How to stay out of the Friend Zone

Sometimes you get a letter so damn eloquent that it just requires a substantive response.  This letter’s about the part in the ‘5 Biggest Dating Mistakes of College Men’ post about being exiled to the Friend Zone, aka Justfriendistan:

Has the most mindful Dr. Ali, in his personal experience with humans of the female persuasion, ever been exiled to Justfriendistan despite intelligent jiu-jitsu reversa-visa framing?

There was a turbaned woman on the outskirts of Medina with beauty to whip instant sandstorms with a lift of her eyebrow — hazel eyes simmering beneath her veil — and a rich man with many oil wells courted her using the official Dr. Ali (c) reversing-the-framing method. She ignored him. He’s quicksanded in Justfriendistan. Is there no hope? Is there no way out?

— Tom S.

Ah yes.  Justfriendistan.  A territory only to be rivaled in inhospitability by the western Sahara, the Atacama desert, and Dante’s Ninth Circle of Hell.  Heck, most guys would rather be on the surface of Mercury getting zapped by cosmic rays than being exiled to Justfriendistan.

The best way to get out of Justfriendistan is to never get into it in the first place.  It’s a bit facile, I know — “Just don’t get into trouble, stoopid” — but a lot of things in life are like obesity: it’s just really tough to take care of the problem once you’re stuck in it.

Tough — but not impossible.

First, let’s talk prevention.  We start with my story. As a bright and eager young man, I liked girls as much as the next guy.  And I was reasonably successful with them.  In fact, my friends would look at envy at my pocket notebook, chock full of girls’ phone numbers, and ask me, “How do you do it, man?”  And in college, I had a knack for ending up astride women’s backs on their beds, giving them backrubs.

But it almost never went beyond that.  Almost never meaning except for that one girlfriend in college and that one girlfriend in med school.

Two girls with whom I actually engaged in makeout sessions and coed naked grownup entertainment.  And the first one only went so far, but that’s a story for a different day.

In other words, I was mighty clueless with women. For 9 years, a mere two exceptions that proved the rule: “You are only good at being friends with girls, buddy.  You have no idea how to take it to the next level — the level involving coed naked grownup entertainment that keeps the neighbors awake.”

Man that stank.

How do you treat this problem? Luckily, I was smart enough to notice something: all these cute girls were hooking up with somebody.  And these somebodies weren’t necessarily better-looking, smarter, richer or better-hung than the rest.

But they were doing something differently.

In fact, there was a whole class of men who never had this problem.  Women never put them in the category of ‘just friends’.  Jerk, yes; lout, occasionally; drunkard, perhaps; libertine, louche, lech — pretty much.  But never just friends.  Sure, these guys got blown off plenty.  But they also got blown plenty.

What did these men have in common?  They were all a little dangerous.  Not necessarily in a life-threatening way (although death-row inmates have long been known to receive mailbag-fulls of mash notes — go figure).  They have a bit of an edge to them.

When you’re dangerous, your communication with women is always infused with sexuality.  Every interaction you have with a woman has polarity in it — you Jane, me Tarzan.  Dangerous men are comfortable in their skin as sexual beings and make no apology for it.

On the other hand, most of the smart guys I know and hang out with have played it safe.  They do not compliment women, especially about their appearance.  They don’t ask them out aggressively.  And they almost never tease women, fearing their wrath and retribution.  Some girl might get offended, and then his reputation would be ruined.

Well, buddy, perhaps it’s about time you did ruin your reputation as a namby-pamby, wishy-washy, nonthreatening, asexual drone.

The asexual drone is untrustworthy.  Why?  Because his actions — antiseptic and safe — are not aligned with his thoughts, namely “I would really like to bone that babe.” Every woman is on to that ‘secret’ thought, so don’t even think you can hide it, buddy.

This misalignment between physiology and thought is called incongruence.  And it is inherently untrustworthy.  And unattractive.  Whereas the dangerous guy is fully out there with his desires.

Sure, he may be a little sleazy. But at least he’s cool with it.  And when he’s cool with it, she’s much more likely to be cool with it. Shenanigans ensue.

Recently, I overheard my friend Danny talking to a very attractive female mutual friend.  Just in the course of casual conversation, he dropped: “So, when are we going to have sex?”  He was half-kidding — but half not.  And that’s the kind of thing that the safe guy will never say.  It’s just not in his comfort zone.

Did he get the girl that night?  No.  Will he ever get that particular girl?  Maybe not.  Does he get laid more than all the safe boys put together?  Oh yeah.

I could spend a whole seminar talking about this.  But in brief: To stay out of Justfriendistan, be unafraid of women and your own sexuality.  Framed positively: be bold!  Du courage, mon pote! You love women!  You love sex!  Embrace that already.

But how to get out of the friend zone once you’ve been consigned there?  Ahh.  Escape from any ‘stan — Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan — is a bit harder once its rebels have taken you captive.

