The story goes like this: You meet a nice lady-person in whom you have interest. She is great in every way and you have what you think is good chemistry. But you are confused about whether or not she likes you likes you. You finally get up the courage to make a move and BAM… she says, “Oh, but I’ve always considered you just a friend.” The painful words echo in your ears… just a friend… just a friend… just a friend. If only there was a way to prevent such humiliation. Of course, these will vary person to person, but here are some indicators and what to do about them before you make a move.
She talks to you about other guys she’s seeing. In a way: duh — this is a big sign. In another way, she might be gauging your reaction to see if you show signs of jealousy so it’s important to look for subtlety. Is she talking about how other guys she’s dating are jerks or is she talking to you about how she really likes one particular guy? If it’s the former, you might not be in the friend zone. If it’s the latter, it’s best to be a good friend and be happy for her.
When you invite her out, she invites other people along. You ask her to a movie, thinking it will be a one-on-one thing, but she invites several other friends. That’s a classic friend zone move. If she likes you, she will make time to be alone with you. Unless she likes you so much and is so shy that she’s afraid to be alone with you, in which case, see where she sits when you’re in a group. Does she share the couch with you, sit next to you at the bar/in the movie/at the diner? See if she’s really interested in what you’re doing when you’re out in a group.
The two of you have a few drinks together and she still doesn’t show any interest. In the campy 90’s movie The Truth About Cats & Dogs, two female characters like the same guy but they don’t know who he likes. One of them suggests, effectively, “let’s get him drunk and see what happens.” They drink, he chooses. (Obviously, there’s a line between a few drinks to lower an inhibition or two, and date rape. For the love of God, don’t date rape anyone.) If you drink enough to get giggly, and she doesn’t make a move and still rejects your subtle flirting, you’re in the friend zone.
Related: 6 Ways to Avoid Looking Desperate
She doesn’t make any attempt with her psychical appearance when you see her. When you like someone, you try to look your best for them. When you are just friends with someone, you can let them see you at your most relaxed or least done up. Even people who are very low maintenance will make some kind of effort if they like you. No effort = no attraction.
There is absolutely no physical contact. When you like someone, your brain makes you touch them. It’s just how it is. If you touch her arm when you’re talking to her and she pulls away, you are in the friend zone. If she doesn’t quite pull away but never ever touches you in return, you’re also in the friend zone. If she’s a really animated sort who touches everyone’s arm when she talks, you’ll have to follow your gut on this one and understand what kind of touch it was. Watch how she touches someone she’s not attracted to and see if she touches you the same way.
Okay. So what do you do about it?
As hard as it may sound, you have to pull back. You have to give her time to miss you. You have to be less available, less interested. If she keeps contacting you, tell her you’re busy. This is human nature: people are attracted to the pursuit. No one likes a sure thing. Don’t ice her out completely or be mean but make sure she knows that you have other things going on besides her. She’ll either come around or not. If she does, bless you both. If not, accept it gracefully, put her in your own dang friend zone and ask her to hook you up with a friend of hers or be your wingman at a social gathering. Being friends with a girl has its advantages.
Good luck out there — we’re all in this together.
Carrie Gravenson is a comedian and writer living in New York City. She continuously works on fine-tuning the balance between following her dreams and paying rent. Follow her! @carriegravenson