Label-Less Limbo: Why No Label Is The Most Popular Relationship Label Of Our Generation

by Kaity D'Agostino

The concept of dating has become a myth. You may recall hearing bedtime stories or dinner-party anecdotes of how your father met your mother, fell madly in love with her and asked her to go steady. I know, crazy. They make it sound so easy; just like that, he asked her to be his girlfriend.

There was no strategic texting or months of casual drunken hookups; it was just an honest, romantic inquiry. While I am by no means a romantic, it is hard not to admire the sentiment of dating, which is somewhat null and void for our generation.

Once upon a time, people would act on immediate interest and buy into a relationship with certainty. Today, it seems like it takes weeks of fooling around before you can even decide if you actually want to get to know each other.

I’m not saying that our generation is completely foreign to the act of dating, but rather the concept of it. We are more than capable of a wining and dining, but less able to articulate a desire for partnership and a steady relationship. We’re a generation of serial daters.

Somewhere along the line, we grew fearful of commitment to the label of dating. If you’re a single 20-something who’s at all involved in the current romantic world, you’ve no doubt heard (or had) the “I don’t like using labels” conversation.

Instead of circling the simple “yes” or “no” on the “Will you be mine?” questionnaire, our generation penciled in a dozen of our own “maybe” subcategories.

Dating is now divided into countless label-less labels — friends with benefits, someone you’ve been seeing, casual hookup — and the list goes on and on.

In the last decade, the lines and boundaries of dating have been blurred from committed to casual to down right confusing. How long do you have to buy vowels until you have enough letters to spell out a real relationship title?

Since the words “boyfriend” and “girlfriend” have somehow become taboo, when can you stop telling your roommates that you’re staying over at your booty call's house for the fourth time this week and finally tell them that you’ve decided to be official?

It’s an intricate playing field, but here are some surefire factors that bind you to a relationship, whether you call yourselves a couple or not:

You’re Involved

If you are at all involved in one another’s personal lives, chances are you care about each other beyond the physical sense.

If you are consistently up-to-date on each other’s daily activities, you are without a doubt exceeding the maximum text message quota of a mere hook-up buddy.

You may be pushing into couple’s territory, but simply talking won’t seal the deal. Having a sober sleepover and staying for breakfast the next morning cannot be seen as anything less than intimate. Have you met his friends? Do you show up to group events as a pair?

Of course, it almost goes without saying that being brought along as a date to family functions lands you directly in cupid’s court.

There’s no use in sidestepping the girlfriend/boyfriend introductions to relatives. You, my friend, are dating someone.

You’re Jealous

This is a big one. In a lot of cases, the no-label label is used to validate hooking up with other people while you are in a relationship.

You may go along with the idea, desiring to project that laidback vibe, all the while hoping for a RomCom ending in which your partner will realizes that he or she is madly in love with you.

But, life isn’t a RomCom and not every casual sex story ends with some hot actor professing his or her love for you in Grand Central Station.

If you get a sinking feeling in your stomach when you think about that certain someone hooking up with someone else, then you should not be in an open relationship.

You’re Exclusive

You’ve been through the hook-up phase, the meet-the-friends phase, the jealous phase and now, you find yourselves in the exclusive phase. While you may not have had the official exclusivity talk, enough passive aggression has brought you two to the unspoken conclusion that you will not see other people.

Even if you two arrive separately to the bar, your only options will be to leave together or to leave alone. I hereby announce you a label-less love affair.

Call it what you want, but if you fit into these categories of modern day dating, you are, without a doubt, going steady.

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