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Last night I was having a glass of wine with a good friend of mine, Giulia, who told me the loveliest friendzone story I’ve heard in ages. Probably everyone knows what it means, but for the few people who have no clue - because they’ve been fortunate enough not to experience it yet - according to Wikipedia, the friendzone is a conceptual place that is created in a situation where one person wants to change a mutual friendship into a romantic or sexual relationship, while the other person wants to stay friends. I believe we’re all destined to go through this conceptual place, we’ll be the archer or the prey. In my friend’s case, Giulia was definitely the prey, but she still tried to make the best of it.
Giulia is the typical Italian girl, born and raised in southern Italy from a middle class family - her dad is a genitor and her mum works as a secretary assistant - who then moved to Northern Italy for her studies. In her first year of Master’s, she attended a private university surrounded by quite privileged people and, to the exception of very few people like myself, she did not immediately meet many people she felt like she could relate to. Until, at the beginning of the academic year, Giulia decided to attend an Advanced Excel extracurricular course.
The first time she entered the class, she noticed this guy looking and smiling at her. She was surprised since she did not remember him at all, but decided to sit next to him. They politely said hello and later on discovered that they actually had mutual friends, but they had just never bumped into each other. The lesson started, but they couldn't keep quiet. In the midst of it Giulia discovered that both her and Adam really liked the same kind of books - Sapiens, The Alchemist and Harry Potter of course - and that’s where it all started. They kept on talking for hours, and found very similar tastes in music, good Italian food, and most importantly, very similar values. It was super weird for Giulia to finally find someone she immediately clicked with, after months of feeling like a fish out of water. I still remember that immediately after their departure ,Giulia called me screaming: ‘I found the man of my life!’- which was weird considering that until then Giulia didn’t really believe in long term commitment and still doesn’t. Needless to say, from that moment on both Giulia and Adam kept attending the advanced excel class, but none of them was following anymore because they were too busy talking and joking with each other. Unfortunately, nothing romantic happened.
In the following months while Giulia seemed deeply in love with Adam, Adam did not show any sign of wanting this to be more than a friendship. For almost a year they kept hanging out, started studying together, joined concerts or parties together, and Giulia tried dating other guys, but nothing seemed to take her mind off from her belief that he was the one until Giulia could not hold it in any longer and had to tell him how she felt. Suspecting that the conversation was going to be about her feelings, Adam came prepared with her favourite chocolate box, told her she was an amazing person but he was already seeing someone. Giulia’s heart was crushed, she called me crying, and for a while after - in a very mature manner - we both hated Adam because he had led her on never mentioning that he was dating anyone.
Months passed, Giulia started going out with someone else, until she accidentally met Adam again and their friendship got back to where it stopped. At first Giulia said she was fine with it, that she was happy with her current boyfriend but I could see she was still having feelings for Adam and trying to neglect them. Nevertheless, they continued to be very close friends and Adam was always there for her for better or worse. Their apparent balance was undermined when Adam broke up with his girlfriend and decided to enjoy his single life by sleeping with a different girl every week. I don’t know why, but at that moment, Giulia’s feeling kind of re-emerged. When I asked Giulia why she would put up with that instead of just letting go, or at least be upfront with Adam about it, she told me that she loved him so much that she just wanted him to be happy. It didn’t really matter to her that this happiness came from someone else as long as he was fine. She was aware that there was very little rationality behind this, but if she could choose between suffering a bit in order to make him happy, she would have done it without even thinking about it.
We are so used to this traditional idea of love that is depicted by society and the media, showing us a love that can only be romantic, that expects us to behave in certain ways, and do certain things. We are surrounded by commercials and stories of people that only exist in nothing but romantic relationships, whereas in all honesty I’ve been close to many romantic couples, and never experienced these couples being there and supporting one another in the same unselfish way Giulia and Adam do. And they have never even kissed each other! Who says that the only meaningful relationships in our lives have to be romantic ones?
Let's be honest, being in the friendzone sucks. It might seem like those times when you studied hours or days for an exam but you still didn’t get the best grade. Or when you applied for the perfect job you believed you ticked all the boxes for and you even nailed the interview, but in the end, you didn’t get it because there was a candidate with 7 years of experience who was a much better fit. However, as Giulia teaches us, from the friendzone we can actually build a bond with a person that goes way beyond any romantic relationship. As far as I can see, Giulia and Adam have had many different boyfriends and girlfriends, they changed jobs and countries but yet, they are still always there for one another, and I believe this will never change.
I hope one day I will be able to feel like Giulia feels about Adam, and also find someone who feels the same way about me. It’s so easy to love someone when we get something back in return (comfort, sex, marriage), it's much harder to love someone when you don't get anything back. But still, you would do anything in your power to make them happy even if that is something that would hurt you in the first place. I think this is the purest and most genuine form of love, the one we should see and read more often in tv series and books.
Do not get me wrong, I am not saying that we should always love without receiving anything back, but from personal experiences I found that the times I really loved someone, were also the ones when I did not really care about what I would get out of it, the ones I put their happiness first, even when this happiness couldn’t fit me in the picture.