The Forbidden Words of Dating
I’m just going to be blunt here: why do we feel the need to pretend we don’t know what we want?
I’m serious. Whether we’re looking for friends with benefits or a one night stand or – worst of all – an actual relationship, we’re terrified to openly admit it. We don’t want to be viewed as clingy or slutty or any other label that will send the guy running for the hills.
Because that’s what it comes down to, isn’t it? The reason we’re so scared to say what we’re thinking? That once we do, once we admit what we’ve been praying they’ll pick up on telepathically, the guy in question is going to reject us so quickly we’ll practically see a blur as he leaves?
Not that we should want to be with a guy like that anyway. But the problem is we do want this guy – in some capacity – and we don’t want to know if the word “boyfriend” is repulsive to him. And society (and possibly some past experiences) has taught us that the words “relationship,” “boyfriend,” and “girlfriend” are instant boy repellent.
I’d been sort of seeing a friend of mine for about a month-and-a-half and before we left for winter break, I tried to be honest with him: I couldn’t deal with the crazy back-and-forth anymore, with him acting like we were in a relationship one day, then actively avoiding me the next. Or hugging and kissing me around strangers and my friends, but literally dropping my hand and stepping away when we saw one of his. I was so proud of myself for actually having the nerve to tell him all of this, and to go one step further and flat-out tell him that I wasn’t sure what he wanted, but I wanted a-
That word. The forbidden word we dare not speak. Even, in that vital moment when I was laying my heart on the line, I couldn’t bring myself to say the word “relationship.” I danced around it, alluded, gestured, everything but actually saying it. Imagine how ridiculous I looked…
And the reason was as simple as it was ludicrous: I was worried that since I genuinely had no idea where he stood – and even though I was essentially saying I wanted a relationship – if I actually said the word, he’d immediately reject me. As it stands now, whether I said the word or not probably wouldn’t have made much of a difference. We both knew exactly what I was alluding to, and our decision for him to take the winter break to decide what the hell he wanted probably wouldn’t have been any different had I just used the damn word.
But why are we so hung up on these words? Why do we believe so deeply that they’ll destroy our careful cultivation of anything substantial with a guy? I have tons of close guy friends and I know that plenty of them are perfectly fine with it; hell, one of my friends was smiling for weeks when the girl he was seeing finally agreed to be his girlfriend. And yet, when it comes down to actually using the words with a guy with whom I was personally involved – even though I know he’s a lot like the guy friends I have, seeing as he’s technically one of them – I couldn’t do it. It’s so ingrained in us from an early age not to use the words that it’s almost impossible to overcome.
Not that it would have made much of a difference in this situation; even with my game of charades things turned out to be a total bust. But maybe I would have figured that out a bit sooner had I not been so afraid to say the words.