My closest friend Toph and I went on a friend date on Friday. It was sort of an early birthday celebration– really early, because I don’t turn 18 until January– but since Toph is going abroad on a trip with his Middle Eastern studies class during my birth month, we decided to dub it as such. That day was probably the best I’ve had in recent memory, and so I couldn’t help but update my Snapchat and Instagram stories every time we arrived at a new destination to show off its greatness.
In one of the captions, I hashtagged #FRIENDSHIP in big letters across the screen. My friend, Juniper, sent me a private message shortly after that read:
Damn! Friendzoned the shit out of his cute ass!
I laughed and showed Toph, but that’s when I started thinking about the friend zone and what it meant.
I could go into detail about how I think that it’s silly that men are “owed” a relationship simply because they were nice to a girl, but it’s been done before and I’m a unique and edgy teen, so I won’t. I’d rather use the friend zone as a gateway to analyze how my friendship with Toph has been seen.
Lately, people have been romanticizing us. Until now, I haven’t given it much thought, but upon some reflection I’ve realized how common it’s become.
I never told him this, but it happened at an alumni networking mixer I went to Thursday (Side note: Thursday feels like an eternity ago). We were split off into groups of five to six– a mix of alumni and students– and then handed a list of conversation starters. One of the questions asked about the friendships we were forming at school, and I couldn’t help but mention Toph. I went on, shortly, about things I talk about in my When People Don’t Take You Seriously post, and the positive impact he’s had on my life. That’s when one of the alumni commented, “We have a future wife over here!”
Everyone at the table laughed.
I smiled, but, for some reason that I couldn’t understand at the time, I felt a little uncomfortable. Soon after, I realized that it was because I had to confront some awkward questions in my head. Although I hadn’t viewed Toph romantically, I started thinking, Should I?
Toph was attractive, smart, talented and funny. He and I got along well, and we had similar interests and world views– the kind of boy who would make a great partner. Everyone from my roommates, Queenie and Flower Hussain, to random alumni would talk about the fantastic couple we’d make. Every time Juniper brought it up, she would sound disappointed that I’d boxed Toph and me into a friend zone that didn’t fulfill the romantic fantasies she’d created of us together.
I have a big disclaimer. To everyone’s dismay, I’m perfectly comfortable keeping Toph and my relationship platonic. Those thoughts have only been popping up in my head because everyone around me is convinced that a boy and a girl can’t just be friends. Maybe– just maybe— that’s not the case here. After all, I’ve never so quickly clicked with someone as I had with him.
At the time, I had been seeing his roommate Ruaidhri, and spending quite a bit of time in Toph and his room. Ruaidhri was on the varsity soccer team, so he would go on to practice everyday at around four o’clock, and one day, he took off and left me in his room alone. Toph came back about an hour later, and we immediately hit it off. I was shocked at how naturally spending time with him felt. We’d talked for hours that day and even went to grab dinner together. That was the beginning of our friendship. Boys came and went, and even after I had stopped talking to Ruaidhri, Toph and I persevered.
Because of how much I value our bond, I’ll push those silly questions I’ve been asking myself aside. I don’t need to look at him differently because everyone insists I should. Next time we hang out, I won’t think twice about the disappointed Junipers and curious alum, because man am I lucky to have a friend like Toph.