We twenty-something’s are good at pointing out every little flaw in a person, and labeling them one way or another. Actually, I take that back. It doesn’t even have to be a flaw. Whatever one does becomes his or her label.
There’s no way she’d ever go out on a date with THAT guy- he’s broke!
You mean to tell me she sleeps around with almost every girl she meets? No way am I dating her—she’s a slut!
Hold on, he’s been getting high how many times this month? He’s definitely a stoner.
We live in a society that puts a label on everything—from notes on our plastic food containers to the very clothes on our back—we’re labeling it. How we so easily make these permanent marks is different for each person, but one thing is for sure—we’re not afraid to place a label on all aspects of our lives and the lives of others.
Except that one gray area we hesitate to place this beloved marker—relationships.
We can’t say we’re dating because that makes everyone think we’re exclusive. We can’t start calling each other boyfriend or girlfriend because that adds way too much pressure. And stop the freaking bus if it becomes Facebook official—that’s practically marriage! Not to mention that if it’s not on Facebook, it’s most times not taken seriously. Or we’re questioned why we haven’t put our newfound label on display for all to see?
Think about the infamous “are we ready?” question when it comes to relationships and sex. “Are we ready?” moves the relationship from “talking” to “dating,” and “are we ready?” makes someone’s virgin status nonexistent. For some reason, we take all the time in the world to place labels on our relationships and sex lives, but when it comes to that ugly guy you saw for a split second in line at Subway, he didn’t get that much grace.
Take a friend of mine for example who said the other day that he doesn’t want to jump into anything serious with the girl he’s seeing because he’s being “real” about things. And this real he boldly speaks of means he’s not going to get himself head over heels, falling in love with this girl because it seems his past commitments have only set him up for failure.
So it seems for some, if a relationship is made without labels it’s suddenly real, yet this abstinence from labels creates a label of its own—we’re running from something that’s just staring us right in the face and laughing… hard.
I don’t know whether it’s our fear of relationship failure that’s causing this apathy for commitment, or if it’s simply because we’re young and feel we have to experiment during this time without getting too serious, but it seems our society’s obsession with labels has a larger impact than we think.
I sat down earlier this semester with a lesbian in her late twenties, and she gave me some pretty good insight into this early twenty-something “commitment-phobe” phenomenon.
Amanda Boyd is a graduate student here at Kent State, and she’s been in a long-term relationship for over five years now. We were talking about why it seems impossible for people (especially us gays!) in their early twenties to stay committed.
“I think a lot of the propaganda in the media right now is very young,” Boyd said. “Think about shows like Teen Mom or Glee, and you see a lot of young people making a lot of relationship mistakes. I just think in general, though, it goes both ways. It doesn’t work for heteros when they’re younger, either.”
Amanda continued and said that she thinks people need a certain amount of life experience to have a committed relationship.
So maybe we fret because we’re young and inexperienced. Are we taking life too seriously? Are we worrying about all the wrong things? We have to face the fact that we might be committed one day, and detached the next. Either way, I think we’re a society obsessed with labels because we’re afraid of the unknown, and an indefinite in a relationship can be the worst label of all.