The sweaty palms, the lack of eye contact, the semi-fearful distance he put between us on the couch — it all pointed to one thing: I was getting dumped.
But wait a second. How could I be getting dumped when I wasn’t even dating the guy? I thought I must’ve been panicking for no reason…right? Quick, Quick. Ask him if he wants to stay over, tell him he can stay over, I told myself. Oh. He doesn’t want to? Oh that’s okay, he’s probably just tired! Though, on second thought, it might be because of the little bit of chub I’ve recently acquired due to the gym being closed this week. I mean yes, it’s a Saturday night and he’s leaving at like 11:30PM, but maybe he’s got an early commitment in the morning. Right? Don’t panic.
PRO TIP #1: Why do we waste time wondering when we can just — oh God, I don’t know — ask?
“Transparency” is a big buzzword in the business world. Let’s translate that into the romantic front too, yeah?
After much protesting, it was clear that I had shaved my legs for nothing that day. Walking him to my door, something inside me said you had better kiss him now; it’ll be your last time. So I kissed a pair of stiff lips as his hand held the door open. Nothing, nada. His lips moved with a sense of obligation and I knew for sure: I was getting dumped. And the worst part? I wasn’t even in a relationship. How is that even possible?
PRO TIP #2: But just because it wasn’t official doesn’t mean it didn’t matter.
And don’t let anyone tell you differently. Even yourself.
I really don’t have a problem with pseudo-dating; I had a great time for about six months. Semi-Casual and I had found ourselves willingly stuck in the barren desert at the intersection of “friendship” and “relationship.” Neither of us knew what box to put the other in so we just, uh, well we didn’t talk about it. Ever. What was the point? A few months in, I had come to terms with the fact that, despite my best efforts, I was more invested. And that was all fine with me.
PRO TIP #3: In this no-man’s land of pseudo-dating, always clock what it is you want.
Denial helps no one. Don’t let the fear of him or her not wanting the same thing keep you from stating what it is that you want. If you do, you’ll only end up shortchanging yourself.
Right after the cardboard kiss, we trudged out into the hallways and he started to reach for the elevator button. Oh no you don’t, I thought. No, no. You are not going to leave me to stay up all night wondering what all of this meant. But then, I also wasn’t his girlfriend; did I even have a right to a breakup conversation? I voted yes. So I looked at him and said, “Wait. What’s going on?” And slowly, with a sense of dread, Semi-Casual turned around to look at me. Batten down the hatches, I thought, here comes the final State of the Union.
PRO TIP #4: Letting things fade is for cowards.
If you aren’t into someone anymore, tell him or her (gently and maybe at a distance). That way they can bow out gracefully, lick their wounds, and binge watch Grey’s Anatomy until they lose all feeling.
“I wanted to talk to you tonight. I just—the opportunity never came up.” He began, staring down at his shoes. “I guess now is as good as ever.” And so there, with the hallway of my building as a backdrop whilst leaning on an industrial sized trashcan, the conversation took its course. We talked about, well, everything: what we meant to each other, whether the friendship aspect outweighed everything else, the timing of this indeterminate thing that definitely happened between us.
PRO TIP #5: Not now does not mean never.
But, in most cases, holding onto that “well he or she didn’t say never” is not healthy for either party.
Semi-Casual wanted to stay friends — and so did I. He was a part of my life and I wanted him to stay there. But I couldn’t do that. I couldn’t just stuff him in the friend box and put a lid on him. It doesn’t work like that for me. The feelings would stay stagnant, and there’d be no room for movement in any direction. I have the self-control of a goldfish; if the candy is in the room and I can’t eat it, I’ll drive myself nuts. He understood and, though it clearly upset him, he respected my choice.
PRO TIP #6: You never know how much space someone takes up in your life, or how much you take up in theirs, until they are out of it.
“It,” whatever “it” was, was now over. I went to my room, closed the door, and stood there. Should I like, cry, or something? What Spotify playlist should I be listening to right now? Do I wake up my roommate for a therapy session? Do I have a right to care?
PRO TIP #7: You always have a right to care, always.
If you want to listen to angry breakup music while eating a roll of cookie dough even though it wasn’t technically a breakup, do it. Do it with all the rage of a scorned ex-girlfriend.
We live in this dating culture where “whoever cares less has the most power” has become the centerpiece. I don’t think that sentiment is entirely true. See, when Semi-Casual worked up the guts to have an honest conversation with me that made him courageous. He cared about me, expressed that, but followed it up with an honest conversation about why we weren’t going to work. He treated me like a real life human being when, by conventional standards, the lack of title didn’t require him to do that.
And here is the ultimate PRO TIP #8: a lack of title doesn’t mean that you can treat someone you’ve been involved with, with a lack of respect.
At the end of the day, I walked away from Semi-Casual with a good taste in my mouth and endless respect for him, which is more than I can say for the ending of my last titled relationship.
As long as both parties keep an open line of communication and respect each other, I don’t see a problem with pseudo-dating. And don’t be afraid to let casual mean something, either. Since when did meaning something to someone become a bad thing? Here’s the bottom line: don’t be afraid of casual. Casual can be significant, if you let it.
As Semi-Casual walked away, I blurted, “Hey, we would have made a great team, you know. If things had been different.”
“Yeah, I know.” He responded. “If things had been different.”