An inevitable deadline approaches. As Date Knight passes and we enter into tenth week, with a six-week hiatus from Carleton on the horizon, almost every casual hookup, exclusive hook-up and situationship will hit a crossroads: whether or not to advance their relationship. The existential questions all of us are either dying to ask or dying to avoid with our hookups will be brought into the spotlight. The result: you will either go home to Thanksgiving with amazing news of a blooming relationship or have to face the reality that you are back to square one. Happiness, sadness and even confusion over your Fall Term relationship will boil down to one word – so.
“So” is the word that begins every important question at the start of the relationship. A way to make a big question seem somewhat casual. So, where is this going? So, what are we? So, how do you feel about me? The “so” indicates your partner wanting more. Wanting more time with you, wanting more of a concrete label in your relationship, wanting more of a certainty that you are not sleeping with half of campus. The “so” pushes casual hookups to exclusivity and exclusivity to dating. Getting to know someone is gradual, but these “so” moments are pivot points that escalate and define relationships.
The “so” is always beautifully awkward. Most of the time it occurs in the midst of a hookup. Before, after and sometimes even in the heat of the moment. A time of vulnerability. Emotions at their highest, we cannot contain our angst about the relationship any longer. We need to know more about the future. The person on the other side, however, is probably not ready for this question. Either because they are thinking about other things at this inopportune time or because they are not prepared for the question. Why wouldn’t someone be prepared for what is a common progression of a relationship? Because most of the time we get caught up in the “lull of a good time.”
The lull usually brings about the thought process of “we are having a good time, so why mess it up?” It is the college plague of a relationship. It leaves us to think in the present rather than toward the future. Being happy where your feet are is acceptable, but only if it is at the right moment. The time during the start of the hookup, after getting coffee for the first time or after the first drunken sleepover, is the time to be present. As someone who overthinks everything, thinking ahead at this time usually just leads to hurt feelings. But as time moves on, when one hookup turns into two and three, you have to snap out of the lull. It is human nature to want more, to progress rather than to stay stagnant. Sadly, you can’t have your cake and eat it too. The “so” will come.
So, back to the awkward moment. You are presented with the “so.” In reality, no matter how it is worded, the “so” is a question of whether you want to chase fun or chase connection. Once the “so” is out there, you are either in or you are out – your current state of affairs is no longer an option. So in this moment, when your clothes may be half off and your stress levels have skyrocketed, what do you say? Well, that depends. You have to think ahead. At this moment, you may be able to picture your relationship at Carleton, but what about the next six weeks?
All those plans you had to go back home and live the “extravagant” single life, which is extremely fun, would be gone. Instead, can you imagine being on the phone with your partner at 10 p.m. on a Friday night? Previously, you have always been in the same place as them. No longer does gazing into each other’s eyes classify as sufficient communication. For six weeks, your relationship will be an amalgam of texting, facetiming and playing phone games with one another. If you are a romantic, you may even send a small gift or two – you should send a gift. It’s a social change and much different than weekend parties at Dow or “watching movies” with one another in your dorm room. Thinking ahead allows you to think about your relationship in a different lens: were you with that person for the convenience, or did you truly enjoy spending time with them? The truth may hurt, but lying to yourself and your partner will only hurt more in the long run. If you can’t imagine this la-la land-esque sequence, then it may not be meant to be. If you can, then it may be time to make it a reality. Relationships are difficult, but when done correctly, they can make life worth living.
“So” is the catalyst to an inescapable decision. Two letters that are so little yet so big. The word may come after three weeks or after three months, but it always comes. At that moment, though you may not be able to see your feelings, can you look into the eyes of that person and feel a reason to stay?