When I was 8 years old, a boy I was friends with asked me out. I turned him down.
He was sad, and I was sympathetic, but I’d made my decision.
Fairly run of the mill occurrence. What get’s me about this however, is the way my classmates responded. I mean, they might as well have said “Josie, who the hell do you think you are to reject him like that!”. They kept telling me how I’d “hurt his feelings”, they called me names and, I’ll never forget this, a couple of the girls came up to me and told me to “Just go out with him anyway, it doesn’t matter if you want to or not. Don’t you want him to be happy again?”
Age 8, and I was already being told to prioritize his feelings over my right to say no.
I missed hanging out with him, and I wondered why he couldn’t just be my friend like he was before.
This pretty much set the tone for my friendships with boys from that point onwards.
When I was 13 I befriended a nice, quiet boy. He listened to my ideas and asked me how my day went. Everyone would tease him and I for talking in lessons, loudly asking him whether we were going out, whether we’d kissed. He then promptly stopped being my friend.
When I was in my mid-teens, I was bullied at school. Around that time I was friends with a boy who was into all of the ‘uncool’ stuff I was into like politics and history etc. He made his crush on me known, and I laughed it off. After that, he didn’t speak to me and instead decided to cheer the bullying on.
I thought we were friends, but then again, how many times had I thought that before?
A little while later, I befriended the ‘new kid’, who was just as much of an outcast as I was. We bonded over our unpopularity, our sense of humour and our shared love of Ms Elia’s English lit class. He admitted that he “liked me”, and I told him I was gay. He then tried to guilt-trip me, complaining to me at-length about how nice guy’s like him “never get laid”. I wondered, if he was so nice, why would he say such unkind things?
And that brings me to present day. Sixth form. On the spectrum, just like me. Giggly and sweet, and he was always fun to talk to.
I thought we were friends, but then again, how many times had I thought that before? How many times had I bonded with a guy, felt like he truly understood me, only for him to make advances and react with such cruelty after I turned him down?
Same pattern, only this time decided to troll me on the internet.
When I meet men who talk about the friendzone, who speak so disparagingly of the girls who ‘just don’t give them a chance’, I think of this:
I knew a girl who was electric. Whose voice carried this effortless reassurance. Who had this way of making me both weak-at-the-knees and oddly calm at the same time. And, soon enough, I realized that whatever feelings I had for her were unrequited.
However, my first thought upon this realisation was not: “what a bitch!”, or “Why doesn’t she want a nice girl like me?”. It was instead one of acceptance and wanting to preserve our friendship.
So before you play the victim, before you berate the girl you claim to adore so much, think about how she feels. She thought she made a friend who was interested in her for her sense of humour, for the conversations you share, only to find out that you only wanted her for sex. Wanted her for a relationship. Wanted her as an object of pursuit, a prize.
And honestly, if you really valued her friendship, you wouldn’t feel entitled to any more than that. You would do anything not to lose the trust she had in you.
She didn’t friendzone you, you friendzoned yourself.