The Ladder Theory

This morning, over pecan and caramel french toast for me and the feta and spinach omelette for Hollypop, the topic du jour came up in conversation. My friend Paki-Masala came to brunch too, and had the french toast with strawberry compote. Amidst all that sugar, Hollypop solicited our opinions on a sticky situation of her own.



Hollypop has a friend, a male friend, who (she reckons) is not gay. He says he’s single and available. Before going to the symphony together, she made dinner and they had some wine, dinner and conversation at her place. After the symphony, he came back to her place for more wine, more conversation…and nothing more.

Paki-Masala jumped in with a story about her male friend. I’ve not seen Hollypop’s friend, but I met Paki’s — he’s nice-looking, has some style to himself, seemingly normal. Paki meets up with him often – for dinner, movies, or just to hang out. But they’re not dating. No, Paki’s friend has told her straight up that he just wants to be friends with her. Paki-Masala is quite attractive. He doesn’t want to be “friends with benefits” either. They’ve been not-dating on and off for over a year. This may sound strange, and indeed, one of Paki’s girl friends suspects that he may be gay. I don’t think so. I think he’s a man with 2 ladders.

Let me explain the Ladder Theory, as it was explained to me. Women have 2 “ladders”. Women, the theory goes, can be “just friends” with men because we have 2 ladders – one for dating/relationships, and one for “just friends.” This is how, in theory, a man can be condemned to spend an eternity in a woman’s Friend Zone. According to the theory men, on the other hand, have only one ladder – that ladder always leads to the bedroom, even if a woman is waaay down on that ladder (because he’s not that into her.)

I’m not totally diggin’ the Ladder Theory, though it may have some validity. I think that men and women can be platonic friends only under certain special and very limited circumstances, namely when they:

1) have never dated or had intimate moments together,

2) have never had a crush on one another EVER (whether unrequited or mutual, secret or well known, recent or in grade school),or

3) are related (“kinfolk” as we say in the South.)

That’s it. If 1 or 2 has ever happened, forget it. One day, someone is going to get some beer courage or some vodka balls and come chargin’ outta Friend Zone!

The only thing worse than a guns blazin’, prison break style FZ bust-out is a Shawshank style bust-out. The Shawshank style escape from Friend Zone often occurs when one “friend” is interested in the other (the unrequited crush). One “friend,” under the guise of friendship, is always “there for” the other person, “takes care” of the other person, and gives the other person “neutral advice.” The Shawshank bust out is a ruse that can take months or even years to come to fruition. This “friend” is actually lying in wait for the right opportunity to bust out of Friend Zone! That’s the Shawshank FZ bust out. Sneaky. Conniving. Patient. And very hurtful to the unsuspecting friend who didn’t see it coming.

I have a few male friends. I don’t usually talk to these friends on the phone. On the contrary, I usually only talk to them (or more often, text) to discuss going out to a happy hour, concert, or just meeting up somewhere. Many times, my guy friends bring their girlfriends. We (my group of girl friends) are also friends with the girlfriends of our guy friends. I also have (well, had) some male friends that I used to date. I tried re-routing them off of my Dating Ladder and into Friend Zone, but I’ve yet to successfully pull that one off. They all tried to bust out. 😦  But at least they used the old fashioned guns-blazin’ way.

So I’m curious – has anyone else heard of the Ladder Theory? I’m interested to know what you think about whether men and women can be friends. JUST FRIENDS.

Content and ideas copyright © Samee on Everything (2009).



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11 responses to “The Ladder Theory

  1. La Luz

    Bustin Out Guns Blazin!!!!! LOL
    Shawshank Redmebption-style!!!! LMAO

    Men and women cannot be friends 95% of the time.

    5% will only happen if you keep him/her interested in your friend.

