(In which I interrupt the SACRIFICIAL MAGIC pre-release-week festivities and fun to bring you a huge rant. I warn you in advance that this topic has made me rather emotional, and I’m emotional anyway since it is pre-release week and we’re moving house this weekend, and maybe this is going to come off harsher than I intend it to; I hope it won’t, I don’t want it to and I will be careful, but just as I spent several days before my wedding being completely unable to read others’s tones or body language from stress, so am I having difficulty at the moment. I also warn you this is LONG.)
So yesterday I popped onto Facebook, which I’ve been trying to do more lately, because I have friends who hang out there and I want to be more active there. And while checking my timeline I found someone had posted an image. I won’t re-post the image, but it was one of those “I’m going to make my saying a picture so you’ll read it” things, and it said:
“Brotip #1415: ladies, guys are sick of hearing you ask where all of the ‘nice guys’ are. They’re in the friend zone, where you left them.”
Okay, fuck you.
Let me tell you a story about those “nice guys” shoved into that cold, cruel “friend zone” by all those heartless bitches who only want to date assholes, okay?
I was twenty-two. I’d just–within the prior six months or so, I don’t recall the exact timeline–ended a two-year relationship. Not my first serious relationship, but my first REAL SERIOUS relationship; like the we-lived-together, I’d-imagined-our-children kind of thing, all of that. The first time I was truly, seriously in love. And it had ended well, as friends, but not-well, in that I’d realized I wanted him back but too late, and the whole thing basically sucked. And in trying to move on I’d gotten myself involved with a few men who, to put it mildly, had not treated me particularly well. They hadn’t abused me or anything, but they weren’t exactly nice to me either. My ex and I were still living together as roommates–we had two bedrooms–and were occasionally still sharing one of those beds. And we had the same friends, hung out with the same crowd, but obviously my position in that crowd (since it was mostly men) had changed, at least it felt that way to me. There was a lot of other stuff in there as well, but basically, I was lost, and hurt, and lonely.
I’d known Jose–not his real name–for several years, in a casual “hey there” kind of way; he was also part of the local scene. I don’t remember exactly how it started. I guess we found ourselves hanging around drinking beer in the parking lot at some show, and started chatting, and it was fun. So he started calling me, usually late at night, because he knew I worked late and would be up (there was nothing creepy or weird about him calling late at night, is the point). He called a lot.
And I loved talking to him. He was funny and smart and charming. He laughed at my jokes and made great ones of his own. He teased me; I teased back. He really seemed to understand me, to approve of me. And at that point in my life I was desperate for that kind of approval, when I felt so rejected by someone I’d loved, when I felt like so many of my friends were turning their backs on me and moving away from me; they weren’t, necessarily, but it felt that way. He seemed to genuinely like me. I certainly genuinely liked him.
Jose was not the most handsome guy on the block. He wasn’t unattractive, but he’d had–at the risk of identifying him–some serious skin problems when he was younger, and they’d scarred him. He talked to me very frankly about that, and I appreciated that. It made me feel, again, like we had some kind of connection there, that he would open up to me. And in return I talked just as frankly about some of my own insecurities.
I was firmly convinced that Jose was a Nice Guy.
More than that, I was starting to suspect that I might actually have some genuine feelings for Jose. That when I’d met him and started talking to him/hanging out with him–he came up to my house to hang out and have a few drinks several times–I hadn’t seen him as being really handsome or anything, but we had such a connection; he was so appealing. (Yes, despite what happened later, you might notice a parallel here. Jose was the man who taught me, for real, how little looks can matter and how someone’s appearance can change when you get to know them.) I mean, he understood me so well, and even though he saw and understood the bad parts it was okay with him; he didn’t seem to judge me. He made me laugh like crazy. He had such interesting things to say. He made me happy.
