Is it Possible to Escape The Friend Zone?

Whenever I’m chatting with one of my best friends and tell her about some new guy I’m dealing with, she chuckles and says, “Girl, I swear you’ve got a lot of men in your atmosphere.” That’s a good way to describe my current situation. There are several guys in the mix, but they’re just floating about with no particular purpose or destination. Sure, it’s entertaining but also quite frustrating.

I recently read an article that was a summary of a book called “Why Men Marry Some Women and Not Others” that depressed me. It was a summary of a book that was written about “the kind of women men marry”. In it, the author makes some interesting arguments. One of the most depressing takeaways of the article is that women who are overweight are less likely to get wifed. So are women who are over 35. And women are both over 35 and over weight are just destined to be spinsters. Well, I’m about to be 35 (this fact shocks even me, and I’ve known this birthday was coming for 35 years), and I could stand to lose a few pounds (okay, more like 50+), so this conclusion doesn’t bode well for me. But believe it or not, that sad tidbit of info isn’t the point of this post, and I digress, so…

The article also said that women who make an effort to seek out the company of single men are more likely to marry. If that’s truly the case, then the odd are in my favor because I spend almost ALL my free time with single men. Most of those interactions are platonic and I know so many women, most of them married, who are baffled by the fact that I have so many male friends. I’ve got a solid group of males that would do just about anything for me… except date me.

It’s confusing for me because our interactions look like dates and feel like dates, but… They’re not dates. I go to nice dinners, all-expenses paid, movies, shows, and let’s not forget the Netflix and pizza nights. But these are not my boyfriends. And we’re not sleeping together. They’re JUST friends. I know it sounds like I’m working overtime to prove that point, but it’s true, and I’m just not sure why that’s so hard to believe, lol.

Anyway, my point is that I’m never wanting for male companionship. Theoretically, according to the article, this should make me more likely to get married, but as the years go by, in spite of the many hours spent in the company of boyFRIENDS, I am perpetually single. I’ve been puzzled by this, but my mom thinks the answer is simple. Many of my boyFRIENDS are guys I wouldn’t be opposed to dating. But I’ve placed myself squarely in the center of that hellish place called The  Friend Zone. Usually, men are the ones that spend the most time in The Zone, but there I sit. So while I’m never without a man I can call for dinner or a movie, I’m without a man. MY man.

Most people that hear these stories always say that no man would spend time or money on a woman he isn’t attracted to.  I don’t doubt that these men are attracted to me.  And I certainly don’t think any of these men would turn down sex if I offered it.  But I want more than sex, and that’s what they’re not willing to give.

My boyFRIENDS are never short on compliments either.  They’re always telling me about what a “great catch” I am.  And how I’m so cool and fun and they wish they could find a woman like me.  And I’m all like… but you don’t need to find a woman like me, you’ve already found ME!   Helloooo!  It’s a little crazy to watch these boyFRIENDS of mine pair off with other women while I remain the eternal bachelorette.  This whole pattern is for the birds, and frankly I’m sick of it.

The (dreaded) Friend Zone

The (dreaded) Friend Zone

 

Look, I have a very rich life outside of the dating game. Finding a (good) man and then maintaining that relationship isn’t my sole purpose for living, but I have to be real — amidst all the other fun I’m having in life, finding a partner is a legitimate priority. As such, I’ve invested a great deal of money (dating site subscriptions, date outfits, hair appointments, etc.) and time (searching profiles, making small talk, dating) into this process. And, in spite of that investment, AND in spite of all the time I spend in the company of single men, I have had little to no luck. Clearly I’m doing something wrong and I would love it if someone… anyone… could point me in the direction of a solution.

So here’s a real-life example of my situation.  I told a female friend about one male friend who requests the pleasure of my company quite often. Recently, he bought groceries and came to my apartment to make dinner. He cooked a feast, we ate the food on my couch, and watched a few episodes some of our (my) favorite shows on Bravo.  After I recap this night for my friend, she had some questions:

“Soooo, nothing exciting happened?” my friend asked me, stunned.

“Nope, it was a low-key evening,” I said.

“How does it feel when he’s there?” she asked, puzzled.

“Um, it feels very… platonic,” I said.

