As couples take to local restaurants to celebrate their relationships this Valentine's Day, some people may spend the holiday in the place no one wants to be: the friend zone.
Maheen Bangash, a junior from Overland Park, says she’s “friend-zoned” her fair share of guys when the lines between friendship and relationship get crossed.
“It is extremely important to set boundaries with someone who might be making you uncomfortable,” Bangash said. “There’s always a kind way to do it. I’m a friendly person and sometimes it can come off the wrong way to guys.”
This friend zone can be most easily described as the area an individual finds themselves in emotionally when romantic or sexual feelings are not reciprocated.
Communication studies professor Jeffrey Hall agrees on this definition, but also notes the different ways it can be viewed.
“I think maybe the more harsh interpretation is that the guy expects because a woman is friendly to him he expects to have access to her sexually,” Hall said.
Hall delves deeper into the misconceptions of the friend zone in his book “The Five Flirting Styles,” which has an entire chapter dedicated to the friend zone.
“It is absolutely possible to have a romance- and sex-free platonic friendship, but other people might not see it that way. It used to be so uncommon that women and men were ‘just friends’ that nobody believed it when they saw it,” Hall says in his book.
Although many students have only been around for the rise in popularity of the “friend zone” idea, Hall explains in his book that it may have begun on an episode of the comedy show “Friends,” between characters Ross and Rachel.
“The friend zone has been around forever,” Hall said in a phone interview. “The friend zone comment was a famous comment in the Friends television show where Joey chides Ross about not making his move quickly enough, and getting friend-zoned.”
Jadrian Salmans, a junior from Garden City, said he thinks there is a reason why men, in particular, become caught in the friend zone.
“More often men (are victims of friend zone) because I think men seek serial relations more often. Although that feels like a sexist thought," he said.
However, according to Haley Vellinga, a graduate teaching assistant in the Department of Communication Studies, it may be the opposite.
“I feel like it’s more matriarchal,” Vellinga said. “I feel like it’s women kind of asserting ‘hey, this is what I want, or by my actions you should be able to figure out that I don’t want that.’”
Hall said he has heard from many women about why they feel the way they do about the friend zone.
“What I’ve heard women say to me in these conversations is, women feel frustrated when they find that their male friends or men that they’re friendly with become really attracted to them and then hope that the woman feels the same way,” Hall said. “They feel frustrated about that because they feel like the guy was not being genuine in his friendliness.”
Regardless of origin or which sex the phenomenon favors, it may be where some people find themselves around Valentine’s Day. However, this may not be a bad thing, Vellinga said.
“Minus that many people say it’s really negative, I think it does have a benefit," Vellinga said. "If you are at a place in your life where, yes you may really care for the person and you may be romantically interested, but hopefully they’re honest and say ‘hey I think you’re a great friend' ... I think if you can handle it there’s a lot to be gained from those interpersonal relationships.”
— Edited by Casey Brown