The Necessity of Exclusivity (Or Why You Can't Not DTR In 2017)
At some point during my "Seinfeld" obsession, I had rewatched the entire series so many times that I eventually turned on the "Notes About Nothing" feature on the DVDs to shake things up a bit. By doing so, I could watch the episodes over and over while also learning the intricate minutia that went into each script. It was here I discovered the boyfriend/girlfriend counter. I began noticing that the "Notes About Nothing" feature counted every man or woman the characters' went on even just one date with as a boyfriend or girlfriend and was immediately irked.
Wait a second, I thought to myself. How can someone be a boyfriend or girlfriend after one date? That's not a real thing and is nowhere near the reality of my dating life. I call bullshit.
Of course, I eventually realized that this was just an easy way to lump all their failed romantic endeavors together, but I still couldn't help but feel that labeling them as official boyfriends and girlfriends was a cheap copout. Because we all know it does NOT happen like that IRL.
For years now, my mom and most of my friends have urged me to hold out on any exclusivity talks when it comes to dating. "Isn't it understood?" my mom would beg. "I don't think your father and I ever discussed it. We just knew — this is my boyfriend, this is my girlfriend. There was no 'what are we?" talk." So, for years now, I haven't pushed it. Er, I've tried not to. I really have. And you know what I've learned?
IT'S NOT UNDERSTOOD.
In this world — namely, in my generation — nothing is understood. You have to spell everything out because, if you don't, people will blame you for not spelling it out. Your incapability to be crystal fucking clear will be held against you, and you will have caused your own upset. Every line is blurred, all areas are grey, and every new and budding relationship is shrouded in a dark veil of ambiguity until you decide to ask: What's up?
Now, I hate to harp on my own generation when it comes to dating and exclusivity and general human decency when being entrusted with someone's feelings that they've caught for you. However, it's the bleak reality of today's dating scene. We've developed some really terrible habits. Habits that will need years of correction. We've grown so accustom to tonight's hookup being one swipe away and next week's crush waiting in our queue just in case this week's doesn't shake out. It's been long stated that us Millennials (albeit, now "old Millennials") are the entitled generation, and I'm not disagreeing. I've accepted who I am in that sense — I've made peace with it. What I didn't expect to happen is for that entitlement to trickle into the romantic realm. Silly me, I thought Millennials were better than that. That we still can be trusted, loyal, committed, and truly in search of something that sticks.
I WAS V WRONG.
We are the generation of wanting to have our cake and eat it, too. And, specifically from my own sanity-testing experiences, men are the ones eating the cake while eyeing the cookie/ice cream/brownies across the party on another table. Even if he's told you he's looking for his person. That he's sick of the dating bullshit. Even if he's assured you he isn't on dating apps anymore. Even if he showers you in compliments and big proclamations (e.g. "I've never felt this way about someone" or "How are you still single? You're perfect"). Even if you text and call regularly, spend most weekends together, and he's met your friends — NOTHING IS ANYTHING UNTIL YOU'VE SAID THAT IT'S SOMETHING.
Now, being an outspoken firecracker with a mouth on her makes playing coy really, really hard for me. Impossible, really. But I truly have tried. In an effort to not "scare guys off" or "pressure them," I've kept my mouth shut. I've reminded myself of the countless "we had sex the first time we ever met and have been together for three years now so there are no 'rules!'" stories I've heard. I've put my faith into what my mom and friends have told me, that "you're basically boyfriend and girlfriend" or "don't bring it up, not yet. Wait a bit longer" or "He doesn't seem to even have the time to date other girls, you're fine" or "He did this that or the other which = boyfriend." Yet, here we are, guys. Here we fucking are.
Men (and probably women but really I can only speak directly to my experiences plus my friends are all level-headed, committed people who aren't typically in the business of toying with others' emotions) will hold tight to the grey area as long as they can. They'll wrap it around them like a security blanket, carrying it around with them wherever they go. They will use it to explain away shitty behavior — behavior that someone with compassion, good morals, and the ability to answer to their actions would never pull. They'll make you feel needy and high maintenance the second you reciprocate their allegded feelings for you or ask anything more from them than a loose weekend plan. At their most vulnerable (read: in bed, at an intimate dinner, curled up on the couch), they'll accidentally step outside the grey area and this is what will confuse you the most. These are the moments you'll cling to for reassurance. Oh wow, you'll think. Mom was right! He's in this. No need to ask. It's so obvious because what sort of person would act these ways and say these things if they weren't in it? I'm so chill that I haven't asked him to DTR. Finally! It's working out for once! These are the moments you'll look back on once the fuckboy has claimed "but we weren't/aren't exclusive" and ask yourself if you're crazy. If you read this whole thing wrong. If you made it more than it was. And I'm here to tell you — YA DIDN'T. You just didn't make yourself clear from the get go, which brings me to my final thought.
I'm done trying to play it cool. I'm over pretending that, once I really dig you, I'm so chill with not knowing where we stand. Like THE chillest. I've decided the only way to truly get what I want is to be upfront about it. All this time, I've let men comfortably sit in the grey area while I wait for him to decide what HE wants from ME. What bullshit. What about what I want?
Waiting for these dudes to claim me as their own — to choose me — has gotten me a whole lot of great material, but also enough grey area situations to last me a lifetime. I'm greyed out. I'm revamping my wardrobe to black and white only. And, sure — that approach will most definitely scare dudes off. But the ones who scare easily aren't the ones we want anyway. So, come at me, bros. But just know I want the unspeakable in 2017. That dirty C word. The one that gets you all hot and bothered. The one that makes your butthole clench in fear. The one that makes you question your past, present, and future.
How's that for black and white?