A Clear Message

 

“We are set for a press conference, you know. We literally have to be there in forty minutes.” For years this young woman has worked hard for every ounce of recognition that she’s earned. Many stars have to really work to be noticed, but those are usually the ones coming from nothing and nowhere. This young lady, though, she had every opportunity to get what she wanted without lifting more than a pinky. But that wouldn’t make her the Ithaca that everyone adores today.

“I know, bello. I was just finishing my speech. Would you like to read it now or be surprised later?” As she speaks, she stands with confidence and defiance – shoving the papers into her chest. Being Ithaca’s agent has never been a difficult task, but sometimes her personality can be strong – and therefore exhausting. For example, she always wants to do a speech on the project at the start of any press conference for the films in which she stars. It isn’t even a silly thing she just does, but it’s actually in her rider that she be allowed to do such.

With a huff, her agent takes the paperwork and humors her client. Usually she doesn’t mind because most of what comes out of Ithaca’s mouth is media gold. However, everyone who worked on ‘A Woman’s Worth’ is financially invested in the success of the project. After all, everyone worked on it for free – and every cast member, crewmember, and corporate investor will split the profits evenly. That means the people that put money into the film are banking on this film being a box office hit in order to gain any sort of profit. And, of course, they’re all women. The whole thing was Ithaca’s brainchild – her work of art – a film made by volunteers that only individuals identifying as women.

An agent’s career can go down with a client’s ship in this business. So she casts her eyes down, just as Ithaca comments; “Do not worry, Charlene, it will make you feel empowered – not embarrassed.”


To every strong woman that made this project possible…

I wish not to thank you for your generosity but applaud your faith in our ability to bring power to your investment. I wish not to express my gratitude for your money but to congratulate you on seeing the world for what it should be instead of what it is today. I wish not to thank you for all that you’ve made possible by financially carrying this film but wish to commend you on your awareness of the social issues that women face in society.

This project has been more to me than another bullet point on my resume. Not only have I found a home with my fellow woman, but also I’ve found the platform for our too often quieted voices in this industry. Regularly we are overlooked as reliable feminists because we are rich, because we are privileged, and because our problems do not match what our sisters must face in the middle and lower classes of this country. But we, too, face adversity in Hollywood! We understand the sexual harassment you face, and we understand what it is like to make less than our male co-stars, as well as we understand any other sexist nonsense you must face – because we face it too.

And we’ve all had enough. ‘A Woman’s Worth’ isn’t just a documentary and it isn’t just a film. It is a learning experience and adventure into the world of women where even money cannot protect us from the damage of sexism. Nothing can save us from the adversity we face from something we cannot control. Sexism, racism, and generalized prejudice can no longer reign in the world – and we have worked hard to show society with this film what the damage is on women in the world today.

Today, our representatives ask that you keep your questions as respectful as our answers. We ask that you treat us the way you would want to be treated. And above else, remember that we are human beings no different than you. Thank you for coming to this press conference for ‘A Woman’s Worth,’ and we are delighted to have you.


 

Charlene looks up at Ithaca through her bangs that could definitely use a trim. She remains standing, proud as ever, with that trademark grin upon her lips. That’s always what makes a star – the way they smile at you with victory glinting in their eyes. Ithaca knows that her speech is just fine – more than fine. It is wholesome and successful in the message it is trying to deliver.

“It is exactly as you would expect from the outspoken Ithaca – one of the top ten most influential women of the decade.” Each woman laughs out loud at the reference. Charlene had been less than impressed when Henley snuck his daughter into his documentary anyway, since it was a clear violation of Ithaca’s wishes. Of course, she fought fire with fire by creating ‘A Woman’s Worth.’ In the preliminary screenings it was already outperforming her father’s film. In fact, the investors were projected to at least triple their profits. Ithaca’s timing on the film couldn’t have been better. Things are truly changing, actually changing.

After the women share a brief hug, Ithaca takes back her notes grumbling; “I do not want to read this, to be honest. They are my words and they belong to my mouth but I wish not to speak them. Who do you think would make a suitable replacement?” Hearing this is out of character. Charlene brushes her back in confusion wondering how to respond. Is this a joke? Is it a trick? Is there a game plan? What possibly could be the end goal of having someone else speak?

“I was thinking you could read it, honestly.” Ithaca reveals.

“Oh, darling, that hardly makes sense. All I did was put in two percent of the overall funding. I barely qualify as an investor, let alone a proper representative of the movie.” Charlene argues, blushing at the suggestion. Agents do not play an active role in press conferences. Traditionally, they stand in the crowd with the interviewers, answering questions and ensuring their clients do not get bogus questions hurled at them.

But Ithaca demands it, “I am not asking you to do it so much as I am telling you. I have already spoken to the other leading stars and we want to stand behind you with our faces covered. All of us are recognizable faces but we are not the only ones that make these great things possible. It’s time someone from behind the curtain takes the helm with these public affairs.” The message to be made is extremely clear to Charlene. This is partially a publicity stunt to gain even more attention and media coverage for the project – but it is also a message directly reflecting the film.

Women do more than what we see front and center. Women exist in front of the camera as well as behind. Women are literally everywhere doing anything that they want, because they’re capable of anything; “I will do it.”

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THE FRIEND ZONE: A disgusting debate that is still relevant because society is still a mess.

