Hashtag, friend zone.
Oh baby YOU got what I n-e-e-e-d! But you say I’m just a friend. But, you say I’m just a friend…

“I think we should just be friends.” – Random woman

“At this point in my life, I already have enough friends. I don’t need any more.” – Smart guy

This one’s for the homeys. Sure, you might be able to reverse the roles on this one and apply it to womenfolk as well. But the following is a phenomenon that – in my experience – has mostly been exclusive to the fellas. I hope you brought your pencils. You’ll need to take a lot of notes.

I have reason to believe that one of my boys is in the infamous “friend zone.” For the uninitiated, the friend zone is a platonic level of friendship that has roughly a zero percent chance of graduating to something more romantic. For men looking for love and companionship (more of us than what society would have you believe), being a resident member of the friend zone is a fate worse than death. I’ve been there myself, and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. Actually, I probably would…but for the sake of illustrating how epically messed up it is, let’s just say for today I would not wish this on my worst enemy.

Anyway, since I’ve been married now for a whole five months and I’m officially the expert on all matters of the heart, allow me to provide you with a few warning signs that you’re in the friend zone, and probably won’t be moving out of it any time soon:

  1. If your friend, intentionally or not, freely mentions other people she’s been with (up to, and including, sexually). OK, this one should be pretty obvious. Yet, it’s often the most overlooked sign. Unless she unintentionally mentions other men around you (and trust me on this one, it’s NEVER unintentional), take it as a sign that not only is she uninterested in a relationship with you, she’s likely trying to scare you off. Save yourself the trouble and leave her alone.
  2. She says she’s not interested in relationships right now. This is one of the greatest tricks ever pulled, probably a close second to the Devil convincing the world that he doesn’t exist. When she says she’s not ready to be in a relationship, please understand that it’s not that she’s uninterested in relationships as a general concept. Instead, that’s her polite way of saying she’s not interested in YOU. There’s a difference, and it’s important for you to know that.
  3. She’s “too busy” for a relationship. For any Bible-thumpers out there, you’ll know that 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 lays out a litany of things that love is. Love is patient, love is kind. Etc. You know the bit. You’ve seen the cutesy-wutesy wall art. But one thing love is not, is “busy.” Yet, womenfolk have mastered the art of making a relationship something that can be trumped by other things. “I’m busy with the kids”, or “I’m trying to concentrate on my studies” or “I have to focus on my career” are each brilliant lines she can reach for to keep you in your lane. I mean, outside of total losers, which of us wants to be painted as the inconsiderate jerk who asked their lady friend to become less busy to make room for us? Nobody. That’s who.
  4. Anytime you two hang out, she looks like a cyclone just hit her. On top of that, she doesn’t care. Unless you’re actually in a relationship with the woman, there is no way in hell she’ll let you see her at her worst, unless – of course – you’re in that friend zone. As obsessed as most women are about their appearance, the only guys that will see her looking a mess are the ones she’s with (boyfriends, husbands, and jump offs alike) or the ones she’s doesn’t care to attract. That, sir, would be you.
  5. Any praise and admiration you give her will receive a bland and tepid response. If she’s interested in you, virtually any compliment from you will give her the willies. If she’s not interested in you, expect the same kind of tepid response you’d give to that one co-worker who brought you a stale fruitcake as a Christmas gift.
  6. She kills you with the “b” word. When Devon Miles (from the 2002 movie Drumline) expressed his anxiety about using the “b-word”, he was referring to the term “boyfriend.” For any dudes currently stuck in the friend zone, the “b-word” in question is “brother”; as in “I love you like a brother.” Kiss. Of. Death. The only place where being loved like a brother could still translate into a meaningful relationship is Kentucky. And maybe Florida. But in any other part of the world, being labeled a brother-type is a sure sign that you have no shot with her.

There you have it. I’m quite sure there are several more signs to look for. But these are evidence-based red flags. Pay attention. It’ll make your stay in the friend zone far more tolerable.

Once again, please make checks payable to Andre C. Louis.