How do I get *into* the friend zone?
January 25, 2009 11:07 AM   Subscribe

Can a guy in his 20's make new female platonic friendships? If so, how?

Mid-20's male, living in a big city. I haven't met a whole lot of new people since work, which I'm trying to change now that my existing friends are becoming increasingly less available (moving away, in relationships, etc.). I know the answer to the general question: take a class, join a clubs, volunteer, etc. All well and good. But here's my twist: I want to have more female friends as well.

It was easy in college - same dorm, class, etc., but the real world is not so structured (and my office is 90% dudes). Are women open to/interested in guy friends after college? Does the idea itself just sound weird? I can assure you there's no sexual element here - I simply like hanging out with women too. Different perspectives, different activities, and I've learned many interesting things. I don't have a girlfriend, and I'm not interesting in dating for the time being, but I miss having a feminine side to my social life.

My main concern is that women are more interested in dating-type relationships at this point, and if I try chatting up someone in say an art class they'll assume I'm romantically interested, and if I try to be up-front and say I'm just interested in being friends, it would seem weird and/or creepy.

posted by fishtacos to Human Relations (22 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I'm a young woman, in my mid-twenties with 90% male friends in the same age group. It is absolutely possible.

I met these men at work and through old friends, for the most part. I know you said your office is predominantly male, but that doesn't mean they don't have female friends you can meet.

You're over thinking it. Really- it will happen, just stop waiting for it.

If you're really worried about coming off in a try-hard romantic way, you can allude to having a girlfriend/love interest (so long as it's clear it's not her you're feeling out). I know that even white lies are a slippery slope, but that has always put my mind at ease when getting to know a guy.
posted by sunshinesky at 11:19 AM on January 25, 2009

When I was in my mid-20's, I had just as many female friends as I did male friends. I didn't do anything special to attract them - just acted friendly. Learning how to attract non-platonic attention ... that took a while.
posted by tdismukes at 11:19 AM on January 25, 2009

It's absolutely possible. Search the internet for "nice guy syndrome". You'll find page after page of guys complaining that women only want to be friends with them... wondering what they're doing wrong.

What they're doing "wrong", you should do more of.
posted by specialfriend at 11:39 AM on January 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm in my second decade of "late 20's" and almost all my (platonic) friends, both newly-made and long-lasting, are still female. It's been so since I was a toddler. No reason or method to it, but it definitely happens and is sustainable/safe.
posted by rokusan at 11:40 AM on January 25, 2009

I'm a guy in my mid-20s now; nearly all of my current friendships are new since I moved out of my college city. I probably have two-thirds female friends, pretty much all entirely platonic. Frankly, a lot of them came about because they were people I was interested in maybe dating, but then found out they were attached, so I switched off that avenue and just enjoyed the friendship. So, yeah, not only is it possible, for me it's almost a running gag.
posted by Tomorrowful at 11:49 AM on January 25, 2009

Shoulda previewed: specialfriend is hilariously correct.
posted by Tomorrowful at 11:49 AM on January 25, 2009

Early thirties female here - to this day I have more male than female friends...just engage in whatever activities you enjoy make sure you talk to both girls and boys and you can't help but make female friends as well as male ones.
posted by koahiatamadl at 11:50 AM on January 25, 2009

Women can tell when you're trying to have sex with them. This is probably the fundamental aspect of platonic relationships: don't be trying to screw them. If they are creepy and think you are anyway, then move on.
posted by rhizome at 11:50 AM on January 25, 2009

I'm going to try to take the conversation seriously, because once again it's the MeFi assumption that every woman past puberty walks around thinking OMG MUST HAVE RING NOW that permeates every dating question.

Why would volunteering, taking classes, etc. not produce female friends? Your assumption that we are all slavering after a romantic relationship is going to piss them off.

Women don't evaluate every man they meet as marriage or dating or sex material. However, since most guys operate in the realm of evaluating a woman's worth on the planet based on whether or not he'd "hit that" please forgive us if we're a little gun shy.

If you want to be friends then be friendly. If you genuinely crave female friendship and always act friendly and platonic then you will get female friends. If you never try the accidental touching thing, or the sideways negative insult/compliment passive aggressive thing, then you will end up with female friends. It's not going to happen as quickly as it did on campus or in the dorm, no.

One of my best, one of my very very dearest friends, one of my oldest friends, is a guy. We've been friends for 14 years now. I know his brother, I know his parents, he has nursed me through heartbreak and depression and vice versa. We've always been friends. There has never been anything else. I have a ton of other male friends who are in relationships or have been in relationships and some have been married. Most of them I met when I was single or floundering between relationships. My guy friends are my friends, they just happen to have a penis.
posted by micawber at 12:51 PM on January 25, 2009

some of your guy friends at work must have girlfriends - make friends with them
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 12:53 PM on January 25, 2009

Seconding a lot of the above advice.

Also: even if a girl assumes you're interested in dating her, or wants to date you, that's not necessarily a barrier to friendship. I have several male friends with whom there was, at one point, unreciprocated interest on either side. As long as no one's secretly nursing a broken heart, you should be able to easily put it behind you and enjoy something platonic.

(Just be upfront about it. Don't bring it up, but if you definitely perceive that a girl is making moves, just say simply, "At the risk of coming off like a total jerk, I just want to let you know that I'm not interested in dating anyone right now." I've never been upset by that.)

