relationshipsRecently, I had a conversation with a friend about what some relationship-defining terms really mean.

“Like, what exactly am I supposed to think when you tell me you’re ‘talking’ to someone?” she asked. I didn’t have an answer. It baffles me, even though I often say I’m “talking” to a potential love interest.

Relationship-defining terms, both loose and binding, mean different things to different people. And, if entered into without proper discussion, they can leave one or both parties misled and, sometimes, completely heartbroken, downing copious amounts of ice cream and weeping hysterically while listening to Elliott Smith.

To prevent such things from happening to me (ever again), I’ve prepared a glossary that I will present to romantic flames if/when we are about to reach a “Define the Relationship” moment.


Talking: Somehow, we have come into possession of each other’s phone numbers, and have begun communicating semi-regularly in a way that is flirtatious. To reach this level, there must be a mutually expressed desire to spend time with one another in the flesh.

I will most likely say something like “We should hang out sometime,” even though I hate the term “hang out.” (Sometimes we hate to say things but do in certain situations anyway, because it’s impossible to think of a better synonym or phrase. Like “That feels moist,” or “She ripped out my heart and took a steaming dump where it used to be. Metaphorically.”)

Me to a friend: I don’t know, I guess we’re “talking.” I would really like to fondle her sometime in the near future, though.

Hanging Out: We have now been in each other’s presence at least once, and something either vaguely sexual, romantic, or both has transpired.

Me to a friend: You know that girl Erica I’ve been “talking” to? Well, we were “hanging out” the other night and I insisted on walking her home, even though it was like a mile-and-a-half out of my way. Then we made out. She used her tongue. I bet she’d do some freaky thangs for a piece of change. No, I don’t really think she’s a prostitute. It’s just a saying.

Having Sex, Banging, Fornicating, et al.: Well, it’s happened: I have been inside of you for at least 20 seconds, and now we’re going to hell. And it only has to happen once for me to start using it as a present continuous verb, like we are doing it all of the time.

Me to anyone listening: Yeah, see that girl, over there by the salad bar? I’m totally “banging” her. Yes, Aaron. That is indeed your sister.

Hooking Up: This is the most ambiguous and polarizing term included in the glossary. To me, it means the same as the term directly above, but it means varying levels of intimacy to others. For example, my friend was telling me a story the other day about how his girlfriend’s brother came home when they were “hooking up.” He revealed to me later in the conversation that they had not yet made the two-backed beast. I was confused. People have even told me they consider kissing to be hooking up. So if you want to tell somebody you’ve touched another person or whatever, but you want them to be unclear on specifics, tell them you “hooked up.”

Me to Aaron: I’m “hooking up” with your sister, Aaron. I bet you’d like to know what I mean by that, wouldn’t you? Oh, you really don’t?

Sleeping With: This is the same as “Having Sex, etc.,” but we have also slept in the same bed without both of us passing out from drunkenness. I consider this to be more of a big deal than it really is, because I generally prefer to sleep alone unless you are really special (or if your body is nice and warm like a furnace and it is a cold night.)

Me to Aaron: Aaron, I am “sleeping with” your sister. Did so last night, actually. At your parents’ house. Yes, in the room next to the one where we used to play video games all night. Yeah, your mom knew I was there—I’m 26 and I’m not going to sneak in a window or something. She said I was welcome to stay any time, and that I am like a son to her. Which was weird, given that I am “sleeping with” her daughter. Which kinda means your mom supports incest, Aaron.

Friends With Benefits: We are having the sex and trying to act like neither of us have romantic feelings for each other, when in reality we totally do, except they don’t go far enough for one or both of us to want to take it to another level. This will either become something more, or it will end in a colossal cluster of awfulness, which is what we hoped to avoid with this agreement in the first place.

Me to Aaron: Don’t try and tell me you and Karen are going to be “friends with benefits,” Aaron. That almost never works out the way you want it to. Remember me and Morgan? All that came of that was an alleged pregnancy scare and a shouting match after she tried to tell me Conor Oberst is overrated.

Dating: This is not the same as going on one date. It must be a series of dates, and it must be admitted by both parties that we are, in fact, “dating.” Otherwise it’s just “hanging out” with some “fornicating, etc.” thrown in.

Me to Aaron’s mom: I am “dating” your daughter because she is very fun and smart and I respect her entirely as a woman. 

Boyfriend/Girlfriend: I like you a lot. Might even love you someday. I don’t right this very instant, but it’s likely if you get me drunk enough I will tell you that I do and then retract the statement when things get awkward. Hopefully our bond is strong enough to overcome something like that. You are the only girl I will do sexual and romantic things with, to, and for. This includes flirting. And I expect the same from you. And so help me God if you burn me on this, because it’s happened before and that’s partially responsible for my Conor Oberst affinity. It’s also probably why I haven’t had a girlfriend since the Bush administration.

Me texting Aaron: Aaron, 42 people liked my changed Facebook status that said I was in a relationship with your sister. Why were you not one of them? Don’t you support our newly forged official union? Also: she was so happy I asked her to be my “girlfriend” that she gave me a blowey and cooked me a steak!

On A Break: One of us was selfish enough to pull this card instead of manning (or womaning) up and saying that it is over, for whatever reason(s).

Me emailing Aaron: Your sister and I are “on a break,” Aaron. No, it’s not over—she just said she needed some time to work on herself, to become the person she needs to be in order to fully accept another person’s love. Don’t laugh. She hasn’t defriended me on Facebook, and she still texts me a whole bunch every time she gets drunk until I come over to your house to “hook up.” It just sucks that now she kicks me out before morning. I miss your mom’s breakfasts. Between her hollandaise sauce-making skills and your sister’s acrobatic tongue, I’m starting to think the females in your family know magic.

Engaged: We’re likely living together, and you have a ring that I paid way too much for even though conceptually engagement rings are stupid and ridiculous, because if I would have voiced that opinion you may have thought I was just trying to be cheap. (Remember that I spent thousands on a ring before you ask me to install a hot tub in our home.)

If we are engaged, I would like to post all kinds of pictures and statuses about us, and they must all be captioned with the word “blessed” included at least once. I’d like to take it to a point where other couples become confused as to whether we are mocking their own habits, or are actually that, like, totally cute.

If you read this and didn’t say to yourself, “Well, obviously we’d be mocking them,” then we will never be engaged.

Me to my dad: Dad, we get it. Marriage can be rough. That doesn’t mean that just because I’m “engaged” you have to tell me every other day that I have no goddamn clue what I’m signing up for.

Married: We ran out of steps to take to keep furthering our relationship so we did this.

Aaron and I at a strip club (not really): Well, Aaron, you’ll be glad to hear this: now that your sister and I are “married,” the bloweys have stopped altogether. Nowadays I have to take her out in public just so she will let me have 20 minutes alone in the computer room. And she keeps talking about wanting children. I’m about ready to start trying, just so I can have sex again, but she turned cold again when I told her that if we were going to be able to afford kids we might have to sell her engagement ring to

Also, my Dad texts, “I told you so,” unprompted to me. Every day. I am so #Blessed.