My Ode to Self-Care 47: “Friend Zone”

This essay was the fourth on my playlist and was supposed to be written in June. However, I could not find the words and vowed to come back when the muse hits me. Forty-two essays and three left after this one, today is the day (Editor’s note: I wrote the first two sentences on November 16, 2020. Today is November 17; I guess I needed another day).

Once upon a time-and I am sure my friends would agree-I was the king of the friend zone. Not in the sense of Steve Urkel on Family Matters, Roger in Sister Sister, or the Duck to someone’s Sam from Sixteen Candles; the inverse. The ability to pivot from potential prospect to pal without the bat of an eyelash or “you’re such a good friend” with a swiftness is the reason those who know me well would confirm my claim. I will explain…

Apart from one young lady, some semblance of the conversation to follow has happened every time:

Me: Story Time: So I met this girl…

Friend: Oh really? Tell me about it.

Me: *tells story*

Friend: We both know you’re going to friend zone her.

Me: What do you mean?!

Friend: Nigga, I know you!

If you want an honest assessment of yourself, go to your friends. In retrospect, those who knew me well heard uncertainty, a slight difference in timbre of voice I am unfamiliar with and they have heard every time I speak, was a dead giveaway.

A valuable lesson from the abundant no’s I have received in the music/entertainment business, turned advice I give to both clients and friends is “People are more inclined to do whatever you want them to do when they think it’s their idea. All you have to do is create the atmosphere.” How do you make yourself stand out in a business with a 97% failure rate and almost everyone’s preconceived-and accurate-notions are nine-out-of-ten rappers/producers/singers/mixtapes/albums suck? Lemme break this up into three paragraphs.

I knew my product was good; but I could not do all the work on my own. The adage “dope sells itself” was what I used to my advantage. Back in college, all I had to do was give a friend a ride to their destination. On the drive, no matter how brief, whomever and I would have normal conversation while a rough mix of a CD played in the background. At some point, my friend would stop mid-conversation and ask, “What is this playing? Is this you?!” My reply was always yes, and I would hear “Man, this is really good! People need to hear this! How can I help make this happen?”

“Here’s what you can do…” followed by instructions was my next statement. People want to feel a part of something; but if I were to inquire beforehand, the likeliness of follow through would be unlikely. However, if someone were to offer, the probability of help is greater because once we speak words out of our mouth, we tend to commit; all parties are more receptive of the outcome. This is how I used to friend zone.

Sometimes you must play Screech and let Lisa Turtle tell you “I think we’re better off as just friends.”  From the tone in my voice, my friends always knew from the start, I looked for an exit. Perhaps an innate vibration informed me whoever was not “the one.” To combat my jadedness, I went along for the ride to not reinforce my cynicism and say I tried. Come to think of it, the tone in my voice my friends and the other women picked up on was one of emotional unavailability. I threw decoy jabs which were not meant to land; they were to throw off timing and keep distance.

Emotionally unavailable is complex simplicity at its finest. If the average sentence is 17 words and 29 syllables, two words with 10 is dense and robust enough to throw anyone off. Often, the reason for my cease in pursuit and reluctance to commit was on display in said young lady’s explanation. For example, if I heard “I don’t think you’re over your ex,” I would let them believe whatever they wanted. More than likely, they had an ex they were not over. Or in all of our conversation, they did not take the time to look past the surface to see me for who I really am, which I wrote two essays ago is a prerequisite for courtship.

Do I feel bad about my use of my deceased daughter’s mother to get out of an amorous dynamic which would have ended, more than likely in a bad way? No. If Timile were alive and we’d broken up, she would have said “Yes, you can use me to get out of shit. She wasn’t for you anyways.”

Since this tends to happen early into the process, I have become genuine friends with a few. If social media infers some are in serious relationships and we were to never speak again, I understand. Sometimes the friendship could be seen as inappropriate (Side bar: One day I will write more about this but you’d be surprised how many happy women in relationships and marriages keep in touch and regularly communicate with their exes. You know, the ones who get mad at you if you were to do the same? Many times, they are the worst culprits and y’all KNOW what I’m saying is the truth…).

I have not done this in quite some time; a little over a year. The term “dating with intentions” is yet another running joke between many of my friends and I because usually those who say they are, are nowhere near ready and are with all the shits; it’s more of a denial and a dog whistle for “I’m not ready yet.” A better way to describe my current headspace is I have done some self-inventory, worked on myself, and I am ready to apply what I have learned.

Maybe I did need to write this towards the end of this series. The last sentence of the previous paragraph is why this whole thing exists.

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