A Malayali Guy’s Guide to “Friendzone”

Do you want to hear my love story?

This happened several years ago, but I can still remember the moment I looked up and saw her. She had silky brown hair that fell across her forehead and partly covered her sharp, piercing eyes. By the time she swiped a lock of hair over her ear, I knew I had a crush on her.

She was smart, witty and incredibly practical. The kind of person who could travel the world, earn a great education, snag promotions at work and still show you around the city on the weekend. In front of her, I was always wide-eyed and sore from laughing all the time.

And I know she loved spending time with me. We had deep conversations and detailed weekend plans. We made each other’s day better with a simple text or phone call.

I was deeply in love with her.

She “didn’t feel the same way.”

If you are thinking this is one of those rare stories of a guy who broke through the dreaded “Friendzone”, I’m sorry to disappoint you. But perhaps much sorrier that that’s not what happened, obviously…

Instead, this is a story of how I came to terms with that word itself. Friendzone.

Now if you’re not familiar with that term (or if you are a girl, as some would cynically remark), here’s a proper definition straight from Wikipedia:

In popular culture, the friend zone is a situation in which one member of a friendship wishes to enter into a romantic or sexual relationship, while the other does not. It is generally considered to be an undesirable situation for the rejected person.

Millions of guys all around the world would react to the second sentence by rolling their eyes and muttering, “No shit!” Now, I know it’s not just guys who get “friendzoned”, but they make up the overwhelming majority, wouldn’t you agree?

So how do these guys deal with this phenomenon? Here’s how it went for me personally. I told my best friend that this girl doesn’t “see me that way”.

“Does she have a boyfriend?” He asked immediately.

“No!” I replied, surprised he’d even think I was trying to date a girl who was already in a relationship.

But best friends are like IT guys. They go through all the steps of troubleshooting, whether necessary or not.

“Okay,” my bro said, sipping Karak tea. “Do you think she likes someone else?”

I threw up my hands out of frustration. How was I supposed to know? “I – I don’t think so. She doesn’t talk about any other guy or anything like that…”

He looked like he didn’t fully believe me. My answer was a Maybe, not a hard No.

“So listen man, just give her time. I’m sure she’ll change her mind. Just keep talking to her and see where it goes…”

Is that what you did, my fellow friend in the friendzone? Did you send memes and get tagged on Facebook videos? Did you hang out with her and listen to her worries and her wants? Did you simply spend time with her, making her laugh, making her think, making her smile, simply hoping one day she’ll laugh and think and smile when she realizes you’re the one she’s been looking for all along?

“Olakkede Moodu!” My second best friend cried, spitting to the side for added effect. He looked disgusted, like I was a pathetic specimen of masculinity. “Why the hell are you hanging out with her if she doesn’t want to be your girlfriend, bro? There is plenty of fish in the sea, man!”

Ah yes, fishes in the sea. I’ve heard that in movies, T.V. and real-life too. Simply move onto the next fish, it seems. This guy, who always seems to have an Instagram girlfriend and two other WhatsApp girlfriends, couldn’t understand why I’d wait in the friendzone. In his mind, there was nothing worse.

“Have some self-respect, man! Seriously! If she doesn’t value you, there are plenty of girls out there who will!”

I wondered if it was self-respect that drove him or embarrassment…

I felt embarrassed, by the way. When the girl I really, really liked didn’t like me. And that’s the problem of friendzone, isn’t it? It doesn’t leave you room for wondering why you’re in it. It’s pretty obvious.

If a girl loves hanging out with a guy but doesn’t want to date him, most probably it’s not because his personality needs work, right? He might be funny, warm, smart, caring, interesting. But more often than not you get stuck in the friendzone because…you’re not good looking enough?

“How can you say that! That’s so horrible!”

My third best friend was annoyed by what I’d told her. She thought I was suffering from low self-esteem, poor self-image and all the other “self” terms we are always told to increase. She hated the fact that I thought I was ugly.

I’m not ugly,” I calmly explained. “I’m just not … attractive enough.”

Why was it so hard for me to explain that to her? Why did she raise several other possible reasons, such as the girl not wanting to date “at the moment”, or the girl wanting to “focus on her career” or the girl recovering from a “bad breakup”. They were all valid points, mind you. But why do we have to go down the whole list before coming to an issue that I think is pretty obvious?

It was tough to frame it the right way, because when I said, “You know how she looks, right? She’s amazing!”, my friend got even angrier.

Do you think pretty girls are all shallow, or what?

