The Friend Zone
(Twilight Zone music: Di-di-di-di-di-di-di-di, di-di-di-di-di-di-di) You unlock this terror with the key of romance. Beyond it is another dimension; a dimension of joy, a dimension of laughter, a dimension of happy devotion. You’re moving into a land of both substantive beauty and childlike wonder; But then your hope is turned to fear as the relationship rug is pulled out from under you and you realize that the feeling you’ve just crossed over into, resides in…The Friend Zone. (buhd-oo-bud-up!)
Written By: Michael Hempen on 11/24/19
Brought to you by: Cous’n Hemp’n Entertainment
Featuring: The Ghost of Rod Serling
Episode 14: Photo-Bomb
Ghost of Rod Serling: His name is Michael Hempen. He’s 39 years old. He’s been a salesman, an electrician, a pilot, an HR Rep, a business manager and a payroll officer. This is a stoic man; an opinionated man, with a directness that goes past his choice of words. A cheapness of mind, a cheapness of taste; a tawdry little shine on the seat of his conscience and a dark-room squint at a world whose sunlight has never gotten through to him. But Mr. Hempen has a talent, forced on him at a very early age. This much he does have: he can adapt to any situation. He can adjust his appearance, change his style, concentrate on the cast of his writing, and he can be what he needs to be for the given time and place; he can change into anything he wants. Mr. Michael Hempen, jack-of-all-thoughts, with plenty of baggage, an odd talent and a master plan to fall in love, has just checked into…The Friend Zone.
Dating: like a 3rd tour in Viet Nam, I’m back in the shit again. And boy have things changed.
I recently saw a beautiful African American woman on a dating website; blue eyes like mountain lakes, so I said hello and asked a question about some detail in her profile. Y’know, the way you’re supposed to start a conversation on a dating website.
I don’t limit myself by ‘race’ on the dating websites. Give me a sister who looks like Zazie Beatz with an attitude like Leslie Jones? I’m in. Hell, I’d just date Leslie Jones; I LIKE that woman. Let me find OUT. I dated all kinds of women from all walks of life; I would never limit my options by restricting a woman based on anything other than her personality. So now that I’m back on the market? Gimme a sister, I can’t resist her.
Well, do you know, this woman right here had the nerve to come back at me with some BULL shit about how I shouldn’t abuse animals and take them away from their parents because I posted a picture of me, fake screaming at a baby tiger in my profile? She said that I need to make better ‘life choices’ and that ‘roadside’ zoos are horrible and I’m a horrible person for visiting one. Bitch, please. Who the fuck is YOU?
Feeling that my integrity was being called into question for no good reason, I replied:
“Wow, where do I start? First, everything you said is just wrong. That picture was taken at a ‘Rescue’ zoo, not a ‘roadside’ zoo. Second, I donated a LOT of money to this ‘Rescue’ zoo, as a surprise anniversary gift to my then girlfriend. Third, mind your fucking business.”
The zoo in question rescues animals from the assholes I was being accused of being. Then, they send them to legitimate zoos all over the world. It’s not ideal, but they can’t go back to their natural habitats after being either mistreated or acclimated to a cage.
Because of the donation I made, we were allowed to go into a closely monitored, fenced area with an orphaned baby tiger. They acclimate orphaned tigers to humans until they’re fourteen weeks, when they’re considered too powerful to have contact with people. This gets them used to humans, who they’ll be around for the rest of their lives. This particular tiger was 13 weeks old and it was already 3 times stronger than I am.
This type of ‘Rescue’ zoo is ‘not for profit’ and relies on donations to feed and care for orphaned oxotic animals. As an incentive to prospective donors, they sometimes let people visit with an animal for a specified amount of time. It just so happened that ‘Pet a Tiger’ was on my ex girlfriend’s bucket list, so as the BEST boyfriend to walk this green earth, win-win for everyone.
I mean, what am I? Some dust-up living on 20 acres in a pre-fab home with lions and tigers living in a chain link box? Telling everyone what a bad-ass I am because my pet bear will high five me and lets me ride it like a horse? Eventually to end up on the news because one of my pet ostriches pecked my eyes out, et two of my fingers and buried its head in my scrote? No ma’am, I am not. So, let’s review. I donated money to a good cause. I helped save animals and I gave a woman I was dating the surprise of her life, so minja BID-nass.
Well, she didn’t like that response. I feel like people tend to get ruffled when you tell them to mind their fucking business. Anyway, she went on a misspelling rampage that would have made Trump look like an editor for Emily Post. She called me ugly, said that I’d be lucky if I could pull a ‘fat chick’ (her words, not mine.) off of a dating website, I don’t know how to talk to woman…yadda, yadda, yadda. I was hoping for something a little more clever in this exchange but you get what you pay for (I paid nothing.)
Anyway, we’re getting married next week. Kidding.
