Sitting around a table at a dive bar with two men, one of whom is young, and the other is a little older than I am, the subject came around to dating, mostly discussing the young one’s dating life, because as he’s young and pretty, has the most active dating life at the table. I made a comment about my lack of dating life, and how I’m cursed to always land in the friend zone no matter what, and this is where the unsolicited free advice started.
“I would argue that you get friend zoned because that’s where you put yourself,” said the young one. And as I blinked at him, he added, “You’re a beautiful woman, and my guess is that you don’t believe that.” He’s not wrong. I don’t see myself that way. Never have. And again, before I could respond, he goes, “You’re really fun to be around and one of the most interesting people I’ve met, and so I think in order to not get friend zoned, you’re going to have to open yourself up more.”
As my best friend, the older, and wiser one at the table just cackled, I couldn’t help but squint at the young one, because these are almost the same verbatim words that my best friend has said to me on numerous occasions. Additionally, getting this advice from a young man who has never even once made a pass in my direction, has no desire for anything other than friendship from me can sit there and so quickly and easily blame it all on my is a bit bizarre.
So, in finally finding my voice I say to the young one, “I agree. You’re 100% right on all accounts. The problem is, I have no idea how to do what you’re suggesting.” And the quizzical look he gave me showed me he didn’t believe me.
I tried to explain to him that, the time in life that most people figure out how to maneuver dating is in high school. That’s where you should be cutting your teeth on learning the dos and don’ts about navigating romance. I, however, wasn’t given that option. My mother had me programmed to never see myself as attractive. And God help any boy who even remotely found me so, as she’d figure out a way to run them off. Whether it was forcing me to break up with them once summer hit because, “I was too young for something that long and serious” or talking a boy into breaking up with me because “I needed to focus on school and not boys” or manipulating all of my guy friends to act as body guards to ensure that no other boy ever looked at me as anything more than a friend. And when all of that is happening without your knowledge, you learn to see yourself as nothing more than the friend.
This has continued into my adult life. I can be at a party, gathering, event with single men, and while they might enjoy talking to me, and might laugh at my wit, they never ask for my number before they leave. They never want to get to know me better. They never pursue me. So, in explaining this to the young one, he blatantly says, “Yeah, but that’s because you don’t seem open to it. You have a logical way of looking at the world, compartmentalizing everything into a neat little box, so you aren’t open to being pursued.” My best friend adds, “They can see your ‘Keep Out’ sign that is tattooed on your forehead.
And I’m baffled. What the fuck are they talking about? I have no idea what they’re talking about. I had no idea that’s how I am perceived. When I meet new people, I always try to just ‘be myself’ and I’m now realizing, that in doing that, I’m some how also giving off an unavailable vibe. And i have no idea how or why that’s happened, so with all this very honest advice that I’m getting, as I sat at that bar staring at them, all I could think was, “What do I do with that?!? How do I fix a problem I don’t even know I have?” It’s not that I don’t believe them. I’m sure they’re right. I’m sure they’re telling the truth. But how the hell do I fix it because I don’t see it?
I have no idea how to do things differently. I have no idea what personality traits I”m supposed to hide, or which ones to make bigger. I have no idea how to navigate this in any way, shape or form. Mostly because when I do meet a guy I find attractive, I do try to get to know him, but the way I do it always lands me in the friend zone, so in addition to not knowing how to be pursued, I clearly don’t know how to pursue either.
And it occurred to me. How is this completely all on me? How is there not a guy out there who would see past the ‘keep out sign’ that is supposedly on my forehead? Back in the day, I’ve learned since my mother died, there were quite a few guys who wanted to pursue me, but didn’t for either fear of my mother or fear of my friends. As an adult, only two men dared try to be with me, both not giving a crap about my mother’s tactics to run them off, but i was too obedient to choose them over her once the ultimatum was thrown down by her.
It’s been almost 24 hours since all this truth was laid at my feet, and still, I have no idea how to fix this problem. No idea how to ‘be more open’. No clue whatsoever. Perhaps the curse of the friend zone is my fault. But since I don’t know how to fix it, I guess it’s just going to have to stay as it is for now. Maybe an epiphany will come to me. Although, it does suck that being myself isn’t enough. It does suck that who I am, who I know myself to be, and the things I like about myself aren’t enough. That I somehow now have to figure out some way to be more. I don’t know that I want to do that. But I don’t want to be alone forever, either.
No breadcrumb, this time, sadly. Instead, I fear this conversation and the emotions and frustrations that have come from it have led me down a new path of self evaluation that is taking me further away from the life I’m meant to have. I probably should stop this path, and just go back…but I don’t know that I can just ignore it now that it’s out there. Truth. What do I do with that?
I have no idea….
Ciao for now,