The Friend Zone Nebula

I need to sort through some things, so bear with me while I analyze several conversations I’ve had with The Voyeur in the past month. Let’s travel back in time to just about four weeks ago. To set the stage, he and I were discussing plans we’d made to grab a drink after work the following day (the first such plans we’d made since the January fiasco). Then he observes that it’s odd that I’d be meeting him if things are going so well with The Leo. I explain that this isn’t a date and that he and I are just friends who like hanging out together (or at least that’s what I’m desperately trying for us to be — can’t you see that?!). He points out that we were just friends hanging out when we kissed in January, and casually asks what I would do if he tried to kiss me on this outing.

Ok…fair point, but I really am just trying to re-establish our friendship. We eventually work our way around to what’s really bothering him about our plans.

Side note: is it “incomplete” to suppress emotions and thoughts when it’s in your own self-interest? I guess I always looked at it as discipline. The “I’m just not a romantic” bit is true — I don’t fall in love with abandon. I love deeply, but I also keep my head firmly affixed. That’s not how he does it, though, so to him, my way is lacking something. To-may-to, to-mah-to.

Ouch. Yes. That is what I did. Not on purpose, but I did it all the same.

And on a decidedly passive aggressive note, we canceled our plans. Our text conversation for the next few days was clipped and awkward before returning to something approaching normal (for us). Then I went and did some thinking about what he’d said. And offered this addendum to our exchange about a week later…

Did you notice his immediate and unsurprising deflection that avoided addressing the content of my message? Yeah, me too. It didn’t matter, though. By this point, acknowledging how I was feeling was helpful, and recognizing how it was playing out (in my eagerness to hang out with him as friends, dammit!) allowed me the mental energy I needed to consider how to proceed with The Leo.

So imagine my surprise when a week ago, I get this message out of the blue…

Two weeks ago, my choice to spend time with him was under a microscope. Now it’s a foregone conclusion. Not only that — he also doesn’t care how that will play out in my relationship with The Leo. Okaaaaay.

Are you wondering what I did?

Well, we went out for that drink. And I told The Leo that I was going to meet with him; the transparency felt good and was received gracefully. Our meeting was enjoyable and largely uneventful (i.e. no deep conversations parsing out the complicated dynamic between us — shocker), but I did let him know that his comment about “repercussions in your life” hurt my feelings. He let me know he thought I’d get bored with The Leo.

Months ago, he asked me why I swiped right on him after I admitted that he didn’t look like most of the guys I dated (which isn’t really a fair statement because I don’t even have a type, but that’s neither here nor there). I told him that I just had “a feeling.” That same feeling may be what’s holding us locked into a nebulous friendship with one another now, well past the point I would have predicted based on our origin story. For me, the continued appeal in spite of the occasional frustration (because, let me be clear, the above screenshots comprise only a small percentage of our total communication) has much to do with how he talks to me, treats me, sees me.

He firmly believes that most people suck, so to be his friend carries the implicit message that he doesn’t think I do (or that I suck somewhat less than everyone else). He rarely offers praise, so when he does, it feels like a gift. There are no prizes, no lionizing, for doing my damn job (I get a lot of props from people for being a parent — err, thanks? The alternative is that I’m negligent, so yay me). Sometimes he’ll make an observation about my motives or patterns that leaves me speechless with its accuracy. The beauty and agony of being seen mirror the ups and downs of friendship with The Voyeur. We all want to be seen, but sometimes the seeing cuts deep.

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