Dear 1990 Michael Bolton, From the Friend Zone

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Don’t ask me how Michael Bolton came to be playing in my living room in 2019. That is neither here nor there. But I will say the best thing about Michael Bolton besides Office Space is finding out that he had a feud in the 90s with Kenny G.

“How Am I Supposed to Live Without You” isn’t the only sugar rush from the 80s and 90s to romanticize entitlement. And it was just as creepy when a woman sang it. Unfortunately, it has become what the industry refers to as a “modern pop standard”.

Much has been written of late about the rape culture of John Hughes movies, among many, many others, that shape a pop culture narrative in which (beautiful) girls are the prize for guys who s̶t̶a̶l̶k̶ ̶w̶o̶m̶e̶n work hard enough. It’s not just the incels that feel entitled.

Nice guys often think just being nice entitles them to what they want. And they are devastated when their unrequited desire turns their (often imagined) world upside down.

To be clear, ballads don’t cause violence. But if someone is perhaps prone to violence, and books, music, movies, TV, video games, and society in general create a fascia of entitlement narratives, romanticizing a secret admirer’s broken heart certainly doesn’t help create a culture of direct communication and clear consent.

Since I never gave his music any thought when my mom was listening to it on our way to school, I’m going to respond to his sad cat diary lyrics as though it were a letter he wrote in 1983 to 2019 me. So let’s go back to the future, into the friend zone of today.

So tell me all about it, tell me bout the plans you’re making.

Thank you for your support and excitement, Michael Bolton! Someone swept my heart away!

Tell me one thing more before I go. How am I supposed to live without you? Now that I’ve been loving you so long?

Wait, what? I thought I was confiding in my friend about my new relationship. You have feelings for me? You need me in order to live?! How long is “so long”?

The one I built my world around, To hope that one day, we’d be so much more than friends …

Why didn’t you just ask me out? If I was interested I would have said yes. If not, then you would have known to move on. Building your world around a friend who has no idea you had romantic feelings for them is ill-advised.

I didn’t come here for cryin’
Didn’t come here to breakdown

Cool. Because I thought we were friends and I was excited to share my news with you.

It’s just a dream of mine is coming to an end

Given that you failed to communicate any interest or feelings it sounds like maybe you prefer dreams to reality. Silently pining is not romantic. It’s a dead end.

And how can I blame you
When I build my world around
The hope that one day we’d be so much
More than friends

So have you just been lurking in our friendship, hoping that maybe I would one day just develop feelings and ask you out? I’m so confused. And it seems you’ve been manipulating me and our “friendship”.

And I don’t wanna know the price I’m
Gonna pay for dreaming

You already know the price for dreaming — dreams. Your desires do not manifest in reality because you didn’t take a risk and express your feelings.

Since you don’t seem to like communication, here’s some math for you, Michael Bolton. If there’s an inverse relationship between your suffering and the joy of others it’s time to change your life. You are not being punished. Your friend’s happiness is not a price you have to pay.

twitter @h_m_edwards unsplash @heathermedwards

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