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jerry-seinfeld-and-elaineDear Christie:

I loved your book Back in the Game as well as your posted articles.

I’m 48, divorced for several years and recently got the ‘just friends’ nonsense. I took it well and in fact even went on several non-dates with this wonderful woman who is interesting, beautiful and great company. Why not? She said she’s moving soon and cannot date for that reason. This could be why, but in my opinion women usually resort to the friend zone because they’re just not feeling it. Which is totally acceptable. If men would understand this tactic there wouldn’t be a problem. Some future non-dates could occur and the relationship would trail off. Then if you happen to run into each other  it’s not awkward. So men should shape up.

But… women should not offer friendship if they don’t actually want it. Real friendship is a great thing and we tend to abuse this word. Would it be so bad for a woman to say “Let’s go Dutch somewhere because I enjoy your company but I’m not interested in dating…,” or “I’m not interested in dating but it was nice to have met you.” We men are dense but we’re not that dense. Admittedly men are probably mostly to blame for this phenomenon because we don’t take the time to process the communication coming from women. We hear body language, verbal tone, actions and other queues, it just takes us a few days. Sometimes we’re really dumb. But can you blame us? You women are so beautiful and mesmerizing that our frontal lobes shut down like we’re in battle. Don’t encourage us to be any more moronic than we already are by offering something as indefinable as just-friendship.

The friend zone may be a particularly American (U.S.) phenomenon. I have lived in several Asian and Latin American countries and it does not happen there. ANYWHERE. EVER. So let’s end this practice here, now. I promise on behalf of all men to listen more, not be pushy or rush something that isn’t there and understand that a little rejection isn’t an indictment against my whole being. In exchange could you women please just stop using that phrase? In the meantime I have two more scheduled non-dates with my 37-year-old beautiful just-friend. Oh man.

Sincerely,

B

 

Dear B,

I enjoyed your letter. It’s always a pleasure to see someone examine a perennial dating problem with a sense of humor AND the ability to look at both sides of the issue. Hats off to you, man.

You’re right. When it comes to a woman not reciprocating interest in a man, and dropping the LBF (Let’s Be Friends), a man should read between the lines and take it neither literally nor personally. She’s not attracted to you, at least not at this juncture, and she has no control over that. At the same time, a woman shouldn’t use the LBF unless she really means it. There are other respectable ways to let a guy down.

I’ve seen many people banter back and forth about the best way to reject someone: give them the LBF/boyfriend excuse, or just say no thank you? Tell the person who emailed you online that you aren’t interested, or just ignore their email? Tell a woman she isn’t your type after two dates, or just don’t call her again?

My experience is that everyone has a different opinion on these things. Some want the full truth, others say they do and then get offended when it’s offered. Others prefer a “thanks but no thanks” email online, others don’t want a rejection email. And which is better: not calling a woman again after two dates, or calling her just to say, “By the way, I’m not going to ask you out again?” Please one person, piss off another.

And it’s the same with the LBF. Everyone wants/expects something different.

I admit I pulled a few LBFs on men I dated in college, after I’d ended things with them. I really thought I wanted the friendship, until I realized I didn’t. So I stopped doing that. Thus, I think women who offer the LBF but aren’t serious about it are just inexperienced, like I was.

However, then and years afterward, I did seek the LBF with men whom I thought might be dateable and then realized they weren’t quite right for me, or vice versa. The friendship blossomed, in many cases. But I think that’s the exception to the rule, where two people want the same thing (only friendship) and have the personality to make it work. It’s not for everyone.

For anyone who’s interested, here are a couple of LBF-related articles I wrote previously: one on a toxic ex wanting friendship, and another dealing with the LBF phenomenon itself.

But thank you, B, for offering good perspective on a tricky topic. I would like to know from you, or other men, more about what goes on in other cultures outside the US. If women in Asia or Latin America don’t pull the LBF thing, what do they do? I know I and the rest of us who haven’t dated internationally would love to know.

 

Addendum: Several days later, B sent me this:

“BTW, over the weekend the friend became more. The way you women function is the universe’s own secret.”

 

And that’s the truth, B 😉

 

Resources

Christie’s Books

Articles on the LBF (Let’s Be Friends)