Disclaimer: As it has been some time, I need to remind you that this is an opinion article. Yes, I do have resources and references in My Opinion Madness articles – but that (unfortunately) doesn’t change the fact that this really is just an opinion article. You are welcome to comment, I would certainly enjoy comments, but I also ask that any comments be mature – thoughtful – and above all else: respectful. Adult or not, we will respect one another when discussing anything because we would expect as much to be extended to ourselves.

 


 

Long time, no post – am I right? I haven’t posted an opinion article for months. Life gets busy that way. I wish desperately I had the time to commit to the schedule I had previously. Since that is not possible – opinion articles will sporadic. All of that being said: I do have an opinion article for you today – and it will stray from the style of my previous articles – it won’t be just in style either, but in the toe of the article, too. I had to change these things for this topic because of the way I’m presenting it – it is more personal that other articles. Change is good! Change can mean improvement! Or it can just mean deviation from the norm – but either way, it can be good!

Several weeks ago I saw a post on the Internet – on social media – and I particularly liked it. For all the good and bad feminism can do in the hands of educated and uneducated people, it will always bring out certain truths. It spolights issues which women have often been too afraid to share aloud to anyone but their most trusted female companions. Some women, too afraid to do even that much! This particular post I speak of looked like this (here’s the source):

Friendzone_a6ec7f_5476471.jpg

If you’re familiar with the Internet at all, you’ll know that this is from Tumblr. This user has it pretty spot on, though. I’ve experienced it time-and-time again growing up. One thing that is true about me is that I’m unintentionally flirty, which can get me into trouble – but it should be far from the punishment it’s always seemed to be for me. I just want people to feel happy and so I say anything nice I can think of about them – they’re not false statements in any way. I say these things with enthusiasm. However, when I compliment individuals of the opposite gender, as often as only two months ago – it gets mistaken as a “sign” of my romantic interest.

It makes being nice to the opposite gender difficult when you’re a woman. I’m not saying that this doesn’t also happen to men, because surely it does. It would be idiotic to think that men don’t experience this problem as well. The thing is, feminism isn’t ignoring that men have these problems too. Feminism is far more than just equal rights for women. It’s also the idea that problems that are traditionally feminine when experienced by men are not something of an insult. It’s treating all problems, whether experienced by men or women, in exactly the same fashion and with exactly the same attention to detail.

So, anyways, I see this post. I see it and I wonder to myself – how in the actual hell is this still a debate? To me, the “friend zone” is as imaginary as Narnia and Middle Earth. The “friend zone” is only as real as we want it to be; only as real as we are willing to allow. I hate the term, and I have since I was very young. When I shared my opinions about it online – I noticed many people were unwilling to converse with me about it. Mostly, it got ignored (which definitely isn’t stopping me from posting this article at all, by the way).

When I am fired up about something, I talk about it with my husband. Now, while I love him, we both know that he’s not nearly as educated on socio-political issues. He is self-proclaimed to be less informed than myself, which makes it difficult to debate with him. Usually he comes off as being closed-minded and prejudice in many ways. Regardless of his many flaws, I love him, and I assure you now that he’s not a terrible man. We all have to undergo a change when we see the messy reality of life, and he’s just getting to his change a little later than the other socially aware caterpillars.

In spite of my awareness that this conversation might not go as well as I would hope… I pursue this conversation about the “the friend zone” anyway. I don’t know what I was actually expecting but whatever it was – that’s not what I got at all. So I’m going to present the debate in as close of a replication of what we discussed (I took notes while we conversed because I’m that wife) in the form of a conversation.

Here goes nothing! Or everything? I never liked that phrase. Below is the conversation we had – and yes, I did define several things along the way. It was a lengthy conversation – and a heated one at that – but I believe it is a conversation everyone needs to read. Without further adieu…




 

Wife: Don’t you understand why it frustrates me, though? The “friend zone” was created by some man at some point in time to bully a woman for not being romantically interested in him. Maybe it was not initially his intention to use this as a tool to make her feel bad, but this man – incapable of accepting he was not desirable to his chosen mate – created the idea that women put men into a “friend zone” so that they don’t lose their best guy friends but don’t have to commit to more either.

 

Maybe that sounds innocent on the surface, but there is distinct manipulation here. The psychological torture of using such a term is absolutely disgusting. Nobody should feel bad about who they prefer romantically and, or sexually.


Information (Necessary) To Consider:

(1) Friend v. Lover

A friend, as defined here, is a person that you’re fond of for one reason or another. Sure, the fondness you have towards a friend can be love. However, there is a very distinct difference between loving a friend and being in love with that friend. A lover, as defined here, using concise language to determine that a lover is anyone with whom you are romantically or sexually involved with in your life. There are clear distinctions between a friend and a lover. I am a friend of my best friend’s spouse – but I’m not jumping his bones anytime soon because my attachment to him is platonic. You know, how all friendships typically are platonic.

(2) Platonically v. Romantically

In order to differentiate whether or not your friendship is just that, or possibly more like a lover, you must also understand the difference between a platonic relationship and a romantic one. As an adjective, platonically being interested in someone is where sexual desire is completely removed and exists only on a spiritual level (Dictionary.com). Compare that to romantically – which is the expression of strong affection and love (Dictionary.com). There is a distinct difference between the two words, meaning the relationships described by each signify the nature of those bonds.

(3) The Lack of Humanity in the word ‘Zone’

Defined as a noun here, a ‘zone’ is simply an area with a specific designation particular to the existence within which it was created. The most notable definitions is as follows:

(a) “Any continuous tract or area that differs in some respect, or is distinguished for some purpose, from adjoining tracts or areas, or within which certain distinctive circumstances exist or are established.”

