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Posts Tagged ‘The Friend Zone’

“I’m not saying I would put a stop to the project, because I’m sort of a nice guy. When I was a kid, my mother said, ‘Stephen if you were a girl, you’d always be pregnant.’”

I was reading a recent interview with Stephen King where he shares the news that he’s writing a sequel of sorts to The Shining, one of my favorite King books — well, one of my favorite horror books, period!  I wrote a blog post about being a horror fan before, so if you’ve read me a while you probably already know that.

Anyway, I’m reading the interview, smiling at the always amusing and down-to-earth King, and getting excited about the notion of seeing where Danny Torrance is now, 30 years after the horrible things that happened to him as a boy at the Overlook.  And then I get to the quote above, and it gets me thinking about the difference between men and women… in other words, grist for a long overdue blog post!

First off, I found it interesting that King’s Mom would say such a thing to her son as a kid!  It makes me wonder if the anecdote is accurate given how memory works as years go by– god bless him, but it’s been quite a while since King was a kid.  But let’s assume she did say that to a very young Stephen… wouldn’t he respond with “What do you mean?”

And what would Mrs. King say to that question?

The context of the quote was an interview question concerning Warner Brothers potentially developing a prequel to The Shining based on material cut from the beginning of the novel King wrote.  King doesn’t want that to happen — he doesn’t explain why, but we can assume than as an artist he decided to cut that part out of his book and likely feels that his creative decision should stand — but he mentioned that he isn’t sure he’d put up a fight to stop Warner Brothers from going forward with the project.  Then he says:

“I’m not saying I would put a stop to the project, because I’m sort of a nice guy. When I was a kid, my mother said, ‘Stephen if you were a girl, you’d always be pregnant.’”

Which then got me thinking… the whole “nice guy” persona, something I’m very much familiar with, really is pretty much a male phenomenon.  I thought back to the posts I wrote about The Friend Zone, and The Mating Habits of Beta Men, but with an eye on just how different the whole friendly/nice dynamic is different depending on whether you’re the guy or the girl.  Being “the nice guy” really does tend to put you in a place where romantic and sexual contact is pretty rare, whereas being “the nice girl” can get you a fair amount of romantic and sexual contact if you so choose.  I often think about how interesting it must be to be a woman who has that power of choice, the ability to take a friendship with a man and one day just take it to another level if she desires.  How do women feel about having that freedom?  Are they thrilled by it?  Or burdened by it, in a “with great power comes great responsibility” sort of way?

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The other day I ran across Broadcast News on one of the movie channels and watched the last half or so.  I remember loving that movie back in the day, but it has been a long, long– LONG– time since I’d seen it last.  I think I actually have it on VHS tape but god knows whether it’ll still play.

Anyway, I was puttering around in the living room and just pausing here and there to admire 80s-era Holly Hunter.  Man, I just loved her back then– short and soft, but firery and topped off with that Southern accent.  Swoon!  That’s not to say I don’t appreciate her more recent work– the super-lean, hard-edge but with a secret soft core Holly Hunter in Saving Grace was some great acting– but gimme Raising Arizona Holly Hunter any day!

Anyway, there was a brief exchange between Holly Hunter’s character Jane and her good friend Aaron played by Albert Brooks.  They’re on the phone, and Aaron says:

Ok, I’ll meet you at the place near the thing where we went that time.

My ears perk up– I could have sworn that line was from When Harry Met Sally, another 80s-era movie that I love that also deals with the complications of men and women being friends.  I always thought that was a brilliant line because of the subtext– he’s actually not saying what place, what thing, what time, and yet she knows exactly what he’s talking about.  That line really illustrates how deep their friendship is, they’re so close they don’t even really need to complete their sentences or thoughts and the other knows what they’re talking about.  There’s so much history, so much story behind that 15 word sentence– I love it!

The problem with their friendship of course is that nefarious problem that crops up so often when a single woman is friends with a single man– one or the other wants more, and those feelings can sometimes throw a big-ass monkey-wrench into the works, especially when the other friend falls for someone else.  Which can lead to this ugliness:

JANE
I just want to sit here longer, I mean
the feeling is powerful — why’s that?

AARON
Maybe the best part of your life is over
and you don’t want to get up and start
the bad part.

Jane looks at him levelly.

JANE
You are now required to sit here with
me.
(a beat; then)
Come on…be smart for a second —
what do you think will happen to us?

AARON
Okay, that’s very easy.  Five, six
years from now I’ll be in town to
collect an award representing the surge
in foreign coverage by local stations.

JANE
(smile, it’s like old times)
Yes.

AARON
I’ll be walking with my wife and two
children — we’ll bump into you on
the street, my youngest son will say
something and I’ll tell him…
(deliberately)
…it’s not nice to make fun of single,
fat ladies.

JANE
You won’t be able to stay mad at me,
right?

AARON
I hope so…
(on her look he relents)
No.  I’m not really mad.
(nodding head as if reciting a catechism)
I’ll miss you, we’ll talk, we’ll always
be friends…we’ll get hot for each other
every few years at dinner and never act
on it, okay?

Watching that scene gave me shivers.  There was such bitterness in his words, and while Jane managed to take it in stride, you just knew it hurt her deeply (especially given Ms. Hunter’s great acting).   And the worst thing was, I could really relate to Aaron.  A lot of what was going on between Aaron and Jane reminded me of the discussion a couple months back that popped up around a couple blogposts of mine (In Defense of the Beta Man over on Simply Solo, The Friend Zone, Mating Habits of the Beta Men).  Aaron was very much the Beta man, while the object of Jane’s affection Tom was an Alpha man and pretty much Aaron’s worst nightmare.

