Awkward Your Way Into: The Mutual Friend-Zone

Middle school boys were not as glamorous as I thought they would be. You know how the recipe for girls is sugar, spice, and everything nice? Well, the recipe for middle school boys is AXE Body Spray, graphic pizza-based t-shirts, and having a hard time not laughing when the species homo erectus is mentioned. Despite all of that, when I was in seventh grade, I somehow developed a crush on one of these specimens. For privacy purposes, let’s call him Jim.

Jim is a cool dude, we’re great friends, he’s my go-to when it comes to complaining about life, but I’m not going to lie, it wasn’t always like this. I’ve known Jim since sixth grade, but we weren’t the bestest of homies until the end of eighth grade, because some things went down that made seventh grade pretty awkward for the both of us.

Seventh grade. Not much to say. It was a complete, total bore from start to end, in terms of the academic school year. However, in terms of personal drama, well, that’s a whole different story. This was the year I had a crush on actual, real-life human being that knew I existed (in other words, not Barney or Nick Jonas). The whole experience was… awkward. If you think I’m lying, let me tell you about how it all started.

It was a few days before winter break, and your girl was just chilling on a bench on the school yard. Everything was normal, girls were screaming, guys were making “yo mama” jokes, and security was bumming everyone out. Everything seemed right in the world. Then, I saw this human being with the most beautiful long hair. Can you guess who it was? Yup, good old Jim. And for some reason, I thought the most appropriate way to appreciate this glorious hair was to go up to Jim and ask him if i could touch it. Yup, you heard me. I asked if I could touch it. I hate talking about this, because it makes me want to crawl into myself and scream eternally, but you know what, screw it. Okay, going back to the story, I touched his hair, and started to do that weird middle school girl thing where I just aggressively say mean things in hopes that he’d fall in love with me. Not my finest moment, but it somehow worked?

From that moment, Jim and I couldn’t stop talking to each other. We were definitely the modern day Troy and Gabrielle, minus the outburst of singing on his end. Just kidding, but in all seriousness, Jim was the first person I could talk to about anything, and be my authentic self with. Maybe that’s why I couldn’t stop myself from liking him. Maybe that’s why, when things got rough between us, I couldn’t let him go.

Winter break came around, and we continued to talk. Everything was normal. We were in that weird stage where we were friends, but we both had crushes on each other, and we both knew that we both liked one another. I was fine being in this oddly comfortable-yet-uncomfortable place in our friendship. I didn’t want to date yet, but Jim didn’t feel the same. I don’t know what was going on in Jim’s head, but what I do know is that one night we were talking at three in the morning, and Jim hit me with the million-dollar-question; he asked me to be his girlfriend. Yikes.

I didn’t want to say no, but I didn’t want to say yes. I was in this awkward position. What the hell was I supposed to do?  We only started really talking to each other a few weeks before this, for crying out loud. I didn’t want to date, but I didn’t want to stop talking either, so I did the most logical thing I could think of: I told him I would say yes, if he asked again in a few months. I didn’t see this as stringing him along at the time, but when I look back at this, I realize I was terrible and shouldn’t have done that, but I was 12, and didn’t know what else to do.

A few months later came, Jim didn’t fail to ask again, and I didn’t fail to say yes. I felt terrible about this, because during those few months, we talked about what post-apocalyptic life would be like, or how we liked our noodles cooked, but what I realized during those conversations was that those feelings I had for Jim weren’t me “falling” for him, they were just overwhelming feelings of friendship and happiness, because I found someone who I instantly clicked with. We weren’t mean to fall in love or date, we were meant to become amazing friends. I just didn’t know how to tell him. Seven hours went by after I said yes. Guilt was consuming me, and I just couldn’t pretend that I wanted to be with Jim, so I told him that, in a very blunt way.

That was the moment things changed for us. We stopped talking as consistently, and that was on me, and when we did communicate with one another, I felt this weird tension. That weird tension kept building up until there was nothing but tension on my side of things. It was weird how this person I never wanted to stop talking to was now the person I would make up excuses to, so we didn’t have to talk.