In other words - read all the other AskMe posts about "How do I make friends?" and don't worry so much about women misinterpreting your interest.
posted by shaun uh at 1:22 PM on January 25, 2009

Keep in mind that friendships can take a fair amount of time to develop, and that they will continue to evolve over the years. When I think over my collection of friends, which is probably evenly split between male and female, it really kind of surprises me to think about what circumstances led us to where we are today, and how long in some cases it took for us to become close. Just be friendly and pleasant and open to whatever happens, and it will happen.
posted by orange swan at 1:29 PM on January 25, 2009

Yes, it's totally possible, if you can keep in mind that the women you meet are individuals and do not subscribe to some monolithic mindset of What Women Over Twenty Want From Life.

Go forth and meet some women at any of those places you mentioned - classes, volunteer gigs, friends' parties, whatever. Some of them will be friend-compatible and some won't, but if you freeze up and spend all your time overanalyzing whether they want you to sleep with and/or marry them, you're never going to find out.
posted by Stacey at 1:30 PM on January 25, 2009

I have hardly any female friends and tons of guy friends, and I'm female and 24. I know other women that are like me in this regard. It's not a weird idea and you'll be fine.
posted by Nattie at 2:42 PM on January 25, 2009

I subscribe to the Neanderthal view that straight men can't be casual friends with women without evaluating them on some fuckability scale.

That sounds crude, but fact is there will always be sexual component of any friendship you can establish with a woman. It doesn't have to dominate the experience, but it'll be there when you accidentally touch hands as you're getting off the bus, express your feelings about relationships, and the like.

I have a reasonably long list of women friends, but the vast majority of them are either ex's, crushes, or somehow fall into this vague area of, "Yeah, we're buddies, no, I'd never date her, but if I got half the chance to mount her I would in a second..."

Just keep that in mind and you'll be fine... otherwise you're just going to confuse and perplex any woman you're friendly with.
posted by wfrgms at 4:06 PM on January 25, 2009

My tips for making friends with women, if you are a man:

1. Be well-groomed and attractive. The better-looking/stylish you are, the more women will flock to you. Work on your looks, trust me on this.

2. Don't make sexual jokes for the first phase of the relationship. And don't flirt. Keep it innocent.

Yes, I know you are looking for platonic friends, but a lot of women, especially young women, will be more willing to make friends with a guy if he is attractive.
posted by uxo at 4:11 PM on January 25, 2009

* oh and I come from the same school of "men and women can't really be friends" as wfrgms.

Especially if the person is super good-looking.

Whatever you do, don't kid yourself about what you really want. Good luck!
posted by uxo at 4:18 PM on January 25, 2009

My main concern is that women are more interested in dating-type relationships at this point, and if I try chatting up someone in say an art class they'll assume I'm romantically interested

I might assume this, but not because I'm more interested in dating-type relationships. I'd assume it because a large percentage of guys who start conversations are trying to start romantic relationships. (Or, er, less-than-romantic relationships.)

But you should not let that stop you. Many women will find it refreshing that you're not just trying to get in their pants. Don't try to guess people's assumptions and preempt them by saying you're not interested--just make friends like you would with anyone else, and deal with the issue if it happens to come up. That said, you might try avoiding interactions that could be misinterpreted (such as one-on-one outings or risque comments) until you get to know each other better and your intentions are more clear.

And I agree with shaun uh--even if there is some interest on one side or the other, it doesn't mean you can't be friends. I have quite a few friends who I've had crushes on or been involved with in some way or another. Humans are sexual beings, so we're pretty likely to harbor prurient thoughts about each other at some point; we're also rational beings, so we don't have to let that control our actions. I mean, if the mere possibility of sexual attraction were enough to prevent friendship, bisexual people could never have any friends.
posted by fermion at 6:02 PM on January 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

Thanks for the insights all, it seems my inexperience is very transparent. I definitely don't think that all women in their 20's are the same, but I guess I've been erring way on the side of caution due to having no clue otherwise. I guess "don't overthink it" is the bottom line here :)
posted by fishtacos at 8:20 PM on January 25, 2009

It's absolutely possible. Search the internet for "nice guy syndrome". You'll find page after page of guys complaining that women only want to be friends with them... wondering what they're doing wrong.

The secret is: Be nice but ugly. But seriously, my experience is that girls are definitely interested in having guy friends, it won't seem weird at all, but just don't say right away "I'm not interested in dating". It won't seem weird, it would seem insulting. Just hang out with them but don't make any moves.

In fact I have a couple of female friends who complain about being unable to make friends with guys, who all want to date them.
posted by delmoi at 12:57 AM on January 26, 2009

I'm a mid-20s female. Most of my close friendships are with guys.

You live in a big city - there must be social events, shows, parties, etc. that you and your friends go to. Meet women through friends from work, activities, etc. Invite new potential female friends to go to an event or social gathering with you and a guy friend or two. Be friendly, but platonic.
posted by lunit at 6:34 AM on January 26, 2009

I'm female and in my mid-20s and since childhood have had primarily guy friends. Just let it happen naturally. And it seems obvious, but as mentioned above, don't send out "I wanna screw you" vibes and you'll be fine.

Friendship usually begins with shared interests/context. Not High Fidelity-like listed interests, but some activity or hobby or obscure enjoyment you can share. Just start there.
posted by ifjuly at 11:02 AM on January 26, 2009

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