So here’s an awesome thing.
I’ve been reading feminist blogs for like a month straight – I seriously can’t tear myself away. And while there’s some really horrible, sad, make-me-want-to-cry stories of things women have experienced (not to mention several that come uncomfortably close to my personal history)… there are also some really happy, lovely, empowering messages out there.
So here I am, enjoying all these happy lovely empowered feelings, and kind of simultaneously surfing Facebook… and I’m like “Wow, that picture of the gal from that burlesque troupe I was in for a while is really gorgeous. And she was like super good at it, and kind of an inspiration. I’m gonna tell her that.”
And then I was like “Wow, look at all my friends from different periods of my life that are meeting senators and doing awesome science things and having babies and starting their own businesses and going to Japan and making hilarious video-game-based Christmas decorations and getting rad tattoos… I know a lot of really awesome people and it feels cool to be in touch with them. I think I’m going to announce that to the world.”
And within literally moments of those two things, I got messages back from some of those friends, saying how much those comments meant to them and how happy it made them to hear it. And that made me really happy – and it was this neat little Happiness Feedback Loop (thanks, Pervocracy, for the term).
And I’ve just realized, just now for the first time in my life, that this is what friendship is like. I mean, real friendship. It’s not spending every moment together, or loving every little thing about each other, or even knowing every little thing about each other… it’s just, being happy that the people you’ve met and cared/still care about are happy. I used to think that I was a bad friend, or at least bad at keeping friends, because I was terrible at keeping touch and way too good at letting people drift away. Now I realize that drifting is okay, it happens, and that’s not a bad thing. As old friends drift out, new ones drift in, life goes on. You don’t have to frantically allocate all your time to maintaining friendships as if they were porcelain bowling pins you had to eternally juggle, lest one drop and shatter to pieces because you were so damn negligent and now that person probably hates you. Friendship just… is. It exists, comfortably, a background hum through the din of everyday life. Friendships aren’t rare, delicate orchids that wilt and die the second you forget to pay attention to them; they’re tattoos. Tattoos you can choose to remove if you want to, but that don’t fade away just cause you haven’t looked at them in a while.
And every once in a while, you do look at them, and just go “Goddamn that’s beautiful.”
Ok. I’ve got a problem with the friend zone.
I’ve seen this applied in memes more than I’ve heard it in real life, but it seems like it’s friggin’ everywhere. And I know what it means: something along the lines of “Duude, that chick is totally hot but you’re being all nice to her and she’s just USING you for it! You are so not getting laid right now, brah.”
Right. Because every guy wants to, immediately and without exception, fuck every woman he spends more than two minutes around. And holy shit, if you ever actually DO anything for her, she’d better be willing to put out, man. Especially if you spend money.
Friend zone as a concept bugs me mainly because it gets held up as this example of utter failure on the guy’s part, and by some weird inference paints the girl in question as some heartless bitch. So let me tell you about a guy I “friend-zoned,” and you can tell me if a) it was really that bad, and b) I’m getting the term right.
I’ll call him Ty.
I think we met over a game of New World of Darkness; he is, to this day, one of the best damn GMs I’ve ever had the pleasure of roleplaying with. (And one of the most infuriating; it took about five years after the game ended for me to get him to tell me the story arc he had planned for my character – a policewoman who came home to find her husband brutally and ritualistically murdered, and her son missing. As a player, I didn’t know who committed the murders, but my character was laser-focused on finding the bastards. The game eventually disintegrated when I realized the group I was working with wasn’t interested in finding out who killed my husband and took my son. Then he refused to tell me what the answer really was. FOR. FIVE. YEARS. Like, I seriously only found out a few months ago.)
He is a generous and funny guy. His sense of humor is wretchedly offensive but unmistakably hilarious; and he is offensive toward everyone pretty much equally, which somehow makes it ok. I do remember early on I had to ask him a couple of times to lay off the rape and dead baby jokes; they are particularly triggery for me. Once he understood where I was coming from, though, he was good at remembering that Those Topics = Not Funny for me. He is also the type that will do absolutely anything for a friend in need – and I have been a rather needy friend over the years.
