“Joey: You waited too long and now you’re in ‘The Friend Zone’.
Ross: No, I’m not in the Zone.
Joey: Come on, Ross; you’re mayor of the Zone!”
I’m one of those cynics who thinks it is really, really difficult for guys and girls to maintain platonic friendships. I think it works best when:
- One or both of the people is in a serious relationship. That makes the terms non-negotiable, and prevents unrealistic expectations from developing.
- All parties are friends with each other.
- There is no romantic or sexual history between you.
- One or both of you is gay.
In many cases, strong platonic friendships outlast other relationships. Suddenly you find that sexual tension has somehow sprung up in your friendship with your favorite guy. You may be psyched about it, or at least curious. You may be dreading it, if you know that you absolutely do not want to go there. The question I always ask women in these situations is: “Would you like to see his penis?” Often the answer is “Um, hmm, maybe?” Sometimes it’s “Ew!” If it’s an enthusiastic yes, then you’re off and running and you hardly need my advice.
I don’t really buy that guys put real time and effort into cultivating platonic friendships with women. They only do that with women they hope to hook up with. Most guys have platonic friendships with women whether they want them or not, and they don’t really need to go winning over new women to be best buds with. Besides, guys rely very heavily on each other for friendship; the world of male friendships has always been homosocial.
The trickiest part is figuring out whether your relationship dynamic has really changed, and how. You sense a shift, but you wonder if you’re imagining things. I find that women tend to underestimate a guy’s interest in these situations in almost all cases. They will often continue to insist that a guy’s feelings are strictly platonic, even as he begins to pay them more and more attention.
It’s also true in my experience that women are usually the ones who worry about ruining the friendship. A guy will risk the friendship every time to fulfill the fantasy of having sex with you. He knows he’ll have to deal with the fallout, but it will be totally worth it, and he’ll think about that tomorrow. After all, we know which head his brain is in.
Here are the unmistakable signs that your guy friend has probably started thinking about you (a lot) when he gets busy with his right hand:
1. You hear from him more often.
- He seeks the role of primary contact when making group plans. He texts you to coordinate your friends meeting up with his friends.
- He initiates more random chats online, characterized by friendly banter.
- He may begin to suggest hanging out alone. It may still feel very platonic, but you notice that the two of you have gotten closer.
- In general, you sense that you’ve moved up on his list of priorities. He’s focusing on you more.
2. You become more aware of his physical presence.
- He’s touchy. Hugs, standing close by, with arms or shoulders touching. You find yourself sitting next to each other. Kisses on the forehead, cheeks, etc.
- He focuses on you specifically during conversation, and maintains eye contact.
- He seems to be putting more effort into his appearance or grooming. If you suddenly notice he’s wearing cologne or nicer clothes around you, you can be sure he’s trying to change your impression of him.
- There may be moments that feel awkward, where he seems nervous or you feel tension between you.
3. He begins to take more risks in your conversations.
- He demonstrates friendly affection by using nicknames and inside jokes.
- He stops talking to you about other girls.
- He asks that you make a pact: If you’re both unmarried by age 30, you’ll agree to marry each other.
- He lets you know that he thinks you’re a catch. When you complain about other dudes, he’ll mention that if he were your boyfriend he would never treat you that way, and that you deserve better.
- He’s always been a great shoulder to cry on. But if he’s getting interested in you, you’ll see signs of his patience wearing thin. He may act mad at you if he sees you go after another guy, although he’ll categorically deny it when you ask him if you’ve done something wrong.
- He becomes curious about what you like in a guy. He may ask you outright what you’re looking for, or he may ask you what you see in some douchebag you’ve got a crush on.
4. Other people see what you cannot.
- His friends make observations about the closeness of your friendship. Or they may ask you what the deal is.
- Your friends think he’s crushing on you, for sure.
- He may make “weird” or hostile comments, frustrated with his lack of progress, as he perceives you are keeping him in the friend zone through cluelessness or lack of interest.