is (or acts) innocently perplexed as to how could a thought so bizarre occur to anyone, come on, the two are like brother and sister. Meanwhile, she does things like trying to hook him up with other girls or consoling him that he’s a great guy. If not for something that she doesn’t quite mention, she’d like guys like him. But not him, never him. Eww, how could anyone even suggest that! But she still does want to be friends, or so she tells herself.
This is the part when it gets infuriating and it is this precise type of relations that are truly described by the term “friendzone”. It is from this particular situation that the derision for the “friendzone” originates. Not because of being rejected, but it’s a zone of alleged friendship which is accompanied by not acknowledging the guy’s qualities as a man. The “zone” is so dreaded because this attitude means that the girl would never, ever even consider the guy’s possible qualification as boyfriend material. It’s the implied or outright declared inescapability of the “zone” that cause so many guys to resent it. Not depriving the guy from the romance and/or sex he allegedly deserves by being nice (for I don’t know which time, he doesn’t!), but bringing him down to the level of a sexless pet that could never remotely be attractive as a man. OK, maybe he’s not attractive. But perhaps he could be if he made the effort. Refusing to acknowledge (and, more glaringly, being disgusted at) such a basic possibility is frustrating because it is offending one’s humanity. Unless one is a eunuch. Varys does not mind being friendzoned, but then he has no friends.
Note that this is different from the “I don’t want to ruin our friendship” justification. This is something that, if sincerely said, a guy must respect and be thankful for. My female friends, for one, have told me that they find me attractive to a certain degree and would date me if we weren’t friends and if I fixed some of my flaws, even though neither of us wants to be romantically or sexually involved with the other. So I consider myself to be lucky in that I have female friends with whom we cherish our friendship and still acknowledge each other’s attractiveness (I tell them the same things and mean them). In fact, we jokingly refer to this as a “mutual agreed-upon friendzone”.
4.5. But let’s get back to the girl who professes her friendship to the guy yet actively denies any chance that she would under any circumstances think about him in a romantic or sexual manner. He’s effectively emasculated. By the girl he likes and also counts as a friend. Yes, he can be upset with her about that. No, he still cannot expect his affections to be returned just because he’s being nice.
If the girl know that her friend likes her and tries to hook him up with someone else, he can call her out on it. Maybe she is doing it out of good will, but more often than not she just wants to throw another girl at him so that he forgets her. It just screams “I’ll do the impossible to find you a girl, just to get you away from me”. Not very friendly, amirite? At least she could confront him beforehand, and if then he doesn’t stop, well, he’s not being nice any more. Being pushy doesn’t count as friendly either (been there, done that, regret it).
5. The girl is a friend to the guy in name only. She uses him as an emotional trashcan whenever she wants, asks him to solve various kinds of problems, but is never there for him, claiming various excuses. Here the guy has a very valid reason to be angry at the girl.
You might ask why the guy clings to that “friendship”. The answer is simple: because he has a crush on her, and if his will is not enough, he will not have the strength to pull himself away from her, even if she does not treat him as a human being at all.
In short: No, the guy has no right to blame the girl that she hasn’t returned his affection. He cannot use his “niceness” as an argument for that either - if he is so nice, he will not measure it. However, if she starts denying some aspect of his humanity (read: treating him solely as an object unable to possess sexuality/companion cube/emotional trashcan/menial labor force) without being provoked and still declares herself his friend, niceness is no longer to be expected. Friends are not entitled to romance and sex, but they are entitled to being treated as respected human beings.