Did I suspect Jose might be interested in more than friendship from me? I suspected it, sure. But I also assumed it wasn’t a huge deal, that he was calling me because like me he genuinely enjoyed our conversations as conversations. I assumed he called because just like how I thought he was fun and funny, just like how he made me feel good about myself, I did the same for him. And I just wasn’t sure how I felt; to be perfectly frank, thanks to the experience with the ex–who wasn’t at fault or anything, but who at one point had decided he wanted me back and then basically changed his mind in the morning–and with the other guys who hadn’t exactly been kind to me, I was pretty scared. I didn’t want to get myself hopeful and involved again. I didn’t want to think someone really cared about me and find out that wasn’t the case, again.
But I found myself thinking about Jose more and more, and hoping he’d call. I’d call him if he didn’t; for a month or so there we talked several nights a week. One night we had an argument over something, I don’t remember what, but I was so upset; I felt sick about it, and that more than anything else made me wonder what exactly my feelings were about him (and he called to apologize, more than once, and sounded so genuinely upset himself, so regretful that he’d hurt me). We’d make plans on the phone to meet up at this show or that.
So basically, I’d started thinking that maybe I really wanted to be with him. That maybe I was really falling for him, seriously. How could I not, when we had so much fun, when I could talk to him about anything and he would talk back? When we had such great chemistry? When he made me feel safe again? Not like something worthless drifting along alone, not like someone people rejected, some irritating unwanted extra, but like a real, good person, the kind of person a genuinely smart and funny guy wanted to spend time with because it was fun and not because he just wanted to get laid?
Then one night we were at a show, hanging out drinking beer in the parking lot with several other people. I was a bit tipsy; I was kind of drifting around, singing along to whatever music we were listening to, occasionally joining the discussion, just having fun. Doing what I usually did.
It got late. Everyone else drifted away, leaving just me and Jose sitting on the back of my car, chatting. Having a good time. And yeah, actually, I was kind of waiting for him to make a move. Not a big move, because I didn’t think either of us were ready for that. But a move, maybe. Mostly, though, I was just appreciating hanging out with my friend. Who I trusted.
When he suddenly turned to me and said, “You’re so fucking egotistical.”
I thought he was kidding; I actually laughed. This was a subject we’d joked about before, actually–or at least I thought they were jokes. I said something like, “Yes, well, when you’re as great as me why wouldn’t you be?” or whatever ridiculous silly response.
He said, “No, I mean it. I’m sick of this. I don’t want to be around you anymore. What’s the point? You’re just using me.”
I think I still thought he was kidding. But I know I was starting to get scared. Worried. What had I done, to make him feel that way? What had I done to hurt him? I didn’t want to hurt him; I cared about him. Liked him. A lot.
But then he told me. I don’t remember his exact words, but what it came down to was, I was using him because I wasn’t sleeping with him.
I didn’t mistake that, because I even asked him, two or three times, if that was what he was really saying. If I was hearing him right. And each time he affirmed that yes, I was.
I thought–somewhere in the confused mess my mind had suddenly become–that maybe he just meant it hurt to hang out with me because he really cared about me, and wanted to step back because he didn’t want to expose himself to more hurt. And I readied myself to say that if he wanted to take the relationship further I’d be willing to try–was interested in trying. Because I still thought he actually liked me, you see. I still thought my friend Jose was actually my friend, that he’d spent all those hours on the phone with me because he liked talking to me.
I was wrong.
Before I could say my little piece, Jose informed me that no, in fact, I was a selfish bitch. That my ego was crazy and out-of-control. That the slightly drunken singing I’d been doing that evening was annoying, and made him sick. That he didn’t want to be around me–that nobody wanted to be around me, that everyone was irritated with me because I didn’t care about anyone but myself. That if I wasn’t interested in sleeping with him I shouldn’t have wasted his time like that and used him like that (at this point I will mention that the man never ran errands for me or bought me so much as a beer, it’s not like I made him take me out to expensive restaurants every night or paint my living room. Not that it would be okay if I had, but still). That he was sick of me using him to feed my own ego and sick of me stepping all over him and sick of me leading him on.
