Better off as friends: Surviving the Friend Zone
“The best way to get over a woman is to turn her into literature.”—Henry Miller
She was one of those girls whom you simply fall in love with. She was smart, articulate, and always made you feel like the man you know you are. She always had a kind word for everyone. The moment you met her— must be as if the plane is about to crash—all the light bulbs in your head flash. Falling in love with her seems, in hindsight, inevitable.
Hanging out with her was something I looked forward to every time. I knew she had a boyfriend, and I was even friends with him. But I just couldn’t help myself. I was drawn to her like a moth to a lamp. It was her way of making everything seem better. With her, it seemed like the sky was bluer than the retina display on the new iPad. She made me see this world as a place where fairy tales do happen.
Perhaps you have heard tales like this—a boy meets a girl, and predictably falls in love with her. The boy thinks she’s the love of his life. It’s such a cliché, I know, but it does make for a good Marc Webber movie, “(500) Days of Summer.” Man, if only my life was a movie, I would not have to go through the pain of it all.
But then again, I would not have experienced the joy, the ecstasy, the exhilaration I felt when I was with her! Well, I say, you simply have to take the good with the bad.
We used to stay out late at night just sitting on this bench, as we people-watched and made up stories about the passers-by. The streetlight cast a soft glow on her face; I had to take a moment to catch my breath. In some ways, I think she knew I had feelings for her. I was like a lost puppy following her around campus. Or maybe, I was exactly just that for her, a lost puppy.
I loved her, and forgave her even without being asked for forgiveness. I would patiently wait up for her as she dolled up, even when we were running late. Our dinners were always long ones because she ate really slowly (and we always had a good chat, too).
I couldn’t stay angry with her, and I couldn’t refuse her. I was, as she said, her “second boyfriend.”
She meant I was her go-to chaperone whenever her boyfriend was not around, and she needed company to go somewhere. But the really sad thing was, I was okay with this setup.
When she and her boyfriend broke up, I thought, “Here’s my chance!” Of course, she was a little desolate, and I didn’t show that I was jumping with joy, like I had won a game show.
Being the good friend I was, I comforted her with Hallmark-y statements like, “You’ll find someone better” (while raising an imaginary placard with super-embossed “ME!”). I was what Ramon Bautista called, in his “Tales from the Friend Zone,” a classic abangers. Bantay-salakay, in street parlance!
Three months after she broke up with her boyfriend, we consistently went out. Not on dates. It isn’t like that, although I must admit I was having a daydream sequence in my head. We had dinner as we always had, but this time around, it was always just the two of us. We talked about stuff. I tried to unsuccessfully play down the topic of her ex-boyfriend.
Some time, in the middle of it all, I must have told her of my feelings for her. She let me down kindly with, “I think we’re better off as friends.” I needed full self-control to prevent a full meltdown right then and there.
Friend-zoned! It’s a lonely and cold place, where the love that set you afire now bursts into this emptiness, and this black hole sucks in your joy and that of everyone around you. Suddenly, the world is bleak.
I avoided her as much as I could. The pain was only compounded by separation anxiety. She was, after all, my constant companion. Everything reminded me of her. The songs in my iPod; the food I ate; the McDonald’s float that she would stir so that the chocolate and the sundae would mix with the soft drink; the TV series I watched (which I finished only after some time had passed). I even came to the point that I would interrupt friends talking about their love life with, “Maghihiwalay din kayo!”
For some time, I was the epitome of bitterness. When our common friends asked me about her, I would deadpan—“Okay naman siya.” When people who knew about what went on with her asked me if I had moved on, I said, “Eto, sana masagasaan ng pison! O, mabagsakan ng ref!”
Corpse of a heart
I often heard friends asking me why I was bitter when we weren’t even an item in the first place. I wanted to open up my chest, and show them my corpse of a heart. It’s one of the downsides of getting friend-zoned. You’re hurting, even if you know you shouldn’t be. People expect you to just laugh it off, but man, you’d been rejected.
Your love is unrequited, and your ego is bruised. I think I wore out the play button on Rascal Flatt’s “What Hurts the Most” during this phase of my life.
I didn’t speak to her for a semester. I met new friends, and picked up a different hobby. I let time pass, and true enough, it eased, if not entirely healed, my heart.
When I met her again, I managed to smile. I was able to speak, no longer paralyzed by being torn between a dramatic breakdown and strangling her (I kept on seeing myself in this scene as Popoy uttered to Basya, “You had me at my best, but you chose to break my heart!”).
I mustered enough courage to broach the subject of her letting me down. She told me that she did consider the possibility of a relationship with me, but she thought we were better off as friends. We had a good chat, and I even mocked myself!
We remain in touch although we rarely see each other. She has a new boyfriend now. Like me, she picked up a new hobby and made new friends. As for me, I’m still mending my ego and watching too many rom-coms. But the sky is blue again, and I can’t wait for someone to make it even bluer.