It's Complicated

A page from my art journal
Relationships are not easy. They're not black and white. They don't wrap up all nice and tight with a little bow with a "Happily Ever After" inscription attached. They are, in fact, complicated. We all know this. It's a reality we've had to face since the moment we ever cared about someone. Probably the first taste of it came when you didn't get invited to a birthday party you expected to be invited to in the third grade or whenever it was that inviting the whole class stopped being an imperative. Yes, even with friends, things can be complicated. It's no surprise that when romantic feelings and sex get involved it gets even more complicated because honestly, most of us are only just pretending to have a clue about who we are and what we want and how we feel.

It's complicated. We all know it.

Yet whenever it pops up on our facebook feeds we all groan.

"So and so went from being single/taken to being in a complicated relationship." 

What the hell does that even mean? -- my immediate reaction.

Relationships don't fit into nice neat little boxes and people have varying sexualities and romantic orientations. I have asexual friends who want romance. I have aromantic friends who want sex. I have known people to be polyamorous at one point or another. I have straight friends and gay friends and queer friends and friends who are straight with the exception of so and so and bisexual friends and pansexual friends. There are a lot of different ways to love and be loved, and more importantly it's not really any of my damn business. Yet whenever it comes onto my feed, I want to know what exactly this "complicated" thing is-- maybe because facebook makes it feel like my business by putting it into my social stream.

And this is where it gets crazy.

Sometimes, you know exactly what your relationship with your person (or persons) is and facebook doesn't have the words for it. Whatever, facebook can't do everything. So you hit "it's complicated" because it happens to not fit any of the other options. But other times, you have no idea, no clue, as to where you stand, and yet you're not quite single and you're not quite taken, and we feel obligated to make the world aware of our relationship status, and suddenly we are declaring to the world that we are in a complicated relationship. It becomes everyone else's business that you have no idea where you stand with someone. Our misunderstandings and best guesses are not only recorded and evidenced, but publicly valued as a part of who we are.

That's hard enough to admit to yourself. It's even harder to confront your partner-in-complication with it and DTR, Define The Relationship. How absolutely bizarre it is to admit to the world that you are in a complicated relationship that you don't totally have a firm grip on and you haven't worked it all out with your partner? This is uncharted territory in more ways than one.

Back in the day, either your good buddies heard about your love life from you directly, or mysterious whispers emanated from the local rumor mill, unconfirmed. Nowadays we publicly announce our drama, our romantic issues, and even our lunches. When you select "it's complicated" from the drop down menu of relationship status, you announce your own uncertainty and invite questions and speculation. You confirm confusion. We are expected to tell everyone that we haven't figured ourselves or our partner out. Talk about a strange turn of the times. It's hard enough to figure out who you are and what you want without feeling like your life is part of some grand arena of elaborate and nonsensical game shows.

But maybe, then again, when we write single or taken, it's not necessarily that cut and dry. No guarantees anyone is being totally honest. No guarantees that there won't be fights or that the relationship is founded on misunderstandings of themselves or each other. And with cyber dating, there's no guarantee that we really are dating anyone at all. (Obligatory Manti Te'o  reference here.)

We orient ourselves in the world based on labels because they frame our understanding of things. They are our anchors. Tell me whatever you like about labels not mattering, but they are a part of our identity and how we define ourselves. But labels don't always fit and in the world of dating, things are almost always more complicated than a little drop-down menu can even begin to describe. Despite this, there's an expectation to slap a sticker on our lives and show it to the world.

Are we kidding ourselves? Will our relationships always partially belong to our network of friends, family, and acquaintances? Are we, in this information age where Amazon can suggest anything from a book to a vibrator based on past purchases, kidding ourselves to think that we have a similar measure of privacy to the one we did before our communications were stored digitally? On another note, is it unrealistic to even ask people to know where they stand with someone, especially in our adolescences and first steps into adulthood? Because I know I can name 3 things off the top of my head I have complicated relationships with that aren't nearly as complicated as a whole separate person.
  1. Chicken McNuggets. I know they're bad for me, but they feel so right. They've been with me since childhood and never let me down. I think the thing that really gets me is the comfort in knowing that they're always consistent. Consistently awful for me, but seriously, no matter where I go or how awful my day was there will always be Chicken McNuggets and they will always taste the same and I will always eat them the same bizarre way I have since childhood.
  2. Glee. The writing is so heavy handed it makes me want to cry. They constantly destroy their own characters in order to push the latest issue or hot single. They try to walk the line between campy and heartfelt, pushing harmful stereotypes for a cheap laugh and then trying to preach on the social ills of our generation. But the cast is so damn talented that I don't want to abandon them. It's not their fault basically everyone who makes decisions but casting people suck.
  3. My body. It's so easy to claim that I love it for the sake of advancing women everywhere and then use that so-called ownership of my body to fill it with awful things like the aforementioned McNuggets. That is not an act of love when I do it on a daily basis (bad food, not McNuggets specifically), it's an act of self-destruction. I keep saying I'll find the time to work out and I still haven't yet (although I'm trying to walk more).
Life is complicated. People are complicated. (And, at least for me, Chicken McNuggets are complicated.) Quite frankly, I don't know if anyone ever really figures everything out. So why am I expecting things to not be complicated? Maybe "it's complicated" should be the default for our statuses instead of the obscure, absurd filler seemingly relegated to those who are surrounded by relationship drama. 

Anyone interested in reading more of my relationship-related ramblings should hit up my latest Op-Ed for HerCampus Nationals on Why The Epic Date is a Tale of Double-Standards.


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