Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Thursday, March 29, 2012

By Orin and TheAlien4mEarth
Illustration: ER Ronny

“But he's your boyfriend, right?”
“Well, not exactly”
“What do you mean? I thought you guys were dating...”
“Well, not exactly that, either”
“You broke up?”
“Then what?”
“We're together.
It's just that we're not boyfriend and girlfriend”
“I don't get it...”

Neither do we. But as weird as it sounds, it's happening out there. People hooking up these days show a tendency not to 'label' their relationships. They'll go to all the parties together; they're always on the phone. They're definitely more than 'just friends'. But the minute you ask them how their 'girlfriend' is doing, they'll get all defensive. “We're not dating,” they say. And the rest of us are just confused.

Sometimes though, we get it. When there are problems at home about seeing someone, a couple might find it safer to play anonymous. Zafirah tells us, “All my friends hated the guy that I was with. I knew things would get really ugly if they found out, so we just avoided the labels.”

What does it mean to 'be in a relationship' anyway? We asked around, people answered. Some were weird, some less so. Everyone more or less focused on stability, commitment, compatibility and loyalty as the base of a relationship, while some outliers mentioned that 'IT IS ALL LIES' or 'it's like having a friend with 'benefits''. What 11 year-olds might think of 'benefits', we really don't want to imagine.

There are however, other opinions. “Casual relationships have a higher chance of leading to marriage,” says Z, a part-time bathroom philosopher just about to go off to university. “In these cases, the exercise of power on either side is low.” Does that seem to indicate that people might have commitment issues?

Well, commitment issues are just one side. TVs and movies make cheating on signification others pretty commonplace. Whenever we talk about fifth graders dating, we hardly ever think of the possibility that they also might cheat on each other, because well... why? “I had to break up with my boyfriend because I was cheating on him with a friend of mine. It's not my fault though, I couldn't choose between the two,” reveals 12 year old Faizaa. Now shouldn't that worry us more?

Cynicism runs deep as people start young nowadays (Class 5? 6?). By the time they've moved onto high school, they've had more than enough heartbreaks. So it's pretty clear why they're so sceptical about yet another 'boyfriend' or 'girlfriend' who's just going to take them through that all over again. Around this time, we guess they wise-up enough. So if things go wrong later, they can always tell their friends “I never went out with that ***** anyways.”

Then again, there are people out there who actually want a good, committed relationship, but feel that the terms 'boyfriend', 'girlfriend' and 'dating' just doesn't cut it for them anymore. “People do so many things in the name of 'going out' that it has given the whole thing a bad name,” says the Baby Seal, who claims to have found The One. “It has gotten to the point where if I tell someone I'm going out, they're automatically going to assume that I get up to all kinds of kinky stuff.” It seems like, thanks to some people, these labels are carrying all sorts of bad connotations, and teens are trying everything to avoid them.

Having an on-off relationship in a close circle of friends is quite the trend these days, just like the reluctance to put a label on it. Most of the ones we interviewed revealed that the inclination of having on-off relationship among their friends and acquaintances annoy them, some even think that it's a call for attention, while others believe that it unsettles both individuals and messes with the group dynamics, but there's not much they can do about it; for the most part it's SEP (Someone Else's Problem).

On the issue of peer pressure, we got mixed answers; to some folks it's nothing, but some others think that one of the reasons they forced themselves into one is because almost all their friends were romantically involved. One of them mentioned that they anticipate the pressure and initiate the relationship themselves. Whether they admitted to it or not, friends play a big role in deciding 'who goes out with who' or if they're actually going to ask out that cute girl or not.

Whatever the younger ones are doing, the older teens and young adults aren't very enthusiastic about that. “These kids in Class 5-6,” says a frustrated Q, “tara pura 'relationship' jinishta-ke pochaye felse.

They'll hook up and break up, like, five times in a month. That's not how a relationship works. And what the hell is 'taking a break!?',” she demands incredulously.

Oh yes, breaks. Another phenomenon in these 'relationships'. Kids (the younger ones, we mean) are likely to 'take breaks' when their parents find out, or during an exam. Usually, it means that they'll act like friends and not a couple. In extreme cases, they'll ignore each other. Basically, it's a way for these kids to escape from the relationship for a while, and still know that they can come back if things get better. L, who's older, tells us a different story, “I wanted to break up with someone, but thought it would be too painful. So I told them we needed to take a break. During the 'break', I tried to distance myself from them, so that when I finally broke up, it didn't hurt that bad.” Apart from the regular 'breaks', the real breaking up ranges from 'meh, I never really liked her anyway' to cutting off their hair, but it affects both the parties involved.

Relationships are fun, and that's the whole point of them. But they also involve our self-esteem, confidence and how we see the world. A small blow can do big damage, especially when someone is young. While we are still somewhat at a loss as to what on earth these people are up to, it's clear that they're ready to take things to the next level. In the meanwhile, I'll just 'take a break' and 'go out' on a shopping 'date' with my 'girlfriend' Orin. Sounds like fun.

(Despite what this article sounds like, we're not preaching that kids having relationships is atrocious; it's just that it'll be interesting to see this generation grow up. It saddens us that Cooties are on the new list of extinct species.)



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