The Four Terms By Which My Parents Classify And Describe All Relationships Of A Non-Platonic Nature

“Going Out With”

A generic descriptor that replaces “dating,” “involved with,” “seeing,” “in a relationship with,” etc. Can be applied to individuals ranging from the next-door neighbor’s daughter and her boyfriend to characters on my mother’s favorite soap opera (All My Children, FYI). The relationship can encompass anything from a handful of dates to a decade-long courtship. “Going Out With” is a neutral phrase that conveys no moral judgment on the appropriateness or viability of the coupling.

“Hooked Up With”

Used to refer to what is deemed to be an ephemeral (or, more uncharitably, doomed) liaison in which both parties’ judgment at entering into such a relationship is subtly called into question. Usually spoken in a dismissive tone and phrased in the form of a question to indicate incredulity at the couple to whom it is applied, i.e., “Is he still hooked up with her?”

“Hanging Around”

Differentiated from “Hooked Up With” in that it is primarily concerned with and spoken in reference to the person doing the hanging around vs. the one who is hung around. Used to denote poor taste/judgment (up to and including desperation) on the part of the hanger. The lack of “with” frequently serves to indicate the one-sided nature of the dalliance. The hanger is painted as a specter hovering over (or perhaps a small planet orbiting around) the hung. Reciprocity is assumed a) not to exist or b) not to be worthy of the speaker’s consideration.


Seemingly platonic, “Friend” is actually reserved for identification of the most serious of relationships entered into by immediate family members, having possibly first appeared in the parental lexicon as a short form for boyfriend or girlfriend. Its usage can be extended to fiancé/fiancée as well. Confusion may arise in attempting to distinguish “Friend” from the more common platonic usage of the term. Keen listeners will note that the insertion of a given name into the statement in question is an almost fool-proof means of separating “Friend” from “friend.” For example, “Amy’s friend, Chris…” refers to a serious romantic relationship between the two. “Amy has a friend who…repairs vintage motorcycles/was just convicted of grand larceny*/works for IBM” indicates a platonic acquaintance.

Friend may also be used euphemistically to refer to an individual’s same sex partner. As in the case of “Going Out With,” this term covers all same sex relationships from the impending civil union of the checkout clerk at the county co-op to Elton John and his husband.

In rare circumstances in which the parents do not have (or have not been able to glean via various methods of subterfuge) direct knowledge of the nature of a given heterosexual relationship, “Friend” may also be used as a means of vaguely alluding to a connection between two parties without employing the specificity of “Going Out With,” so as to avoid risking the ire, embarrassment and/or exasperated denial of the befriender.

*In which case, she really shouldn’t start “Hanging Around” him. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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