Terminology 2015

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Some call it over analyzing. Some may even call it petty. But, in every way, shape and form, the people in our lives, aside from family, all fit into a category. Often enough, at times we may become stressed because we can’t figure out where exactly we stand in each other’s lives. Once our emotions become involved, our logic leaves the building. Of course, any experienced adult reading this knows that emotion and logic are notorious for not seeing eye to eye with each other. However, if we fail to determine exactly where we should categorize some of these individuals in our lives, we may be contributing to our own stress.

Categorization is only half the battle. As we continue to journey through this generation and evolve, our vocabulary follows suit. So much so that simple terms and phrases have been redefined, and gotten to a point where some of us may need to revisit elementary school just to learn the current definitions. Websites have even been created with specific online dictionaries targeted toward identifying the meaning of some of the common terms and phrases used by this generation. These terms are thrown around left and right but everyone seems to have several different meanings. Well, lets attempt to all gain a little clarity and hopefully, we can all get on the same page.

Friend

In relation to the opposite sex, this is probably the most commonly used term. Obviously the more better the need to begin here. This word is thrown around so much that the definition now has multiple meanings, depending on who tells it. In reality, the word “friend” describes someone who is in your corner and has your back. This is someone who if you needed a ride to work, they’d pick you up. This person is not someone who you have sex with. Now, is it possible that you could’ve had sex with your friend in the past? Of course, but the moment after you’ve had sex with that friend, by definition, they should no longer be categorized as just a friend (this will be later touched upon in future sections below).

Although we’re all adults, sex constitutes intimacy and attraction. Remember, friendship is a platonic bond. Therefore, once that line has been crossed, it’s a game changer. Attraction exists between you two. Even more so, to currently engage in sexual intercourse with someone while resoundingly labeling him/her as “friend” is quite misleading. Often times this word is used to downplay a situation with someone, usually to avoid confrontation and/or explanation. If someone is a friend, the friendship should be entirely platonic, whether or not anything transpired between you two in the past.

Ex

Although this is a simple term it’s also, surprisingly, the most misunderstood. An ex-boyfriend/girlfriend is nothing more than an individual who formerly held the position of being your intimate counterpart. In short, it describes someone who you’re no longer in a relationship with. The reason it’s often misunderstood is because too often, people continue to be involved with their ex, creating issues with their current state of mind. In other words, if someone is an ex then whatever he/she says and does should have no effect on your present. Of course, feelings will always exist for this person, especially if you were in love, but when those feelings begin to dictate your present actions, there lies the problem.

This person can’t be referred to as a friend after the relationship ends. This is most commonly heard when people explain “we broke up but we’re still friends”. The rationale is that sure, you can revert back to maintaining a platonic relationship, but once emotions are created and explored, nothing is the same thereafter. Hence the term “Ex”. In some cases, one’s ex is simultaneously a co-parent. This element may complicate the situation but with a mutual effort, cordiality is achievable. Sharing children between you two should be the only reason contact is made between you and an ex. This is true especially if you are currently in a relationship with someone new. Otherwise it’s considered inappropriate and disrespectful on many levels. Just think, what other reasons would you have for keeping in touch with your ex?

Associate

This term has multiple uses. An associate can be someone you’ve just met. An associate could be someone you may not trust enough to call a friend just yet. An associate could also be someone who may have animosity with a family member or close friend of yours and due to your “loyalty” you keep this person at a distance. Remember, it isn’t mandatory that anyone evolves beyond being an associate. If preferred, you could have an associate for years at a time. Associates usually describe someone that you know, but just aren’t “cool with” like that.

For example, if you ask someone “Do you know Jessica?” they may reply, “Yeah I know her but I don’t fuck with her like that”. In their own way, what they’re saying is that they know the individual but they only associate with them to an extent. Trust is usually the reason one is categorized as an associate. One may question their motives or know that persons character and background or simply have witnessed their actions beforehand so they’ll keep them at arm’s length until further notice.

Like a Brother/Sister

Once upon a time this was a rarely used phrase. Long ago, a brother/sister reference was for someone who was a friend of the family. Usually, that person practically grew up with everyone and was literally like family. Now, to describe someone as a brother/sister is a description formed to explain the closeness and comfortableness of an opposite sex friendship. Of course, there is absolutely nothing wrong with having an opposite sex friend. The only time an issue comes into play is when you’ve either had sex or are currently having sex with this brother/sister type. To describe someone you used to have sex with as a brother/sister is not only suspicious, it can come across as worrisome. In reality, if they are truly like a brother/sister and you’ve had sex, what does that say about your way of thinking?

Sometimes, however, we have friends in which over time we become protective over. Typically, they may be younger and remind us of our siblings, hence the reference. When they begin to date and bring around their boyfriend/girlfriend we become judgmental and critique their mate because we only want the best for them. This is an action usually taken when the friendship truly was, and always has been, platonic. Sometimes this term is also used to fabricate a relationship that may be deemed inappropriate, as a means to justify why you continue to remain close to this person. In the event that you enter a new relationship, these types of brother/sister situationships should be evaluated and likely distanced.

Best Friend

This term is least often misused. A Best friend is someone who was promoted to that position from being the average friend. This individual is the one who is typically described as your “partner in crime”. If you want someone to tag along on a long drive, you call them. If you get in debt for five hundred dollars and need a loan, you call them. If you need to list a reliable person as a reference on an application, you list them. This person is the one who will wake up at three thirty in the morning to come pick you up from the side of the road because you car went dead. They’re the one who’s judgment and advice you trust when it comes to life. They’re the one you confide in about everything. This person, of course, could be the same or opposite sex.