“I bet it wouldn’t feel platonic it you took off all your clothes and sat on his lap.”

Um… right. I’m SURE that literally throwing my ass at him would change things, but I’m seeking a subtler way to turn the tides. You know… one that doesn’t involve me being naked, lol.

So just how does one meet men of quality and substance if other single men aren’t the key? And how do we break the stronghold of The Friend Zone? Once we’re in there, how to we get escape? Or can we? I’m on the hunt for some answers…

Stuck (Part II)

I sat and stared at that piece of paper for hours before I finally worked up the nerve to use the telephone number written on it.  Even though I give guys a lot of lip about relying heavily on text messages, it seemed like a text would be less awkward than a phone call.  And, so… I sent a text.  Just told him my name and that the doorman gave him my number and because I didn’t know what else to say, I wrote: “Um… I’m not sure what else to say, lol… :-)”

Then I waited.  But I didn’t have to wait long.  He wrote back almost immediately.   His response: “Lol, well, there’s nothing much to say obviously I’m interested here a start my name [his name]”

Hmm…

See anything wrong with that message?!  Mega typos or… just poor grammar?  Either way, my nerves were completely grated.  In the first message.

Most of you don’t know me personally, so you wouldn’t understand why this was such a major disappointment.

Allow me to reintroduce myself.  “Hello, my name is [Me]… and I am a grammar snob.”

Here’s the thing about texting and email communication and even Facebook status updates and tweets… all these media that require writing uncover the closet illiterates very early on in your relationship. I assume that before the days of the Internet, it was conceivable that you might meet someone and never discover that they couldn’t write until after you’d already fallen for them and by then their writing challenges would be secondary to the love you might be feeling. But these days, particularly when you are dating online, these issues present themselves a lot sooner, resulting in interesting questions.

Questions like what job/career could you possibly have if you can’t even string a few words together to construct a simple sentence? Most jobs (except maybe those that involve manual labor?) require some sort of facility with email, which means you’d have to be able to at least write in a way that sort of makes sense. But maybe some employers have lower standards than I have for my employees… Maybe?

I didn’t want to “throw the baby out with the bath water” so to speak. (That’s a “Daddyism” a.k.a. Shit My Dad Says.  I’ll frequently share Daddyisms as we go along.) Because I’m in a place where I’m trying new approaches to dating, I figured that perhaps I should try to give this guy another shot. Maybe he was just distracted and that’s why his message made no sense.

But… No.

I continued to exchange messages with him and they were progressively worse than the first (if that’s possible!). It got to the point where I had to read messages a few times before I could even get the gist of what he was saying. It was awful. And I was embarrassed for him. Illiteracy — even functional illiteracy — is one of my deal breakers. And, so, despite My Buddy’s (the doorman) effort, there can be no love connection between me and the cute guy from the building.

Eventually, we moved from text to telephone and the conversation wasn’t forced. He is much more article verbally than he is in writing (thanks be to God!), so we were able to make small talk and that was cool. He asked if I’d like to go for happy hour one day, which is one of my most favorite activities, so I agreed. There’s no date set in stone, but I’m always down for a drink with a guy who seems cool. That said, that’s as far as it will go.

My friends will roll their eyes when they hear this story. Sure, the guy was cute and made decent small talk, and maybe to others (perhaps even to YOU), grammar, punctuation (or lack thereof), improper word usage, and typos are minor. To me, they’re quite major. Even when I see my Facebook and Instagram friends botch there/they’re/their and to/too/two or here/hear, I’m driven to the point of distraction. I don’t know if I could accept it in my mate.

And there’s a life lesson here, too. Everyone… And I do mean EVERYONE… Including me, including YOU (yes, I know we’re perfect, but humor me here) has shortcomings. The man of your dreams WILL have shortcomings. There will be things he can’t/won’t do at all or things that he can’t/won’t do very well. Some of those things will be no big deal. Other things will totally set you off and jump all over that one nerve you have left.

