Ask a Badass

Ask a Badass is an advice column answered by history’s hidden badasses, writing as they see their whole lives and our modern world.

Katherine Fowler Philips answers Frustrated in the Friendzone

Katherine Fowler Philips

Dear Badass,

I’m a 34-year-old guy, and I’m so frustrated at my friend right now.

She’s beautiful. She’s smart. She’s funny. She’s amazing. We do everything together, but she’s friendzoned me since day one. I don’t get it.

I know I’m a great guy, and I know I’m great for her. But she ends up dating these complete jerks and then whining to me about them after a couple terrible dates with them.

Why can’t she see what’s right in front of her? Why can’t she stop going after these losers and give me a chance? How can I get her to like me for more than just a friend?

I figure a bunch of badass ladies could give a guy some tips on how to win her over.


Frustrated in the Friendzone

Dear Frustrated in the Friendzone ,

I did not live until this time 

  Crowned my felicity, 

When I could say without a crime, 

  I am not thine, but thee. 

You will find no great advocate of friendship than I; nor no greater advocate of the love that arises between friends. Marriage is hierarchy, family is duty, but with our friends we find true equality. How natural, then, that such intimacy could grow into a bond deeper than any tie of birth or societal obligation? There is a reason the Cavalier poets refer to their lovers as “my dear friend.”

This carcass breathed, and walked, and slept, 

  So that the world believed 

There was a soul the motions kept; 

  But they were all deceived. 

I was fortunate in my friends. When one says that in the common way of speech, it is to say that one has rich or powerful relatives, but I can say it truly. I gathered around me a circle of brilliant women, and we created a space that was just ours. In our gatherings and in our letters, we had a space away from our corseted roles of daughter, wife, lady, and mother. Stripped of any title, we found together a place to tilt with words and fashioned new ideas from whole cloth.

For as a watch by art is wound 

  To motion, such was mine: 

But never had Orinda found 

  A soul till she found thine;

I wonder at your dismissal of friendship as a lesser prize. Do you truly share a friendship? Do you meet each other as equals, asking for nothing but honesty, wanting only the best for each other? If you spend your time together pursuing your romantic aims, rather than sharing your spirit with her, you can hardly be surprised that your friendship has not blossomed into a deeper intimacy. We women are quite adept, you know, in discerning if we are being angled at, rather than engaged with.

Which now inspires, cures and supplies, 

  And guides my darkened breast: 

For thou art all that I can prize, 

  My joy, my life, my rest. 

Royalist that I am, I now propose a radical approach. Do your utmost to lay aside your romantic desire and give your energy exclusively to your friendship. Share your ideas and hopes, maybe even an adventure or two. Engage as an equal, not a supplicant, an equal that values her mind and spirit. Your friend likely knows your romantic inclinations, but right now you are just another person trying to get something from her.

No bridegroom’s nor crown-conqueror’s mirth 

  To mine compared can be: 

They have but pieces of the earth, 

  I’ve all the world in thee. 

Even our beloved Charles II was surrounded by the dashing jerks you refer to. In some ways being a King is much like being a beautiful woman; one is surrounded by men who try to use friendship as a lever to force what they want. A jerk can be rather appealing as he is at least open about his intentions. Rather than follow this example – which you yourself note ends after a couple dates – I would encourage you to be the opposite. Stop trying to force something to happen and see the woman standing in front of you. I was celebrated as “Matchless Orinda”, but my Lucasia, she knew my vanities and foibles. That she could see me clearly and yet love my imperfections was the greatest gift of my life.

Then let our flames still light and shine, 

  And no false fear control, 

As innocent as our design, 

  Immortal as our soul.

My friendships brought me not only to a deep romantic love but artistic immortality. My friends brought my manuscripts to court and encouraged me to take on the translations that brought my work to the stage. When I went to my peace, Poliarchus published my work so that it might be preserved for the ages. The foremost gift of our Society of Friendship, however, was to let us know we were not alone, however remote our corner of the world. Our burdens and our triumphs were shared in equal measure, making the former lighter and the latter more joyous.

That friendship you would scorn, I advise you truly seek.

Katherine Fowler Philips, known as “Matchless Orinda”

About Katherine Fowler Philips

Born in London 1 January 1632 to moderate Puritan merchant John Fowler and his wife Catherine Oxenbridge. Died in London on 22 June 1664 of smallpox. Katherine’s poetry, which she began writing at a young age, was circulated by manuscript, originally only amongst her circle, but copies reached the court of Charles II. When her rhymed verse translation of Corneille’s Pompee was performed in Dublin, it became the first English play credited to a woman to be performed in a professional theater. She formed around her an early salon of literary men and women called the Society of Friendship in which they wrote to each other under pseudonyms from classical literature.

Note from the Editor of Badassery:

There is academic debate as to whether Philips’ poetry to and about women reflects erotic desire or if she is engaging with a Neoplatonic ideal of friendship. It is the opinion of the Office of Badassery that anyone entertaining this question is unfamiliar with either poetry or erotic desire.

For a longer bio, check out the Poetry Foundation.

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