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Maybe it’s my own fault. I grew up with only my older brother as a playmate, causing most of my time to be spent digging up dirt and playing the latest video games. I mean, I still loved my Barbies and playing dress up, but I always thought I was exceptionally cool for being able to tell you that Zelda was actually the princess and not the main character (Link) or being able to keep up with a conversation about skateboard tricks or football. I thought my childhood love for Lord of the Rings and Star Wars (and eventually Harry Potter) would lead me into the hearts of all men everywhere when the time came for me to date.

Was I all kinds of wrong.

I didn’t realize how wrong I was until I started college and started thinking about marriage. I gained plenty of male friends as time went on and I have really always preferred their company to that of females since it’s what my home was made up of (with the exception of my wonderful mother, of course).

Having grown up with no sisters to teach me how to bat my eyelashes and the ways of girl world, I’m not sure I ever really learned the art of flirting in the traditional sense. Sarcasm and sass seem to have become my forte as I’ve grown up, but not everyone sees that as a form of flirtation. Despite these downfalls, I have lived with dreams of my male friends someday seeing me for the incredibly awesome, incredibly attractive girlfriend (and eventually wife) I could so obviously become for them.

That dream never came to fruition.

I’ve gone back and forth playing the blame game with the male population at one end of the ring and me at the other. I won’t share with you the juicy details of what tips I’ve come up with for myself, but I will give you some insight into how I feel the male population should understand the predicament.

The Friendzone has just as much gender equality as the world Emma Watson dreams of
There seems to be this stigma about the Friendzone being populated solely by males. I’m here to tell you that you males need to stop feeling sorry for yourself and realize that there are a bunch of wonderful females in the same boat as you. Feeling sorry for yourself for a New York Minute is quite alright, but I would recommend dishing out the sorrow on your male friends’ laps and maybe on one female’s if she’s done the same to you. And that’s a big maybe. Believe it or not, the females you view as just friends may feel a little like the hypocrisy bug has set up camp in your noggin as you sit there gushing to them about how terrible it is to be viewed as just a friend.

Fun Fact: They happen to have some feelings about their own worth.

Instead of complaining to your single lady friends about just how heartbroken you are about Miss Perfect Hair finding her Mr. Perfect Hair and leaving you in the dust, just ask Miss Friendzoned on a date. She would really appreciate being looked at for the incredible girl that she is rather than just a punching bag you look for to release all your harnessed wrath upon. It doesn’t have to end in marriage and a baby in a baby carriage, but a night out with someone you care about and trust may be just the right way to get over Miss Perfect Hair without making Miss Friendzoned feel like anything less than the wonderful human that she is.

I am not your bro
This is one of the things that I’ve gone back and forth about when it comes to the blame game. Having grown up in a house where terms like bro and dude were part of the lexicon, I never second-guessed such terms hindering my future relationships. It’s only been within the past year that that second-guessing has made its way into my conscience. I actually remember the exact moment I realized how not okay it was for me to use these terms.

It was the beginning of a new semester and my roommate and I had just begun a friendship with a group of guys in our apartment complex. We ran into one of them one evening as we were walking back to our apartment when he stopped us and said hi. He had just returned home from a long day of school and work and was telling us about it. Each sentence began with phrases like, “It’s crazy, dude” and “Bro, you have no idea.” Before this point, I was somewhat aware of my calling people dude and the like and had made the effort to not use such terms. I actually know for a fact that I had never used any terms like that around this particular male, and yet, I was still marked as “one of the guys,” even though I’m clearly not a guy.

Maybe men use these terms in an effort to make me (a woman) feel comfortable around them, or maybe it’s just a blatant way of putting me in the aforementioned Friendzone (which is just rude). But whether you have romantic feelings for a girl or not, she never should be treated as a bro, because she is, in fact, a lady.

I know that there are a lot of women out there that don’t take issue with this one. So, we’ll just deems this a personal preference.

Dating is meant to be fun
It may be just a theory embedded into the conscience of the males within my university, but asking someone on a date does not mean that you have to marry them in the end. While marriage is a fantastic, wonderful thing that we should all be striving for, dating is also a fantastic, wonderful thing that does not require the symptom of intense anxiety which so many seem to allow to spread within them. It is meant to be a time to get to know another person—including your friends. It is a time to get to know yourself. Most importantly, it’s a time to figure out what exactly it is that you want in a future spouse, even if that future spouse is not the one you’re mini golfing with.

Friends make the best spouses
I think males and females often forget that the person you’re supposed to marry is going to be your best friend for forever, and with forgetting that, we forget that we may already have that best friend within our friend circle. Your spouse is someone you’re supposed to be a million percent comfortable with and it seems a lot of us fail to realize that we already feel completely comfortable with the friends of the opposite sex that we already have in our lives. It’s fine and brave to look outside your friend circle for that special someone, but it’s also a lot of effort that you could be spending on wooing your already best friend.

So, while I’m still waiting on my prince to come that sees my nerdiness as adorableness, I’m going to do so with the clear conscience that I’ve at least helped some guy somewhere realize that that lady friend of his is not actually Miss Friendzone, but Miss Wonderful Soul. And, let’s face it, she’s so much better than Miss Perfect Hair.

—Jazmin Cybulski, Stance