Don’t let anyone else convince you that you have to deal with some stuff that you know you can’t stand. Get to know yourself well enough to identify your deal breakers and do not be shamed into lowering your standards for the sake of a full dating calendar. It’s okay to be discriminating and it’s also okay for you to discriminate based on things that other people find trivial. Those people won’t have to live with your partner, but you will. Keep that in mind…

Back to the cute neighbor. Even if he had been everything I wanted him to be, I’m not sure that dating someone in the building would’ve been the best move. I am ultimately looking for a partner but until then I am dating in the purest sense of the word, which means there are a number of guys in the mix. I’m not sure how homeboy would feel if he saw me getting dropped off by some other guy or even how I would feel if I saw him bringing another girl back to his place. It seems like that could go all the way south under the wrong circumstances, so I think things worked out for the best.

On to the next one…

Why I’m Dating Online

In a city of 12 million souls, I find it difficult to meet men. That seems somewhat ironic to me. How can my life intersect with hundreds of people in a day, from the subway, to the sidewalk, to the supermarket, and yet I never CONNECT with any of them? But NYC is like that. People aren’t friendly and, in fact, are rather surly and suspicious of one another. When I first arrived in town, my semi-Southern sensibilities had me smiling at and saying hello to strangers on the street and even thanking bus drivers as they dropped me off at my stop. These pleasantries were met with blank stares of confusion. And so, those habits stopped (although I still thank bus drivers… and cabbies, too).

It seems to me that many people in this city build their social circles around three things: work, school, and church/temple/place of worship. Well, I work in a industry rife with women and gay men, which makes for fun times but, since I’m a straight woman, doesn’t leave me with many dating options. Also, I went to school in a different city. There are people from my undergrad who live in NYC, but I wouldn’t consider them “friends” and they wouldn’t call me a friend either, and so there goes that option. I haven’t found a church in NYC (although I fully admit that I haven’t really looked very hard for one either). That said, I do have friends from my church back home who are living in the City. They are also women and also experiencing the same dating struggles I’m facing, so when we do get together, we just commiserate and validate each other’s time spent in the dating trenches.

You may be asking why I’m giving you a rundown of my situation; some of this you already know and some of it you may have assumed.  But I guess I’m telling you all this to justify the fact that I have resorted to online dating.  I shouldn’t use the word “resorted” because it gives off the (false) impression that I was somehow resistant to the idea.  I wasn’t.  To me, online dating makes perfect sense.  Recently, I was talking to a guy I met online and I asked him the standard set of conversation-starter questions (I’ll get to that later), which includes a version of “why are you doing this?”  He gave the best answer yet.  He explained that online dating allows him “to filter through the crazy, the stupid, the gold-diggers” et al.  He also said that for him, online dating allows him to focus more on quality than quantity.  This makes sense to me, and if you look at it this way, it makes online dating seem like less of a less resort and more a savvy strategy for finding worthy candidates.

I opened an account on eHarmony the first week I moved to NYC.  I was single and ready to mingle and open to meeting and connecting with new people.   In the last four and a half years, I’ve tried nearly all of the online dating sites from eHarmony, to OkCupid, to Match.com, to BlackPeopleMeet, to ChristianMingle.  I’ve had different experiences with them all, and clearly haven’t made a love connection (or else I would be writing about a completely different topic).  But along the way, I have been highly entertained, challenged, stimulated, and ultimately have learned so much about myself, my deal breakers, my must-haves, etc.  And I have stories for days.  One day I’ll write a book about this stuff.  But for now, I’ll attempt to capture some of my triumphs and disappointments in a few blog posts here for your reading pleasure.  Hopefully, they’ll culminate in a happy ending… *fingers crossed*

Stuck.

I am sitting here staring at a piece of paper.  On it, is a name I’ve never uttered before… and a telephone number.

There are a lot of guys that live in my building, but there’s one in particular that intrigued me.  He’s always friendly, always pleasant.  And he’s cute.  Well, I’m not sure that by traditional standards he would be considered especially handsome, but to me, he’s adorable.  Although we live a few floors away from one another, I’ve only run into him about six or seven times in the four years I’ve lived here, but each time we smiled, exchanged small talk… and then, ultimately, went our separate ways.  I never asked his name, he never asked mine, and our conversations never went past pleasantries, yet every time I walked away from him, I’d kick myself for not digging a little deeper.

