Nobody handles The Talk very well. Usually, it’s a stilted affair, capable of rendering even the most confidently grown to their pre-teen self, stuttering and drawing circles in the condensation left by their wineglass, assiduously avoiding eye contact. Defining the relationship, or DTR, if you’re of the ilk that favors cutesy acronyms, is a necessary evil, but something that not a single soul is very good at. The nature of modern dating is such that the traditional markers of what make a relationship real change every day and it can seem like there’s a decided lack of stability. It’s not as easy as getting someone’s letterman jacket and walking down Main Street to the soda fountain anymore. The way we date now easily lends itself to shirking real commitment. First dates in the traditional sense are replaced by weird group outings in which you attempt to get to know someone you made goopy eyes with at a bar while surrounded by a buffer three people deep, including his friends from college and that dude at work, Josh. It’s a honest miracle that anyone even makes it to The Talk, because the obstacle course that stands between you and a relationship is harrowing.
The fun doesn’t end once you’ve actually sat down and faced the person of your intent, with all your emotions out on the table. The kind of relationship you can neatly explain to your mom in a hastily composed text message is a thing of the past. It makes sense that the end result of a nebulous and frankly, confusing wooing process, is also difficult to pin down. With that in mind, here are some possible results of the dreaded Talk.
1. Friends With Benefits: Maybe, over the course of the Talk, you’ve realized that there’s not enough solid collateral to keep you tied to this person for real. You can hang out and have a good time but you guys can’t agree on anything, from what a good feminist looks like to the restaurant you should go to for a date. The one thing you can agree on, however, is that you should be boning, and a lot. Enter the elusive friends with benefits, a mutually agreed-upon arrangement that lets you get yours when you want it, with no strings attached! This situation, if you can keep it afloat, is the best of both worlds — sex with someone you like enough to have his intimate parts touch your intimate parts, without much of the commitment. Only enter this situation if you are really and truly certain that you won’t catch feelings anytime soon. Once the first whiff of real emotion comes through, you’ll have to have another talk, and that one is bound to be worse than the first.
2. Just Dating: Honestly, I’m not even sure what it means when someone tells me they’re “dating” someone. This word has been thrown around so casually, it’s safe to assume that dating means that there is a person you see once to three times a week, sleep with at least 50 percent of the time you’re together, and you are possibly not sleeping with/interested in/dating someone else. Dating feels like Relationship Lite, the last stop on the train before pulling into Couplehood Station. I wonder if it’s necessary to even have a Talk to ensure the fact that you are, indeed, dating, because it seems like this is the default setting for all people trying to find love in this crazy world.
3. A Real, You Know, Relationship: For those who feel so strongly about their intended, the Talk will eventually lead to this goal — a real, solid, regular relationship, one in which you are comfortable referring to each other by the label of your choice. Perhaps you will start putting plans in motion to meet each other’s families, or plan a brief out-of-town jaunt. There will be an exchange of keys somewhere down the line, and establishment of an implicit trust. You will feel comfortable speaking to this person about your hopes for the future and including them in it. There will be a level of commitment that bumps the needle a tick or two above “dating.” You’re both in it, for the long haul, the short haul, or just for the time being.
4. Expiration Dating: Say you’re on a decadent three-week vacation in Italy, and on your first night there, under the influence of really good wine and mostly olives for dinner, you find yourself tongue-kissing a local in the bathroom of the trattoria. This is the start of a torrid love affair, made even more passionate by the brevity of your time together. Hours are spent entwined in each other’s arms in sun-dappled apartments overlooking cobblestone streets, or, if you’re lucky, rolling around in the sand at a locals-only beach. If you even had time to have any sort of talk between making out and figuring out how to ask for condoms at the pharmacy in a language you don’t speak, the result is probably this: your entanglement has an expiration date on it, pure and simple. You don’t live in Italy/France/Brazil. Paolo/Jean-Pierre/Jose isn’t going to move to America to be with you. As long as you two establish this agreement, you’re good to go.
5. Booty Call: Maybe you went into the Talk looking to establish this kind of relationship, and maybe you were lucky and the other person felt the same way. Maybe, throughout the course of the Talk, it seemed like things weren’t really going to head towards relationship-ville, so you two parted ways, amicably. Maybe the one to three times you guys had sex before things petered out were amazing. That’s why this person’s number is still in your phone, bro. Use it wisely.