    And Samee, sometimes, even that”kinfolk” thing won’t stop em! I’m just sayin…

  2. Samsonite

    Ladders, steps, duct tape, is this a home improvement show or a relationship forum. Most of this stuff occurs b/c most guys (and women for that matter) don’t have any game; None whatsoever, especially women. A while ago, women started to complain about men. They made a large list of demands and gave that list to all the men in the world, and said, “if you guys don’t start doing these things, then we’re leaving.” Those demands included: being more sensitive, listening to what a woman has to say, wearing pink shirts, going to get maincures, watching sex in the city, typical female stuff. At the same time, women also said, “we want to go out and do the things that you guys do: watch football, drink beer, chase the opposite sex”. And that’s when it happened, the universe changed and women became predators instead of prey. This had not always been the case, but in today’s society women are now hunters as well as hunted. A woman can go out a snag a guy with ease (may not be worth anything but she could) but most average looking guys can’t (or won’t) just walk up to a woman they don’t know and say “let’s have sex tonight, no strings attached” and expect a positive response. However, most women (at least decent looking women) can do this with ease.
    What does all this mean? It means that the game has changed, and for those out there with no game, or very little, you’re SOL. Think of the NFL and how defenses and offenses hace evolved over the years. Guys have been hunting women for a long time. We have rules or guidelines to say the least. My point is, women, you need to be real. If you ain’t feeling him, let him know. I sometimes think women see physical deception as different from phychological deception. We all know why people go out, don’t we? Is it really better to consciously or subconsciously lead a guy to think he has a chance when you know he doesn’t or is it the niceness factor? The “I don’t want to be mean” factor that helps some people rationalize why they won’ tell a person to kick rocks. That’s like Peyton Manning saying, “oh poor defensize backs, let me throw him a interception so he won’t think I’m mean.”
    Does that make any sense? Of course not. Men are programmed to hunt, so now that women are out hunting too, at least have to courage to kill the deer and not leave it with a buck shot in the a$$, limping along. In other words, be mean, tell him to kick rocks, or not.

  3. ROGUE

    I never heard of the Ladder Theory until now – very interesting and it holds some truth! Good comments too! Girls can be just as trifling as the guys when it comes to false friendships. I used to say I couldn’t stand ex –GFs (they always want to reconcile) but now I have to add female friends to the hitlist. Heifers will do whatever it takes to get someone else’s man (including acting like a friend)!

    Recently I really loved a guy but he had these female friends everywhere – and the kicker is that he ONLY had female friends. WTF?? PROBLEM. I told him about my distaste for ex- GFs, but I didn’t think I had to explain Fake Female Friends (FFFs)! He didn’t see anything wrong with them!

    FFFs double-dutch: sit by the wayside, flirt, and anxiously wait for an opportunity to jump in. They preyed on him, acting all sweet and kind so he can keep them around. When he was single he used them for whatever they were offering (dinner, money, company, etc.) and they used him as their fake BF.

    I kept telling him, “these are NOT your friends!” Why do they get mad when you don’t pay enough attention to them or when you hang with other girls?? When they “joke” about getting with you they are for real! Also, would you keep unattractive FFFs so close to you?? I don’t think so!

    At first I thought he was just naive and I would be wrong to tell him who he should have as friends b/c we were just starting out. But no – he was wrong, they were wrong, and I was stupid for not putting my foot down early and telling him to choose them or me. How can u build up trust w/ someone with FFFs around? You don’t. These FFFs gotta go if you are serious about someone!

    His ex had the same issue with him and he called her paranoid. Well, now I call him stupid. By the time I explained how I felt, my disgust for the situation made it too late. Like other comments mentioned, some rare situations are acceptable, but they have their limits and must stay respectful.

    These FFFs were his backup, his options, and where he would naturally turn if I wasn’t around – and often get in those “sticky situations.” Men hit on me all the time, but who cares if I’m not interested in them?? And who cares if I am seriously interested in someone else? I don’t turn these guys into “friends.”

    This guy was too easily flattered, and used to being treated extra sweet by women (spoiled). They would flirt, back and forth – next thing you know, he has a new “friend.” If someone is romantically interested in you (and vice versa) they are not just a friend. That abused “F” word is applied to too many people. Not everyone is a “friend” – label it what is really is – acquaintance, sex buddy, coworker, classmate, ex G/BF, someone you want to get with, WHATEVER!

    FFFs are now a definite WHAMMY for me!!!

  4. sameeoneverything

    ha! love the link! thanks so much LB#4. if u heart the posts, pls do share w/ur peeps. 🙂

  5. Number 4

    You’re a funny girl, No.1. But to take this all to the house, women should drop the unknowing “just friends” man – the one who doesn’t know what ladder he’s on – like a bag of bricks. It’ll save both of you time and awkwardness. You know he’s not a platonic friend that’ll last and he’s not a more-than-friend man, therefore he’s useless. Leave him alone. Likewise, you’re useless once it is established that his mission is compromised beyond salvaging; damage control is the new objective. Abort. Where women go wrong is thinking that somehow he’ll be content on the “just friends” ladder once it’s all clear. No. Unfortunately, talking to him after this “understanding” – even if he calls you first – gives him the idea that there’s hope, hope for change, change he can believe in… but even Obama can’t inspire change in these habits. Thus your 100% failure rate at reforming folks that tried to jump ladders. Drop them like a bag of bricks and never pick them back up.

