I'm In the (Friend) Zone


I'm a male high school student and, frankly, also a cliche. I'm the basic "friend" and I really don't want to be that. I have a lot of guy friends and a lot of girl friends, but no girlfriend. This may sound stupid, but I don't want this to be a foreshadowing of the rest of my life to come. I've never really had a girlfriend, and don't get me wrong, my friends are great. Some of the girls I can imagine going out with, but I guess I fear rejection, ruining a friendship, or one leading to another. I also fear of being in the "friend zone" (I know I made a reference to "Just Friends"). It's not as much about sex or anything, just someone to have, to hold, and to love. Love. Geez, I'm 16 and already talking about love. I'm convinced that I was born the age of 26 or something like that. I have these "crushes" (I guess that's the appropriate word) that go on and off with different girls and I'm just so confused of how to approach these situations. I made it a rule for myself not to ask anyone out until I could drive myself, which, in February I'll be able to do. Did I do this to myself? Crap. Anyways, I should wrap this up before I ramble on forever. What should I do?

I thought you might appreciate hearing from another guy on this one more than from me, so I asked one of our favorite sex⁠ educating dudes, Justin from Bish Training, who has been a youth worker for 15 years, who's been working in sexual⁠ health and advice for nearly 10 years and who, from what I can gather, has been awesome pretty much always. He's been at all of this a while, including the being-a-guy part.

Here's what Justin had to say to you:

A friend is a great thing to be and a great thing to have. Friends are the people we cherish and remember and love. Friends are the people we learn from and grow with. They support us when we are down, celebrate with us when things are great and are there for everything in between. So don't be down on being a friend. Being a friend to people shows that you are a fantastic human being, people like you and love you for being you.

However, I understand where you are coming from. Romantic relationships feature some of the aspects of friendships above, but you also want to be desired, fancied, held, stroked, nuzzled, whispered to. You want to create a private intimate world with someone who feels the same as you. What's wrong with that? Give yourself a break. People of 16, 26, 56 and 96 often want the same thing. How to get out⁠ there and get these kinds of relationships though?

Some people end up going out with their friends (and some sex and relationships educators end up marrying them - ahem). It's perfectly possible that two friends can fall for each other and their relationship⁠ turns from being a friendship into a romance. So, if you really fancy one of your friends, you could tell them. Try not to make it into a big deal, just try to remain matter of fact and cool about it. Like, "Look, I know we’re really good mates, but I think I fancy you and I’d like to kiss you." Or you could test the water by saying "I had this dream about you last night where we were kissing⁠ and it was great."

Also, sometimes things 'just happen' with a friend. This works out for some people, but it can create confusion and problems. It can be difficult working out whether what 'just happened' was a one-off thing, or whether it will be an on-going ' friends with benefits⁠ ' thing (always tricky), or whether it will be a dating thing, whether it will be a boyfriend/girlfriend type thing or whether it will be a big time feelings thing.

Like you say, there is a risk to being rejected and maybe there is a risk that it might change your friendship, but there is no such thing as risk-free sex and relationships, just as there is no such thing as a risk-free life. I also happen to think that the risks to ruining a friendship are a bit overstated. If a friendship is really good and strong then it can handle this kind of thing. The kind of thing that really messes friendships up is when one person has feelings that they bottle up for ages, never telling the other person. This can then put a strain on a friendship when, for instance, the friend starts dating someone.

However, I wouldn't just rely on trying to make things happen with a friend. You might want to get to grips with the world of flirting with women that you don't know (or at least, don't know very well). Flirting is simply about letting someone know that you are interested in them. You don't need to be able to drive, you don't need to look like Tom Cruise [insert more credible teen version of male heartthrob here], you don't need to have bulging pecs or shiny white teeth and you don't need to have a load of lines: you just need to be your normal friendly self with a few minor tweaks to what you say and do.

First up, flirt with yourself! I'm not kidding. There are loads and loads of women who find you attractive; they are out there right now, some already fancy you and some don't realize it yet. They daydream about someone like you taking an interest in them. I'm still not kidding. Get into the habit of thinking positively about yourself. Think about your best qualities and write them down (to help you, visit my Big Up Yourself page). Make sure you always look and smell generally good, stand tall, smile. Sometimes the way we look and behave can make us feel sexier and confident. Maybe try a new look if you are not really feeling it at the moment.

Next get chatting to someone that you find attractive. I know this might sound scary if you aren't used to it, but this is why you big yourself up beforehand. Just approaching someone cold can be really difficult, so try and find a good opportunity to go over and chat, look over in their direction a bit and smile so that they know what you are thinking. They might smile back and adjust their body so that they have a more welcoming stance. Or you could flirt with someone you know a bit already, which you may find easier.

You don't have to be all "Heeeeeey, baby" to be good at flirting (and really shouldn't be, since that doesn't usually get a warm reception) and there aren’t any particular chat up lines that always work. Many people think that people that use 'lines' are a bit sleazy. Try being a little bit cheeky, friendly and light-hearted. Say that you like something they are wearing, or give them a random but nice compliment (great earrings, nice belt, nifty shoelaces). Talk about something you have in common, or ask what music they are into. Sometimes being quirky and funny can help: try to say something interesting that you think no-one would have said before.

People love being paid compliments and being chatted to, but they also love being listened to. So, show that you are listening by use of body language (try not to fold your arms, or yawn, turn your back or look at your watch) and be attentive and contribute to the conversation. Try to establish brief flirty eye contact, but don’t stare at them wide eyed like a demented serial killer: remember to blink and breathe!

Remember that there is a difference between being friendly and like a friend. Saying something like, "I think you are really pretty, I'd like to get to know you," or "You're really interesting, would you like to go on a date with me?" should make it pretty obvious that you are interested in them in that way. Keep the conversation bubbly, don't try to be a shoulder to cry on or get falsely deep and meaningful. Flirting is fun, light and exciting.

When you're starting out with flirting, you may want to get one of your friends to help you: known (in the UK at least) as a Wingman (or Wingwoman). That's someone who can help facilitate conversations with people you like, make you look good, laugh at your jokes, say nice things about you and then leave you to it. You could also try doing this for one of your friends so that you get the hang of it.

If they aren't interested in you that way you may feel a bit silly or embarrassed, but it will pass. Brush it off. Be nice, smile and make it look like it was no big thing (even if it was!). Remember not every woman is going to find you attractive, but taking these risks of rejection and embarrassment is worth it for the times when someone does like you.

You might also find that some of these links help you out: