Typically, movies and TV depict married couples as stable and responsible, if sometimes a little boring. This is in contrast to the zany single friend, whose love life is always a wreck, may or may not have a real job, and basically behaves like an overgrown child. I’m a little worried I’m becoming a ZSF.
I’m getting to that age where more and more of my friends are married. A friend I’ve had since middle school is expecting her first kid. And then there’s me. I used to think marriage meant the end of my single girl friendships, and while I’ve realized it just means I get an exciting new friend, there does seem to be an increasing disconnect in our conversations. They’re talking about buying places in the suburbs with yards and staying in more, I’m talking about getting a place in the city so I can go out more. They’re talking about when to start a family, I’m trying to figure out at what point you’re supposed to think about freezing your eggs. They talk about yet another wedding they went to, and I just have stories about the infinite bad dates I’m going on. I like to think I’m entertaining, but I worry I’m just coming across as immature. I actually got a “don’t worry, he’s out there” from a friend’s husband the other day, which, while well meaning, was at best unnecessary and at worst condescending. I’m still at the point where I’m dating mostly for the hilarious stories, and not so much to find “the one.”
Fortunately, I have great company in the Zany Single Friendzone:
Bridget is the original ZSF, and coiner of the brilliant and all-too-often accurate term “Smug Married.” While most of us know that relationships aren’t a competition and we’ll all find love in our own good time, there still exist the married couples that think they’ve won some sort of competition, and look down their coupled-up noses at those of us still playing the game. Their catchphrases are things like “Just put yourself out there,” “Stop being so picky,” and “You can’t wait forever.” Fortunately, Bridget knows she doesn’t need to listen to these naysayers and can continue being awkward at parties until she finds someone to love her exactly as she is.
I’ve really loved Anne’s shift on Parks and Rec from the seemingly stable one who had to take Leslie on a practice date to being the ZSF to the perfectly matched couple that is Leslie and Ben. Leslie’s had her smug married moments, briefly judging Ann for dating around too much and deciding to have a baby on her own, but by and large has been an incredibly supportive friend even when Ann’s chosen to do deeply questionable things, like dating Tom. That lapse in judgment aside, Ann’s done a fantastic job of dating around and trying to figure out what she wants out of life (and she’s having a kid with Rob Lowe, so go her!).
Watching the first season of Up All Night, I had way too many moments of “crap, I’m just like Ava, but way less successful.” Ava‘s the consummate ZSF, melodramatic and constantly freaking out about her love life, career, or both, and extremely resistant to her best friend, Regan, doing the whole ‘married and having a baby’ thing. To those of us who are used to our friends being at our beck and call for those 1am “OMG we just had a fight and we’re going to break up and I’ll be alone forever” phone calls, it can be difficult to adjust to the fact that the only cries for help they’ll be responding to in the middle of the night are their infant’s.
Mindy’s another ZSF trying to maintain a best friendship with someone who’s done the ‘have a kid, move to the suburbs’ thing. Gwen can get quite critical at times, not wanting to ‘waste’ guys by setting them up with Mindy. Mindy’s not always much better, snarking at Gwen about her husband and daughter, but you can tell that at heart, these two friends really care about each other despite their wildly different lifestyles.
While relationships between ZSFs and our married friends can be strained at times, they’re far from impossible. The downfall of the ZSF tends to be intense narcissism, so if we can get out of our own heads long enough to remember to ask about our married friends’ deck renovation or potty training, we’re in the clear. Married people, you’re not excempt. The problems of a ZSF may seem superficial, but we’re out here dealing with the same problems as everyone else, and also trying to find the loves of our lives, while you’ve already been lucky enough to do so, so cut us a little slack. We ZSFs will keep it up with the crazy stories, you’ll keep hosting amazing dinner parties using all that cutlery you registered for, and we’ll all be just fine.