With that information, please understand that a zone is created very intentionally with specificity. Using the word ‘zone’ in any context is a way of declaring that the existence is purposeful.

Defined as a verb here (again, it is the same link, just scroll a bit), ‘zoning’ is simply the intentional division from something larger with a specific purpose. Of the definitions, there was one that was particularly intriguing – and therefore especially relevant to the conversation:

(a) “to divide into zones, tracts, areas, etc…, as according to existing characteristics or as distinguished for some purpose.”

I hope it hasn’t gone without notice that there’s no human element to the word ‘zone.’ It is an action, or a noun, for non-human things and actions. When creating a zone there’s a succinct thought behind it based on what is presumably careful evaluation. Zones have purpose and, therefore, are created and maintained to serve that purpose. A zone is more a business, mathematical, or scientific term than it is a psychological or sociological one. Not that it doesn’t have purpose in those fields, as evidenced by this article’s mere existence…


 

Husband: I don’t know that I agree with that concept. As a man, I feel as though a man more likely created the “friend zone” as a coping mechanism than an abusive one. Men are held to high standards – we cannot fail in any way without harsh criticism. Not being able to woo someone we see as a suitable mate is failure in its simplest, and harshest, form. Instead of admitting that he was unappealing to a woman, some man created this concept as a way to hide the fact that he was imperfect. There probably was nothing malicious about the term originally.

 

Wife: How can you say that knowing that a friend can literally be anyone you are close to but do not romantically affiliate with – while also knowing that a zone is a place that exists for a sole purpose! Linguistically – psychologically – sociologically – the concept of the “friend zone” is nothing more than a form of manipulation to draw out a desired reaction. There is nothing benevolent or harmless about the term. I don’t see how any halfway-educated person can see it as anything but abusive.


 

 

Information (Necessary) to Consider:

(4) Linguistics

We all know about “language arts” but it is doubtful that we know what “linguistics” actually means. It pertains to language, but it is a very specific study – not too unlike psychology or sociology. It can actually be an integral part of both because language is hardwired in everyone – written or spoken. It is the common ground across all people.

The plain definition of the word, here, ‘linguistics’ is that is the scientific study of all aspects of language (e.g.: phonetics, syntax, historical meaning, etc…).. A lot can be learned about the language any person chooses to use. I found a more encompassing definition of the word here, because I felt that a detailed explanation makes it easier to understand the deeper value of linguistics in my debate.

That’s right – clicking the ‘here’ for the larger explanation of linguistics takes you to a college website. You can get a degree in linguistics. That is because the way in which someone speaks, the words that they use and the placement of those words in the sentences, they are indicators of untold circumstances – unspoken thoughts – hidden agendas, and more.

(5) Psychological Manipulation & Connotation

Psychology is the study of (primarily) human (and animals, officially) emotions and behaviors, right? Just in case that feels insufficient, you can see it defined here again. It’s more than that, of course, but generally speaking that is the bulk of the work done in the field of psychology. So what does ‘psychological’ mean when used as an adjective?

Psychological: “of, pertaining to, dealing with, or affection the mind, especially as a function of awareness, feeling, or motivation.” This is a word-for-word definition from here (yes, I do use this site for all my definitions, unless it is necessary to do otherwise). In short, if something is done psychologically, then it is done with the intention to draw out a specific reaction. Everything about a psychological action is deliberate to some degree – but the degrees really are minimal. There’s really only conscious, subconscious, and unconscious – and none of those options are good when used in this context. That is, however, a conversation for a different bullet point.

Manipulation! We all know what that is, but just in the event that we’ve forgotten…

Let us review!

Manipulation, as defined here, is just management. Of course, it has a generally negative connotation to it, doesn’t it?

More along the lines of linguistics, here, the connotation of a word is an underlying meaning of a word. Dictionary.com explains that ‘connotation’ elicits a specific associated meaning when used. The example used on the page is: “Religion has always had a negative connotation for me.” The same can be said about ‘manipulation’ basically universally.

(6) Conscious v. Subconscious (And Unconscious)

For this, I think it’s best to really just copy-and-paste definitions because that’s the best way to make it clear how these three relate and different. After I can tell you why linguistically – the “friend zone” has absolutely no viable defense.

Consciousness: A state of awareness of internal events and of the external environment. (APA Glossary).

Subconscious: relating to thoughts and feelings that exist in the mind and influence your behavior although you are not aware of them. (Cambridge University Press Dictionary).

Unconscious: The domain of the psyche that stores repressed urges and primitive impulses. (APA Glossary).

When arguing whether or not something is deliberate in a negative way – you do have to consider is conscious, subconscious, or unconscious. Unconscious is something that is natural, sometimes nurtured from a very young age. Subconscious, this is when we have been nurtured to believe something but never in a very explicit way even though it is relevant and evident in everything we do or say. And then there’s conscious, which is an awareness and understanding of what we are doing and what caused us to want to do it.

Since we have been determining the “friend zone” being coined with a psychologically manipulative intention – no matter if it was conscious, subconscious, or unconscious of the man to do have created this word… in one way or another he is horribly misguided. If he uses the term consciously – aware that it could be manipulative – then he’s a terrible person who aims to be in control over his female counterparts and companions. If he uses the term subconsciously – unlikely aware of the damage he is causing intrinsically – then he is at the very least unobservant. That makes his manipulation no less hurtful, but perhaps correctable. Of course, what happens when you tell him that the use of the word “friend zone” is offensive and he gets defensive? It takes any understanding out of the equation entirely.