But there is good news.  I’ve talked about free-rolling in poker before: it’s a situation in which you only stand to gain.  And if you’ve already been put in Justfriendsistan, then — no worries bro!  You’ve got nothing to lose!

Now it’s time to start experimenting.  And the experiment is this: since you are ‘just friends’, you can start being your bantering, sexualized, shameless self around her.  You can say things like, “Oh, you know you totally want me — but it’s too bad you can’t have me anymore.”  You can tease her mercilessly about her clothes, her makeup, and how cute it is that she spends hours getting ready, just to impress you.

Oh, and you throw in an occasional story about you and ‘the triplets’ (real or imagined) and how exhausting it is to tend their, um, needs.

In other words, now that you have nothing to lose, you are free to play with her.  The principle of non-attachment is your friend.

Of course, I’m sure some of you eagle-eyed readers have wondered: doesn’t it make sense to use non-attachment all the time?  Why wait till you’re in the friend zone — have a ball with it every day!  After all, you can’t lose what you don’t have, so any woman you’re interested in is fair game for this protocol.

When you do this consistently, you get one of two results.  Either you remain just friends, which means that there really wasn’t much hope in the first place.  But if there was any inkling of interest on her part, your relentless banter, good-natured teasing and general ballsiness will amplify that interest and turn things around — if you don’t immediately revert to your permission-seeking, wussbag old self once she starts showing interest.  It may take one night, weeks or months to happen, but in the meantime, you’ve got other options you’re pursuing, so no biggie.

Briefly: another thing that works is to have her see you perform.  If you’re a musician, actor, standup comic, whatever — she needs to see you in your element kicking ass.  The idea is to get her to see you in a different light — preferably with many other admiring women in attendance.  Otherwise the status quo holds.

Make sense, gentlemen?  All of this is in chapters 7-10 of The Tao of Dating for Men, so if you don’t have the ebook yet, you need to invest a piddling few dollars in yourself and get your copy now.  Now go forth and conquer — I’m expecting big things and tall tales from you guys.

11 Comments on “How to stay out of the Friend Zone”

  1. tom sulcer

    My friend heeded your sage counsel, became edgy, dangerous with a general ballsiness, wore an eye patch and a fake snake tattoo, and sang Urdu love poems playing a qitara which quieted the marketplace, even the Bactrian camels. Such a song of longing! A priest’s daughter from the kingdom of Qedar was moved by the melody — apparently she and he had exchanged glances earlier at the shadoof — and she danced for him in the fireglow. There were hasty rumblings in his tent later (the words “wrong hole!” followed by lots of giggling, were overheard, according to a manservant). We’re all grateful. All tribes (even the Qahtanites) salute the most excellent name of Dr. Ali for bringing happiness to our tiny oasis!

  2. tom sulcer

    Yes, your wise methods succeeded, but succeeded with a second woman, rendering the “friend zone” status with the first woman unimportant, irrelevant. My friend exiled the first woman to a remote province of Whocaresistan.

    1. Ali Binazir MD MPhil Post author

      Of course, that is the ultimate application of Taoist principle: to go after one of the other remaining 3.1 billion women who haven’t yet exiled you to Justfriendistan. Trying to undo one woman’s reluctance is definitely a form of non-non-attachment.

  3. tom sulcer

    Does the most sage dating Guru of gurus have advice for how my friend might propose marriage? What should he say and do? How will he know when it’s time to propose? What should he wear? It’s only the 10th century BCE here in Arabia and religion hasn’t been invented yet, and there are no scrolls from Gilgamesh addressing this topic. We will be most grateful, even willing to sacrifice a camel or two in your honor.

  4. mm

    Ok, being a woman I can definitely see how this advice would work. But what about the other way around? Same advice? Being somewhat new to widowhood – 1 1/2 years, after 32 years married – I have met a wonderful man though mutual friends. Since we all hang out occasionally we have also become friends. Now that my “goddessness” is reawakening I’d like to be more than his friend. When we first met about 10 months ago he mentioned he didn’t want a relationship because he had been “burnt” too many times and was fearful. But more recently he told our mutual friend that he thinks it would be weird to date her friend, meaning me, and told me that he feels like he can’t date right now because of responsibilities to his father. And I’m really going crazy from the card he gave me for my birthday a couple of months ago. The front says things like “live long”, “touch often”, “hug frequently”, “kiss repeatedly”, “trust eternally”, etc. I need HELP!!!

  5. Troy Vayanos

    Thanks for this post, I really enjoyed it.

    Take it from someone that has been consistently in the friend zone this information is right on the money.


  6. Guy

    Problem: I legitimately have no sexual feelings towards my crush. I am in the friend zone because she doesn’t want to date anyone until college. It isn’t my style, and defiantly not hers to act disgustingly sexual around her, she is always telling me how those people annoy her.

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