Here are some of the things he and I have done together:
Had dinner many times. Complete with drinks. He paid.
Had lunch many times. Both with drinks and without. He paid.
Had breakfast together. Crepe cakes are amazing. So is breakfast pot pie.
Been blindingly, vomiting-so-hard-I-peed-my-pants drunk. He brought me a fresh pair of (his) pants to wear. I spent the night on his futon.
Played Fallout: New Vegas. Apparently I’m a better shot than I thought.
Went to opening night of Iron Man.
Gone furniture shopping. He needed a better couch that wasn’t bachelor furniture.
Talked about going clothes shopping. For him.
Vegged on the couch and watched TV together. Lots of Top Gear and Mythbusters.
Played more board games than are probably healthy for any living being.
Taught me to play Magic: The Gathering. He gave me an embarrassing amount of Magic cards as a birthday gift when he saw how much I enjoyed it.
Got thrashed as a team at a Magic tournament (Two-Headed Giant format). Had fun anyway.
Fixed my computer when I got a virus on it & couldn’t afford to pay Geek Squad.
Talked an hour or more on the phone to keep him from getting so bored he drove off the road on his way home.
Talked on the phone to keep me from getting bored at all.
Tried sushi with steak in it (it was delicious). Yeah, he paid then, too.
Talked about sex, cross dressing, the female orgasm, the male orgasm, why my breasts are actually not too small at all, why people say and do stupid things, why work sucks, just how much of an asshole his boss is, just how much of an asshole his clients can be, just how much of a bag of dicks my various employers and customers can suck, computers, cell phones, government conspiracies, cake, how many parts he’s had surgically replaced and for what reasons, why one nut is just as good as two, why high school sucked particularly hard for me, and just about anything else under the sun.
Got two different kinds of cake for my birthday because apparently “Chocolate or carrot cake sounds good” is not actually making up my mind.
Got coffee together. He paid (except for that one time when I totally ninja’d the bill).
Rushed me to urgent care when I suddenly turned white(r than usual) and couldn’t stand up because I was in so much pain. Pushed me around in a wheelchair till they could get me in. (Ovarian cysts suuuuck.)
Packed, moved, and unpacked all his stuff once.
Packed, moved, and unpacked all my stuff multiple times.
I’m looking at this list right now, and even in my head I’m going “Jeez, when is this chick going to put out? Why hasn’t he made a move yet?”
But here’s the thing. I happen to be married to the guy who introduced me to Ty. In our six or so years of friendship, there has never been a time where I wasn’t dating, engaged to, or married to this dude that Ty calls friend. And I guarantee you this: you will see a unicorn jump out of a pile of leprechaun shit and play Calvinball with Jesus and Santa Claus* before you’d ever see Ty break up a friend’s relationship. Plus, he’s had a girlfriend for a significant portion of that list.
He never did these things to get laid, and certainly not by me. He did these things because that’s what friends do. He did these things because he gave a shit about me, saw me as a real person with needs and desires and not a hell of a lot of expendable income, and wanted to spend time enjoying my company. And that of my husband. If we tried to pay him back, simply for the meals and events he’s covered in order to have us along, we’d go bankrupt tomorrow. If we tried to pay him back for the support and friendship he’s offered in addition to that… well, we’d never be able to. I’d like to think that the friendship and camaraderie we enjoyed was enough; Ty always certainly seems to think so.
He has been a loyal and steadfast friend, the kind that you can depend on for absolutely anything. He has been there for some of my worst moments; and for some of my best. And there has never been anything that was too weird, too ugly, too nerdy, too girly, or too anything-else for him to accept. He’s never asked for anything in return.
Yeah, I have a friend zone. It’s where my friends are.
*Unicorns lack the necessary fine motor skills for Calvinball.