When you get friend-zoned (with poem)


To recap: I had an experience in college where a guy showed interest in me but I didn’t feel the same way. Then there was an experience where positive things were happening on both sides (at the very least they were some indicators of potential), but nothing developed. So it’s fitting to have a third kind of relationship, the unrequited type.

I met “D” in an intermediate basketball class. I wanted something fun and active for the semester. Honestly it should have been considered a beginner’s course, considering how much time was spent on the history of the game and other theoretical information and how little was actually played on the court.

After that class ended, I started seeing “D” more frequently on campus. Instead of exchanging phone numbers, he asked for my screen name because AOL instant messaging (AIM) was the popular mode for online communication.

Friendship is a good place to start. He had an easy going personality, and he seemed to have a lot of friends. He invited me to join him and a group for dinner in the cafeteria. I went, but it was challenging to keep up with the side conversations and knowing how to jump in and contribute. Despite my shyness, they welcomed me back. It was nice to be included.

I liked being around him. He had this confidence in himself that drew me in, a quality I longed to develop for myself. He was my height so it was refreshing to be eye level with someone. He seemed to be a natural athlete. I longed for that ease in all situations that he seemed to have. Throughout our friendship he looked for ways to build up my confidence, not understanding why it was so poor.

One of the more endearing things about him was the pair of taped up glasses he wore. They had a kind of charm. When I asked him about it, he said it was pointless to get new ones because they never failed to break, so he just patched them up. And I think subconsciously that resonated with me because my childhood was full of falls, breaking objects and general clumsiness. It’s ok to get patched up and keep going.

Radio request

One night during the spring semester of sophomore year, “D” messaged me on AIM, encouraging me to tune in to his friend’s radio show. I did and about a song later I heard his voice making a song request. He asked for Cheap Trick’s “I want you to want me” to play.

“For (girl who isn’t named Lindsay).”

Wait, what?

I had seen him and this girl together, shared a meal with them. They always seemed like childhood friends. Never introduced as boyfriend or girlfriend, no handholding or any other indicators of a relationship.

I suppose this was his way of making sure I knew they were dating? Or I guess there is the possibility that it was completely innocent and he thought it would be cool to share the experience of calling up a radio show and having a request honored.

Crushed. Confused. Angry. Those all sound about right.

Out of those emotions came a really amazing poem. The imagery is outstanding. Extinguished match crushes me every time I read it. Read it slowly; let the scene develop in your mind before moving to the next line.

I think after the radio request we had a conversation in a parking lot between our dorms, which is where I envision this poem unfolding. The poem is more about illustrating the emotion of the situation (my inward withdrawal) rather than recapping an actual scene.


I’m Nobody, Who Are You

Don’t mind my disappointment:

My smile quickly diminishing
From floodlight to extinguished match;
Eyes sliding to rest on the ladybug
Near your sandal;
Hands finding a home in my back pockets
As I rock back and forth on my heels.

My voice, still not familiar,
Tries to prove its strength:
“So, how long have you been dating?”

Sidenote: This is the example I was thinking about with poetry in college becoming more literal. And what I was referencing in poetry philosophy about thinking a more literal poem meant I was losing my touch. If it truly was literal it would say something like: girl is crushed to learn the guy she likes is dating someone. But that’s not what’s happening here. It’s more experience-based. It may not be loaded down with metaphors and symbolism, requiring multiple reads to fully understand the meaning, but it’s descriptive and visual. The words establish a scene and offer insight into something very personal. The details are important.

Friendship is better than nothing

I decided, though, that even if he just saw me as a friend and didn’t want more, that I had to be ok with that. I still wanted him in my life; I didn’t want to lose his friendship. I hadn’t professed or admitted anything directly, so it wasn’t a blatant rejection. But I sure wasn’t about to admit anything now.

I compartmentalized things, focusing on being the best friend I could be. Though I still secretly hoped my attention and presence would mean something, I just tried to appreciate any opportunity I had to spend time with him. I accepted my role of being his sounding board for problems with those he decided to date.

In many ways I tried to see this as an answered prayer. I had written in my journal on multiple occasions about this kind of situation.

From my journal in November 2003, a few months earlier: You know, I think I’m one of those people called to a single life. It won’t be the end of the world if that’s true. I just don’t think I’m cut out to have a serious relationship with a guy. I’m comfortable being by myself. Maybe I just somehow need to develop a deep, good friendship with a guy. That’s all I really want. A good, close guy friend that I could spend time with, talk to, and feel beautiful around. My track record hasn’t been all that wonderful on my part. I just wasn’t ready for any type of relationship in high school. I’m still no good with understanding signals and stuff.

After that initial disappointment, and as I found ways to transition to a different role, I embraced my friendship status. I was determined to be the best friend that I could be. And our friendship bloomed.

He introduced me to the world of classic rock. Such an amazing collection of music. I got to connect familiar songs with their proper titles, lyrics and artists.

The fall semester of junior year was packed with activity. From watching movies together and our informal music education to lots of pickup basketball games. We met up on a near weekly basis to play, either shooting around or actual games with some of his friends. It was so much fun.


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