No, No, No, Don’t Funk with My Heart

Like listening to classic Black Eyed Peas tracks there are a lot of things I did in my youth that I do not do now. They say as we get older we get wiser, more mature with age and our wisdom increases. I expected, as I grew up, that people would be more straightforward, especially in relationships, but I often find this is not the case. Back in the day, way long ago, when kids liked each other they would hold hands in the school hallways and people would ask their partners to be their girlfriend or boyfriend quite casually, ah, the joys of youth. As we get older we tend to make this process far less streamlined, transparent and direct. We have traded wearing someone’s watch or letterman jacket to establishing if we are “dating,” “hanging out,” and “exclusive.” It appears the vernacular for intimate relationships has grown with every birthday that passes me.

While not the best communicator I expect a certain frankness and clarity when I spend time with someone I like. It is frustrating as well as disheartening to deal with people’s various rules and relationship definitions. The more words we create to distance ourselves from true relationships, the more walls we put up. Entering a relationship does come at a very steep cost with high barriers to entry. We have to allow ourselves to be vulnerable, accept the possibility of loss, and embrace uncertainty. Even scarier, we have to think about someone other than ourselves, how frightening. These things are difficult and to some even herculean tasks but nonetheless instead of running from them with words like “friends with benefits,” “seeing someone”, and “just hooking up,” it might be best to strip everything back to these base relationships we had as teenagers. We don’t often like to revisit our past to check if our younger self got it right but glancing at the past for relationship cues might not be such a bad thing.

People seem to link labels with constraints but as an organized person, labels can provide some hint at clarity and breath of tranquility. The ambiguity of our insane terminology for relationships has left my head spinning, looking for order that I cannot seem to find. if you think about it, the encasement in different relationship statuses is still a form of containment—just a more complex one. Are we better served to have fewer broad terms or a multitude of redundant terms that allow us to escape all responsibility for another person’s feelings? How many iterations of a relationship are there and why is it so hard to articulate our needs now when it was so simple in the past?

I think the “it is complicated” status stems from the puzzling problem of too much choice in labels, not too little. This could be because I am a Libra and when given a bunch of choices I must weigh and order them all sometimes so painstakingly that I can’t actually make a decision. When given fewer choices i.e. in a relationship or not, chicken or beef, coffee or tea, I am always much happier than when presented with numerous options. It might be a refreshing change to return to our adolescent days when we did not overthink status and instead focused on the simple question of do I want to spend time with this person in a romantic context or not? Perhaps this is too difficult a question to decide after first meeting someone but one should get a sense pretty quickly. It is ill-advised to drag people along slapping various labels on the two of you as an entity rather than firmly and thoughtfully saying what you want and also what you will provide. This last part is often forgotten. We spend a lot of time telling people own needs and desires without pausing to recognize “oh hey I want all these things with you because I care about you and wouldn’t want anyone else providing them”; what a novel statement that we often leave out when discussing potential relationships. If you play with fire, you are very unlikely to actually get burned, but you must be prepared to sustain the flame with oxygen if you expect the bright mass to stay lit.

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