I mentioned this–okay, ranted about it a bit–on Twitter last night. And a couple of people asked me if I told him to fuck off or whatever. No, I didn’t. I was too busy crying. I was too busy feeling sick. I’d apparently hurt someone I cared about, and worse than that, I’d been stupid enough to think he cared about me, too. This was a man who knew so much about me, that I’d opened up to so much, and now he was telling me not only how little that meant to him but that every bad thought I’d ever had about myself, every fear, every bit of self-loathing, was right. That I was right to feel like maybe something was wrong with me, because there was. That maybe I was right to think people didn’t like me, because they didn’t. That I was such a lousy judge of character that I’d believed he liked me, that he was right to tell me I was an ego-mad bitch because hey, my ego had led me to think this guy actually liked me and he hadn’t.
I even seem to recall asking him at one point why he was doing this to me, telling him that I was sorry for whatever it was that I’d done, that I didn’t mean to hurt him. That I thought we were friends, I thought he liked me. And he basically said no, he hadn’t liked me, why would he, when all I ever cared about was myself. He was there because he wanted to fuck me, and if I wasn’t going to let him do that he really had no further use for me.
I don’t remember how it ended; I don’t remember how I got home. I just remember crying, and feeling sick and ashamed and horrified. At myself. Yeah, I knew he was being an asshole, but I also felt like it was my fault. Because when someone tells you that all your worst fears about yourself are true, you believe it. When someone confirms for you that very bad thing you’ve ever thought about yourself is true, you believe it. Especially when it’s someone you really like, someone you respect. When someone you think really knows you, understands you, tells you that yes, you really are that bad?
I honestly can’t think of many things in my life that hurt more than that. Of course there are things. But that night is definitely up there.
That’s what that Nice Guy I “left in the friend zone” did to me.
And you know what? It’s not the only time it ever happened. Yes, it’s the only time it was that dramatic, that painful. But it wasn’t the first time and it wouldn’t be the last that some guy who wanted to be more than friends got pissed off at me because I didn’t feel the same.
But that’s also not the point.
Here’s the thing, guys. That “friend zone” you think you shouldn’t be in? Women get put into it, too. All the fucking time. I spent most of my high school career being a friend, while the guy I was crazy about chased after one bitch-who-treated-him-like-shit after another. Oh, they always liked me and cared about me; why wouldn’t they? I was the one who held their heads while they puked up Everclear and cried about some other girl. I was the one who’d give them a ride to the latest bitch’s house because it meant I get to spend ten more minutes hanging out with them. Don’t act like you men have a monopoly on that shit, because you don’t.
But here’s the thing, too. Being treated that way? Was my own goddamn fault. They used me because I let them use me. I was the one who tried to be their friend, I was the one who was convinced that if I was open and caring and let them know–in a non-creepy way–how much I thought they deserved happiness and wonderful things, that they’d realize I was the one who could provide it. That was me, not them. They took my offer of friendship at face value; I told them I was their friend, and they believed me, and the only person I can blame for that is me for not having a little more self-respect, for not removing myself from a painful situation, for not being clear in the beginning that I wasn’t Polly Pally.
And for not accepting, very early on when it became clear that their feelings for me were not what mine were for them, that nothing I did would change that. I didn’t turn around and decide all those men were using bastards just because they didn’t want to kiss me, just because they let me drive them home. I didn’t decide that they owed me sex because I drove them home, either. I didn’t bitch about how dare they shove me into the “friend zone” after all I’d done for them.
See, those women you’re crazy about but who don’t feel the same way about you? That imbalance there? That means you’re not right for each other. Period. If you were right for each other, something would have happened; something would be happening. If you were right for each other you would both feel sparks. Seriously.
Yes, we all know the whole Some-Kind-of-Wonderful story where the one person realizes that the other person is their True Love and has been all along. That doesn’t happen very often in real life. If at all. Let me tell you something: my husband and I worked together for a couple of years before we got together. We were Just Friends. But there were always sparks there. They were sparks we ignored, yes, for various reasons. But they were there. The chemistry was there. And we both knew it. As did everyone else who knew us, frankly.
