The story I have to share today is an important one. It’s one that I was fortunate enough to watch unfold completely at Panera Bread today while I was eating my Asiago Roast Beef sandwich and Steak Chili. It’s one we can all take lessons from, whether or not we’re the kind of person who typically finds themselves in the “friend zone.”
The friend zone, much more often than not, is a terrible place to be… at first, anyway. The word is synonymous with a failure on the man or woman’s part to either make a move at the right time or a failure to understand that he or she never really had a shot in the first place. It’s a place characterized by sadness and defeat, and is a place harder to escape from than Alcatraz Island in its heyday.
Sometimes the hardest thing to figure out about the friend zone is whether or not you’re in it yet. Such is the case with the young college student at Panera today. We’ll call him Troy. Troy is a well-intentioned, average-looking guy looking for love in the form of a young girl he’s invited to Panera for coffee. Troy has no idea that he’s in the friend zone with his “date” that he brought to Panera for coffee (we’ll call her Ashley).
So how do I know that Troy is in the friend zone? After all, I was not privy to any of their conversation; everything I’ve assumed so far is based completely and only on what I saw with my own eyes. Before we get to that, it’s important to note that Ashley wears Vibram Five Fingers Shoes. You know what I’m talking about:
Why is this an issue? Well, it’s the middle of winter in Pennsylvania, and Ashley clearly wasn’t using these to run (the only reason you would ever want or need to buy these “shoes,” and this is arguable, anyway). She was wearing them to show off to the people of Panera Bread. I’m pointing this out for Troy’s sake. Troy: the kind of girl that buys and wears these monstrosities (of all things) to be cool is not the kind of girl you want to be chasing after in the first place. So it’s not a big loss.
Back to the friend zone. How do I know he’s in it? This one’s impossibly simple. Ashley and Troy were at Panera to, among other things, exchange Christmas gifts… on December 28. Classic friend zone move by Ashley. If the girl or guy you’re chasing after does not have time to exchange gifts with you before (or even on) Christmas Day, you’re a “priority” who’s… pretty far down on your crush’s list of priorities. With each succeeding day after Christmas that you’ve not exchanged gifts with your “the one,” you effectively move deeper and deeper into the friend zone.
I know this because I’ve experienced countless post-Christmas gift exchanges with girls I’ve liked in the past. Back when i was young and stupid, I didn’t see this as a sign. After years of creating friend zones not only all over Pennsylvania, but all over the country (and even the world), I’m a smarter person now. I see these signs as clear as crystal. Troy, I’m not judging you. I’m sympathizing, because I’m right there with you.
Normally, at this point, I’d reach out to Troy and tell him there’s little hope. If he doesn’t know he’s in it yet, he’s long set himself on a course bound for eventual humiliation and tragedy. However, let’s give Troy the benefit of the doubt for a second. Let’s say that Troy knows he’s in the friend zone, and is using this gift exchange to get out of it. I’m skeptical, but I’ll entertain the idea for a minute for Troy’s sake.
If Troy is indeed in the situation in which he is using the gift exchange to try to catapult himself outside of the friend zone and into what he thinks will be a pretty awesome relationship, he’s probably picked out an awesome gift that will blow Ashley mind so much that she will immediately realize she’s been dating those “bad guys” for too long and instantly fall in love with Troy. This would be nice, right? Unfortunately, Troy struck out on the first pitch with this train wreck of a Christmas present, one I saw her open with a grimace she could not help but… grimace:
Now, I don’t know a lot about Ashley beyond (like I said) what I saw with my own eyes. However, I have a pretty good idea that this is the most terrible Christmas present of all time. Ashley’s “I have no idea how to even respond to this” expression that followed doesn’t hurt my case. Troy: sure, Ashley loves her little Dachshund “Johann” to death…. so much so that she talks more about it than even you. And sure, sometimes she shops at Whole Foods to try to live a better lifestyle. She might even enjoy cooking. And you know all of this.
However, to assume that you can merge all of these things into one idea displays complete lack of experience in gift buying. Merging everything you know about your lady friend into one single present does not always create something awesome. After all, just because she loves Red and Green (Christmas colors of course), doesn’t mean she wants them merged together to create brown.
Ashley doesn’t want to spend her free evenings cooking extremely expensive biscuits for her little dog who will more than likely get very sick from the rich ingredients anyway. This book is not going to get you out of the friend zone. In fact, the book has more than likely spawned more barriers to a future relationship than you’ll ever be able to comprehend.
I’m not saying you’ll never get out, Troy! I hope we both get out someday. But from one friend zoner to another: you’ve got to step up in the gift giving department. You’re already in the red exchanging them on the 28th of December. You need a “black Friday” intensity level gift to bring you into the black, and into a relationship. Good luck next year, Troy! I have a feeling 2011 will be my, and maybe even your year. Took a long time to come.