Boyfriends vs Boys Who Are Friends

How to break it (not so) gently to your boy(space)friend who wants to be your boyfriend.
by Mark Gatela   |  Jan 25, 2010
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I couldn't have asked for a better setting for what I was about to tell Dominique: at the beach, under a canopy of stars. I sat next to her as she contemplated the lights from the distant islands. It was awkward; but usually these cute fumbling declarations of affection we see in the movies have happy endings. Just goes to show what these screenwriters really know.

She just stared at me, then went back to contemplating the distant lights, her delicate brow furrowed and he lips pursed. After what seemed like an eternity, she turned to me and said, "How could you?", stood up and run into the house.

Weeks passed before we, as Dominique called it, "start over" and began talking again. She felt betrayed that I misconstrued her attention as something more than friendship. Looking at it from her perspective, I sincerely felt bad. It's been four years since The Incident happened. We see each other advice on our current romances. The Incident has actually strengthened our friendship.

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Mixed Signals

I could have lost my good friend Dominique had I insisted on pursuing her. It could've turned ugly; I could've accused her of leading me on. But come to think of it, she didn't treat me in any special way. She was just naturally friendly with people and affectionate with all her friends, me included. Hindsight, after all, has perfect vision.

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But I'm not alone. Many female friends have told of amusing stories of clueless boys who follow them around, figuratively running full-tilt, eyes-closed into a brick wall. From their stories, these boys sound like the densest of the male species to ever walk the earth. "How," girls ask me, "can they be so assuming?"

But for guys, that's what it's all about. The game. Does she or doesn't she like me? We read your little actions and gestures and respond to the signals you may (or may not) be giving off. If you don' protest when we "accidentally" place a hand on your nape, most of us will take it as an open invitation for m ore "accidents" to happen. Some of your common sweet gestures we take as "you-may-proceed" signs: (1) That lilt in your voice when you say "Good night" on the phone; (2) That casual peck on his cheek when he picks you up at your house; (3) When you casually hold his hand while malling.

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Don't get me wrong. I'm not accusing girls of being the bad guy when a boy feels led on. Sometimes we do look for the minutest hint of mutual interest from you, like "Hey! She flicked her hair in my direction! It's a sign!"

Want to keep your friendship with guy friends strictly non-romantic? These tips may help you straighten out a potentially messy situation:

Drool for Your Idol

We have it when you gush about Zac Efron or swoon over Robert Pattinson. That's how Cindy successfully kept a wannabe suitor in the friend zone. When Bob began getting all sweet on her (with very little prompting from Cindy), she went on and on about her crush—Chris Carraba of Dashboard Confessional—every time he was around. She raved about his eyes, his voice, and how she'd like a boyfriend  like him. Bob eventually backed off. He realized he just couldn't compete with a rock star.

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Stop Being "One of the Guys"

It's a bonus for us guys to find a girl we can just hang with. Larry, who was into hiking, photography, and rock climbing, hit it off with Annette because she was game for anything. She joined Larry and his group, whether it was scaling a 40-foot wall or shooting seascapes in Anawangin. But while Annette was enjoying what she loved doing with new friends. Larry was getting a different vibe. Here was this amazing girl who share his hobbies and in whom he saw a potential girlfriend. Annette's solution to keeping it platonic? She stopped going out with Larry alone and started hanging out with the others more. Larry got the hint without resenting her, and they still hang out once in a while.

Spell It Out

If we guys are out trolling for a girl and she doesn't bite, we'll go and search for other fish in the sea. So if you're serious about staying friends, be direct and say so. He'll listen. Don't just hope he'll get the message. I promise you he won't for sure, we're supposed to be hunter-gatherers and good at figuring out maps but some mind games girls play aren't exactly our cup tea. So don't keep quiet—say something. We aren't telepathic. If you say you'll think about it, you'd better because Romeo will be waiting for an answer. Romeo will be waiting for an answer. Never say "I don't know." Even that much-abused "friends na lang tayo" will work. But until you haven't said no, nope, nyet, nada, zip, zero, or you-don't-have-a-snowball's-chance-in-hell in plain language, he'll hound you to the ends of the earth.

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Don't worry about losing a bud if you come clean about your just-friends feelings. If he's sincere about staying pals, he'll behave like one. (But don't expect him to jump for joy when you first confront him. Let the dude wallow for awhile). A heart-to-heart talk may do wonders for your friendship—sans all that tension, you can be more yourselves. I wouldn't be able to ask Dominique for advice on romantic matters now had I kept my feelings for her bottled up. It also helped that she was open to staying friends despite my affections.

But if he starts acting like a jerk after you clearly tell him you can never seem him other than as a movie buddy or a rainy-afternoon-phone-pal, then walk away. You're better off without him. Guys will back off as soon as you tell them to—unless of course he's an obsessive stalker-psycho-freak. But then that's another story.

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Mark Gatela
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