And then there’s the use of the term unconsciously – which implies that this is a behavior and term that is used frequently by this person. It’s not even worth a second thought because it’s always been there and always been used and never been a problem before… And that’s scary, because that sort of thinking can ascend from the unconscious, to the subconsciously, and then to conscious. It takes a nurtured and understood behavior and turns it into an intentional one. And these are the things that are difficult to change in us, and in in those that we know. Something so primal as thinking the “friend zone” is an acceptable term to use when close female friends turn down guys… It’s something we teach the young and, therefore, something they grow up with – never once questioning it!

(7) Nature v. Nurture – There is a Difference!

So – all of these sources I’m using for the “Info” sections are lengthy, but it is because I want to only choose reliable sources. Sources that I would use for a college paper or a professional work; and that’s why this is a LONG article discussing nature versus nurture in great length. This is the link you’ll need, but I’ll give you the shorter version because it is vital to know the different between the two:

(a) Nature is essentially biological. It is something that is typically inherited through genetics. An example of something that is “nature” to someone could be athleticism. OR… it could be something like Attention Deficit Disorder, or any manner of mental illnesses. We are biologically and physiologically predisposed to those sorts of things. They are a part of us that can’t be changed – although, that’s not to say it can’t be controlled to a degree but it won’t be gone. It’s in our nature.

(b) Nurture is more or less a form of teaching. It’s developed traits or mannerisms that are due to the environment. For example, a child who drinks after all of his food is gone does this because his parents do… Or a child who listens to rock music because her siblings like it. These are things that we adopt because of how we grow up and live. Another example of nurture – when a child decides she doesn’t want to smoke because she grew up with a family of smokers and it made it hard to breathe. A lot of choices are made because of our circumstances – and that is nurture.


 

Wife (Cont’d): And furthermore, by suggesting that the “friend zone” is a coping method for men who see themselves as failures… You have unintentionally suggested that it is okay to demonize others for simply having preferences. A woman who is not interested in a man she sees only as a friend should not be told she has created a “friend zone” for this man. A friend is anyone she is friends with in her life! Literally every person – man, woman, transgender, genderfluid, or nonbinary – is a friend if she deems it so! If you want to get right down to it “ friend zone” should literally be a place for all your friends. That’s not what it means, though, does it? Please tell me what the “friend zone” actually means for a man. Tell me what it means today as a man.

 

Husband: What you just explained is completely irrelevant. A woman’s friends aren’t dealing with the same thing a man who has been put in the “friend zone.” A man is suffering from unrequited affection whereas her other friends aren’t pining after her. Calling this man and what he’s experiencing merely a friend seems unfair because that’s not how it feels to him. A man in the “friend zone” isn’t attempting to demonize anyone, either. He’s just making it clear how he felt compared to how she felt, and that is not – in any way – an attempt to make the woman seem like a monster.

 


 

Information (Necessary) to Consider:

(8) The Modern Definition of the “Friend Zone”

(a) Urban Dictionary defines it as: “What you attain after you fail to impress a woman you’re attracted to. Usually initiated by the woman saying, “You’re such a good friend”. Usually associated with long days of suffering and watching your love interest hop from one bad relationship to another.

Verb tense is “Friend-ed”.

“I spent all that money on a date, just to find out she put me in the Friend Zone(said with eerie echo).”

“You know that hot girl I’ve been talking to? She just Friend-ed me.””

(b) When you Google “What is the friend zone?” – Google presents this definition: “a situation in which a friendship exists between two people, one of whom has an unreciprocated romantic or sexual interest in the other.

“I always wind up in the friend zone, watching them pursue other guys””

(c) Wikipedia users and moderators have allowed this definition for the “friend zone” to remain published: “The friend zone, in popular culture, refers to a platonic relationship wherein one person wishes to enter into a romantic or sexual relationship, while the other does not. [1][2][3] It is generally considered to be an undesirable or dreaded [4] situation by the lovelorn person. [5] If a desired party does not return or respond affirmatively to the advances or affection of the desiring party, but continues to participate in the friendship in a platonic way, it is sometimes described as friend-zoning.”

(d) And this Psychology Today article that actually attempts to explain how to avoid this “friend zone” defines it as: “Therefore, when someone gets stuck in the friend zone, they have entered into an exchange that is not fair or equal. The other person is getting everything he/she wants…but the person stuck in the friend zone is not fully satisfied. In a nutshell, the friend zone person sold himself or herself short. They gave their “friend” everything, without making sure they got everything they wanted in return.”

*Side note, this abysmal crap actually makes me regret ever using Psychology Today as a resource at all, but I review all the content I reference before using it. At least not all of their stuff is as pathetic as this nonsense.

All in all, we know what the “friend zone” is socially. There is no mistaking what it means or that, generally speaking, it is a place that men end up. Without question, this is a problem that “affects” men fair more than it “affects” women.


 

Wife: I think you’re failing to understand the fact that when a man uses the words “friend zone” he is designating that the women intentionally and maliciously placed him in a special category. He thinks that she has purposefully been nice to him and created a loving relationship between them that means more so that she can benefit from the emotional connection without giving herself – keeping herself open to other possibilities. Calling himself a ‘friend’ purposefully, and manipulatively, so that he can assure everyone that he remains close to her – and then designating it as a ‘zone’ where specific qualifications have been met. Surely he hits many of this woman’s desires in a man, but for whatever reason doesn’t want to be with him. The “friend zone” is almost like a “friend with benefits” concept for men – minus the benefits.