“Oh-ho!” you say. “But Stacia, look at your Jose story above! You’re saying that if he’d just been a little more patient he probably would have gotten into your pants! YOU didn’t realize right away that he was right for you!” Yes. I am. But again, there were in fact sparks there. And yes, the fact that if he’d just been a little more patient he would have gotten somewhere illustrates my point, which is that if something is meant to happen it will, and if nothing happens you’re not right for each other. Keep in mind the whole Jose thing from start to finish was under two months; hardly a long time for two busy people who don’t live particularly close to each other–Kendall to Ft. Lauderdale is a good hour and a half drive. Hardly a long time for someone cautious and unsure of what she’s doing and what she feels. Keep in mind, too, that if Jose had actually made a damn move sooner, instead of waiting and letting his entitled rage build until he had to tell me I was a manipulative bitch, he probably would have gotten somewhere, too. Hey, I suspected he was interested in more, but suspecting doesn’t mean knowing it for sure, and he’d never even touched me when we hung out together alone at my place. So I’d pretty much assumed he was just as confused as me, and just as interested in not putting pressure on anything, in waiting, in just enjoying each others’ company.
Which is another problem with the “friend zone.” The “friend zone” implies that women have some kind of cold and calculating plan, that we are solely in control of how a relationship goes, and that we know, right off the bat, how we feel about a particular man. Guess what? We don’t. We just don’t. Not always. Sometimes we’re confused. Sometimes we’re afraid. Sometimes we’re not sure how we feel, if we can trust how we feel. Sometimes, quite frankly, we’re going through a pretty rough patch, and we’re kind of fucked up and don’t know what we want. And hey, you know what? Sometimes we don’t know how you feel about us.
It’s not like being a woman means all men fall at our feet just by virtue of us possessing vaginas. It’s not like being a woman means that every man we meet wants us or that it gives us some sort of supreme confidence that means we instantly know when a man is interested. We often have some idea, sure. Some idea. Not a certainty. And not all the time. Nowhere near all the time. I can’t count the number of times I’ve met a man who flirted with me and flattered me and then mentioned his girlfriend. I can’t count the number of times that’s happened to friends of mine. It’s just the way it goes. That’s life. It doesn’t make those men jerks–well, not all of them. It just means that sometimes in life our romantic feelings aren’t returned, and we need to grow a fucking pair and deal with that instead of whining and acting like paying attention to someone means we’re entitled to love or sex.
Now, let me back up a tad here to make something clear. I LOVE men. I do. I’ve always gotten along better with men than with women, always had more male friends than female. I’m not saying all men think this way. I’m certainly not saying all women are innocent and perfect, either. There absolutely are women out there who use and manipulate, who take advantage of a man’s interest and attraction to get him to do things for her. I’ve seen them in action. And that is wrong, absolutely. Using and manipulating people is wrong.
But in my experience–just my experience–those women tend to make it pretty clear early on exactly what type of woman they are. Which means you have no one to blame but yourself for not reading the signs. Here’s a hint: are you constantly spending money on her because you think it’ll get you somewhere? Are you constantly doing favors for her because you think it’ll get you somewhere? And she never reciprocates? But you keep doing it, because you think if you do eventually she’ll come around and sleep with you? Are you doing that, are you seeing your relationship with her like that?
A friendship is a give-and-take. I used to have lots of male friends; did I let them buy me dinner? You bet. Did I occasionally buy them dinner? Again, you bet. Because that’s a friendship. They bought me drinks; I bought them drinks. They drove me places; I drove them places. Sure, maybe they did more of it. That’s not the point. It doesn’t have to be a perfectly reciprocal arrangement. But in a friendship one person is not always the giver, and one always the taker. Maybe you usually pay for dinner, and she lets you and doesn’t pay herself. But maybe she occasionally cooks you dinner. Maybe she invites you to a movie and pays for everything. Maybe she sees a book she thinks you’d like and buys it for you. Like I said, friendship is reciprocal; if she always lets you pay, then yeah, you’re essentially taking her on dates, and if she’s not allowing anything physical to happen then she may very well be using you.