“No, no, I don’t,” I reassured her. Wait, is it wrong to say that there’s such a thing as “leagues?” You know, “she’s out of my league?” Is that not a concept anymore? If you are a highly attractive guy or girl, are you no longer expected to expect partners to be similarly attractive?

“The issue is not that she wants to only date guys who are 6 feet tall with a sculpted body and sharp looks,” I said. “It’s just…what if she wants to date someone who is more attractive than me?”

If you are wondering why I’m spending so many words explaining that girls like good looking guys, then congrats, you’ve found the point of the article. Because in my personal experience, it’s been incredibly hard to approach the topic.

When I was friendzoned, it took me a long time to come to terms with why that happened. For the longest time, I subconsciously believed what T.V., books and movies have always told us. That girls will like a guy who is sweet and caring and nice. That they want someone who treats them in a respectable, loving manner. So when the girl I was hopelessly in love with didn’t love me back, resentment started to build within. Minute, vague emotions mind you, but it was always at the back of my mind.

For example, when she’d tell me she broke up with her boyfriend or that it wasn’t going well, I’d think: Ha! If only you learnt to appreciate the guy right in front of you, instead of running behind the cute looking jerk!

I’m so happy I’ve finally understood how flawed my thinking was. It’s taken me several years, but I think I need to share this with all the guys who might right now be thinking what I was back then.

When a girl you like doesn’t like you back “that way”, it doesn’t have to be because she doesn’t appreciate who you are. You might be funny, charming, hardworking, caring, sensitive and all-round special. But that might not be enough. 

Unfortunately, we live in this world where everybody expects the girl to eventually make a trade-off. As though she has to add up all the nice qualities about you, and then subtract all the physical attractiveness you don’t possess, and finally sigh and say, “Well, he does remember what song I like, so I guess that just about tips things in his favour!”

I realized that I might possess a lot of wonderful attributes. But so do millions of guys in the world. How arrogant is it to repost those bitchy “You don’t appreciate nice guys” photos on Facebook and Instagram? As though you are the only “nice guy” in that girl’s Facebook feed!

I now understand that you can’t simply force attraction. You can’t turn “love” into a FIFA 18 Footballer’s attributes chart. When I saw the girl I loved linking arms with another guy, I wanted to list all my good qualities and use them to bury any attractive attributes that jerk had. I thought my ability to be compassionate was much more important than that fellow’s ability to be cute.

It took me years to understand that this girl shouldn’t have to choose between compassion and cuteness. She could simply search for whatever mixture of the two she wanted. She owed me nothing.

So to my best friend who told me to hang around, I’d like to say: You’re right, but for the wrong reasons. Hanging around with the girl you love is great, but not because repeatedly seeing you will somehow make her “realize her earlier mistake” (there was no such mistake!). But because you will slowly learn to appreciate her without wanting her to validate you. It might be painful, and for some, it might not be healthy, but there’s a chance you can learn to love the friendship she offers instead of endlessly waiting for the love she can’t.

And to my second best friend who hated the concept of spending time with a girl who doesn’t reciprocate feelings, I’d like to ask: How easy is it for you to find a person you love and admire? Are there that many “fishes” in the sea? Are we in an ocean of fish who share your mindset and taste in music, who can understand your sense of humour and have the good sense to look past your flaws? Are you that great a “fisherman”? Is it that easy to “fish”?

Finally, my third best friend, who is probably reading this. I hope more people come to terms with the fact that guys can fail in love not because they aren’t good enough in character, but because they aren’t good enough in terms of look. I hope none of us is so politically correct that we pretend physical attraction isn’t a key factor for guys and girls.

And finally, I hope it’s okay for guys like me to hit the gym, dress better, behave charmingly and still tell you we got rejected by the girl we love because, in the words of Mohanlal’s Udayan, “Makeup inu oru parithiyille?”

Since the beginning of time, guys could ask why a dude wasn’t going out with a girl. And all he’d have to do is reply, “Eh, she’s not that hot bro!”

I just want to be able to tell my male and female friends why a girl doesn’t want to date me. “Ah, I’m not hot enough, you know?”

It’s not self-loathing, or a statement of sorrow. Why can’t it simply be …the accepted truth?

3 COMMENTS

  1. ” I hope none of us is so politically correct that we pretend physical attraction isn’t a key factor for guys and girls” . Finally, the truth has been spoken. Well explained👍

  2. Everyone isn’t the same 🤞. Not all girls run behind looks or sweet n cuteness. It’s all about the connection that both of them have and if there’s a spark then definitely it’ll ignite or else it’ll pass on. It’ll be painful but time heals.

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