I’ve been dating (more palatable synonyms include: fucking, seeing, chasing, manipulating) him for three months. He’s about to graduate; I have a year to go. He’s fresh out of a two-year relationship; I’ve never had a boyfriend. So his light is off, and mine is on. The thing is, though, I know if it were to turn on for anyone, anyone would be me. Because I know he loves me. He told me so. Kind of. I mean, he told me he “maybe” loves me — “yeah, in a way.” He wants me in his life “forever.” Fuck me, right? Seriously, though… fuck only me. Fuck this. I want an exclusive goddamn relationship. I want you to be just mine. And then, I’m yours. Just yours. No one else’s. We’re both jealous things — both humans, right? — so let’s stop pretending. We’re not 18 anymore. No need to pretend. I’ll still like you when you act on loving me. Just me. I’ll still be the best thing for you when lean into all of me, for real. Trust me. Just me.
My loveless friends and I joke that we’ll have to trick The Next Guy into dating us. “Dating,” here, implies exclusivity. Like, we’ll deeefinitely have to corner our next decent hookup into a good, old fashioned, boyfriend-girlfriend deal if we ever intend to barter a good, old fashioned, boyfriend-girlfriend deal. Theoretically, by the way, we’re all totally lovable. Hot. Cool. (Humble.) That’s the joke. Hot and cool and forever loveless. Forever waiting for Him. Certain that we’ll recognize him when see him. We’ve all gotten close. Found a guy — maybe The Guy, this time — and felt ourselves falling. Deep. And when that happens, we try catch our breath and, one by one, start moving through the stages. The ten stages of tricking him — like a helpless little fish whose food you make a death trap — into commitment.
1. Hook him (give a shit).
Be your funniest, simplest self. Keep it sweet and smart. But not so funny, simple, sweet, or smart that you seem unavailable. Be very available. Let him think he’s the only one. Don’t be complicated. Be one-dimensional. Don’t tell him too much. But be very available. Let him think he already has all of you. Not sexually, though. Not yet. You’re not a freak. Your ideal sex is vanilla. No choking, biting, hair-pulling, etc. No nonsense. Not yet. Missionary. Him on top. No morning sex. Not yet. Or else he’ll get bored. Your girlish chastity will turn him on. And you give a shit about turning him on. You give a shit about him.
2. Sink him (don’t give a shit).
Pull back. The first stage — the one where you’re both into just each other — is over. You’re over it. Because you’re hot. You’re cool. You’re incredibly desirable. You’re keeping your options open. Let him think he’s not the only one. That you’re no longer so available. That he no longer has all of you. More of you now sexually, though. Cue: choking, biting, hair-pulling, etc. You on top. Morning sex. Sex whenever. Sex when you want it. You in charge. Because he’s not that great. The sex is good, but he’s not that great. You’re in it for the sex just like him. Flirt the fuck out of his friends. Because you don’t give a shit. You don’t give a shit, just like him.
3. Resuscitate him (give a shit).
Fill that void you’ve been emptying. Get a little girlfriendy. Be possessive. Shrink the flirting. Start to let him think again that, maybe, you like him just as much as you like his penis. Let him know you’re not hooking up with other boys. Not anymore. Sex is real. Emotional. Your hungers for sex and love are not unrelated. You want both. With him. So, tell him. Start to tell him what you want — sexually and emotionally. Not everything, obviously. Everything can’t precede exclusivity. Obviously. Just scratch the surface. Surrender yourself to being seen by him — a little. Start by asking him if he’s hooking up with other girls. Let him know that you give a shit.
