A few weeks ago, when I found out the guy I was interested in was seeing someone, I told one of my friends about the situation.
“So, he just casually slipped it into the conversation that he was dating someone, like out of the blue?!”
I was about to reply when it hit me –
“Yes, it was like he was telling his Bro or something. OMG, HE THINKS I’M HIS BRO. I’m in the Bro-Zone!”
I’m no stranger to the Bro-Zone. I’ve been in and out of the “zone” so many times over the past decade I’ve lost count.
Years ago, when I had just moved to Toronto started dating my first Toronto boyfriend, we went out for brunch with two of his best friends. We were still in the honeymoon stage and I remember my ex telling his buddies,
“Isn’t Simone great?!”
To which one of his buddies replied, “Yeah! You know who you remind me of Simone? You’re like the real life version of Janeane Garofalo’s character on Seinfeld. She’s funny, smart and sarcastic but when Jerry tries to date her he can’t because she reminds him too much of himself”
“Yeah, I mean you’re totally attractive but I’d never want to sleep you. You’re like, one of the guys. You’re too smart and cool to actually have sex with.”
The disturbing part was that I watched as my ex-boyfriend nodded in approval.
Ok, so being compared to Janeane Garofalo isn’t the worst thing ever (because, hello, she’s awesome) and I get that it’s totally not cool to tell your buddy, “Hey, I want to bang your girlfriend!” – but, was the last part really necessary?!
(For those of you who don’t “Speak Seinfeld” please see below)
This wasn’t the last time that I would unexpectedly find myself in what I’ve come to call the Bro-Zone. The ex I mentioned above would eventually decide that he wanted to be in the Bro-Zone all the time…and preferably naked. He bid farewell to vagina and our relationship when he broke things off a year later to date a guy he had met while working on a production of “Guys and Dolls.” File that under, “World’s Biggest Cliches.”
About a year after we split, I had a falling out with two of my closest female friends at that time. My partying had reached the point of self-destruction and both falling outs were the result of some pretty terrible decisions on my part. Although I knew my behaviour was at fault, the end of these friendships made me sad. I was carrying around so much guilt and hurt that for the next few years I was almost afraid to make new female friends out of fear that I might fuck those friendships up too. Instead, I focused on being friends with guys.
I love having male friends. Guys tend to be pretty straightforward and as long as you don’t sleep together (and even sometimes when you do), there’s considerably less drama than what often comes hand in hand with many female friendships. Looking to escape my recent bout of girl-drama, I took comfort in my male friendships.
In the inner circle, there was my Gay BFFs – my friend Trevor, one of my closest friends from BC (and my former prom date) and my friend Chris who was also my next-door neighbour. Between these two, there was always someone around to talk to (often bemoaning dating, or the lack thereof), cook dinner with, go to concerts with & to spend late nights watching sex and the city episodes with when we were too tired or broke to go out drinking. These guys were my rocks and I don’t think I would have made it through that period of my life without them.
At the time I worked at a store that sold beauty products. Through my male coworkers I met a whole other slew of “gay boyfriends.” When I wasn’t hanging out with Trevor or Chris, I was getting into drunken antics with these guys. Gender never played a part in my other friendships, however my Gay Boyfriends always made a point of letting me know I was one of the guys – or, as they liked to say “One of the girls!”
I also had my straight male friends. We’d drink beer together after class, talk about “chicks” and sometimes they would help me lift heavy furniture. I was intent on becoming the best pseudo-bro I could be. For awhile there I was like the Paul Rudd to their Seth Rogan, The Michael Cera to their Jonah Hill, the Bradley Cooper to the Wolf Pack – except, I had boobs.
Then, there were the guys I slept with. I’ll get to those guys in a minute…
After 3 years of living in a shared house full of bizarre hippies, livestock and a female room-mate who didn’t understand the concept of boundaries, I made a break for it and moved into a rented condo with my platonic male room-mate Adam – a guy I’d met through a house music message board.
Living with a man was hilarious, eye-opening and disgusting all at the same time. Over the year that we lived together, Adam and I developed a close but slightly complicated friendship. He became one of my closest confidants, but also the guy I cursed every time I found beard trimmings in the sink.
We became so close, that I think he actually forgot I was female. One day we were watching TV together and he said to me,
“Hey Big Guy, can you pass the remote?”
“Big Guy? Really?!”
“Oh sorry. You know I think of you as a Bro.”
I had set up camp, paid a security deposit and was now living in the Bro-Zone.
I know you’re probably wondering what the difference is between the “Bro-Zone” and the infamous “Friend-Zone.” In my experience it all comes down to one thing: filter. When a man is with his guy friends, or “bros” the filter is a lot more liberal. Thanks to my friendships with men both gay and straight, I now know way too much about strange vaginas, the intricacies of anal sex and stuff that is really best shared with a Urologist.
When I was still working at the beauty store, I remember one day my gay male boss pulled me aside. He told me that he needed me to come see something as he dragged me by the arm into the co-ed staff washroom.
“Simone, does this look normal to you?” he asked me as we both stood over the toilet bowl filled with his neon green urine.
“Jay, what have you been eating?”
“You don’t even want to know Simone.”
I get it. I really do. I think the fact that I am a trustworthy (and trusting) individual makes me a magnet for TMI details. I blame the ‘Izma. Something about me says “Tell me all your secrets. Your really gross secrets.” Being a sex and relationship blogger also doesn’t help. Not only do people confide in me very personal things, they now think I’m qualified to give them advice.
I’ve learned a lot from my time spent in the Bro-Zone, like the proper way to shave your balls and how to give a really good blow-job (thanks gay boyfriends!) however, it’s also impacted me in negative ways.
Very early on in my dating career I learned that guys liked the non-commital “Cool Girl” – the one who could hang with the guys, didn’t cause drama and didn’t call them on their shit (even when she really should.) When I was younger I slipped into this role often. The result was that I ended up in a lot of half-baked relationships where I wasn’t getting my needs met. However, you’d never guess it because I was so breezy. Because of this, I often found myself inhabiting the Bro-Zone even with the people I was getting naked with.
I’ve since learned that it all comes down to setting appropriate boundaries and demanding that people respect them. If we’ve seen each other naked I don’t want to hear about that time you and your buddy had a threesome with a Russian hooker and I also don’t want to help you pick out a sex toy for your new girlfriend (even though I’m sure my recommendations would rock. her. world)
I’m cool, but I’m not that cool.
I haven’t really given that much thought yet to my goals for 2014, however I do know this: I want to reclaim my dating life and learn to set better boundaries with people. I did this when I was in my last serious relationship. Nothing has to change just because I’m single now. Thanks for the reminder Universe.
Not your Bro.