One-Sided Romance: The Evolution Of The Dreaded 'Friend Zone'

One-Sided Romance: The Evolution Of The Dreaded 'Friend Zone'

You're not alone in the zone. Signs of the 'friend zone' can be traced back as far as 800 BC!

You know this dreaded no-man's land of relationships. Boy meets girl. Boy falls desperately in love with girl. And the girl? Eh, not so much. Suddenly, you realize: You've landed yourself in the friend zone. Love just wasn't in the air for some of these guys (and later, ladies). Here, we break down the timeline of the friend zone and how it's changed through history.

800 BC: The Dawning Of The Friend Zone 
Traces of the friend zone can be traced back as far as Ancient Greece with the myth of Apollo and his unrequited love for Daphne. Eros, the god of love, was insulted by Apollo and to get back at him, he shot two arrows: a leaden one in the heart of Daphne the nymph to incite hatred and a golden one in the heart of Apollo to make him fall in love. Under his curse, Apollo pursued Daphne and, in turn, she ran away from him. Not taking the hint, he chased her into the woods (what a creeper, right?) and to escape him, she was transformed by her father into a bay laurel tree. From then on, he used his powers to make her leaves green forever. Oh, the things we'll do for love. This set up men the world over to wriggle themselves out of the friend zone.

1774: "The Werther Effect"
That was the year German politician and writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe published his breakout book, The Sorrows of Young Werther. What some don't know is that the collection of letters — a man who is tormented by unrequited love and in the end, shoots himself in the head — was loosely autobiographical. The story was based on Goethe's own bad luck in love as he was in love with a woman who was engaged to marry another man. Unfortunately, the book also triggered what is now called "The Werther Effect", as a slew of similarly friend-zoned men killed themselves. Yikes.

1795: The First Evidence Of The Female Friend Zone
Hey, it happens to the ladies too. Ironically enough for a woman who penned so many stories of unstoppable romance, Jane Austen was the victim of unrequited love when she met a hottie law student by the name of Tom Lefroy. Over one magical Christmas season, they danced, dined and gushed about him in letters sent home to her sister. In spite of herself, she fell in love with him, but it was just a flirty fling from his point of view. Historians figure that their difference in societal class was the wedge that drove them apart ... sound like a famous love story? Or a snooty, well-bred character named Mr. Darcy?

1919: The Friend Zone Inspires A Literary Legend
During World War I, an 18-year-old Ernest Hemingway was battling in the trenches of Italy when his leg was terribly wounded. While he recovered at a nearby hospital in Milan, he became infatuated with a 26-year-old American nurse named Agnes von Kurowsky. He even planned to marry her, but she blew him off when he returned to America (obviously, she wasn't into the long distance thing). His broken heart inspired one of his greatest war-time novels: A Farewell to Arms, which centered on the tragic love story between an expatriate American (disguised as guess who) and a nurse named Catherine Barkley. Spoiler: We're thinking his killing off the heroine was a not-so subtle passive-aggressive dig at Agnes.

1942: The Friend Zone Is Reversed
Casablanca was a milestone mark in the evolution of the 'zone. Up until this point, trumped friend-zoned guys would typically resign themselves to a timeless purgatory of unrequited love, but not Rick. He turns the tables on his former lover-turned-friend-zoner Ilsa and gives her back to her husband when he says "Inside of us, we both know you belong with Victor. You're part of his work, the thing that keeps him going. If that plane leaves the ground and you're not with him, you'll regret it. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life." What that really translates into is: "Oh, you don't want me? Well, really, I don't want you." Touche, man.

1993-2000: Escaping The 'Zone Doesn't Have A Time Limit
You have to give Niles Crane from Frasier props. He stuck it out in the friend zone for seven seasons (that's like, dozens of episodes of awkward hugs, flirting that goes unheard and "you're such a great friend"). The object of his unreturned affections? Daphne Moon, his father's live-in physical therapist. He finally manages to gather up the courage to pronounce his feelings ... on her wedding night to another guy. But he proves that it's never too late to escape the friend zone: she becomes a runaway bride for him.

2000+: The Double Denial Friend Zone
We can't prove it, but we suspect there's something going on here between these two — both on and off-screen. Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel have been buddies for over ten years, acting on-screen together, hanging out together and adorable YouTube singing duet videos together. Yes, you could chock that up to just really good co-star chemistry, but we think there's a little kernel of truth to 500 Days of Summer. Obviously, they are both in denial of their potential as the hottest indie celeb couple to hit the red carpet.

2003: Friend-Zoned Acceptance
Remember that scene in Love Actually when Mark gives this adorable speech of love via cue cards to Juliet? Ughh, #heartmelted. Naturally, he gets shanked in the heart by her (she's married to his friend), but they kiss and — almost happily — he moves on. This may be the first instance of a guy contently accepting his friend-zone status.

2008-2012: It's Better To Stay In The Zone
While The Office's Jim and Pam were giggling it up as the unofficially designated company couple, a few cubicles away: Andy found himself where Jim previously sat: in the friend zone with the cute receptionist Erin. Somehow, through flirting and awkward semi-dates with her foster brother, he promoted himself from "boy friend" to "boyfriend"... but it didn't last. Their will-they-won't-they relationship eventually ended in a breakup (her doing). That's probably the worst thing about the friend zone: is breaking out of it, only to realize you shouldn't have been together it the first place ... and then you can't go back to being friends no matter how hard you try. All that humblebragging about Cornell probably didn't earn him any points either, though.

2012+: The Happily Friend-zoned Couple
When people started noticing the guitar-strumming, song-writing duo Ed Sheeran and Taylor Swift hanging out more and more (possibly inspired by the musical pals Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel!) , they quickly responded by only admitting to being close BFFs. But between riding roller-coasters at Disney, paddle-boarding in the summer and being generally too cute to handle, there's a whole lot of "not-dating" going on ... but we've come to the conclusion that this may be the final evolutionary stage of the 'zone: happy mutual friendzoning. It's possible for two people to acknowledge their chemistry, recognize that they have true romantic potential ... but value the friendship too much to lose it. That is, until T-Swift has a meltdown after a few unhappily single months ... and then she'll predictably turn to her "guy friend" Ed ... evolving the friend zone to a new stage — and inspiring a new hit single.

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