After reading this nonsense, I smiled and began writing my reply (I have to admit to being a little bit turned on by this exchange). I wrote that what she doesn’t know could fill the Citadel library in ‘Game of Thrones’, that she was going to make some man very happy…ehhhhh TO BREAK UP with her someday (drum snare), and that I may be ugly, but I was dating women hotter than her when she was giving out handies to her high school basketball team. But before I could send the message, it occurred to me…why am I arguing with this person? With my finger hovering over the ‘backspace’ key in anticipation of deleting my comment, I remembered…because I’m fucking good at it, and I hit enter. THEN I deleted her ass. Fuck her.
I liked that we were able to have this argumentative exchange without politics, without religion, without race. Just two people hating on one another in a spirit of woke denigration. Good times. (‘Woke Denigration’? My bands name in high school)
But things aren’t always like that these days. The dating world is a tough plane to pilot and a lot has changed in the mere seven years since I had to negotiate it’s hazards. Back then I just had to concentrate on being funny, empathetic and a good listener. Now if I pull out a woman’s chair at dinner, I’ll end up on TMZ as the ‘Misogynist of the Day’.
Today’s women are wearing dago-t shirts and driving muscle cars; drag racing and shouting at people in fast food joints. I feel like I’m trying to go on a date with Vin Diesel. Men on the other hand have make-up routines for their beards, are late for everything, tattle on E-V-E-R-Y one, ride bikes everywhere and claim allergies that don’t exist. You don’t have a ‘Gluten’ allergy, Captain Hypo. I have an asshole allergy, so can you please leave the restaurant? I gotta say, it’s tough to be a straight respectful white man in the dating world, with no acronyms attached to his pronouns; who’d a thunk that would ever be a thing that could go wrong in your life?
In the case above, I did what one is supposed to do in these climes. I reached out to this young lady inquisitively, saying ‘hello’ and making a pleasant query regarding one of her interests, hoping to garner a response. Without knowing me, this psycho over here felt empowered, emboldened, no…entitled to make a judgement about me AND voice that judgement harshly because I’m a man so therefore, I must be a beast. This is a problem. I mean how are conversations with women supposed to go now:
Me: “Um….hello? I was wondering if…maybe…do you like….food?”
Woman: “Ex-CUuUuUuUuU-se ME? Uh-uh! What, because I’m a WOMAN I must like FOOD? Are YOU saying I’m FAT? Do YOU have a FAT fetish? Are you some kind of FREAK? This is an ASSAULT on my person-hood! #ALLWOMENLIKEFOODTOOMOTHERFUCKER! I’m calling TMZ.”
Me (running away like Kevin in ‘Home Alone’ after splashing his face with aftershave): “AHHHHHHHHAHAHHHHHHHHAHAHAHAHAHAHHHA!”
Let’s just all take it down a notch. Assault on women, physically, emotionally and dignitally? (is that a word?) dignifyingly…Assault on women in any way, has been wrong since the first ovary crawled out of the primordial pool. I’m not the enemy. I’m WITH you, and although I don’t pretend to understand your struggle because I’m not a woman, I can certainly empathize with it and I’m here to do whatever you ask me to do to make YOU feel comfortable in this world where we co-exist and must sometimes…fuck. And that goes for all ethnic groups, sexual orientations and anyone else who has ever felt oppressed in any way…although we don’t ALL have to fuck, but I mean…you do you.
There are certain male dating tropes that are ingrained in me and that I’m not going to give up. I’m going to open doors for you. Yes, I get that you can open doors for yourself, but I do this out of respect. Some men do this because we loved our mothers; same with pulling out chairs and dare I say? Paying for dinner. Let’s not mistake these acts of innate respect for a violation of your ability to be better than me. I KNOW you’re better than me, that’s why I asked you out on a date. I was sick of hanging out with just me; I’m fucking TERRIBLE.
Now, I know the ‘dinner’ thing is a hot button these days. Women seem to think that by allowing a man to pay for dinner, the man is empowered to feel that he’s ‘owed’ something; that HIS belief is that this dainty waif, this Oliver Twist, couldn’t possibly afford to buy her own dinner. After all, that’s why pay scales are tipped in a man’s favor, so we can manipulate women into bed by plunking down our credit card at the Target: Food Avenue for the $7.00 ‘hit the spot’ slice & soda retail specialty dinner, right?
In my case, I pay for dinner because I can’t believe you actually agreed to go out with me and I feel like it’s the LEAST I can do. Believe me, the last thing on my mind is that you ‘owe’ me something. You agreeing to go on a date with me was my ‘Make a Wish’. I mean I’m DEAFENINGLY ugly. Yes, deafening; I’m so ugly you can’t hear what I’m saying above the sound of my looking like a fat Rocky Dennis from ‘Mask’. (I tend to turn my ‘ugly’ up to 11 when I write, that way when a woman meets me, she’s like “Hey, he’s not that bad after all”; a reverse catfish if you will. Let’s call it, ‘dogfishin’ (Calm down, I’M the dog…sheesh.))