 

So yes, maybe this man was trying to coddle his own ego – but he psychologically manipulates those around him to feel bad for him as a part of the process. The only person zoning anything is him! He zones his peers into a specific frame of mind, which in turn causes them to question why this woman hasn’t found any level of attraction to him. His language is chosen precisely so that it doesn’t sound at all as though he is an aggressor but rather a victim. The man who created the “friend zone” has painted himself a victim. Meanwhile, the woman is left feeling bad for showing any kindness to him because her personal preferences romantically and, or sexually are being ignored because of this man’s pity party. Using his own zoning tactics to criminalize a woman for simply having feelings that do not reciprocate his own.

 

Husband: You’re speaking as though this was some sort of war or competition. How can you really believe that a man would create the phrase “friend zone” as a way to trick a woman into feeling bad for him and giving him a chance? You make it sound no better than rape – except on an emotional level. And the “friend zone” is simply not that bad. It sucks, but it’s not bad enough to drive a man into the mental state it would require to create something that deceitful.

 

Wife: Excuse me, but have you heard of politics? Deceit is literally a race for power. And that’s exactly what rape is! It’s an act of power over another person. The power to say ‘”no” doesn’t mean “no.”’ If you think that’s a stretch, consider political zoning. We’ve just watched it on “Adam Ruins Everything.” Politicians gain control and redistrict so that they can maximize the chances of their party winning the next vote – keeping their ideals, laws, and values in place. Note that it is very clear that the zoning is done as a form of – dun dun dun – manipulation! That’s all zoning really is at the end of the day. Zoning is manipulation! Zoning is management of an area with specificity. Manipulation is management tactfully. They are one in the same; it’s just that one comes with a neutral connotation while the other elicits negative emotions almost instantaneously.

 


 

Information (Necessary) to Consider:

(8) Political Redistricting – FYI it is Definitely Real

I personally took advanced placement government in high school, but I presume that everyone who graduated high school took a government course that discussed political redistricting. Whether you’ve remembered it – who knows? I do, but only because my education is Paralegal Studies and Business. This is something that we discussed frequently. I have (1), (2), (3) resources that will explain further detail what redistricting is and how it works. I’ll be taking the key points and explaining them here, though.

Political incumbents (fancy word for representative) redistrict within the states and voting districts every 10 years. Redistricting helps determine who represents the state in the Electoral College (the men and women who actually vote for the President, by the way) – which means the population of the state or district has to be taken into account. It helps determine the number of Electoral College votes that exist for that state or district. When these “incumbents” redistrict, the limits within which they operate are relatively small. Politicians use this as an opportunity to secure the majority vote in the state or district in which they represent.

If you haven’t pieced it together yet, “redistricting” is synonymous with “zoning.” It can be called either ‘political redistricting’ or ‘political zoning.’ Both phrases mean the same thing and have the same end result.


 

Wife (Cont’d): Let me explain it to you plainly. John Doe has 10 female friends and 10 male friends. They are zoned as ‘male’ and ‘female.’ John Doe and Jane Smith are great friends and have been for several years. John Doe feels that there is a romantic relationship developing with Jane Smith. He moves her into a new zone: romantic interest. When he tells Jane Smith how he feels – she does not reciprocate those feelings. He redistricts his group of friends again – putting Jane Smith in her own category titled “friend zone” because they have chemistry but she does not wish to pursue that relationship. The population of her district is one.

 

Notice that throughout this story I only used neutral language while incorporating terms that describe an act that requires deep intellectual thought. There is a certain likeness between political zoning and “friend zoning” that cannot go ignored! We already don’t riot enough about the way political redistricting can be unfair to the people and unrepresentative of their political views – we cannot allow men and society to perpetuate the thought that “friend zoning” is not an intentional form of abuse. The only difference in political zoning and “friend zoning” is that the man doesn’t designate to others that he’s put a woman into a specific zone in his mind, but rather tricks others into believe that she put him there instead. An act, which is already sewn with manipulative intent, is made even worse by more deceitfulness.

 

Husband: I can see that this clearly makes you upset. I do see where you are coming from, and I am receptive to the thought of it as a form of abuse. However, having been in the “friend zone” with many of my female friends – [interrupted]

 

Wife: And that’s the problem! You – in my actual presence – are saying you’ve been in the “friend zone,” and are nearly incapable of seeing it for the cruel mechanism it truly is to women. This means at some point you were upset by a woman’s personal preferences simply because they did not include you. The concept of the “friend zone” literally ignores a woman’s right to be interested in anything specific. Guys can prefer blondes, brunettes, skinny, curvy, Latina, dominatrix, and so on – but the instant a woman says she prefers a man with, say, facial hair – lo’and’behold! She suddenly is high-maintenance or shallow when she turns down any man interested in her who doesn’t have facial hair.

 

I once challenged a man to consider dating woman outside of his usual scope of physical appearance (skinny, brunette, small breasts – all of which were his specifications). He told me that I was “stepping out of bounds” by suggesting this because he has the right to be physically attracted to any woman he considered as a girlfriend. However, it was not “stepping out of bounds” when he plainly stated that I purposefully changed my sexuality to shame my husband for his own.

 

If this were an isolated incident I wouldn’t have been enraged, but it wasn’t the first time I had a conversation alike this one. This particular gentleman and I had been friends since I was thirteen, but we were much closer when I was fifteen. He was one of the few people who provided me emotional support through an abusive relationship. He also asked me out on a few occasions, each time being turned down. I told him I was not physically attracted to him in spite of our emotional connection. Even though he accepted my answer, he said that he could no longer be my friend knowing this information – it would be difficult.

