When you find yourself hit with a bad case of feelings, “Friend” can be the ultimate F word. We have seen a million cheesy rom-coms that end with previously platonic bffs falling in love, and you know it just doesn’t happen that way. The most believable part of When Harry Met Sally is when Meg Ryan fakes an orgasm in the diner.
In real life, we all know what happens when a friend catches feelings for another friend: they get caught in the infamous “friend zone,” a topic over-done in the rom-com department in 2011 alone. So on the day in summer of 2011 that I found myself randomly holding hands with my best dude at an Alexander McQueen exhibit, my mind imploded with questions… This is just a friendly hand-hold, right? I mean, friends hold hands. And cuddle. When did he start smelling so good?
P and I had been friends for just shy of 10 years, and nothing had ever happened between us. Nothing had even come close to happening between us. I spent most of our youth making out with various members of his garage band, and once at a party I played bouncer outside a dark bedroom as he fooled around with my friend inside. I’m STILL a believer in platonic male/female friendships, and while sure, I thought he was an attractive person, I was more interested in helping him get handies from my girlfriends than giving him one myself. He was sort of like my good looking older brother…
Which is why it was bizarre when I suddenly found myself wanting to remove his clothes with my teeth.
That’s gross right? I just called him my handsome older brother… But when I found myself attracted to P, friend P dissipated and sexy P emerged. The personality traits I had always valued in him as a friend suddenly became alluring in a whole new fashion, and I wanted to kiss the skanky toes of all the girls who had ever dumped him. Finders keepers! Thanks, b*tches.
I would like to say that getting out of the friend zone was effortless. One night, we declared our love for one another, had brain-numbing sex, and have been inseparable ever since. I would also like to claim I once shared a cab with Chris Hemsworth and offered to give him a foot massage that concluded with a happy ending. Unfortunately, all of those are untruths.
Despite the fact that P returned my not-so-friendly feelings, climbing out of the friend zone was laborious, confusing, and even awkward at times—but not in the ways I would have imagined. Below is a list of unexpected things you may have to battle if you’re trying to finagle your way out of the friend zone. Good luck.
Public Displays of Awkward. Whenever people hear that P and I were friends for a decade prior to coupledom, they always have questions. One I get the most is “was the sex awkward?” No. The sex wasn’t awkward at all. It was both familiar and new all at once—like rereading a book you read years ago and discovering you completely forgot the ending. But while sex was steamy, public displays of affection were incredibly weird at first, and neither of us really knew how to handle it. I would lean in for a kiss to be met with a duck-faced fart noise on P’s end. While it was easy to snuggle up behind closed doors, once we were out in public, walking hand in hand or stealing kisses on the subway seemed uncomfortable. I have never been able to figure out why. Our lack of PDA wasn’t only confusing for us—once one of P’s coworkers tried to tongue me at a party because he didn’t realize I was P’s date. Whoopsies! We got over it eventually, and emerged from this period of awkwardness full of overzealous affection, like a teenager who just got their braces removed and can’t stop licking their gums. And by gums I mean, each other’s faces.
To Censor or Not to Censor… It’s not often you go into a relationship knowing drippy details about every single one night stand or bad breakup. During our friendship, I used to talk to P about everything, and quite often we talked about sex. But once we started fuggling on the regular, we weren’t quite sure what we should censor. Could we still swap stories about past sexcapades? Do I bring up my old boyfriends too often? Does he hate that I still wear their sweaters as pajamas? Should I suddenly feel jealous of his “the one who got away” ex girlfriend who I used to adore? Are fart jokes still funny!? (Yes to the last one. Always yes.)
Signs. The largest issue we encountered during our initial courtship was that we had no way to tell how serious our relationship was. When you start seeing someone, you can often gauge the seriousness of things based on a few critical factors. How often are you seeing each other? Are you having sleep overs? Have you met each other’s friends? These are all signals you can pay attention to long before you have to have that “so, what are we?” discussion. Well, our signals were way off. Just three weeks after we began seeing each other sans clothing, we went on a weekend trip together. This would normally signify things were getting a bit serious, but we had planned this trip before we decided to introduce our genitals to one another. And we were already hanging out with each other’s families, because we had been doing it for years.
Holy Heavy… In the natural trajectory of a relationship, you meet someone, start dating casually, and if things go well as you get to know each other, perhaps you pledge allegiance to each other’s bits and pieces, become exclusive and maybe fall in love. But I already knew P so well, and loved him as a person. He already knew me, and had seen me at my bat shit craziest moments, and STILL seemed to want to date me…We fell in love at an astoundingly fast rate that was exciting yet terrifying for the both of us. We already were used to trading the L word as bffs, but when we started marinating in each other’s juices several nights a week, we weren’t sure if it was still appropriate.
In all, it was our solid foundation as friends that made our relationship work out. Don’t get me wrong—the first few months we were dating were sweet and fun for the most part, but there were times in the awkwardness of it all where, had he not been my best friend, I would have said “fuck it” and bounced.
Normally if a guy I am sleeping with disappears for four (six) days, or tries to take me to his ex’s birthday party without warning me first, I would bail. But I knew P was a good person, and sometimes even good people do dumb things. If we hadn’t had such a solid foundation at first, I am not sure we would have made it past the casual stage.
If you’re trying to get past the friend zone, my biggest bit of advice for you would be to openly communicate your feelings from the get-go. This is important in all relationships of course, but especially the ones where a great friendship is on the line. Hopefully, being open about your changing feelings will save everyone a lot trouble and pain, but you will probably have to deal with a good amount of awkwardness.