I met Mike* on Tinder a few months ago and after our first two dates, we continued to have some more dates, if you can call them that. We’re not exactly dating. We’re hanging out. And those are two different things.
If you’re not familiar with the now-accepted-among-20-and-30-somethings definition of “hanging out”, let me summarize my interpretation. “Hanging out” equates to “having non-committal consensual sex on a regular or semi-regular basis with or without the inclusion of traditional dates wherein the two involved parties spend time together doing non-sexual things”.
Urban Dictionary has some interesting definitions of hanging out, which are, sadly, pretty accurate:
A man’s way of identifying his lack of commitment and/or financial stability with regards to women in general, or to a specific woman in particular. A glaring clue to a serious-minded, one-man-woman to run for the hills.
A term used particularly by promiscuous girls today, which has supplanted the term “dating”. Previously, women would go on dates with men where they would get to know the man, and then be returned to their home safely. Now, women “hang out” which means they go to bars or friends houses, drink, pass out and wonder why their genitals hurt the next morning.
A friends-with-benefits relationship might fall under the umbrella of “hanging out”. Booty-call-based relationships are definitely considered “hanging out”, as are all other types of arrangements where the two involved parties mostly only see each other to fulfill their rote desires and then part ways for the evening. Sending a text that says, “I know it’s 10 PM on Sunday night, but mind if I invite myself over?” after having an emotional meltdown over some other person and needing instant comfort — that definitely is acceptable within the realms of hanging out.
Hanging out may or may not include spending the night, cuddling, and spooning. These things can be decided on a night-by-night basis, or via a blanket rule that applies to all encounters (to be determined through carefully and clearly worded conversation between the two parties).
Hanging out always involves both people seeing other people with or without explicit discussion of this between the two parties involved. When in doubt, assume the person you are hanging out with is banging other people. Probably don’t talk about this with that person, though.
Unless you’re me and Mike. Our knack for conversation has quickly evolved (or devolved) into us talking about anything and everything with little tact. No subject is off-limits! He knows who else I’m seeing (sort of) and when (approximately) and how I feel about it (exactly). It’s incredibly liberating. But heed my warning: this may or may not be appropriate for your hanging out situation, especially depending on your ability to detach from your emotions most of the time.
One night — the first night we sleep together — as we lie in bed, Mike says, “You’re pretty cool.” (This is a male attempting to convey some type of feeling. Not the best, but I’ll take it.)
“You’re pretty cool, too,” I reply playfully, giving him a nudge.
“No,” he says, “I mean, when I first met you, I thought you were kind of a square.”
“Well, I really am kind of square…” I trail off, trying not to be offended. I wonder why he even asked me out again if that was his initial impression, but then I just abandon that thought. Best not to over-think it.
“Really?” he asks, “Nah, you’re cool.” He puts his arm around me and pulls me closer, reeling me in, settling the issue.
So, I am the Cool Girl.
I’m not sure yet if I should feel disgusted, but I’ve never been
the Cool Girl before, so I’m kind of excited about it.
We also talk about clinginess.
“You don’t get clingy, do you?” Mike asks, on the same night on which I was deemed the Cool Girl.
“Clingy? Ummm, I don’t think so,” I say, “I know when I’m starting to feel too attached, and I can keep my emotions in check.”
“I just don’t want you to freak out if I don’t, like, text you every day or something,” he says.
“No, no, no. That’s totally cool,” I say, “I mean, I’m thinking we just do this for a while, ya know? No expectations. No strings. See where things go.”
“Yeah, perfect,” he says.
We probably should have had that conversation before we had sex. But we’re on the same page. I’m the Cool, Non-Clingy Girl, so it’s all good.
One Monday night, a week or two later, I’m over Mike’s house again. I kind of ditched Mike last minute on our previous plans to get together. I tell him I’m sorry and that I feel like an asshole for doing that.
He says, “You don’t have to apologize at all, but I was kinda surprised since you were blowing me up over the weekend.”
I pause for a second and think. Blowing him up? What?
“Was I?” I ask with a little bit of disbelief.
“Well, yeah, kind of, you were,” he says.
Three text messages — that’s how many I sent him. Three. One on Friday night. Two on Saturday. At least one of which was in reply to one of his messages, and all of which were playful, flirty, or funny, not “WHERE ARE YOU AND WHY AREN’T YOU TEXTING ME”, which is sort of what I think blowing up involves.
Three text messages and I was accused of blowing him up? Seriously? This must be what he means by “clingy”. The fact that Mike thinks this way really catches me by surprise, but it also gives me some insight into the mind of a 20-something year old boy. Yes, boy.
After hanging out that Monday, I consciously decide not to text Mike — not even once. He needs to text me first. I resist all urge to send a text, lest I be accused of blowing up his cell and lose my Cool Girl status.
I realize that these are my options: Crazy Girl or Cool Girl.
That’s the spectrum, without much in between. I’m shooting for Cool Girl all the way, inexplicably really, but, fuck it. I’m having fun.
Lesson learned: Thou shalt not send three text messages in a row.
A few days go by, four or five maybe, when I finally get a message from him:
And we hang out again that night.
And by hang out, I mean we have sex, cuddle, talk about Tinder, Will Ferrell, and gun control laws (any and all subjects, remember?), fall asleep together, have morning sex, say good-bye. I drive home at 7 AM and shower.
Some mornings, post-hang-out, I think of this drive home as my drive of shame. I know full well, however, that “shame” isn’t the right word.
How I really feel is: empty.
Talking with Mike is great, the sex is fun, even cuddling is nice, but I’m still sometimes left feeling unfulfilled and I can’t pinpoint what’s missing. I’m the one who chose this non-committal route. I’m the one who told Mike we should keep things casual. I’m the one who’s seeing other people, too. So why do I feel empty?
Could it be society telling me I’m supposed to have a more meaningful relationship? That I’m not supposed to be happy with just casual sex? That only coupled people are happy, and achieving coupledom is, of course, the end goal for single women everywhere?
Are these thoughts so ingrained in me, as a woman, that I can’t even embrace being exactly where it is I want to be at this point in my life?
Or am I just not cut out for singledom?
I don’t know the answer yet, but maybe I’ll figure it out as I keep trying this “enjoying being single” thing — I’ll just keep on hanging out, keep on being cool, and, by all means, I’ll refrain from double texting.
* Names have been changed, of course, to protect the innocent.
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