 

When we reconnected a year or so afterwards, he was telling me that a girl kept pursuing him even though he turned her down repeatedly. When I asked why he was unwilling to give her a chance he used my exact words: “I simply am not physically attracted to her, and our relationship could never thrive if I didn’t want to be with her in that way knowing she wanted that sort of intimacy.” I was dumbfounded and told him as much. It goes without saying we are not friends.

 

I’m not the only person in the world to experience this double standard. Men are faced with double standards too. That’s all irrelevant to this conversation, however, as are my personal experiences. They serve as examples, but only in a supplemental way. All I want you to understand is that women have preferences. When they turn men down who do not meet their preferences in a romantic partner – they find themselves victimized by this “friend zone” men utilize to classify their situation. The thing is, though, that it’s not a situation at all. They are in exactly the same place they were before, but they’ve convinced themselves that this woman saw more in him when she was just being his friend.

 

The “friend zone” is plainly an insulting, generally patriarchal, and manipulative form of abuse that men primarily use against women after being rejected. Once society stops coddling these men who are too often held to no standards whatsoever, then we can start maturely addressing the real issues. Feminism has always existed, but feel free to quote me here…

 

“The Friend Zone” that still exists because humanity is still a mess in its gender inequality, and racism, and prejudice… it breathes life to Feminism because clearly we still need a social movement capable of turning this misguided species around so that we can live in a better society.

 

Husband: If it’s such a problem, give me a solution. If this is a legitimate problem that can be solved and change the world as we know – then give me a solution. Until you can give me a good solution, or even a viable starting point, then why bother fixing something as petty as a slang term that people try to morph into a psychological game when there are actual crimes against women that need prosecuting?




 

 

 

The conversation ended at this point. I was so angry by the time I began my lengthy monologue that I couldn’t help but shout most everything that came out of my mouth. Our child actually left the room, muttering that we were arguing yet again. Of course, he doesn’t realize that there’s a difference between debating and arguing. He is young and someday I hope like hell he sees the value in the things that my husband and I do discuss.

Why? What parent wants their child to see them in a heated debate with their spouse? What parent would allow their child to sit in on a conversation as mature as this one? Why would any self-respecting parent do that?

The answer to that question is the same answer that I presented to my husband in response to his question. Why would we worry about the “friend zone” when there are real issues to be attended to in the world. The better question is – why doesn’t anyone treat the existence of the “friend zone” as a real issue?

It is our little behaviors that add up to a whole. Little behaviors create cultures and differentiate some from others. These differences make us human and make us unique. They can create societies within societies; they can create wonderful settings and niches. However, these little things can also poison us. It takes the whispers of one person to start a following. Hitler did it once and started a World War. ISIS is doing it presently, probably with the same intentions.

So I couldn’t care less when my son is present during debates such as this one, because it makes him aware. It educates him on the social issues that are present. It prepares him for the world – the way he will most likely experience it in the future.

Today I want to challenge my readers to think about the little things we can change to bring equality across all races, religions, genders, sexualities, classes, and countries. Assess your mannerisms and why you have them. Speak your mind on the issues that exist in the world around you. If you have a guy friend telling you about how he was “friend zoned” – challenge him to think about what it is that made him unappealing to her. Challenge him to consider how his language could affect her. But don’t stop at sexist behaviors – question racist ones too. Question when someone is shutting down another religion.

Question everything. Don’t lose your trust, but always consider the reasoning behind things. Don’t jump to conclusions because negative comments are often made out of ignorance. We can solve a lot of these social issues with awareness and education. So above all other things, I want you to take out this article – educate yourself. Information is easily accessible in many parts of the world.

Also, I want you to remember that the “friend zone” is verbally abusive and is utter bullshit. If you hear someone say they’re in the “friend zone,” consider why. Ask someone why. Understand the situation from all points of view.

Because chances are – that person is 1) a willful ass hat, or 2) an unintentionally uneducated human being waiting for enlightenment.

“NO” – Yeah, that still means “no”

This week the prompt comes from my own prompt collection that you can find here.

Prompt: Character A is trying to woo Character B, who keeps turning him/her down. Character C tells Character A that “no means no.” What is the context of this confrontation.

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“Isn’t that the the fourth time this week he’s asked you out?” Brianna questions. Of course, she knows that it is without asking, but she wants verbal confirmation. At this point the number of times that he’s interjected into their conversations is bordering ‘creepy.’ Jasmine won’t say anything to him distinct, though. She just kindly tells him that, “not interested at this time, bud.”

Brianna’s problem is that her best friend keeps turning this guy down nicely. Doing everything she can to give him enough hope that he is nice to her, but enough dejection that he won’t bother her too frequently. Even though the girls have spoken extensively about it, there seems to be no positive progression in that weird relationship between Jasmine and her almost-stalker. Brianna about cannot stand him any longer.

“He texted me three nights in a row. Puts him up to seven times, actually.” Jasmine almost sounds like she’s bragging about it, like it’s a sick story she can share in the future. This is what makes high school such a sick place. It’s okay to these people to think that a guy can persistently nag a girl to pity date him and for girls to bask in it. At some point the girls are objectifying themselves – sometimes just to be respected by their peers. Brianna slams her hands on the table because it was one thing to ask her in person four times in the course of five days. It is an entirely different matter to be texting daily and asking in person – that has crossed into inappropriate territory instantly.

