DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: Recently I turned fifteen, and met this girl four months ago through mutual friends. As I talked to her I realized we shared the same taste in music, films and sense of humor. She was really nice to me and we have talked very often ever since. About two months ago I developed a pretty big crush on her. I’ve never really liked a girl in such a strong way, and I’ve never been much of ladies man either. She tells me everything about her life and I deeply care about her, and even thought I had been enjoying how things were going, I’m afraid I’m starting to get into the “Friend Zone”.
I know that this is a concept invented by guys that are too passive to seem like a potential partner to girls, but that’s my problem. I’m absolutely crazy about this girl and even thought I decided I need to tell her how I feel (it’s been starting to hurt to keep it to myself) I don’t know what to do.
I’m afraid to lose her, to be ridiculed by my friends, to be hurt even more, to find myself even more alone that I already am. I have no clue on what to do and I decided I’m going to tell her in the next month. What should I do?
(Sorry for any spelling. English isn’t my first language)
But You Say He’s Just A Friend
DEAR BUT YOU SAY HE’S JUST A FRIEND: It’s a good thing that you’ve come to me, BYSHJAF; this means I might actually get to you early enough to make a difference in the rest of your life regardless of how things go with your crush.
You’re half-right and half-wrong with your ideas about The Friend Zone. As I’m always saying: The Friend Zone doesn’t actually exist; all The Friend Zone means is that the person you want to date/sleep with/what-have-you isn’t attracted to you. Maybe she only sees you as a platonic friend. Maybe she’s caught up in the gendered socialization that tells women that they have to be deferential to men and avoid hurting their feelings at all costs (even when doing so hurts the women instead) and is giving a soft “no” instead of a firm one. But the cold hard truth of the matter is simple: the people who think of themselves as “stuck” in the Friend Zone are there by choice. They’ve failed to make their move or they’ve gotten their answer and refuse to move on and find someone else.
This is why avoiding the Friend Zone is fairly easy: you act like a potential lover rather than a platonic friend. If that’s not what your (general you, not you, BYSHJAF) crush is into, then you decide whether to be a real friend (as opposed to a Nice GuyTM) or to move on and find someone who does want what you have to offer.
But let’s look at your situation specifically. I want you to pay attention BYSHJAF, because these lessons are going to serve you throughout your life. The first thing you have to do is realize that being interested in someone isn’t something to be ashamed of or something to hide. You’ve got a crush on this girl. Awesome! Why are you torturing yourself over these feelings? She’s awesome, you’ve got lots in common… it’s entirely natural that you’d be interested in her!
Most of the time, when someone feels like they have to hide their feelings from someone they’re interested in, it comes down to one of two reasons: either they feel like the person they like will be repulsed by the knowledge that they’re interested, or because they’re afraid of being rejected. In the former, if your crush acts disgusted that you like them – assuming you’re being polite and respectful with your interest – then all that’s happened is that they’ve done you a favor. They’ve shown you that you weren’t compatible in the first place, that you never would have worked out and, frankly, you’re probably better off not dating them. Why would you want to date someone who treats your interest like you’ve offered them leprosy? In the latter case… well, unfortunately, rejection happens. It’s part of the risk that comes with asking somebody on a date. There’s no getting around that part. It sucks. But as much as it sucks and no matter how bad you think it feels, it won’t destroy you unless you let it. You can take the sting, dust yourself off and move on, stronger and wiser, or you can lay there and bleed. And here’s the part that people tend to not realize: being able to handle rejection with grace and dignity makes you much more attractive as a person in general; it shows people that you have confidence, maturity and inner strength. Those are all very appealing qualities in a potential romantic partner.
Now, you want to know what to do. It’s very simple: you’re going to ask her out on a date. Not to hang out, but an actual date. This is what you want to say:
“Hey, I really love spending time with you and I’m starting to have feelings for you beyond friendship. I hope you might feel the same way too, and I’d like to take you out on a proper date. It’s totally cool if you don’t feel the same way; I like being friends with you and that’s not going to change, no matter what.”
Then give her some space to think. Depending on how she feels, she may need a little time to decide whether to say “yes” or “no” and pressuring her to answer you right then and there will almost certainly give you an automatic, reflexive “no.” Giving her room to breathe (metaphorically speaking) lets her make up her mind without pressure from you and lets her feel much more at ease. It may take her some time to make up her mind, especially if she isn’t 100% sure of how she feels; that’s ok.
I get that you may worry that if you ask her out, you’re going to ruin the friendship. It’s a reasonable fear! But here’s the thing: if you have a solid friendship, it will weather any temporary awkwardness that will arise. If, as I said, you can handle being rejected with grace and say “OK, that’s cool, let’s stay friends” and mean it, your friendship will survive and this will become something that the two of you laugh about later on. In practice, this means that if she turns you down, then don’t mope, whine or complain to her. Don’t make your friendship a constant referendum on “whyyyy won’t you date meeeeee?” – that’s unfair to her and tells her that you’re not really her friend.
What do you do if she does say no? Well… it’s going to suck at first. You’ll feel like it’s a judgement on you as a person. But that’s not true: it’s simply that she’s not attracted to you the way you are to her, no different than the people you aren’t attracted to. That doesn’t make you bad or undesirable, it just means that the two of you won’t work as a couple. You may need to take a little time away from her to feel better; that’s perfectly normal. If you do, then tell her “I’m going to need to take some time to myself to deal with these feelings, but I will be back. This doesn’t mean we’re not friends, it’s just something I have to do so I can be a better friend to you.” But in time, you will feel better.
And here’s the secret to avoiding awkwardness: she’ll take her cues from you. If you don’t act like it’s a big deal, she won’t treat it like a big deal.
But that’s all worst-case-scenario stuff. She may very well feel the same way about you and has been the same pressure of “Do I say something? Do I wait for him to say something?”
You won’t know until you ask. Fortune favors the brave, BYSHJAF. Work up your courage, make your move and revel in the fact that you will never be stuck in The Friend Zone.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, email@example.com)