Tony was the color old-school Bit-o-Honey candy; and he was just as sweet and sticky. We had similar spirits: work hard, play hard, travel often, drink well, laugh easily. We met in front of our Washington D.C. high-rise apartment lobby’s “fireplace” (a fake brick facade housing a partially exposed orange light bulb). Immediately I and my boyfriend (at the time) liked him. First, perhaps it was because he was one of the only other English speakers in the building. But soon, almost immediately, one couldn’t miss his 42-teeth smile. Tony didn’t know a stranger.
Neither one of us knew a stranger. We’d go out drinking with 4 friends and leave with 50. Together—we were fun personified. Tony would come up on weekdays and grab a plate of whatever I had fixed for dinner for my boyfriend (I’m a Southern girl so I always cooked—plus, I was trying to seal that deal) , they’d hangout and watch sports, but me and Tony were definitely kindred spirits.
It’s somewhat embarrassing to my current women-adoring-self but I would look at polaroids that Tony would take of girls he had slept with (this is before cell phones). He would tell me tantalizing details about his hook-ups, break-ups, sex screw-ups. It was nice to hear a man’s candid point of view about taboo subjects (I seriously learned some things…).
For years, through birthday parties, drunk nights, maybe a few tears, job changes, ski trips, multiple girlfriends for Tony, and an engagement for me — Tony and I bonded. We became more like family and less like friends…until he hit on me.
Anytime our group of friends learned of a travel deal, we’d jump on it and the deal. This practice landed Tony and me in Amsterdam. I considered myself almost “one of the boys”, so much so that the night prior was spent in the Red Light District (area for legal prostitution), where the guys could indulge as we women stayed shivering on the streets, somewhat amazed by the goings-on.
The next night, our last night in Amsterdam, was another nasal-drip-inducing, freezing cold night. Tony and I were walking down a fairly empty street, after leaving a night club, when Tony abruptly stopped in the middle of a fairly busy street and tried to kiss me. I immediately pushed him away. What in the hell? He apologized; I don’t remember saying much, but I knew that our friendship was over.
This is what Tony didn’t know or understand about the friend-zone: it’s like taxes, an iron-clad contract or athlete’s foot. It’s hard to escape from.
Think about how we operate. We meet people and generally within the first meeting classify them: “friend”, “associate”, “cutie pie”, “could date”, “could screw”, “would hire”, “would hang-out with”, “a jerk” and so on. After this initial sorting, getting re-categorized is tough. It happens, but it’s unlikely, particularly having one transition from friend to lover.
When I met Tony, with his mega-watt smile (and short stature. He is shorter than I am), I felt zero attraction towards him, which is exactly why I could be his friend. I was as comfortable with him as I was with my female friends and had the same zero desire to see him naked or to kiss him. He, from minute one, was my buddy, my road dog, my brother—that’s it.
At best, Tony could only be a guy that I thought was great for a friend of mine. No matter how great I discovered he was, I would only think how great he could be for one of my friends—never for me. The only thing that could have changed mine and Tony’s relationship status would have been a conscious decision (I won’t use the word desperation). I would have had to come to a point in my life where I decided that Tony was the right guy for me because –well—there was no better guy pursuing me.
Tony isn’t the only guy who has tried to slide our relationship from friendship to romance. It has always left me feeling upset. Was the friendship real or was the guy always scheming? And I end up losing a friend– a person I really liked and enjoyed, so I’m always sad. It also leaves me confused: Did I do something that made him think that a relationship with him was a possibility? I can’t help but to question myself. Mostly, I feel as if the trust and bond between me and my male friend has been broken. I resent the deception.
I know that there are many people who have crossed over from friends to lovers; but I wonder if one of the parties always felt a slight attraction but didn’t act on it because of circumstances. Was there an “energy” that was always there?
I certainly don’t want to discourage anyone’s chance at love. There are as many lovers’ “how we met” stories as there are people, so if you feel that love with one of your friends is possible, certainly go for it. My friend-zone has always had solid lines, but I understand that some people’s lines are dotted.
My intention is for Black people to love themselves and each other. It sounds somewhat silly, I guess; but oftentimes my people are overwhelmed with negative images, bad news, and stereotyped characters about us. I’d like to flip that script. I’d like to remind us, as often as I can, how incredible we are. Read more