Thursday, August 10, 2006

What are we?

In this age of the 'hook-up', I've found that people are really confused about the status of their relationships. And to make matters worse, they feel embarrassed about even feeling confused. To take it one step further, some people are hesitant to even call the situation they are in a relationship as that implies some level of commitment. So, to help my sisters and brothers out, I've defined the words used in our dating vocabulary.


Everyone says that the key to a good relationship is communication. Of course this is true. But, I think it's important that we start with a basic definition of what it means to communicate.
Here's how the word is defined in Webster's Dictionary.

Main Entry: com·mu·ni·cate
Pronunciation: k&-'myĆ¼-n&-"kAt
Function: verb
Inflected Form(s): -cat·ed; -cat·ing
Etymology: Latin communicatus, past participle of communicare to impart, participate, from communis common -- more at MEAN
transitive verb
1 archaic : SHARE
2 a : to convey knowledge of or information about : make known b : to reveal by clear signs
3 : to cause to pass from one to another
intransitive verb
1 : to receive Communion
2 : to transmit information, thought, or feeling so that it is satisfactorily received or understood
3 : to open into each other : CONNECT

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I think most of us get stuck at 2a, under SHARE. We think that because we've shared the information with you, we have effectively communicated with you. However, I'd like to bring your attention to the second #2, "to transmit information, thought, or feeling so that it is satisfactorily received and understood." Thus, it's not just about sharing with you. I have a responsibility to make sure that what I've shared has been interpreted in the way in which I intended.

It's that extra step that we often neglect, the follow-through. However, we can be quick to say that someone misunderstood us or they are 'just not getting it'. If they aren't getting it, maybe you aren't sending it in the best way. Just a thought.

Communication Hierarchy

Once you've understood what it means to communicate, you can then rank the modes of communication. I call this the Communication Hierarchy and it is outlined below.
1. In person - This is the highest mode of communication. This says, I think you're important enough to put you in my schedule.

2. On the phone - Even though we think a person is important and we value them, sometimes, geography, work or something else may prevent us from interacting with them in person. Occasionally, the phone is the next best thing.
3. A letter/Card - This method of communication is becoming increasingly rare with the advent of technology that lets you say it quicker. However, actually taking the time to compose a letter to express yourself speaks volumes about the esteem in which you hold the other person. It's also pretty significant to actually go to CVS and pick out a card to express yourself. We can't all be good with words, so a card is a good runner up.

4. Email - Email works when you can't use the phone and showing up in person is not an option. For example, if you're at work all day. You can still reach out to your person via a thoughtful email. A simple "Hey, what's up?" email might not cut it all of the time. Take this cyber opportunity to say something heartfelt. But be careful, as with all written forms of communication, they can be easily misconstrued.

5. IM/Chat - Let's just be real. You can NOT hold a real conversation on IM. The purpose of IM is to send a quick message. "I'll be there at 8." "I got home ok." This is NOT the place to ask, "So where is this relationship going?"

6. Voice Mail - Some people think they are slick. They ONLY call when they KNOW that you aren't going to be able to pick up the phone. These people are sending you a subliminal message. "I don't want to talk to you." "You are not high enough on my priority list to try to actually reach."

Now, some people are going to get offended because the communication in their relationship mainly takes place on IM. Or they have an excuse about why they live in the same town as their person and they've only talked on the phone for the 6 month duration of their relationship. I'm going to nip that in the bud by saying this,


Case closed.

End of story.

Courting is dating with the intention of determining if you two are well suited for marriage to each other. Basically it's dating with purpose.

This one has been debated a lot and I can see both sides of the equation. One school of thought is that dating is what happens between two people that have decided to see each other exclusively on a regular basis. The other side says that dating occurs when you go on a series of dates (quality outings) with a person. Typically whether or not you are having sex will affect your perception of the seriousness of the relationship.

However, even though I can see why people might jump to the conclusion that 3 dates = we're dating. It is basically the same word, right? Ultimately, I think there is tremendous value in actually having a discussion with the person about your relationship status. It's better to have one uncomfortable conversation one month in than have one even MORE uncomfortable conversation after 4 months of you thinking y'all are an item.

Hanging Out

I hang out with my girlfriends. I may even hang out with my boyfriend. But I do NOT hang out with the new guy. The new guy and I go out on dates. Hanging out is too casual. If you start off ordering pizza and watching movies on cable, you can't expect him to know that you like to get dressed up and eat out on dates. Everyone wants to protect their feelings in the beginning and no one wants to jump into anything. But why is it so threatening to call the preliminary outings dates?

Hooking Up

I define a hook up as a physical interaction that occurs between two consenting people with no expectation for future responsibility or commitment. Ladies especially, make sure that 'date' you think you are on is not a 'hook up' to him. It all goes back to communication doesn't it? Ask the hard questions before you get naked. It's too easy to rationalize behavior once you're feeling all warm and fuzzy inside. :-)


A boyfriend is a guy that has agreed to see you exclusively. The operative word here is agreed. You can't go around calling someone you're boyfriend if he hasn't identified himself as that. I have a friend that said to me once, 'Well he may as well be my boyfriend. We act like boyfriend and girlfriend." They also communicate primarily via IM. You figure that one out.


See boyfriend. Ladies, it is important to not act like a girlfriend if you are just hooking up or hanging out. You are playing yourself.


When two people stand before God and witnesses and proclaim to love and be true to each other for the rest of their lives, that’s called marriage. If y'all are living together and have been for 10 years, even though the law in your state says that y'all have a 'Common Law Marriage', you are NOT married. Having the piece of paper DOES make a difference.


It's very popular now for guys to call the woman they are seeing, 'Wifey'. For the record, a wife is the female half of a married couple. Just because you act like a wife, doesn’t mean you are one. Why isn't there a similar slang term for men, 'Hubby'? Ladies, think about this.


Ok, so the relationship did not work out and the two of you have a conversation about your options and decide that it would be best to part ways. That's a break up.


A break off occurs when you and the person you are involved with just kinda slip out of each other's lives. There's no conversation, no confrontation, no argument. The visits cease, the calls become less and less and the emails switch to only forwards. You can try to turn this into a break-up but, is it really worth it?

It's obvious that the person does not hold you in high enough regard to communicate their intentions to you. And let's be real, break-offs don't have to be a bad thing.

Sometimes when this happens, the relationship was new. Y'all met on the internet. You went out a few times. Then, the two of you realized that you didn't have much in common. One or both of you decided to move on. Do you really need a sit-down in this situation? Probably not. Just keep it moving.


When you are dumped you know it because 3 things can happen.

1. You are surprised. You didn't see this coming AT ALL. The person just flipped the script on you seemingly overnight.

2. They argue with you and you have no idea what they are talking about. It's like they took a Mandarin immersion class and you missed out.

3. They don't give you a chance to state your position. They don’t give you this opportunity because they've already made up their mind to leave. Nothing you say is going to change that.

I hope the definitions to these common dating terms help you to be more successful in your future relationships. It's all about helping one another. If you can think of any other dating terms to add to our dictionary. Let me know.

Holla Back


Luv said...

Wow! U just broke that thing down so that it can now and forever remain broked. Dang that's heavy Penni.

Anonymous said...

well written. when's the book coming out?