    More people should be in tune to the ladder theory. Great post, Meer.

  6. sameeoneverything

    i’m just saying – i think that men and women can be friends but under limited circumstances. if those circumstances are not present…there may be some problems.

  7. * black mamba *

    Good topic Samee! I have been analyzing this since undergrad when my BF at the time said of someone, “do you think he really wants to be your FRIEND??” Understand that he was the absolute worst BF in the world (save that for a later time) but he had a valid point.

    I’ve had lots of male friends (girls can irk me at times, guys are more mellow) but the majority of them eventually revealed their crush (shawshank and prison break method have been employed). I’m usually shocked, a bit flattered, but mostly spooked – was this the plan the whole time? Are they just bored and I am in their line of sight? Did feelings grow over time? I know I’m a cool chick (I am, really!) and I get along with guys very well (grew up w/ older brothers), but dayum! Were all my guy friends thinking the same thing?

    I still have guy friends (even those who failed to bust outta the FZ) but I can’t be friends with those who continue to act weird about the FZ, or keep hitting on me, regardless of our single/not single status. If I like someone, I will let them know early! I’m not gonna chance them slipping away, and I want it to be mutual. If feelings aren’t there (on both sides), you’re in FZ. You should get to know someone, yes, but don’t ACT like you aren’t feeling them and then spring your feelings on them like a Jack-In-The-Box!

    I agree with Raw Spinach – men and women are different. Period. We think/act/see the world differently, and especially, communicate differently. So you have to know what you are dealing with upfront.

    If your spouse has a friend of the opposite sex, I think it is essential that you know/approve of this person, and vice versa. We are grown folks and not kids anymore. Priorities are different, so what are grown, bunned-up folk doing with friends of the opposite sex? If your instincts leave you uncomfortable with it, then you probably have good reason to be. People are sneaky these days! There are few instances where grown men and women become truly platonic friends – usually by accident or circumstance.

    I like my guy friends because besides being fun and interesting, they help me learn and relate to the men in my life (relatives, friends, coworkers, spouse, future sons, etc.). But I know how much of a distance to keep them. You CHOOSE who you want to surround you. Choose wisely and you will have a slimmer chance of finding yourself in sticky situations.

    – sorry this is so long!!!!!! :-0

  8. Mr. Whammy

    To follow-up to jaymie’s post, I think you meant “opposite-sex” friendships (e.g., your boyfriend or husband having female friends)…? If so, I think it’s OK to have friends that you socialize with when with your significant other or acquaintences at your place of employment, etc. You know, places where you would generally not tend to “develop” an “intimate” relationship.

    If your man is going to the movies or having drinks with his female friend, I think that may be a bit of a red flag…

  9. Mr. Whammy

    I concur with Mr. Spinach. “Generally”, heterosexual men do not “seek” to “develop” and “maintain” personal relationships with women unless they are trying to get into the “end zone.” Accordingly, although I’ve never heard of it, the Ladder Theory has some merit.

    Don’t get me wrong, men and women can have non-intimate relationships, but they are generally relationships of convenience (e.g., co-workers, classmates) and are generally not “developed” outside the setting in which the relationship was born. Once outside that setting, that’s when things start to get confused — the woman thinks it’s one thing, while the man thinks it’s another. Being forthcoming with each other would help it (I guess it should be the man revealing his true intent), but we all know it doesn’t work that way. Whatever the case, the woman should not be surprised by “blazin’ gunz” or the “prison break” because she SHOULD know that such an act was definitely a possibility…as I said, generally a man will not develop and maintain a non-intimate relationship outside the setting in which it was born.

  10. Interesting. Something I never really thought about. I think it is good to start off the relationship as just friends. It eliminates alot of pressure.

    So if men and women can’t be friends, does that mean that your partner shouldn’t have same sex friendships?

  11. GENERALLY, men would rather converse with their boys than with women. (We tend to talk about more substantive issues.) So if he’s trying to be your friend, chances are he wants the panties.

    Women are different, many actively seek platonic relationships.

    Therein lies the problem. The man misinterprets her initiative, he thinks she’s in it for the same reason he is or that she’s attracted to him on some minimum level. So he strikes will the iron is hot.

    Sooner or later most women see the light… that’s why they like gay guys.

    Don’t shoot the messenger.

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