But here’s an idea: talk to her about it and ask if she’s interested in a relationship with you. Actually try to kiss her. On the mouth. With your hands on her hips or on her face, not a peck, a real kiss. Does she let you? Then she’s interested. Does she pull away? Then she sees you as just a friend, and what you do next is up to you: either stop seeing her and making yourself her emotional blanket, stop paying for everything, or quit whining about how Nice Guys Like You get stuck in the “Friend Zone.” because you know what? If you keep throwing money at her hoping/thinking it’ll change her mind about fucking you, you’re not a Nice Guy. You’re treating her like a whore. And Nice Guys don’t treat women like whores. Nice Guys don’t assume all women are after is money.
I’m not even going to get into the question of what kinds of women you’re going after, if you’re so bitter about being used for money and dumped into the Friend Zone while she dates guys who treat her like shit. Again, sorry, but I’ve known a few men who continuously found themselves in this situation, and guess what? They were all not exactly movie stars, and they were going after strippers or Hooters girls or other women who make their livings by being as close to physically perfect as possible. Think Shallow Hal. The idea of dating a woman with a few extra pounds on her, or with slightly frizzy hair, or who didn’t always have her make-up perfectly done? An average-looking girl? Nope, no interest. They wanted a trophy girlfriend, and they spent all their time pursuing such, and then complained bitterly about how much women used them and shunted them aside. Uh…dude. Again, maybe the problem is not Those Awful Bitches, maybe the problem is that you keep ignoring girls who might actually like you in order to chase after Awful Bitches (this is not to imply that all strippers or Hooters girls are awful bitches, just to clarify. They aren’t). Yes, some women use men. But if you want a real relationship you’ll learn to avoid them; you’ll actually pay attention and quit volunteering to be used. Hell, maybe you’ll stop for a minute and think about all those women in your life–and there had to be at least a few–who were attracted to you, who wanted you, and you weren’t interested. How did you handle it? Did you still talk to them, hang out with them, because even though you weren’t interested you still enjoyed their company? Did you feel that since they wanted you, that obligated you to sleep with them? Or did you put them in the “friend zone?”
And you’ll quit whining about how women don’t like nice guys. Yes, we do, actually. Every married woman I know is married to a nice guy. (And by the way, did it ever occur to you that when she asks where all the nice guys are, maybe she’s hinting that you’ll say “I’m right here,” and sweep her into your arms? Because she might actually be. It is a possibility. Why not try it? Say, “How about me?” and see what she says. Again, don’t expect her to know, and quit wimping around. Be an adult and talk to her.)
Do we also like bad boys? Sure. Don’t you also like strippers and models and whatever? Of course you do. Are there women out there who only like men who treat them like shit? Yep. Women who use men? Yep. But there are also men who only like women who treat them like shit, and there are plenty of men who use women. There are plenty of users, period. And again, when you’re complaining about how dare those bitches stick you in the friend zone and they should just shut up, that’s what you’re doing: you’re implying that the only reason for a man to hang around with a woman is because he’s hoping to get laid. You’re saying women are not worthwhile as people, that their company is not pleasurable or enjoyable simply as company, that you’re not interested in them as people but only as big walking vaginas. You’re saying you’re deceiving those women, and attempting to manipulate them into giving you what you want by pretending to like them, pretending to enjoy their company for its own sake. You’re saying any woman who takes your offer of friendship at face value is an entitled bitch. You’re saying how dare a woman not feel for you what it is you feel for her.
So guess what. If you feel this way? Next time a woman asks you where all the nice guys are, you can honestly say you don’t know. Because you’re not one.