“I am sorry Nate, but Jasmine thinks you’re about as interested as a cement block. She will never go out with you! Stop asking her every day! It sucks but guess what, there is another person out there that will eat up all your nonsense and you’ll be happy. Move the fuck on!” Everyone in the cafeteria – because that is where all the drama happens in high school – they are all staring at Brianna. Lunch ladies are looking around trying to see if the principles are in the vicinity. As it turns out, there is absolutely no other adult around to witness the spectacle. Jasmine is tugging at Brianna’s sweater in hopes of getting her to sit down and draw less attention, but she won’t stand down until she knows Nate isn’t going to bite back.

A few people start applauding, mostly girls who are tired of the same antics. Brianna knows most of them from her sociology class, some from psychology. It takes another couple of minutes before Nate just shrugs his shoulders and makes a comment to someone at his lunch table. Brianna considers storming over to him but in her heart she knows that she doesn’t have to do it. If anything offensive has been said it will circulate around until she hears it. Brianna won’t play nice if he tries to fight back.

Everyone has a skeleton or two in their closet. As for Nate, she happens to know that he hacks into the school system and changes grades and sick days. Sometimes people pay him to do it – supposedly a couple of teachers gave him free passes on assignments to get an extra day of vacation time. Brianna listens, and she records every rumor that she hears and who she hears it from in a notebook.

Jasmine knows what her friend is concocting, and she opposes the entire concept of having it. She’s often equated it to a “burn book” from a poplar teenage movie. Oftentimes they argue about putting information in it that could be detrimental to someone’s quality of life. Unfortunately, as far as Brianna is concerned, there is no greater way to suffer lost quality of life than losing one’s life entirely.  The way that Brianna’s disabled sister did in freshman year… for example…

“That was not necessary. What are you going to do if someone tells a teacher about what you did?” Always the voice of reason, Jasmine tries to remind her friend that obscenities could result in detention or in-school suspension. It is doubtful that the cafeteria staff are going to say anything, being that they’ve all probably dealt with a jerk like Nate at some point.

Brianna feels pretty comfortable that at most she’ll get a letter sent home to her parents, and everyone knows that they won’t take it seriously; “You’re welcome.”

“You can’t protect me from the world forever, Bri.” No, maybe she won’t be able to protect the tiny blonde from the world forever. What she can do, though, is protect the world from corruption. Jasmine might be her best friend but Brianna is classifying this as just another act of justice. Boys need to stop harassing girls.

As it turns out, Nate complains to the office about the “outburst,” and Brianna’s arguments land her in detention. Her mother has already called twice and yelled at the staff, requesting a meeting with the principle. The detention will be served by then so she’s really just trying to be an inconvenience to the staff. Brianna and her mother are very much alike in that respect.

After detention is over, Brianna tells her mother she’s going to drop her work back in her locker since she got everything done for the night. On her way she overhears a conversation that she simply cannot resist eavesdropping on for the duration…

A guy and a girl are arguing about something. She tells him to please stop asking her out, that she’s said ‘no’ several times already. It would seem someone got their voice at lunch. Pride swells in Brianna’s chest.

“But you didn’t say ‘no!’ You just said ‘not right now.’ Not the same thing!” Sounds as if the boy is being a whiner.

“Well this is me telling you ‘no.’ I don’t want to date you.” Brianna peers around the corner just to see who is talking, and she is certain her heart bursts inside of her chest cavity. At the end of the hall, picking stuff out of her own locker is Jasmine. She is turning Nate down on her own. Baby bird is exiting the nest, apparently.

“You are just as bad as your feminist freak friend Brianna.” Nate storms off, slamming Jasmine’s locker shut as he leaves. For a second Brianna thinks she sees her friend starting to cry. It ends up being a laugh, though. Her tips curl up and her bangs fall over her eyes. Jasmine starts at a low giggle and it turns into a full on cackle.

Pretending as if she hasn’t heard anything leading up to the laughter, Brianna bounces around the corner as if she’d not just been standing still; “What’s so funny, huh?”

But of course – the funny thing is that Jasmine realized the truth: No does still mean no.

Unconventional, But Mine

Giving birth makes ruining a marriage seem like having a really bad hangover…

Three weeks ago I pushed out an actual human being that I didn’t want with a man whom I don’t like and is asking me to be someone that I don’t like. There is a clear pattern here, and it all started when I let Deacon use me as a way to get out of a marriage that he didn’t like…

Basically, I hate what my life has become. Dirty diapers, waking up in the middle of the night to a screaming infant, and the fixed schedule of a man who wants a family; Deacon is a pretty nice person but having sex with him was way more fun than living with him. Deacon snores, he leaves his underwear all over the house, and to be frank – he laughs so much that it makes me actually nauseous. This man doesn’t care how miserable I am as long as I’m laughing and smiling with him.

Neither of us really discusses about how I fit into the picture, so my thoughts on him not caring aren’t ill conceived. He has never once queried if I even wanted to keep this baby. This little girl that looks more like him than me, thank goodness, and is the embodiment of everything I have never, ever wanted but he doesn’t know that because he never asked me. Being a mother was the last thing I wanted to do with my life. Again, he has no idea because there was never any talk about what we wanted – only what he wanted.

As for me, I love travelling the world in the summertime when I’m not teaching art throughout the school year. I love buying an excessive amount of alcohol on grocery day. More than anything, easily my favorite thing is being able to pretty much make my own schedule and decisions without really concerning myself with how others feel about it.