A few weeks ago, I was walking down the street to a friend’s house that lives nearby.   I was texting another friend at the same time, so was looking down at my phone when I sensed someone standing near me, and heard a voice say “Hello!”  I looked up, and it was him, smiling brightly.  “Hello,” I called over my shoulder because, by the time I reacted, he had already passed me.  As I turned slightly, I could see that he also turned slightly.  We smiled at each other again, but I kept walking.  Five minutes later when I reached the stoop of my friend’s house, I began to regret that I didn’t stop to chat.  I vowed that if/when I ran into him again, I would say something – anything – to prolong the conversation and get to know him better.

Last night as I was walking from the subway to my apartment, I ran into him again.  It’s not often that our paths cross, so I thought I’d better take advantage of the opportunity.  This time, he’s walking toward me, and he’s the one looking down at his phone.  I spot him and, as he walks by, I raise my voice and say, “Hey!”  He looks up, startled, but when he sees that it’s me, he breaks into a smile and says hey back, and as he passes me, he reaches out for my hand and holds it a bit, but all the while he keeps walking.  As he lets go of my hand, I turn, he turns, and we again lock eyes and smile, but neither of us stops long enough to say anything although he looks like he wants to.  When I reach the door to our building, I am again regretting that I’d let the moment pass.  I promised myself that I’d say something, but I let my nerves get the best of me.  Ugh.

Four doormen staff our front lobby round-the-clock and at this time of night, the “good” one was on duty – my buddy, the one I can trust.  I stop and ask him if he saw my guy just leave the building and give him a rundown of his appearance, including what he was wearing.  He tells me he knows who I’m referring to.  I ask if he knows his name and he says that he doesn’t, but he’ll find out for me.  I kind of laugh it off, but appreciate his willingness to dig for info.

Fast forward to this evening.  I come home from work, dead tired, having completely forgotten the events of the previous night.  When I walk through the front door, My Buddy (the doorman) says “I have some information for you.”  He shuffles through some things on his desk, finds what he’s looking for, and approaches me, extending his hand.  In it, is a slip of paper.  On it, is a name, and a telephone number.  My Buddy tells me that he told my guy that I had asked about him and, in response, my guy gives him this piece of paper and tells him to share it with me.

With a wink and a nod, My Buddy says, “I think you should call him or text him or whatever.  Share your information.  He seems like good people.”

I appreciate the ringing endorsement, and I’m happy to know that he’s been vetted by My Buddy.  I take the paper and thank him profusely while giggling about what has transpired.  Look at My Buddy making love connections!

But now that I have the name and number, what do I do with it?  Should I actually use it?

I call my mother.  I always consult with her whenever I’m feeling unsure about how to proceed.  I tell her the story, and she loves every second.  I tell her that I feel weird about reaching out to a guy who may not even be clear about who exactly he gave his number to.  She says, “Call him.  It can’t be any weirder or more awkward than reaching out to someone you meet online, right?”  She has a point.  Given my luck, or lack thereof, with online dating, this really couldn’t be any worse than that.  Well… I hope not, anyway.

Then, five minutes later as we continue to hash out the “what-ifs”, my mom says, “What if he’s, like, 19?”

I hadn’t thought of this.  The what-ifs are numerous.  What if he is 19?  What if he is married?  What if he is gay?  What if he is an asshole?  What if, what if?

So, here I sit.  I hung up with my mother about an hour ago, and I’m still debating about what to do.  I could reach out to him and my life might change.  Or, I could reach out and absolutely nothing will change.  Honestly, I’m not sure which scenario scares me most…

For now, I’m sitting here with a slip of paper.  And as long as I don’t do anything with the information on it, this slip of paper represents endless possibilities… The situation could go any number of ways.  But as soon as I make a move, that all changes…

Will I pull the trigger?  Your guess is as good as mine.

DATING: I’m dating myself, and it’s the Best… Relationship… EVER! (Well, sorta.)

I am currently involved in the best relationship I’ve had in years. Why? Because I’m dating myself.

Well… I don’t actually take myself out on dates (much), but the person that I do the most for, take the best care of, spend the most time with, and get the most googly-eyed about happens to be yours truly.