This is where things get messy and awkward. Jim was okay with being friends, but every time I talked to him, I felt guilty and it was becoming apparent. He was still amazing and caring, but I couldn’t stand talking to him. For weeks, I wanted to cut him off , but I didn’t have the guts to. Summer came around and I didn’t want to deal with this anymore. I lied. I told him I wasn’t talking to people this summer, that I was cutting everyone off. No Instagram. No Facebook. No texting. The truth was, I wasn’t cutting everyone off, I was cutting him off. My plan seemed perfect, and it was–until it wasn’t.

Jim found out and I lost him. We stopped everything. We stopped being friends. That’s what I wanted, right? So why was I sad? It’s weird how you don’t realize the value of another human until they step out of your life on their terms.

Eighth grade started, and Jim moved on. He found someone else to have funny conversations with. I was mad. There is no other way to explain this. I wasn’t sad. I was angry that he just moved on from this deeply emotional and flat-out great friendship so easily. It wasn’t long before they started dating. It wasn’t long until I couldn’t keep me mouth shut any longer.

This is where things got even messier and even more awkward. I started a conversation with him, and I don’t know how I started it, but I was probably being completely phony, and it felt like nothing had changed between us and we were talking like normal humans, like friends, but we both felt the lingering awkwardness between us. I don’t remember much from this conversation, except for the part where I suddenly verbally attacked him. I don’t want to get into details, but I basically blamed him for not coming to me and trying to reboot our friendship, and starting something new with another girl instead. It was awful. I knew it was awful the moment the words came out of my mouth, but I didn’t stop. We stopped talking again.

Life did its thing. You know how it goes: I got a quarter-inch taller, he got a girlfriend–the usual. It was awkward every time we saw each other, but we didn’t make a big deal out of it. I missed talking to him, and being friends with him, but I would rather die than tell anyone. I cyber-stalked him on my friends’ accounts because, you know, that’s completely normal, and not to mention that it was easier to do than just going up to him, swallowing my pride, apologizing, and asking him how he was. This went on for a while. He even got a new girlfriend. Things were going good for him. I was still caught up in our dead friendship.

It was winter break of our eighth grade year, one year since everything started. I’m not gonna lie, those two weeks sucked. It was mostly me eating a butt-ton of Cheez-Its and coffee ice cream, watching ‘80s movies, and almost texting Jim. So much was going on emotionally without thinking about Jim, and I just wanted to talk to him about it, like I use to, but I couldn’t; my ego meant more than trying to save this friendship, so I continued to be sad and eat way too much ice cream, but finally, I caved. I texted first. I apologized, and, to be honest, I didn’t expect him to answer, because of the way we ended things, and because the way I talked to him was terrible, but ten minutes later, my phone went bing, because that’s the thing about Jim; he’s understanding. He forgave me, and I felt like this backpack of bricks was shoved off my shoulders. Things weren’t the same like how they use to be, but it was a start.

Our friendship grew exponentially from that point. Not going to lie, there were awkward moments here and there when one of us started to like the other one as more than a friend, and yes, there were other bumps and weird turns along the way, but we realized that friendships like ours grew from these obstacles, not end because of them.

High school letters came out, and we both got into the same school. We didn’t want to repeat seventh grade, so we made an agreement: we wouldn’t let stupid things end our friendship again. When times get tough, or if there’s a huge thing happening in our lives, we would always tell the one another, and finally, from this point on, we were mutually friend-zoning each other.

I am forever grateful for this friendship with Jim, and for that one awkward time I asked to touch his hair. Although I mentally slap myself everytime I think about how I started my friendship with Jim, I don’t regret it. This is a great example of how awkwardness can lead to a beautiful friendship that hopefully will last a lifetime.

Jim, if you’re reading this, homie, you’re amazing, and thank goodness you cut off your emo bangs! Thank you for dealing with me and our psychotic friendship. Also, thanks for letting me tell this incredibly weird story to show how one awkward situation can lead to a glorious friendship, and if this isn’t how you remember this story, then you’re wrong (maybe). Anyways, nothing but love and support, dude! And don’t screw stuff up with your girlfriend, I like her!

And, reader, don’t be afraid to go up to someone and say some crazy stuff, they might end up being your best support system!