Dating

Of all the terms, dating is probably the term that’s most in its tradition sense, with a few exceptions. To date someone indicates that you two simply go out every so often with the purpose of having a good time and enjoying good company and conversation. Dating also includes getting to know someone better. What most people forget is that one can date several people at a time well within their rights. In other words, just because she’s dating you, doesn’t mean that she can’t date other men as well. Dating, by definition, doesn’t imply a commitment or exclusivity. At the stage of dating, one is simply weighing their options while evaluating candidates for potential selection.

The rules of dating are simple: be yourself. If one assumes that the other person isn’t dating anyone else then that other person in no way is responsible for your assumption. Now, if you were to ask that person and they lie to you about whether or not they’re dating people, they technically don’t owe you any explanation but it would be smart to make a mental note of their dishonesty, as you too should be evaluating this potential candidate as well. Oh, most importantly, dating usually doesn’t include sex.

Seeing someone

When one says they’re seeing someone, it basically describes a situation when they’re in between the dating stage and the relationship stage. At this point, they’re usually seeing only one person regularly but have yet to solidify their situation as an actual relationship. It could simply be a lapse of holding the conversation of “What are we?” or it could still be a few elements one or both parties are contemplating among themselves.

If/when someone tells you that they’re seeing someone it means that there is someone in their life that they’ve been spending their time with however they haven’t confirmed their status of becoming official (exclusive). Sometimes, this may mean there is a possibility that the situation may not go any further but more often it means that its probably going to any day now.

Relationship

The relationship term is used for official purposes only. At this point, both parties are considered “off the market”. Meaning neither party should be accepting phone numbers, dates or sex from anyone else. Some couples refer to themselves as boyfriend/girlfriend while others may refer to their significant other as “my man/woman”. Some even refer to each other as “bae” or “boo”. Tricky part is, terms such as “bae’ or “boo” are commonly used pet names. Those terms can refer to someone that they’re dating, someone that they’re seeing or just someone that they’re “talking to”.

To be in a relationship means that both individuals have agreed to commit themselves to each other, to an extent. This extent usually only goes as far as spending time, having sex, dates etc. At this stage, both individuals agree to divest their trust, dependability and emotions into only each other. What’s most notable is that during the relationship, neither party should ever refer to the other as just a friend or someone they’re seeing and/or talking to. By now, they’ve successfully established a friendship, dated for a while, saw each other routinely and have now evolved onto the next step of their journey. To refer to the other as anything short of their counterpart would be disrespectful and possibly done with malicious intent.

Somebody I’m talking to

This phrase is commonly used to describe someone that the person isn’t necessarily dating or seeing, but is involved with on a platform of some sort. It can also be called “somebody I’m messing with”. If, for example, you had a friend that you ended up having sex with, afterwards, it wouldn’t be reasonable to continue to refer to that person as a friend. Over the years, this is exactly the point where the term “friend” began to be overly and incorrectly used. This is where the term “someone I’m talking to” or “someone I used to talk to” should come into play, if we’re strictly being faithful to definition.

For example, you meet someone new. While on a date you get a text from someone you used to have sex with but weren’t in a relationship with. When asked who was the text from, you disclose their name and further explain how they are just a friend. You may have now successfully misled your new beau. If you had sex with that “friend”, the appropriate response probably should’ve been that the text was from someone you used to talk to. Downplaying the relationship as a simple friendship gives the impression that attraction never existed between you two. Of course, you aren’t responsible for their assumption but traveling into the territory of “they didn’t ask so I didn’t tell” is omission, which we all know is betrayal. In the simplest terms, once the penis has entered the vagina, you two are no longer just friends.

Finally, this phrase could also be used to describe someone who you may be considering dating. It may be premature or you just don’t know enough about the person to determine whether or not you’d like to start dating. So when describing this person to your friends you may just say its someone you’re talking to. Once things progress a little further, that’s when you’ll begin dating and so forth.

Closing remarks

These aren’t necessarily titles and labels. These are terms that describe the relationship we have with each other, whether we want to categorize it or not. Sometimes, what happens is that we know where certain people belong in our lives, but we’re either too selfish to place them where they should be (guilty as charged) or just naive. Respectfully, once we’ve gotten involved with someone new, we may very well know there’s no reason to remain close with certain people but we don’t want to let go. This is often the point where we’ll downplay the relationship we had with that person and inevitably, what was done in the dark soon surfaces in the light. The logic that we neglected was the fact that failing to let go can, and likely will, jeopardize our current situation entirely.

It all boils down to honesty. We have to be honest with each other and more importantly, with ourselves. Too often people are referring to everyone as a friend or like a brother/sister. Problem is, in real life, no one has had sex with his or her brother/sister and friends don’t have sex either. Misleading people to believe that your friendship is, and always has been, simply a platonic situation, is dishonest. If you’re going to call someone a friend, understand what that means. Understand that if you’re calling this person a friend and you’ve had sex before, it may be in bad taste and judgment to remain so close to this person while into a new relationship. Not only must we know where others are in our lives, but we need to know where we are in their lives as well. Food for thought.

Al Steven Harrison Jr.

Read more posts by this author.

Mount Prospect, IL

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