When I was six, I liked Gilbert DeSilva. Gilbert DeSilva liked Athena Collins. Mind you, every boy liked Athena Collins: a petite blonde with pigtails, she wore fuschia LA Gear zip-ups that made every girl envious and rocked a pink denim skirt that went with everything. At recess, Athena would run around the playground in fits of laughter as the boys chased her. She stole their baseball caps and their hearts, marrying a number of different boys under the twirly slide on a weekly basis. I would sit atop the monkey bars, taking it all in. Athena would reel them in, calling them over. She’d whisper something in their ear and they’d both laugh. She’s grab the baseball cap from their head and start running.
I could do that. I could get Gilbert DeSilva to notice me just like he noticed Athena Collins. I would make him like me. He’d want to spend all of his time with me when we were together and he’d continue thinking about me once we were apart. He’d be comfortable enough to share secrets with me and invite me over for playdates where, as we sat in his treehouse, he would tell me how much he loved me – even more than Athena Collins – and then one day I would steal his baseball cap and he would chase me and then marry me under the twirly slide. All I had to do was get him to notice me. Operation Marry Gilbert DeSilva had commenced.
The whole thing was rather easy. One day I commented on his Fraggle Rock lunch box and from that moment on we were inseparable. We spent our lunchtimes swapping desserts and talking about He-Man and She-Ra’s complicated sibling relationship and the pressures they were under to keep Castle Greyskull safe from the evil clutches of Hordak and Skeletor. Gilbert DeSilva would help me with subtracting and I’d help him sound out words of more than two syllables. I taught him the benefits of the bunny-ear method of tying shoelaces while he taught me the proper way to kick a soccer ball. We’d discuss the sheer skill it took to not over-chocolify your milk with Nestle Quik. We were partners whenever the need for a buddy arose, and we spent our ride home on the bus sharing the titles of our favorite library books. We were a match made in heaven. And then one day, feeling confident that Athena was no longer a risk, I passed him THE NOTE, the surefire way of finding out whether you had a chance with someone in the First Grade. I passed him THE NOTE, and this was his response:
As a Friend?
Uh, no Gilbert DeSilva. My First-Grade “Friend” Dance-Card was full. This was a tried and tested, highly scientific likability scale. A 50/50 chance. An exact unit of measurement. There were no fill in the blanks. What a freakin’ bust.
At some point between discussing the Thundercats and the Cobra-Kai, my relationship with Gilbert DeSilva had entered The FriendZone: that place you find yourself when someone of the opposite sex decides that you are from now on henceforth in perpetuity no longer a viable option for any kind of physical relationship. Gilbert DeSilva would never chase me around the playground. Our twirly-slide marriage was completely not happening.
The FriendZone is a dangerous place and 25 years later, I still find myself unintentionally stuck in it most of the time. With each introduction, there is an 80% chance of me being relegated to this makeout-free zone. Seriously, I’ve done the math. The Gilbert DeSilva FriendZone Curse has followed me throughout adulthood and in writing this article, hoping I might learn something, I decided to reach out to my friends for some Un-FriendZone-Myself tips. Like a PSA for those like me – without game – I bring to you:
10 Ways To Remain FriendZone Free
Never know too much about him. Just ask most married couples. They know zilch about each other. (Knowing Gilbert liked He-Man before he told me he liked He-Man was my first mistake.)
Never go to an event clearly indicating a “Guys Outing”. If you’re the only girl watching Monday Night Football in a packed bar with your crush and his friends, you’re dead in the water. (So apparently, if he asks you to be his field-trip partner, say NO.)
Don’t go out of your way to do everything to please him. Not only does this solidify FriendZone, it also makes you a doormat and sisal looks bad on everyone. (No, Gilbert DeSilva, I will not help you make flash cards for words you have trouble reading and you can just go on and forget me saving you a seat at the lunch table, while you’re at it.)
Never allow someone to be your priority while allowing yourself to be their option. (Next time, Gilbert DeSilva, I will happen to forget your birthday and will definitely not convince my mother to purchase as a gift for you the largest bottle of Nestle Quik on the face of the earth, just so you can invite me to your birthday along with Athena Collins.)
Cease all communication immediately upon meeting them. (Unless it’s to whisper sweet nothings in their ear – because that apparently works and is followed by laughter and a game of tag through the playground.)
Be the true version of Y O U. (You know what, Gilbert DeSilva? I don’t even like the Thundercats.)
Never let yourself be the shoulder to cry on or the listening ear. If they’re venting to you about girls, consider yourself screwed. Or, I guess, not screwed. (The next time you bring up the name Athena Collins, I’m moving to a different seat on this bus.)
Be sexual. Invade their space. Throw as many innuendos into the conversation as possible. Do this while also not being a stalker. (Steal their baseball cap, steal their heart.)
Suck up your pride and make it obvious friendship isn’t what you’re after. Use your feminine wiles. Let them know how you feel. (Instead of writing Do You Like Me, Circle One, I should have written I Like You. Period.)
Perhaps the most important piece of advice? Never hang out with him with pants on. (…because it’s all about Athena’s pink denim skirt that goes with everything.)
featured image via graphjam & in-article photo is seriously THE NOTE, circa 1986
*special thanks to: Felicia Culotta, Brad Henderson, Christine Hintz, Allan Raible, Cindy Kohler, Caileigh Scott, Daemon O’Neill, Schoena Strudwick, Caitlin Hofherr, Michele Thompson & Chris Theokas for the above suggestions I never would have been able to think of by myself because I live in a constant state of FriendZone*