How To Define Your Ambiguous Relationship
Obsess. Worry that your relationship lacks definition because you are vastly over-invested (you are) (this is the most clarity and insight you will have throughout this whole situation). Spend more time being concerned that things aren’t going to pan out the way you want them to than actually doing anything to cause them to pan out the way you want them to. Call and seek advice from friends you haven’t spoken to in years. Ask humiliating questions on message boards. Try to convince yourself that some arbitrary non-issue is in fact the reason that your relationship is ambiguous – the reason that you don’t know if you’re “dating” or “just sleeping together” or “exclusive” or “in love” – such as the recent death of the person’s childhood dog or the fact that they’re moving six blocks farther away sometime in the next three months.
Brainstorm. Do your best to think of a sneaky way to trick your love interest into defining your relationship. Old standbys include, “So-and-so-ex-whose-name-you’ll-recognize asked me if we were dating, what should I tell him?” or “Person-of-opposite-sex asked me to hang out this weekend but I’m not sure if that’s appropriate given what’s going on between us, what should I do?” Realize that all you’ll get out of this is at best a guttural “hmmmphhh” and that you’ll have to find something more creative. Dream up bizarre, far-fetched scenarios in which you effortlessly dance from discussing the weather or where to get fast food for dinner to verbally affirming your commitment to one another.
Befriend the person’s friends. Subconsciously believe that befriending their friends will somehow obligate them to make a serious commitment to you. Realize that you are considerably more lighthearted, conversational, and fun to be around when you’re with the friends. Hope this means they’re talking you up to your love interest. Be ignorant of the fact that it likely just makes you appear clingy and obvious and the friends may not even be aware that you’re seeing each other in any meaningful capacity.
Balk. After resolving to say something, wait two to six weeks before saying it. Convince yourself (and the dozen people whose ears and inboxes you’re filling with the hourly play-by-play) that you’re simply waiting for the timing to be right, that the person is busy with work this week (and the next and the next), or that you need to gather a bit more evidence first.
Pull the trigger. Carefully isolate the appropriate time, place, and method. But blurt it out impulsively instead—likely on the verge of tears—in front of other people or at the most inopportune of times, such as while they are falling asleep or shortly before walking into their parents’ home (who am I kidding, you aren’t spending time with their parents). If at all possible, there will be alcohol involved, and you will have consumed disproportionate amounts, though it doesn’t really matter who is the drunk one. End up saying something succinct yet inarticulate such as, “Arrrrre you muh fuckin’ boyfrien’ or whaaaaaaaat, jesus.”
Backpedal. As the conversation spirals out of your control, do your best to mitigate what you’ve said. Say you were simply asking out of curiosity. Say you’re “totally chill” with how things are. Say your friends were just asking so frequently that you couldn’t help but clarify. Say you’re sorry you brought it up. Say it’s not a big deal. Say, “No really, it’s not a big deal.” Play with your sleeve. Turn your phone over and over in your hand. Look out the window and chew on your thumbnail. If they are of the sensitive variety they will say, “Are you okay?” and you will say, “Oh yeah, mhmmm” and then mumble some unintentionally-deprecating non-sequitur like, “Man, I could use a tan…”
Hang your head. Think of a story to tell your buddies that doesn’t make your love interest sound like an asshole. Tell your mom the truth. Cry. Write the person a thousand-word e-mail you’ll never send. Text them cheerful things as an attempt to establish your nonchalance while whimpering on your couch in sweats and three-days-unwashed hair.
Build resentment. Allow things to progress as they had been while slowly becoming less enamored and more resentful. Start to hate everything about them, while still being inexplicably attached. Hate their hair, hate the smell of their laundry soap, hate the way they steer their car with their knees, hate the TV shows they watch, hate their cat’s name, hate that their jeans are always a little too short.
Take another pass. Be even less subtle this time (though that seems nearly impossible). Say justified but indefensible things like, “You owe me” and “You led me on.” Give an ultimatum.
Cross your fingers. Probably it won’t work; they will get defensive, refuse to be backed into a corner, point out how they’ve been forthcoming since day one. But maybe they’ll see your logic and agree to be exclusive. This will last approximately five to seven hundred and thirty days, depending on their level of investment. Rest assured that whether or not you end up in an exclusive relationship, at least it’s technically defined one way or the other.
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Even as I write this now I am debating whether or not to erase it all together.
When I say I’m in love with you, I mean I love the story I can tell to my next lover, about my ex-lover, about how beautiful things were, how intense, how storybook, what a couple we were, and how you gradually, inexplicably, painfully, bit by bit, disappeared.
“I used to be afraid of failing at something that really mattered to me, but now I’m more afraid of succeeding at things that don’t matter.”
I was 24 and, while not gay, ever since college I had been getting more attention from gay men than from heterosexual women.