Relationships are weird and I don’t just mean the romantic ones. But, yes, romantic ones do have a special kind of weirdness to them. The pressure to find a suitable mate and make a home with them and eventually procreate so our human life cycle can rinse and repeat is probably the most enduring societal stress that we face. And when you finally do find a someone there is a pattern the relationship tends to take, and it’s never all easy. In the beginning, you’re anxious about who’ll make the first move and whether you both feel the same way about each other. In the honeymoon stage, everything the other person does seems wonderful. And then eventually everything that used to seem wonderful just seems the tiniest bit annoying. Yes, I love you, can you just put away the butter when you’re done?
Our platonic relationships also demand consideration and respect so that they don’t spiral off into weirdness. Sometimes there’s nothing more unsettling than an argument with a good girlfriend, or an awkward encounter with someone we thought was just our friend but obviously wanted more. With every relationship though, what it all boils down to is how we express ourselves. Saying what we mean, and saying it in a constructive way to other people — and to ourselves — is crucial. For the sake of my relationships (both romantic and platonic) I want to be better about sending the right messages in 2015. There are some words, terms and phrases that I think more often than not hurt us on our quest for relationship clarity. With that in mind, I’m calling for a moratorium on the following phrase — our friendships and romances will be better off for it.
This phrase, though frustrating for any spontaneous gal, can be especially maddening for single ladies. The assumption that marriage is the ultimate goal is not only outdated, but irritating, especially when there are other things — things you’ve deemed more important than an engagement ring — that you’ve chosen to dedicate your life to. To have family or friends assume that your end goal is a wedding not only puts major pressure on an existing relationship, but devalues the accomplishments of those of us without plans to go anywhere near an altar. Also, the word settle just sounds so dreadful. No matter where life leads you — marriage, babies, Ibiza — you never want to think that it lacks the potential to be exciting and off-the-wall fun.
We probably all have a lot of lovely ladies in our lives. Whether we’re grabbing lunch with our sisters, Netflix-binging with our friends, or obsessing over the latest badass feminist to take over the media, we have deep admiration for other women. And when we meet a new one, we sometimes find ourselves immediately enamored with her personality, her quick wit, her mad fashion skills. This platonic attraction is often referred to as a “girl crush,” which seems like an awfully trivial way to sum up all of the respect we feel. The term is harmless, and its implications are positive, but as intelligent women, we can find more thoughtful and eloquent ways to express ourselves, ways that don’t suggest a schoolgirl craze of which you’re embarrassed. Genius queen Mindy Kaling puts it like this: “I hate it when people say ‘girl crush.’ No one’s going to think you’re lesbian if you just say ‘crush.’”
The concept of friend-zoning has been around in some form or another since probably the beginning of time, because sexual attraction and platonic attraction are not always as clearly defined as we might like. We’ve seen fictional characters, from Harry and Sally to Nick and Jess, struggle to walk that thin line between friend and lover. And still, when I sit back and think about it, there are some negative connotations to the phrase, sort of like one person is saying, “It’s messed up that you just want to be my friend.” What’s so bad about a platonic relationship? How did anyone turn into the bad guy for simply saying “no” to something more? Sometimes there’s a bitterness to the way people talk about being “friend-zoned,” as if they’re being denied access to an intimacy that they thought they deserved. It’s a subtle accusation of being lead on. I’m sure this sometimes happens, but we do each other a disservice to demand or expect more than is being offered.
“But you’re so pretty!”
See also: But you’re so funny! But you have a great body! But you’re smart! These buts, which are posed as compliments, are not received as such. They imply that one skill or asset should outweigh or make up for a lack elsewhere. It’s a consolation that while the pretty/funny/smart person in question does not have a partner, they should. Such statements are often well-meaning, but not really all that comforting. They make women feel inadequate, and often sound empty and desperate. It’s great to give our friends the praise they deserve, but when it comes to talking to single people about dating, the best kind of encouragement is simply, “The right person is out there.” Don’t assume that she doesn’t know how attractive or intelligent she is by reminding her, and don’t assume that everyone wants to be picture perfect. Let’s face it, most of us know that we are not superlative in every human category, because no one is.
Nothing makes me more absolutely, dizzyingly, heartbreakingly livid than a woman being made to feel insane for having emotions. Too often, we are called “crazy” both by men and by each other, for voicing our concerns, or getting upset, or wanting to talk about the way we feel. In the throes of an argument, anyone can get carried away by their feelings. Maybe we raise our voices. Perhaps we cry. And then the crazy bomb is dropped at our most vulnerable moments, just when we wish we hadn’t said the things we did. We’re made to feel insane or paranoid or weird for simply having a viewpoint and being brave enough to share it in an emotional way.
I’m supposed to have it all figured out by now. We’re supposed to be engaged by this point. I’m supposed to have a baby before I’m 40. No. Just no. You are where you are and you’re doing what you’re doing, because that’s it. There is no playbook. There is no instruction manual. Your friends do not have all the answers and you are not falling behind them. You’re doing you. Maybe you’re getting these rules from rom-com heroines or an aunt at Thanksgiving, but I’m here to tell you: IT IS OK TO DO WHATEVER YOU FEEL IS RIGHT, WHENEVER YOU FEEL IT IS RIGHT. The new year shouldn’t be about creating a new you, but instead caring for the you that already exists. It’s perfectly fine to want things, to think it’s time that you got them, but don’t beat yourself up about it. Things have a way of working out, and they also change in an instant. Let’s pay attention to our feelings, follow our hearts, ignore what we don’t believe, and celebrate what we do.
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