A few months ago my 9-year-old brother asked me a simple question. “Do you have a boyfriend?” I stared at him for a few seconds before I gave him a really confusing answer. “Kind of. Ish. It’s complicated. Does that make sense?” He nodded at me with innocent, confused eyes. Of course that didn’t make sense to him. To children it’s black and white. I should have just said yes for the sake of the kid’s perception of me, but I honestly didn’t really know the answer myself.
Months at a time I will have a friend that’s a dude that I do boyfriend-ish things with. We’re not really “dating” though. We’re “hanging out.” We’re “kicking it on the weekends.” We’re keeping it so casual I don’t even know if it’s a relationship or not. What does one call such a phenomenon? I personally call it Whatevering. Whatevering is the state between dating and not dating. Signs of Whatevering include a mutual lack of knowledge of exactly what is going on, where a discussion of feelings is avoided at all costs.
This isn’t to say that every relationship has to be either completely platonic or on the marriage track. The place in between is fun! There are all kinds of relationships between serious and nothing at all, including being casual companions or seeing a bunch of people. But when I get stuck Whatevering, it’s not because we’ve both made it clear that we’re not looking for something serious right now. It’s because we’ve worked hard to never make anything at all clear.
It gets a little sticky when one participant actually cares about the relationship status or feels led on by “dates” and other signs of affection (ahem, me). I find myself confused and disappointed with my partner for his lack of effort and frustrated with myself for letting the Whatevering go on for so long. For me, the virtual communication and lack of face-to-face conversations complicate the already complicated relationship. The abandon of labels and refusal to call a date a date is not my thing.
I am also not a fan of “the game,” one of the biggest factors of Whatevering. You know the rules of “the game”: whomever texts the least is in control. Whoever cares the least calls the shots. It’s a silly thing, but it feels all-important.
With texting, snapchatting, Facebook messaging and everything else going on, it’s never been more easy to be in touch—but it makes it that much more disappointing when the person you’re interested in (and was once interested in you) starts to disappear and ignore you on all platforms. For example, I will text a guy, and he will never respond to my message, but he will Snapchat me instead. In my hopelessly romantic mind, that’s a sign that he doesn’t actually care about what I have to say (since I start real conversations through text and send silly photos through Snapchat). It gets so complicated.
If I wanted to play games, I would join a volleyball league. As soon as the conversation fizzles and turns into 12-hour gaps between responses, I’m done-zo. My most recent Whatevering partner always bought my food and paid for any activities we did together. So… It’s like we were dating. But not because we were not dating. What even is that? I’m not complaining, but it made his behavior that much more confusing to me. I am happy to pay for my own food, particularly if it eliminates confusion!
The worst part of Whatevering is the awkward moment it ends. In my experience, since feelings were never discussed in the beginning, they are not discussed in the end either. It is understood that both people are expected to pretend the whole ordeal never happened, and to me that is hurtful. One may think that not making something official makes it easier when it ends. But can something really end if it never started? Yes. Both people can do all the pretending and play all the games, but it gets real weird when the Whatevering ends. There wouldn’t be a need for this alternative term if there was nothing there.
Despite my feeble attempts at Whatevering I still believe in doing it the old-fashioned way—like actually talking about your feelings. So next time when my little brother asks, I can tell him “yes” or “no” instead of “kind of.”
[Image via NBC]