My son climbed in the car after school recently with lots of news to share. I know that when he has a lot to say its been a good day. On this particular day we began talking about the friends he had been making at his new high school. A group of guy friends were talking about the girls in the school and who they “liked.”
Max said to me, in describing a conversation between a two of his friends, “he got friend zoned.”
Now, for the last 15 years I have worked professionally with teens and on behalf of teens, developing programs for youth to remain engaged in their Jewish communities and helping them develop a sense of personal Jewish ethics. I have always made it a practice to stay up-to-date on adolescent trends, pop culture, music, literature, etc.
Since 1998, when directing the Contra Costa Midrasha and had late night drives home, I’ve listened to Dr. Drew Pinsky on Loveline. Teens and young adults call in with questions about sex, relationships and drugs. (I suppose this was one of my first real studies of adolescent sexuality and sexual ethics.)
I remember that NFTY Convention in D.C. when we got snowed in. I put the last group of NFTYites on the plane back home to California after 2 extra days in D.C.. While sitting in the California Pizza Kitchen in Reagan National Airport waiting for their flights to depart we had a very open and frank conversation about “hooking up”, relationships in NFTY, language they use to talk about their relationships, Monica Lewinsky, and what this all meant to them in their lives.
I’ve read all the Twilight books, and loads of other teen lit. (See my reading list page)
Friend zone. That was a new one! I had to learn more.
“What is friend zoned?” I asked.
“That’s when a girl/boy tells you they just want to be friends. S/he doesn’t want any more.”
“Is that a good thing or a bad thing? To be friend zoned.”
“It’s neither. It just is.”
We continued for a couple of moments more and then the conversation turned to other things on his mind like orchestra class sectional challenges and a math test.
Turns out friend zone is not a new term. It has existed in pop culture conversation for a while now. But it seems that it is now growing in usage – at least in our little world here.
Regardless, the point is that I love that teens either make up or apply language to help them navigate through their relationships.
One of the most important things our teens can learn is to communicate with their peers about their relationships with each other. Without the ability to speak to each other openly and honestly, our teens run the risk of getting hurt, getting taken advantage of, making decisions they are not 100% comfortable with…
With the ability to speak with each other openly and honestly, our teens can learn how to navigate their way through their relationships. They learn to reflect upon and articulate their feelings, their needs and wants, their hopes and fears. They may still make decisions they aren’t 100% proud of, but they may also have the confidence and comfort to discuss the situation with their partner, parents or friends.
And they don’t have to use our, boring, out-dated adult language. (Dating… One night stand… ) If they have a shared, jointly understood lingo that they can use to communicate with each other, wonderful! That means they are talking to each other!
So, I am adding “friend zone” to my vocab list for conversations with my son.
P.S. For Jewish curricular materials on teaching teens the value of communication and how to go about doing it, check out the URJ‘s curriculum on adolescent relationships and sexual ethics, Sacred Choices.
P.P.S. Wrote this post last night. Later on had a conversation with my son in which I actually made appropriate use of “friend zone” in our conversation. He didn’t even blink when I said it. Parents – learn their lingo and then talk to your kids!