I must be honest; I am so in love with you, Wes. We have grown in new ways together, and I think we are both better for our interactions. You have introduced me to your wonderful friend group (read: everyone at this school), and I am lucky enough to get along with many who reside in your community. However, I think it’s time we had a talk. The hatred of labels and social constructs that you preach and teach has actually limited my, and many others’, ability to fully connect with one another. In particular, I am talking about your momentous fear of the word/term/construct “relationship.”
I would like to start by presenting a definition of the word as given to me by the dictionary on my Mac’s dashboard:
“relationship |riˈlā sh ənˌ sh ip|
The way in which two or more concepts, objects, or people are connected, or the state of being connected”
As you can see, this says nothing about lifetime commitment, spending every waking second together, or committing suicide when you think the person who you are in a relationship with has died (à la Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet). This simply says “the state of being connected.”
This definition means that I am in fact in a relationship with you, Wesleyan, and everyone who associates themself with you. I am in a relationship with my best friends. I am in a relationship with my boss. I am in a relationship with that guy on whom I almost spilled my drink (in Usdan, of course). I am in a relationship with whoever happens to read this letter. I am in a relationship with every person with whom I’ve met, conversed, laughed, flirted, worked, or commiserated. And yes, I am even in a relationship with those whom I have kissed consistently—no matter how hard some of them might rebel against that concept. This does not mean I am unfaithful to you, or even polyamorous. All of these relationships are distinct, with their own progressions and parameters. Some have grown, some have shrunk, some were fleeting, and some (I hope) will be life lasting.
These relationships are what bring meaning to my life. And so, Wesleyan, you surprise me with your relationship phobia. You have taught me that, to the best of my ability, I should not let social constructs and labels get in the way of how I live my life. Well, you have decided all on your own that the words “relationship,” or—liberalism forbid—“boyfriend” and “girlfriend” are toxic. You decided that any communication that makes someone’s actions in any way responsible for another person’s feelings is to be avoided. You shroud yourself in a blanket of ambiguity, which is sometimes rightfully deserved and needed, but often leads to miscommunication and painful interactions.
I have some surprising news for you, Wes. This aversion is a social construct. I have relationships anyway, and your defining some as bad or scary is the only thing making them so. Why is it a bad thing to be intimate with someone and acknowledge it? People shouldn’t feel weird if they say they have a “significant other.” It is not crazy to hope that something more develops from a friendship, flirtation, or a hook up. You aren’t some commitment-obsessed freak. There is this pervasive desire to seem open and “chill.” However, when it comes down to it, you make many (but not all) of us run away at the thought of connecting with others romantically, or even in sustained friendships.
This brings me to my main point; your fear of relationships, or any kind of continuous commitment, negatively affects how I live my life. Sometimes I feel this all-consuming pressure from you to do everything, be friends with everyone, never be tied down, because, let’s face it Wes, you’ve got it going on. From concerts to yoga to educating Kenyan girls (shout out to SHOFCO), there are so many things for me to do. There are too many lifestyles and identities I can embody. And, there are far too many attractive, intelligent people to wave at and whose names I can scream across Foss, wondering if I’ll actually have that long-promised lunch date or see them on Fountain this weekend. This excess of opportunity, while it can be awesome, can also be overwhelming. I feel guilty if I’m not saving the world or mingling among your interesting, quirky, beautiful masses. However, I only stand to lose by not committing to my existing relationships and endeavors.
You know what, Wesleyan? I probably won’t end world hunger, or actually be part of a terp dance (even though I really, really want to). It’s perfectly okay to spend a night sipping tea and laughing in my LoRise. What is sad is that I was afraid to do this. I was afraid to not do interesting worldly things for fear of not being interesting myself. I was afraid to commit myself to my friends for fear of being rejected by them. Instead, I overcommitted myself to everything but the people who matter most, my loving and supportive friends, as a mask for my social anxieties. This year I committed myself to not overcommitting, and I have never been happier. I have never felt so close and stable with my friends. I have never felt so secure in being vulnerable. And my social anxiety? Kicked to the curb (for the most part…that ugly monster still lurks beneath my bed).
Essentially, get over yourself, Wesleyan, because I like you and you like me, so why can’t we just be okay with that instead of making a big deal about making it “official.” We’re in a relationship, and right now it rocks. I am committed to you, and it’s okay to make choices about how we spend our time together, our time apart, our time alone, and in what company. Eventually, things might go south, but that’s what happens sometimes in relationships. All that can be learned and experienced in our own and others’ relationships is well worth that risk. Isn’t that called living?
One of your many admirers and “significant others”
Em Trambert is a member of the Class of 2014.