Not to mention, I’ve rarely been on a date in which the woman across from me DIDN’T make more money than me. When I was working retail seven years ago, this was my move: I’d call a restaurant that I knew would be packed on the weekend and make sure they were booked because I could NEVER afford to buy dinner there. No reservations available. Then, I’d pick up my date and drive her to said well-to-do establishment, go in to be seated only to be turned away. I looked like a hero, and would only end up having to pay for a couple of orders of chicken nuggets while feigning indignation. What was I to do? Retail. Pays. Nothing.
Now I realize that I tried to impress women in this way, because of my vain feelings of inadequacy, and rather than continuing in that fashion, I quit retail and got an adult job. Now, I’m a confident and accomplished male figure. I get that that can be intimidating, but it’s supposed to be intimidating to other DUDES, not women. Those are supposed to be attractive qualities that women LOOK for in a man, not disadvantages that make me a monster.
When I was broke, I was dating some of the most beautiful women in the Chicagoland area; I was able to pull this off because I was confident, although not accomplished. Confidence always wins the day. But now that I’m finally making money, I can’t get a woman to look at me sideways.
So, let’s examine why that is.
I believe one should always lead with their best quality. Because I was such a broke mess seven years ago, I led with my writing. I wrote about my dates on Craigslist and those would generate more dates FROM Craigslist. I put my dating stories out there and women came to ME, so my looks were secondary. NOW my looks are on the front line of a battle they can’t hope to win.
I didn’t have to put up a picture back then and women were more concerned with the content of what I wrote, rather than a visual aid of what I looked like. I wasn’t looking to get laid…I mean, I was, but I wanted that within a relationship. I wanted a girlfriend then, as I do now. But women responded to the way I talked about that search. Although vulgar, the compliment I received the most is that my writing was honest and made them feel as though I was talking directly to them, and that’s exactly what I was going for.
I’m a ‘face’ guy; that’s just me. I love a beautiful woman. You can see this through the hyperbole of my writing. We can’t help what we’re into and I’ve said a million times that there are guys WAY hotter than I, who are into the larger ladies. I’ve been lucky enough to date some beautiful women who ‘got’ me, because they were attracted to the way I write. I write like Jackson Pollack paints; stream of consciousness. If it’s in my head, it gets thrown on the page. The kind of woman I’m attracted to, responded to that kind of writing because it’s confident and direct. Now, I can’t draw women to my writing on dating sites because to get them there, I have to get them past my picture which is damned near impossible. You women is TAXING.
It’s ALL about the pictures. Confident, yes; happy with my appearance, no. I don’t like being in pictures because I feel like a fat monster. I used to hate when my ex would drag me to a wedding or some event where my disgusting body and face would be immortalized in photographs; fucking pumpkin patch pictures, weddings, Quinceanera’s, whatever. I’d try to duck out as soon as the cameras started coming around. Look, you’ve got your thing, being in pictures is mine. I don’t like being in pictures, no matter how much you say that it’s all in my head. Not comfortable with it.
Anyway, because of this I don’t have a lot of ‘recent’ pictures of me, and the ones I DO have make me want to vomit because I’m making a ‘oh fuck, there’s the camera’ face in all of them. The picture attached is literally the WORST picture of me ever taken in the history of picturedom. I look like a slow adult on a spelunking field trip. I was hung over, I smoked at the time, I was eighty pounds heavier than I am now, and I’d been dragged on a tour of a six mile underground mine shaft that was 4 feet wide, 4 feet tall and hot as fuck. The tour consisted of my ex girlfriend, a hillbilly from ‘Deliverance’ and I. That picture was sprung on me without my consent so I had a nano-second to try to look like I didn’t want to throw the camera down the fucking mine-shaft. This is NOT what I look like but somehow the camera said “Fuck you, this is what you look like NOW doofus.” If you can somehow look at that picture and say “aw, he’s not that bad.”, then I don’t know if I can date YOU because you obviously have bad judgement. And yes, that picture is the second one in my dating profile pics because I’m not trying to catfish anyone (Apparently, I’m also not trying to DATE anyone because I’m getting NO responses.)
Anyway, I assume that because NOBODY reads anymore, women are seeing my beefy uncomfortable grin in my dating site pics and swiping left so fast that a mini sonic boom is created, leaving me to be a lone jive ass turkey this Thanksgiving.
So, rather than whine and give up, I’m doing something about it. I’m going to lead with my VISUAL best asset, my hair. Rather than go to the super cuts, I went to a salon, got highlights and a modern male haircut as well as a bunch of hair care products. I feel that even with all the weight I lost, I’m still overweight, so I bought a rowing machine. My ‘look’ isn’t working for me, so I bought new clothes. In a few months, after I’ve lost some weight, I’m going to get professional pictures taken that are hopefully less vomitous, and post them on the dating sites. You have to adapt people; something isn’t working, you change your approach. Change is a part of life. Speech over.