An Open Letter to My Long List of Ex-Lovers

Dear Lovers Past and Future,

I really don’t want to become this jaded, skeptical person– unavailable to the possibility of finding a healthy relationship in my twenties. But I fear you leave me no choice. See, I’ve tried. I’ve put myself out there. I’ve gone on dates with boys I’ve met through friends. Boys I’ve met in bars. Boys from tinder who, after days of messaging I’ve ruled out the possibility that they might be murderers. And through each experience, while I have definitely encountered ‘types,’ I’ve met individuals. Mostly boys and a few “men” (a term I begrudgingly use based on age alone) who have varied in looks, occupation, personalities, age, and differed in the ways that they have entertained me, courted me, charmed me, instilled a level of trust in me, ignored me, and eventually, inevitably let me down.

Through these experiences, I’ve found an alarming number of commonalities in the way guys approach dating and relationships. So, future lovers, take note of the following patterns of shitty dating etiquette. Challenge yourself to be better than this–more respectful, more honest, and more considerate. Challenge yourself to embrace connection instead of fear it. Challenge yourself to be less casual. And past lovers, f*ck you. Just kidding. Mostly.

1. “You’re super awesome but….”

The votes are in, the tallies are counted, and it seems there’s one thing men from ages 24–32 agree on is the surefire way to end a relationship or hookup. It is the fadeaway. What is the fadeaway, you ask? Why, it is only the most cowardly and commonly used method of weaseling one’s way out of a relationship– No responsibility or accountability required! All you have to do is slowly (or suddenly! if you’re spontaneous) cease text communication altogether with me after a few months of dating me and hooking up with me. This will eventually prompt me to ask if something’s wrong, as I might begin to wonder if something’s awry when the person I’m physically and emotionally involved with appears to have fallen off the face of the earth or developed a rare thumb disease inhibiting his physical ability to formulate a text message. And there it is-the window of opportunity to end an intimate affair in the most impersonal way possible. The breakup text. And by the way, you don’t need to soften the blow by reassuring me that I’m “cool” and “awesome” and “amazing.” I know that. I also know that you aren’t actually in agreement with that hard fact. If you were, you wouldn’t have turned into a distant, bipolar weirdo who is resorting to ending all communication in the most immature and insulting way possible.

2. “I’m really busy.”

That may be. I’m sure your 9–5 government job is draining. I’m sure your career as an artist means your work is never quite done. But guess what, dudes? Everyone is busy. And by referencing that jam-packed schedule that you’re so sure I could never be able to truly fathom or relate to when I ask to hang out after work or on the weekend, you pack a powerful and profoundly presumptuous punch. You’re diminishing my time and dictating a power dichotomy between us that isn’t real.

To be clear, I’m a grad student with two jobs, a religious work-out schedule, and a freelance writing gig. I’m busy too. Nine times out of ten, I’d be willing to bet that I’m busier than you are. But this is about you. I’d reason that if you’re too busy to date me, you had no business beginning this relationship with a date or dates. Bottom line is if you don’t want to date, that’s fine, but here’s some advice: Don’t date. Because some of us don’t want to waste our time with that. You know, because we’re just a little busy.

3. “Keepin’ it casual.”

By all means, casual sex works for lots of people, but it’s just not what I’m into. I’m pretty clear about this from the get-go, yet past experiences have shown me that sometimes, this is not enough to dissuade a guy from a little friendly game-playing. So now, my guard is up, on alert for two types of deception: 1. The “relationship” guy who acts casual. And 2. The “casual” guy who acts like a boyfriend.

Having recently fallen for both of these types of tricksters, I’m not sure which one is worse. Exhibit A clearly states he wants a monogamous relationship, but then is magically unavailable for anything but dates which start to look a lot like casual sexual encounters, while Exhibit B’s “not looking for a relationship right now,” yet cuddles up with you on the couch to watch the Oscars on a rainy night in. Helpful hint: Run. Because they’re essentially the same, united under one large deal-breaking principle. Regardless of their contrasting words and actions, they share one vital commonality: They don’t know what the fuck they want.

Excuses and cases can be made to justify carrying on with either guy for a few weeks before one is driven thoroughly out of her right mind. Take it from a smart girl who has justified compromising what she wants and needs from a relationship because she simply likes her may be/might be/could be boyfriend too much to cut it clean. So guys, be honest with yourselves, and figure out what you want before you drag a girl who knows what she wants into your fickle web of miscommunicated chill.

What really constitutes casual in an age when the line between a hookup and a relationship are often lost in some frustrating ambiguous limbo? Though I have misjudged and misinterpreted the red flags of the ‘cas’ before, it’s easier to identify the things that are definitely not casual, regardless of whether the guy says you’re “hanging out,” “talking”, or “together.” Real life examples are often the best examples, SO, if you do not want a relationship DO NOT:

-Tell me that you told your mom about me.

-Excitedly proclaim that can’t wait to introduce me to your friends.

-Plan a beach trip next month.

-Propose doing away with the condom altogether!

None of the above can rationally be perceived as casual statements to the person you are sleeping with and spending time with. But you know, my bad for misunderstanding your words and misreading your signals, we’re on the same page, right?