Chances are you don’t know his real name, but when I tell you that folks call him “Duckie” most of you who aren’t currently fetuses will instantly see this face.
As played by Jon Cryer in the John Hughes 80s teen classic, “Pretty In Pink”, Duckie is a sad, tragic figure who ended up being denied his one chance at possibly winning over his unrequited love, Molly Ringwald’s Andie, after test audiences screamed “FUCK THAT GUY!!!” and insisted he bow out gracefully to that utterly douchy Andrew McCarthy character instead.
He’s the guy in the “Friend Zone” AKA the guy who ain’t gonna get some AKA the guy who wipes away Molly’s tears when McCarthy dumps her a year later for a reincarnated Egyptian princess/department store mannequin (after -- don’t you remember? -- successfully building a city on Rock and Roll).
By the standards of society and Hollywood this makes him a loser, because winners get to kiss the girl (or see her boobs -- if it’s a quality flick like “Just One of the Guys”). They don’t get trapped in the “Friend Zone”, where you can’t get your freaky fuck on and girls do terrible things like (*shudder*) be themselves with you or (EVEN WORSE!) share their pink, heart-dotted-i, cootie-covered girly girl feelings.
Can you think of any greater Hell on Earth than a situation where you might be forced to get to know and engage in a platonic relationship with someone who shares your interests, worldview and sense of humour? Especially when you -- if you had played your cards just right -- could have been fucking them 24/7 instead?
Balls or brains deep? Doesn’t seem like much of a choice does it?
I hope you can see where I’m going with this.
Obviously I have come to praise the “Friend Zone,” not to bury it, but I would be lying if I didn’t say there wasn’t a period in my life where I would have happily whacked it in the head with a shovel and dumped it into a shallow grave while it was still barely breathing.
Like Duckie, it wasn’t a place I frequented by choice. It was a prison I was sent to -- a gulag for asexual dissidents who lacked the tools required to escape from it and reach the orgasm-sharing Promised Land where more attractive humans dwell.
If life and relationships sometimes seem like a game, then the “Friend Zone” was the goat humourously stowed behind unlucky Door #3. As soon as you realized that’s what you won, you’d hear that classic “Waaaaa-Waaaaahhhhhh” loser horn and the laughter of the in-studio audience. All of the excitement vanished and you suddenly realized that instead of having a new girlfriend, you were just a jerk standing there in a diaper holding a comically oversized baby bottle.
But that slowly changed as high school ended and I stopped being a stupid asshole. Sometime in my 20s I realized that finding people to have sex with was actually a lot easier than finding people to be friends with. Orgasms are cheap, but worthwhile companionship is worth its weight in gold. With this epiphany, I found myself seeking out the “Friend Zone” rather than trying to scheme and plot my way out of it.
I admit that I am something of an outlier in that I’ve always enjoyed and sought out the company of women. I have, on occasion, met men whose embrace of popular gender stereotypes have kept them from ever considering a relationship with the opposite sex that didn’t require the use of birth control.
It is possible that my preference for female friends makes me more open to ignoring the fact that they have all of those awesome not-boy parts that are SOOOO hard not to look at (you seriously don’t know how hard until you’ve tried); it also equally possible that I am deluding myself and would be a lot happier if I lived in a Brad Pitt/George Clooney world where the “Friend Zone” only exists on my terms. But, until I find a way to “Freaky Friday” my way into their heads, I suspect I shall never know.
As of now I have to take succor in the freedom that comes from being able to be myself in virtually every social situation. When you devote your time to actively trying to get into the “Friend Zone,” you HAVE to be yourself, because that’s the only way to find people you actually want to spend time with. Trying to get laid, on the other hand, often requires secret agent levels of deception and spycraft, which just isn’t worth the effort.
The liberty that comes from knowing 80 percent of the female population has already decided they aren’t going to touch your penis before you’ve even spoken to them is that it allows you to simply talk to them as human beings (albeit the kind who looks a lot better in pretty dresses).
Doing so, I am able find out important details, like their name, interests and whether or not I’d willingly spend another 5 minutes in their presence without the promise of eventual sexual gratification. It stops me from doing silly things like spending time with someone I don’t like and never want to see again (even if they’re crazy enough to promise a night of not one, but two blowjobs -- which I admit is purely theoretical in my case).
I realize, from experience, that some folks out there don’t believe me and assume that my desire to make female friends is actually just my own sneaky way to get laid -- a classic “Nice Guy” act that inevitably ends with me doing something despicable. To them I would say, I’m not that nice.
Also, that sounds like so much hard work, especially for something as disposable and momentary as an orgasm. If I’m going to invest months and years in another person’s life, I’d much rather get a bunch of treasured in-jokes, memorable experiences and deeply buried secrets than five seconds of ejaculatory bliss. If I want that, there’s this thing called the Internet. It’s open all the time. Including Christmas.
Of course, there are always instances where enjoying and embracing the “Friend Zone” just isn’t possible. Pure sexual attraction can quickly be overcome (to the point that considering having sex with the person just feels gross), but the kind of romantic love that inspires bad songs, terrible poetry and -- worst of all -- insufferable flash mobs, is a tougher nut to crack.
In my experience, it’s better not to be friends with those who keep you lying awake at night. If your instinct is telling you to stand outside their window and play Peter Gabriel to them from an upraised boom box -- cut the cord, then roll it up and burn it. With the wrong person, the “Friend Zone” can quickly become the “Obsessed Stalker Zone” and that is all sorts of bad for everyone involved.
One of the unpleasant realities of life is that you can only do so much to attract other people. As much as the media is invested in telling us otherwise, there are no tried and true ways to find love. For some it comes quickly and with ease, while for others it’s a long, lifetime struggle. I would never tell anyone to give up on that search, but I happily tell everyone to not abandon the cool people who didn’t fall in love with you along the way.
We’ll never know what happened to Duckie after graduation. I like to think he’s happy -- perhaps making millions as the star of an inexplicably popular sitcom. I hope he’s still friends with Andie, and has gotten over their lack of intimacy. But most of all, I hope he secretly paid a mob guy to smash that McCarthy douche’s kneecaps with a baseball bat.
I may like being in the “Friend Zone,” but that doesn’t mean I have to be happy when the wrong guy gets the girl.