So you’ve met someone. Maybe you like them, or you don’t, or perhaps you aren’t sure. But hey, why not go on a date? So you do. Maybe you even go on a few. Maybe you skip straight to the good stuff, because life is short or you were both either horny, or bored. Or maybe you do go on some dates, but eventually, you end up in bed together, because life is short, or you were both either horny, or bored.
Things continue for however long. Perhaps a few weeks. Then your brain freaks out, because somewhere between sharing secrets, kisses, laughs, bodily fluids, the inevitable “what are we” alarm goes off in your head, because, hey, why not? It’s hard, because you came here to have a good time and are honestly feeling so attacked right now. But now you can’t help but wonder if this is going to go somewhere, or if you even want it to. Or maybe you know how you feel, which is even worse since now you need to have a discussion or something.
So you dance around the topic, not even sure what’s going on. Things continue. More dates, more sex. Maybe you’ve met their friends or family, or worse, they’ve met yours. Now it’s been months. You’re comfortable, maybe happy. Perhaps too much.
Things start to turn. Nobody ever discussed the rules. Are we exclusive? Are we in love? Is it bad that I have a crush on your roommate? Is there meaning behind you taking me to work events? Holidays happen: Christmas, birthdays, Valentine’s Day. What are the roles? Do we spend them together? Are gifts meant to be exchanged?
But you can’t ask about the rules now, so you let everything go as it was. Some days are good, others are miserable, and you’re less and less sure of what you want and what you thought you wanted. Maybe titles come up. Fuck Buddies, Friends With Benefits, Casual, Just Dating, Seeing Where Things Go; a million labels meant to encompass whatever is going on in ways that work like a placebo, leading you to believe you have something, even if it’s not the real thing.
You revert back to feeling comfortable because you aren’t sure what else to do. Maybe you are afraid of confrontation. Maybe you like having access to their HBOgo, or their Netflix, or their Xbox. Maybe it’s easier than looking for something, someone, else.
It isn’t until one of you meets someone else that everything settles into perspective. The idea of losing whatever kept you there terrifies you. You’re still not entirely sure how you feel. Perhaps jealous of the new person, because you were here first. Perhaps devastated about returning to swiping through apps, blind dates, and long nights at bars you hate. Perhaps sad, because you’re losing someone who may have become a friend in some fucked up way. Perhaps even worried about your finances, as your meal ticket is now someone else’s benefactor.
So you draw up an escape hatch, somewhere between panic and eerie calm. You want to look like you don’t care- you were never supposed to after all. Caring is for real relationships. The end approaches and maybe you wonder what the protocol is. Maybe you don’t give a shit.
It ends. Perhaps friendly, or awkwardly, or painfully, or somewhere in between. Time passes. Whatever you felt about the finale eventually dissipates. Maybe you keep in touch, or you don’t. You do what you need to: find someone new, throw yourself into work, graduate, move apartments, or cities. They become a notch on your bedpost, a name on a list, a number out of 10, 20, 30. You eventually forget the feel of their skin. You promise yourself next time you’ll “make things real” as though that guarantees a happy ending, a sense of security. Pretend that it does.