One of the points I raised in my blogposts was how really good romantic relationships can develop from a base of friendship, but what struck me rewatching Broadcast News now was just how dangerous that avenue can be, and how reasonable it is for single women to steer clear of being friends with single men because of the complications and potential ugliness and hurt that can occur.

I could relate to Aaron because I know how much it hurts to see someone you care about deeply fall for someone else when you’re right there for her, especially if you know– being her friend– how wrong that person is for her.  I think many Beta men who get regularly put into the Friend Zone can relate.

And yet, when I watched that scene and heard the bitterness and hurt come rushing out of Aaron’s mouth and expressed through his body language, it made me realize that there’s a special responsibility you need to shoulder when you take up the mantle of friendship with someone you may be attracted to.  You need to realize that friendship is all that they may want or need from you.  Friendship is a gift that opens up so much life to you– someone who cares about you, who thinks about you, who’s there for you during good times and bad.

One of the things that I’ve been trying to teach my children lately is learning to value being happy for other’s good fortune, and some of the struggle in teaching them that makes me realize that it’s not exactly a natural human response… and yet I believe strongly it’s a vital thing to learn!  So much joy can come into your life when you open yourself up to loving other people’s happiness.

On the flip side, giving in to envy and bitterness can just eat you up inside, leaving you angry and mean and not at all attractive.  If ever there’s a chance for winning over the woman you love from afar, being bitter is not going to help things.

What do you think?

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I was sad to hear about Nora Ephron’s passing recently.  I can’t honestly say I was a huge fan of hers or anything, but the woman did some fantastic writing over the years, including the script for one of my all-time favorite movies, When Harry Met Sally…

I was in my early 20s when that film came out, and my love life history was barely existent, and what little there was of it was pretty much a shambles.  Starting in middle-school, very nearly all my crushes and girls I’d fallen head-over-heels in love where all… friends.  All my guy friends constantly begged me to stop it, telling me that there is a primal truth– that men and women can’t be friends AND more than friends.  In fact, men and women can’t really be friends at all because there’s always going to be “the sex thing” that gets in the way.

I couldn’t help it though… I’d fall in love with some of my female friends and wanted both love and friendship.

The concept of course was a non-starter with the girls in high school, but I did manage to make it work a few times once I went to college.  Still, while all my guy friends were racking up countless dates and girlfriends over the years, most of my time was spent alone, usually pining away for another lady friend who had put me squarely in The Friend Zone.

Then I saw the movie When Harry Met Sally… and I was like YESYES!  (Much like Sally in the diner).  Not only can men and women be friends, but that friendship can sometimes bloom into something more.  Even if it was just a movie, it was validating to me, proof that I wasn’t fundamentally broken, waiting for something that just doesn’t exist (even if it takes decades like Harry and Sally did).

In the movie, I loved Harry’s final pitch to Sally that they should be together:

“I love that you get cold when it’s 71 degrees out. I love that it takes you an hour and a half to order a sandwich. I love that you get a little crinkle above your nose when you’re looking at me like I’m nuts. I love that after I spend the day with you, I can still smell your perfume on my clothes. And I love that you are the last person I want to talk to before I go to sleep at night.”

This reminds me of the post I wrote recently (The Good Stuff), and it’s definitely something to hope for.  When a love is grounded in friendship, you develop that affection for your partner in their entirety, things that you might find annoying in someone who was just a friend (roommate) or just a lover.

Thank you Nora Ephron for bringing characters to director Rob Reiner and actors Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan, characters that spoke to my heart and told me that what I wanted most in the world was really not asking too much.

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The conversation started with my guest blog on Simply Solo (In Defense of the Beta Man) continues to inspire me with more thinking on the subject and wanting to continue digging into the issue.  Last week I wrote The Friend Zone, and got some more great feedback and expanded on some themes.

This week, I think I have some interesting insight to pass along to the ladies who have at least a passing interest in what makes Beta men tick.

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The response to my guest blog over at Simply Solo (In Defense of the Beta Man) along with some things I read on a couple blogs recently got me thinking about “The Friend Zone.”  You know, that place men talk about hating being put by the women in their lives, like it’s some dread purgatory from which there is no escape.

I don’t think it’s always like that, or that simple.  Let’s talk about The Friend Zone.  [NOTE:  Much of what I’m writing here is assuming that the male/female friends in question aren’t married to or significantly involved with other people.  That changes the dynamics!]

Sure, for some (alpha) men and their relationships with women, there’s no worse fate than to be put into the FZ.  For them, women aren’t friends, they’re prizes to be won and the prize should include some sort of sexual contact.  If you’ve been put in the FZ, then there’s no chance of sexual contact and so there is no prize.  The Friend Zone is the polar opposite of the end zone, game over man!

For beta men, as I talked about in my blog post, spending time with a woman he cares about is the prize.  Sure, would he like to end the night with a roll in the hay?  Of course, he’s still a man!  A woman’s body holds endless fascination for a man and we’d like nothing better than to be given the chance to explore it.  But a beta man is often interested in a woman for a lot more reasons than just sex, so being in the FZ means still getting to spend time with the woman.  90% of what you want is still a very good deal, right?

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