Being single sucks. After being involved in several unhealthy relationships that went absolutely nowhere, I took some time off from dating to assess why all my relationships went from sugar to shit in 60 seconds or less. The guys were all very different from one another, and the circumstances behind the dissolution of each relationship were varied. This brought me to the sad realization that the only common denominator in these less than stellar relationships was me. So, I decided to get to know me better, to figure out what I did and did not want from a relationship, and what I could do to improve myself so that even if I was never involved in another romantic relationship with someone of the opposite sex, I’d still be happy with the woman I am.

Better than the next

Since I didn’t exactly have dudes busting down my door to wine and dine me, I had a lot of free time on my hands. So, I started reestablishing and strengthening relationships with family and friends. I read more books and articles, began watching TV shows my friends had been hyping, took up knitting, tried new recipes that I’d been holding onto for months, took myself out to some of the best restaurants in NYC, went to numerous happy hours and dinners with girlfriends (and a few guy friends), and even decided to hit the gym on a regular basis – something I had dreaded before. I started doing all the things I’d always TALKED about, but never got around to doing because I was so wrapped up in a man. After a few months, I discovered that my life was really enriched by all the new things I’d taken on. I really liked the woman that I had become and had picked up some new skills and a slimmer body along the way.

I’d love to tell you that this all change my perspective about dating. But you know what? Being single still sucked.

I live in New York City, the center of everything – fashion, publishing, music, theater, food, etc. – and, believe me, it’s as great as people make it out to be. Right before I left my hometown of DC to escape to Harlem in 2009, I felt I had completely exhausted the DC dating scene. Don’t get me wrong, DC is cosmopolitan, cultural, and cute, but when it comes to dating, DC is a small country town. In the months leading up to my relocation, three of my girlfriends started dating guys only to find out that I had already dated them! That might not seem like a big deal to you, but when you take into account that I haven’t dated many guys at all, the odds that I’d have overlapped with three of my girlfriends just seemed more pathetic than coincidental. I was excited to get to NYC and take up residence in Manhattan. Millions of people are crammed on this island. That means that I should just be able to basically walk outside and bump right into a good dating candidate, right?

Wrong.

There are several fundamental issues with dating in NYC. Here are a few (be mindful that this is not an comprehensive list):

1) When I moved here, I considered myself young, hip, fun, single and ready to mingle, and couldn’t wait to be moving and shaking among other young, hip, fun, single and ready to mingle people. The problem is that the NYC dating market is saturated with young, hip, fun singles, so it takes A LOT to stand out. And, let’s face it, I’m more “Girl Next Door” than I am “Cover Girl”, so I was at a disadvantage from jump. Because if there’s one thing that NYC has a lot of, it’s cover girls. Like real Cover Girls (after all, it is the Model Capital of the world). Hmph.

2) NYC is expensive. This makes dating hard for numerous reasons. First, people work really hard here just to make ends meet. Second, men come here to grind and stack a lot of paper, and that’s their singular focus. I can’t blame them, but that makes it harder for them to concentrate on dating. Plus, since – as we’ve established – NYC is expensive, some guys are reluctant to make the financial commitment dating requires. To have a decent night in NYC, you’re going to drop at least a Benjamin. To have a good night, you’d need twin Benjies. Who’s tryna do all that?!

3) It’s hard to meet people here. In smaller cities, if you’d like to hang out among a certain demographic, you know exactly where to go to find them. For instance, in DC, there are let’s say five hot places where you know people will be on a Friday or Saturday night. So, if you wanna hang out and meet people, then you know you need to go to one of those places. In NYC, there are so many freakin’ spots to hang, there’s never a critical mass of quality people in any one place. That makes it difficult to get access to the datable dudes unless you’re planning to meet someone at school, work, church, etc. And since I am oh so done with school, every man I work with is gay, and I am a trifling backslider that has barely set foot in a church in the last year, those places won’t work for me.

I wish I could say that being single doesn’t bother me, but the truth is that I want to get married. And even more importantly, I want to have babies (preferably after I get married – ain’t no babymamas over here). I need a partner who’s willing to live that dream with me and, unfortunately, he hasn’t come along yet. But, I’m still hopeful. Until then, I’ll keep picking up new hobbies, taking advantage of cultural opportunities, refining my cooking skills, and hitting the gym in an attempt to stand out among the Cover Girls. That way whenever HE comes along, he’ll just be a cherry on top of the already amazing life I have created for myself.