Now that there is a child in the mix – I will have to use my travel funds for baby clothes and doctor visits. I’ll have to stop drinking and going out with the girls so that I can buy diapers and feed an extra mouth. Some people in the world have to do these things, of course, because there are a ton of kids needing care in the world. If every single person thought the same way as me then all of society would fail.

I know I can’t continue pretending to be someone that I’m not, though. People who do that for too long can turn into monsters. They can turn into adult babies. I will cry at stupid hours in the night. I will become so lethargic that I will need Deacon to feed me, to comfort me, and to make sure I continue doing what I’m supposed to be doing so that I can fit the standards of those around me occupying the same roles. Eventually I would require an adult telling me how to be “normal.”

“Where is my baby girl?” Deacon shouts before he even gets the front door open. His voice has gone from funnily pleasant to nails on a chalkboard over the last seven months. Being with and around him is exhausting. Anyway, I know that he’s not talking about me so I tell him that Lee is napping in the bedroom. Only when I let him know this does he greet me with a kiss on my forehead that makes me cringe. He also sports a seductive grin that boldly foreshadows his thoughts; “I guess play time is coming early for mom and dad tonight, then.”

Hearing myself be referred to as a ‘mom’ again pushes me over the edge in my already contemplative state of mind; “I can’t do this.”

Watching someone’s face go from ‘excited’ to ‘disappointed’ – I think it is my one true gift to make people feel horrified because at some point everyone I know looks at me in this exact way. Features contort as if a rotten egg has just been shoved into their noses and their mouths, tainting everything immediately. Grandma had this expression when I announced that I was bisexual. My mother did the same thing when I said I wanted to be a teacher instead of marketer so that I can more easily experience everything life has to offer – on my terms, no less. My high school sweetheart – yeah, he definitely looked exactly like this when I told him that I wasn’t interested in marriage conceptually. Truthfully, I do love others very much but at the end of the day I love myself most. Everyone deserves to be happy and I would be much happier not doing any of what I’ve gotten myself into now.

“I am very sorry but I don’t want to be a mom. I don’t want to be a wife. This is life is strangling me because I am not this person.”

Somewhere in the world there is an old woman suffocating with a cigarette on her back porch, arms folded over her chest. Her brows are furrowed and smoke is rolling from her mouth as she zones out, wishing for the life that she could have had instead the one she has lived. That woman resents her husband, her ex-husbands, and her kids; all because someone convinced her that it was her obligation to be a mother and a wife. That woman wasn’t exposed to a world that let her know that she had options.

“You are still young, Natalia. This is just post-partum depression. A lot of women having kids at your age go through this, but I promise I’m here to help you. Together we can get past this and we can raise Lee as a happy family.” Did you hear that, Nat? Did you hear the world trying to tell you how you feel yet again? Deacon is trying to do what everyone does when they don’t support my realities.

So I do to him what I did to all of the others; “Nobody tells me what I want except me. Believe me when I say that I want nothing to do with Lee or with you. I kept my mouth shut about your divorce and I expressed my gratitude when you helped pay for the baby stuff, but being silent has to stop. I hate kids. I only had that baby because you wanted it. Now you have it and all I need right now is to walk out that front door with all of my stuff and never look back.” Deacon seems to be absorbing the seriousness of my woes. Surely his heart is pounding so fast that he worries more of a heart attack than he does of being alone. As the two of us meet in the middle of the living room, it is him who throws his hands in the air. Not that I’m surprised….

Initially, I expect him to yell. To think that anything else would happen after I admit that I hate this arrangement, I would have to be completely delusional. Selfish is not the same thing as ignorant. Nothing comes through his teeth and he just keeps waving his arms, sometimes stopping to rub his chin. My mind shifts to alternative actions he might take – is he going to hit me? Is he going to say terrible things? Is he going to leave and force me to care for this baby?

Deacon breaks the mold, though, by saying something that I’m sure I’ll never hear in the movies; “If you really want to go then just go. All I ask is that if you walk out that door – never come back. This isn’t something that you can fix later. I will not raise my daughter in a loving household only to have a birth mother show up in nine years wanting the life she gave up back.”

Claiming that relief resonates through my body – supreme understatement. Calm courses through my body almost violently in an effort to get rid of any tension; I feel a genuine smile curling my lips. A toothy expression sends me propelling into Deacon’s arms with appreciation. By the time I thank him and apologize for never bringing it up before, I find that I am crying without having noticed. Deacon dries my tears before telling me that I should go and that he will reach out once he’s met with his attorney. I promise to work with him on figuring out the best way to contribute anonymously to him and his daughter.

Because at the end of the day – I was never going to be a mother…

…   ….   ….

A month can do a lot of good for someone. One month, four weeks, thirty days; it goes by faster than a blink in the grand scheme of things. Somehow, though, in that same time frame a person can change his or her life entirely.

I will never know how Deacon spun everything to his attorney but he is releasing me of any obligation to the child. As soon as I got the letter I explained to him that I’ve decide to move to Italy and that his mature acceptance of my desires has encouraged me to pursue something that I needed for a very long time.

My family took the final step in ostracizing me after my revealing that I abandoned Deacon and Lee. Everyone has a line and it just seems that I, Natalia Escotto, have simply crossed it. All is well as Deacon is going to move into my old apartment and assuming the lease. Until my flight next week, I’m just staying with a friend. In six days I will be leaving behind everything that has ever hindered my personal growth.

And no matter what the world thinks of me – I know that this is right.

I finally know how happiness tastes on my lips.