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We talk a lot about the friend zone on this site. You know, that annoying area a man you’re interested in places you when he doesn’t want things to go beyond you two just being cool. But there’s another, slightly similar, zone men have a tendency to place women in when they don’t want to take things further with you; it’s called the homie box. Though it may sound like the same thing on the surface, as we learned from this season of “Love & Hip-Hop,” it is quite different.

The thing that most distinguishes the friend zone from the homie box is genuineness, plain and simple. Whether you like it or not, you know when you’re in the friend zone, and that’s because the man is treating you like a friend. There aren’t any flirtatious encounters, he isn’t selling you a pipe dream that somewhere down the line you will be together, you may have even had “the talk.” No, not the talk about being together, the talk where you said you were interested in him and he responded saying he likes you as a friend or thinks you two are better as friends, or only wants to be friends. However the idea presented itself, the key word was friend and there was no “girl” in front of it, nor any confusion about how he felt about you.

The homie box on the other hand? Nothing is clear in that area except the fact that the man is on games. He’ll flirt with you; call you and text you all times of the day, but mostly at night; he will try to sleep with you (and possibly succeed); and he will suggest that you two will be together at some point in the future, yet that future never comes. And most importantly, unlike the man who clearly tells you he only sees you as a friend, the man putting you in this group will never label you as anything — until you start asking questions. The moment he thinks you’re hinting at any type of “where is this going,” “what are we doing,” “what’s up with me and you” type of discussion, he will promptly give you a label you did not see coming, “the homie.”

I knew Shay was doomed when Scrappy only referred to her as such on “Love & Hip-Hop.” Any man who’s about doing anything with a chick instead of going up inside of her for free will be quick to lay claim to her as his girl in some shape, form, or fashion. Scrappy, not so much. And that’s because he had no interest in doing so — ever. Homie is the convenient label that places a woman in some type of category above friend (debateable because the level of treatment is certainly not on par with how anyone would treat a real friend) and far below girlfriend, yet provides the perks of sex, most times, and possibly other things, like putting things in your name, as Shay did, because who doesn’t look out for their homie like that? See the problem with this psychological word play?

Over the summer I was talking to a guy for a very short period of time and then he randomly disappeared on me. When I saw him out we started chatting again and he ended up calling me later on so I asked him what was up and why he went MIA. I wasn’t trying to check him like he was my man, I just thought it was weird and discourteous to go from talking to someone every day to not hearing from them in over a week and I thought some type of explanation was in order, even just to see if I’d done something I wasn’t aware of. He was giving me some BS excuse that I laughed off and replied with my standard, “OK, I see where this is going.” What I meant by that was I knew I was being fed lines and I had no interest in hearing any more of them. For some reason, he saw that as some type of relationship hint-dropping and proceeded to say, “this isn’t going anywhere, you’re my homie.”

Insert “Did he just try to play me” thought bubble with hella question marks.

The thing is, I wasn’t trying to go anywhere with this negro myself, but I thought it was humorous that he made it a point to “put me in my place,” so to speak, as the homie, just so I couldn’t call him out about any behavior. Mind you I was the same “homie” whose bed he wanted to be in for several weeks before when I was all sorts of variations of “his girl.” Had I been invested in this fool my feelings could have been hurt, but for me that was the ultimate red flag. For one, you think you can talk to me and treat me any kind of way. And two, you think that you actually have the power to place me in some arbitrary place in your life and that I would be content with it. Next.

Though that was an instance of a man clearly placing the homie title on me. This labeling comes in all sorts of variations from “we’re just cool,” to “she’s good people” and any other nondescript title you can come with that basically winds down to, I keep her around to satisfy my selfish needs and I don’t even value her enough as said homie to not lead her to believe I think more of her than I actually do. As I alluded to earlier, it’s not a box you want to be in.

When you have feelings for someone you are deathly afraid of being placed in the friend zone, but know that is a much better place to be in than the homie box. A man who lets you know he just wants to be friends at least cares enough about you to tell you he can’t reciprocate your romantic feelings but he still sees great qualities in you that make you a great friend. Any dude trying to pass you off as his homie, to your face or to his boys, is essentially after your goodies, and possibly your wallet if you’r the sugar momma type, and your value to him doesn’t go beyond what you can do for him without requiring anything in return. The friend zone sucks for a short while until those feelings pass. Getting out of the homie box can take years because you’re still carrying on feelings in hopes of them being returned one day. If you’re currently in that box the best thing you can do is save yourself because he won’t have the decency to do so.

Has a dude ever tried to place/keep you in the homie box? Are you in that category now?

Brande Victorian is the news and operations editor for Follow her on twitter @Be_Vic.

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