The meaning of ‘love’ has become so elusive, and it continues to grow even more so with each year that reality roughens up our baby skin.
Unfortunately, the older and supposedly wiser we get, the more we overanalyse, and the more muddled every situation becomes. Whether we are single, taken, in an ambiguous partial commitment, only sexually committed, declared aromantic—whatever, the lines around the word ‘love’ remain blurred. The problem is, when it comes to love, romance, sex and relationships, we are all terribly fickle people. We don’t know what we want, we speak and act the opposite of how we feel, and we are terrified of seeming vulnerable.
Especially for people in their 20’s at the peak of emerging adulthood and self-discovery, there are a few general facades we put up in regards to ‘love.’ The commonality lies in a mutual desperation to mask a vulnerability that is inescapably present.
1. The “Don’t need no S.O.”
1A. You are a strong, independent man or woman, and you don’t need nobody to tell you nothing. You are going to hold your head up high and smile confidently, then steadfastly declare your pride in being a goddamn independent. Being single is the best thing to happen to you, and you are so happy. Forget all the baggage that comes with relationships. You are unrestricted by commitment, there’s the liberty to be yourself; no need to go through the discomfort of dressing up, and no need to spend extra money to ‘show affection.’ You are comfortable with being single because your happiness doesn’t depend on having a boyfriend or girlfriend to buy you chocolates.
1B. You put on the same façade as 1A, but you don’t really mean it deep down. Valentine’s Day is a masquerade ball for you—a shout of “I love being single,” then a whisper of “someone please come love me, I don’t want to be alone today.” Let’s face it, everyone wants to be wanted, and especially in public with obnoxious PDA, you are acutely aware of your less-than-extravagant relationship status. But it’s okay—just throw on that smile and that suit of confidence, call your best friends your ‘significant others,’ and act like you are enjoying yourself. No one will know how vulnerable you really feel.
2. The Love Hater
2A. Let’s face it, Valentine’s Day, PDA, cute couples, rom coms—screw them all. You’ve been “hurt too many times before,” so you might as well give up altogether. While everyone else celebrates anniversaries and goes out on dates, you can throw yourself a pity party for one. You can sit at home depressed in your pajamas with the company Ben and Jerry (and maybe Hershey can come along too). There’s no point in even trying to hide the tears, so maybe Netflix can join in on the sulking party. You guys can buy each other chocolate, and maybe your mum will send you a nice care package because she pities you, too.
2B. What is love even? Yeah, that’s right, it’s dumb and it doesn’t exist. Everyone else can go flaunt their happiness and relationships, but you don’t even care. You can wear your skull and crossbones with a gray frown on your face. While everyone else celebrates love, you will celebrate darkness, just like the gloom of your soul. You’d rather cut out your own heart than show any sign of affection.
2C. You put on this sarcastic, cynical tough façade when deep down, all you want is to be loved. Don’t we all?
3. I love love!
3A. Love is obscure, relationships are difficult, but it all will be worth it! There really is nothing greater than finding your complementary puzzle piece that you’ve searched long and hard for! Perfect matches are few and far between, but you will remain a hopeless romantic! Don’t let the cynics get in your way! You may watch way too many rom coms, but it’s important to remain starry eyed!!!
3B. Sigh… anything for the pursuit of love right?… Remaining hopeful, but romantically frustrated would be a more correct term. You’re moving through your 20’s so quickly—when will it be time to give up? Maybe cupid just needs to come and cast some of his luck down on you. Meanwhile, you’ll just be sitting there, waiting for Mr. or Ms. Right, alone at the bar…
4. Dazed and Confused
4A. Confused? You’re not confused. You’re single and happy. You’re in a relationship and happy. What’s there to be confused about?
4B. Yeah, happy is the right term… But you may (?) or may not (?) be in love? Or want a relationship? Or want to break up? Can you remain happy in the friend zone, or do you want something more? Does the other person want that?—but don’t ask, because that might make things awkward. Despite burning questions though, keep your texts vague so you don’t seem desperate. Say what you think the other person wants to hear. Continue to desperately want clarity, but fuel the ambiguity. Everything’s fine… right?
5. Informally Committed
5A. FWB. No strings attached. Fuck buddies. Booty calls. Call it what you want—it’s just a casual thing. It’s been made very clear that this relationship is purely physical. You’re okay with that, and so is your partner. You’re both adults and adults have ‘needs,’ and there’s nothing wrong with a bit of fun. What you both don’t need is a commitment that sucks up all your time, your money, and your emotional stability. This keeps it nice and simple.
5B. You may (?) or may not (?) be developing feelings for this person? But the silent agreement is that this will be purely physical. You guys haven’t really talked about what exactly you’re doing or what exactly you both want, but keep your cool face on and assume that the other person only wants something casual. Why would they want commitment? It’s not like you secretly want to be committed, either. Yeah, staying quiet is the safe thing to do, because confrontation will only lead to awkwardness. What if the other person doesn’t want the same thing as you? Uh oh. Then it’s out in the air and people get hurt, and what was supposed to be ‘casual’ turned messy.
5C. “I only do one-night stands.” Use these hookups to forget about how desperately lonely and insecure you really feel, then move onto the next person. Perhaps you’ve been broken by love and are secretly afraid of commitment, so it’s okay, pretend to be too cool for love and act like you live life on the wild side.
6A. Well, you’re a couple and you’re happy with where you’re at. It’s a mutual relationship with mutual physical and emotional benefits, and everyone is happy. Simple.
6B. You and your SO are so wonderfully in love and you will use any excuse to flaunt that. You’ve had the great fortune of finding each other, so the whole world must know! Look at other couples around you, try to one up them, and make sure whatever you do is overly extravagant so everyone knows you’re in love. PDA, or UEDA (unnecessarily explicit displays of affection) only reaffirms the strength of your relationship—because you guys are stronger than ever, right?
6C. Welp, it’s clear that you don’t have a perfect relationship, but keep on pretending it’s okay. Continue to fight and cry and break up, then kiss and make up, only to do it all over again. It’ll work out. It’ll get better. Something will change even though everything has remained stagnant for so long.
Now, we may believe (or persuade ourselves into believing) we identify most with one type. Truly though, we are all a blurred amalgamation of these personas, always jumping from one to another—never really knowing what we want. We are all fickle people—but supposedly, that comes with the territory of being in our 20’s. Isn’t love supposed to be this one great experiment with too many screw-ups to record? It’s only with too many errors and false theories that we can finally draw somewhat sensible conclusions. It’s only when we live through the confusion with an indecisive heart that we can finally figure out what we do want… right?