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“How long has it been? Three months?”
“Over that. We’re in four-month territory at this point,” my friend corrected. Rebecca and I were overdue for a happy hour, so playing catch-up was more than necessary. My gal pal had been telling me about a new gentleman in her life that she was interested in. From what I gathered over our boozy chat, the two had been casually seeing one another for a few months, and things had escalated in a pretty natural way for a new relationship.
“He took me as his plus-one to an office party, so I took that as a good sign,” she continued.
“Well, how did he introduce you to his coworkers? That should be your indicator right there,” I asked. During this conversation, she was trying to dissect if they were, in fact, in an exclusive relationship. The big ol’ boyfriend/girlfriend chat. The BF/GF. The his and hers matching towels. The wedding rings. She was trying to figure out if they were married. Okay, I’m kidding, but you get my point. We were digging for context clues to see what their “status” was. Since she and I have always both been notoriously single, this conversation probably sounded like the equivalent of two infants attempting to discuss why access to the arts is intrinsic to critical analysis.
“Well, he didn’t really introduce me as anything other than my name. Not ‘This is my girlfriend, Rebecca;’ it was just ‘This is Rebecca.’”
Oof… I understood her frustration. But in all honesty, I’m probably not the one to be giving detective-level insight on this. After all, labels are tricky, and I honestly don’t know where I stand on them now that I’m an adult. When I was 16, it was nice to package up my high school sweetheart relationship and label him my “boyfriend.” But 10+ years later, I’m not sure even how these conversations start anymore.
Labels. I personally like them on my kitchen items so that my coworkers can back off of my almond milk coffee creamer (I see you, Mark), but for romantic relationships? I’m not entirely sure what I think anymore. I always thought people craved them the most when they weren’t in the right relationship (or, ehm, relation-ish kinda thing). On the flip side, I think they can be great because it prevents people from kicking dust around and essentially wasting someone’s time (something I, a “your clock is ticking in about 5 years” gal, can absolutely appreciate). See? I told you I wouldn’t be an expert on this.
“Okay,” I continued with my third-party super-official investigation. “He wasn’t calling you his girlfriend… But is he naturally a free spirit? What’s his personality like? If he’s pretty chill, maybe he already considers you a girlfriend but hasn’t said it out loud yet.” I honestly felt like a high school kid trying to assess whether or not my friend should make out with the lacrosse captain under the bleachers or not. Is this a valid adult conversation or were we being absolutely ridiculous?
“He’s definitely more laid-back, but not to the point where I think he’d overlook a conversation about exclusivity,” she answered. “I’m pretty sure he just doesn’t like labels, or maybe they’re just an afterthought. But his coworkers kept saying if I worked there I’d be the ‘Pam’ of their office.”
Ah. Office banter about the television show The Office. Very unique.
“So, if you’re Pam…” I dug, “That would make him…”
“Jim,” Rebecca completed.
Ah. James “Jim” Duncan Halpert, salesman of Dunder Mifflin. The Jimbo. The Big Tuna.
If you’ve never seen The Office, stop reading this right NOW and go watch it because it’s important to your health; you’re welcome. As you should already know, Jim and Pam’s romantic relationship is a huge part of the show throughout every season. With that disclaimer, I think it’s important to note that my friend Rebecca did NOT work at this dude’s office, but her boyfriend/date/boy-toy/thingy/hookup/whatever’s coworkers were seeing the two of them as an official item. A labeled item. A “Jim and Pam” item. A “Jam,” if you will.
I asked Rebecca if he accepted the “Jim” title, and she explained that it actually wasn’t the first time she’d heard that reference about him.
“On one of our first dates, he self-described himself to be like ‘Jim’, actually,” she said.
Okay. Hold on. I need to straighten out my very professional relationship-detective hat at this declaration. Someone who may or may not like relationship labels likes to label himself with a fictional character’s persona? Is it just me, or is it a little off-putting that someone is voluntarily walking around describing themselves like the result of a Facebook personality quiz? But this is her relation-ish/ship/thing and not mine. Moving on.
Rebecca and I didn’t come to a conclusion about her and “Jim.” I suggested that four months is a decent amount of time to bring up that boyfriend/girlfriend conversation if it was something she wanted, and we parted ways.
This whole happy hour banter got me thinking: How did most of my friends who are now married (or close to it) originally define their relationships with their significant others? So, I asked!
Friend #1: “We had sex, and I was leaving his place. I said, ‘Can we make this a boyfriend/girlfriend thing?,’ and he said yes. We are boring.”
Friend #2: “Turns out he actually assumed he was my boyfriend but never brought it up. Then one day I said, ‘So, if I call you my boyfriend, that would be fine?,’ and he was like, ‘I assumed I already was!’ He didn’t realize we had to have a conversation about it and was shocked I didn’t think we were exclusive until then. It was funny.”
Friend #3: “His friend referred to me as his girlfriend and he responded, ‘No, she’s not,’ and I got mad. He asked me why I was mad the next day, and I said because I wanted to be his girlfriend… so he asked me. Ha!”
Friend #4: “We went on a vacation and he leaned over during 4th of July fireworks and asked me to be his girlfriend.”
Friend #5: “I just remember we were about a month into dating and he brought it up somehow. He said, ‘Well, I’m not seeing anyone else,’ and I said, ‘Well, I’m not seeing anyone else either…,’ and he said, ‘So, we’re boyfriend/girlfriend?,’ and I said, ‘Yep.’”
Takeaways: My friends are a mixture of incredibly chill and incredibly bossy human beings. Regardless, it’s interesting how different everyone’s stories unfold. Some couples have an “exclusivity proposal” of some sort that’s elaborate and cute (like the fireworks story), and others simply let the nature of closeness define their path. I’m not sure anyone would ever come to an agreement on what’s best. Even with a quick Google search of the words “relationship labels,” you’ll find a mix of opinions titled “How To Get Him To Label Your Relationship” and also its counterpoint, “You’ll Regret Labeling Your Relationship For These 10 Reasons.”
Here’s my expert-level (lol) take on this: If you let things develop as they are instead of forcing that conversation, you’re more likely to have an enjoyable time. You know how when something just appears out of thin air and it makes your entire day? Like concert tickets you won on the radio? It’s AWESOME! A FREE concert?! Amazing! But when you use your hard-earned money for it, sometimes you’re more inclined to feel differently. Like, “Um, this is not a good seat and it’s raining and also I really wanted to see Drake and not Panic! at the Disco.”
Of course, Rebecca and her “Jim” may want to eventually aim higher than “accepting things as they are,” but if things are already pretty great, the labels may just stick on their own — even if that label is something referencing “The Office”..
Image via YouTube/The Office US