Thursday, December 11, 2014

In a Relationship

By Mahlia Lindquist

Stop the presses! Just in, an important notice via Facebook: another friend is “In a Relationship.”  

My first reaction is a positively mean-spirited, "well la dee da, isn’t that special!"

Pardon, that's the jaded me talking. As previously disclosed, I have the darnest time tamping down that cynical, bitchy edge, despite my best efforts. 

Once that passes, the sincerely curious me just has a question. What does "In a Relationship" even mean?  I get the implications of being engaged, married or pregnant. But, being in an official Relationship? Not so much. 

Call me literal, but at any given moment all of us are in relationship with a wide array of others. 

Is the main point that, opposed to relationships with friends, pets, God, ex-spouses, and spouses, parties to a Facebook relationship are enjoying sex with each other on a regular basis? That each agrees to exchange gifts for the holidays? To live together? To share electronic passwords? To ask permission before getting a tattoo?

Of course, an actual conversation would clarify much of the ambiguity around expectations. However, with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, texts, and email,  conversation is quaintly old-fashioned. Communication about squishy things like "feelings" is practically bad manners. Even as a member of the supposedly more communicative sex, I squirm when a romantic interest says, "can we talk?"  

Personally, if inclined toward a Facebook relationship, I would be tickled if it meant I could expect airport rides upon request. I also would like the perogative of unapologetically vetoing unsightly and itchy facial hair. But that's just me.

It would probably avoid untold misunderstandings on a global scale if we all included our little preferences and idiosyncrasies on our Facebook profile.

Then there’s the mystery of why, why, why?! An even bigger WHY for people over the age of, um, 16 want to share the good news with 500 Facebook friends.

I suspect that one does not shout “In a Relationship” from the rooftops of Facebook to actually inform friends. Rather, the purpose is to reassure a special someone that the aforementioned sex is to the exclusion of all others.  A public admonishment for other interested parties to back off. At least for for the moment.

From a romantic perspective, posting "In A Relationship," for all the world to see, is a grand gesture for those not inclined to “’till death do us part.” From a practical standpoint, it might put an end to well meaning friends and family who insist on asking, "so, are you seeing anyone?" within 5 minutes of any and every conversation.

One convenient aspect of  a "married" or "engaged" status is that a specific protocol exists, which in the free world involves an element of mutuality. Not necessarily so with the the Facebook "In a Relationship."  I’ve personally experienced a situation where someone unilaterally changed his status to “in a relationship with Mahlia Lindquist.”

Yikes! Or, as they say here in Miami, super awkward. Also, super disturbing.

I was utterly mortified. The silver lining was I got real clear that anyone with whom I would actually want a relationship, would be equally mortified by the prospect of posting such on Facebook.

For me, Facebook is for posting photos of my kids and blog. From others, I enjoy photos of cute animals, friends and family, music, inspirational Buddhist quotes, and political messages (but only if consistent with my pre-existing, intractable liberal leanings.)  And, oh yes, I like to wish friends a happy birthday without going to the trouble of actually doing something as thoughtful or radical as calling or sending a card via the US postal service.

While awkward to unilaterally declare being in a relationship, it is just as ungainly to ask someone: “hey babe, wanna be In a Relationship with me? ” It just doesn’t have the same ring to it as “will you marry me? or even “want to go steady?”

Another consideration is what happens when the romance winds down.  Statistically speaking, it's bound to happen.  Eventually, someone prefers to no longer be "In a Relationship." Unfortunately, many of us are wusses and avoid the  unequivocal break-up until someone indiscreetly strays. The result is a scene and general unpleasantness. 

To the extent "They Say That Breaking Up is Hard to Do" (doo wop, doo wop,) Facebook makes life easier. Changing a status from "In a Relationship" to "Single," does the trick without resorting to unnecessary and uncomfortable conversation.

Sort of like breaking up via text, but even more crass and with less maturity.


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