Posted inColumns

Ask Aunty Annabel: Negotiating the friendzone

Illustration by Iris Bowdler

Dear Aunty Annabel

I’ve got a crush on a friend of mine (I’m a masters’ student, she’s a second year). She’s very pretty, we share a lot of common interests and hanging out with her is always chill. I want to take things with her to the next level but I don’t know what’s the best way to go about that. I’m also a little worried that it might make things a bit awkward. What would you advise?

Best wishes, Joseph

Dear Joseph,

As a member of an almost exclusively coupled up friendship group (yours sincerely, Oxford’s biggest gooseberry) I know all about the qualms and quandaries involved in shifting the tone of a relationship from friendly to romantic. While the idea of it might make you cringe, the fact is that if two people enjoy spending time together and have lots in common, it really is a totally natural progression. Embittered old third-wheel that I am, I grumble incessantly about pals starting to fancy one another, but even I have to admit that friendship really is the best basis for a relationship (don’t mind me on the shelf up here). I’m sure Oxford is full of friendships which have the capacity for more but are held back from ‘taking things to the next level’ by fears of friend-zoning, the embarrassment of rejection and possible damaging of the existing friendship. 

My raison d’etre is carpe diem and I wouldn’t pass up on the opportunity to test the waters, especially as you’re a master’s student and might not be here next year? Unfortunately for you, covid has taken a kibosh to the classic manoeuvre in this scenario, i.e., making eyes across the Fever floor before a cheeky snog, but now that pubs have reopened (hallelujah), why not suggest evening drinks which will help to frame a romantic situation? If you go to the pub anyway as friends, try something which will differentiate this from the time you normally spend together: how about a slightly classier establishment like a nice cocktail bar?

Focus on turning up the flirtation of your exchange: opt for some lingering eye contact; compliment her; and to use the words of Disney’s Ursula, work your body language and see how she responds. It’s possible that she is also harbouring some romantic feelings towards you and feels similarly cautious about broaching the subject. See if she mirrors your behaviour, but if you sense discomfort or awkwardness then remember to dial it down. Reading someone’s body language can be tricky and we have all fallen afoul of misinterpreting the signs, but if you feel a spark, you could always steer the conversation into the realm of dating *hint, hint.* If she’s not interested, then try not to be too disheartened; there are plenty more fish in the sea and this doesn’t have to be a friendship killer. Good luck – nothing ventured, nothing gained!

Yours in agony,

Aunty Annabel