4. Let him go (don’t give a shit).
He hasn’t been hooking up with anyone else, but he’s unprepared for exclusivity. He can’t give that to you. Not yet. Not anytime soon. Because he’s a second semester senior who, two weeks before you, broke up a two-year relationship. Because you’re great — really, you are — but not so great that he’s willing to commit to you. No one could be that great. Not for him, not for now. When he tells you all that, don’t give a shit. Don’t give a shit about him. Tell him it’s fine — you don’t hate him. You understand. But you’re not available. Not for him, not for now. It’s OK that he doesn’t want to commit — but you do. If he’s not in, you’re out. Because you don’t give so many shits that you’re willing to be with him on his terms. He gets scared and asks for some time to think. Tell him to take his time, but you’re not waiting. Because you don’t give a shit.
5. Wait for him (give a shit).
A few days pass. Maybe just a day. He’s horny and desperate because boys are simple. So he sees you out one night, and he asks to talk. He crawls back. He’s drunk and high and mincing words. You’re “effectively” exclusive. When you’re around, he has eyes for no one else. You say, “yeah, I knew that already.” But you didn’t. When he wouldn’t commit, you felt inadequate. You were confused. Because you’d been sleeping in his bed almost every night, so you were rattled as fuck when he made it seem like he was trying to stick his shit in anyone but you. Admit that you don’t want to lose him. Believe him when he says he can’t lose you. Compromise. Wait. Make it work. Give a shit.
6. Enjoy him (still give a shit).
Enjoy the compromise. The wait. Neither of you are fucking other people, but you’re not in an explicit commitment. Be OK with that. Have fun with him. Sex on your terms. Whenever, however you want it. And then, for real this time, open yourself to the possibility of falling in love with him, even though you don’t have him yet.
7. Don’t sleep with him (don’t give a shit).
Weeks pass. Maybe months. Same shit. You’re tired of waiting. Every night in his bed. Every night fun. But you can’t do it anymore. Time to have that horrifying talk again — the one that flopped the first time. You try sober but choke. You’re terrified. You can’t get the same answer. It’ll break you. You need him now. Now you’re drunk and high and all of the sudden your heart is knocking into your ribs because the talk is happening. Two months later, same answer. This time, you’re angry and he knows it. Elevate yourself. Let him know what he’s going to lose. He will lose you, OK? Don’t sleep over. Prove that he’s going to lose you. Prove that you don’t give a shit.
8. Scare him (still don’t give a shit).
He’s so dumb. Let him know he’s so dumb. He’s so dumbly wedded to this idea of independence predicated on non-committal fucking that he can’t open his eyes to what’s in front of him: the hottest, coolest girl for him. He’s fucking up. Let him know he’s fucking up. That he’ll regret it. That you’ll always be the one who got away. That he should just grow the fuck up for you because, in less than month, he’s moving to your city. And once he’s here, he’ll need you more than you need him. And if he won’t be with you the way you want him, you don’t want him at all. Because you’re not in love with him yet. You don’t give a shit. You can still lose him. You don’t hate him. You don’t regret the past three months. But you can still lose him. Let him know that you can still afford to lose him. That you’re straddling giving a shit and not giving a shit, so, actually, now is the perfect time to dip.
9. Reevaluate him.
He’s breaking. He tells you what you want to hear — that he’s in because he can’t imagine being out. Because he loves you. Kind of. Maybe. In a way. Then he takes it back. Please give him some more time. He needs to think again. Now, give up. This conversation is nauseating. You’re running in circles. And then, just as suddenly as the the talk started, it ends. Because you realize that, maybe, you never really wanted commitment. Not with him, not for now. Maybe you just thought you wanted — needed — the thing you’ve never had: the boyfriend. But maybe you don’t give a shit about the boyfriend.
10. Reevaluate you.
Maybe you thought you needed to be completed by him. Maybe you thought that commitment would fill you — validate you. But then you leave him for a while, you breathe, and you realize that you and your world are bigger than him and his world. And you don’t need or want commitment. Not from him, not for now. You’ll play it by ear. You’ll miss him. You already miss him. So he’ll be in your life, probably. But this time, it won’t be a compromise. It’ll be what you need — what you want. And maybe that thing isn’t commitment at all. Give a shit about him, but give a shit about you first.
I’ll see you when I see you, helpless little fish.