Who dat?

Friend. Girlfriend. Shawty. Female friend. Home girl. Lady. Guy friends. Homies. Boyfriend. Man. “Boo”.

It’s not Free for All Friday, but some things can’t wait. Today I was indirectly asked 2 questions that need to addressed quick-fast in a hurry. What is it with women and labels? Why do women always have to put a label on a relationship between two people?

Let it be clear – not all women are into labels. That said, let’s go into analyzing this.

A label is something that is used to set forth what something contains. A label sets forth expectations, letting the user or reader or observer know what to expect from something. A label of “explicit lyrics” on a CD alerts a buyer that the CD is unsuitable for children to hear. A label on a can of soup lets a buyer know the ingredients and caloric information — and what kind of soup they’re buying. Labels are informative and necessary in all consumer settings. Whether labels are informative or necessary in dealings with relationships between men and women is a topic of much debate.

Today’s discussion questions were more of an observation from a married man who has a lot of single guy friends who say that “all” women (read: all the women they come in contact with) want to rush to put a “label” on a relationship, while the guys are just “trying to chill.”

random pic: paki-masala & me, summertime in DC

random pic: paki-masala & me, summertime in DC

With certain labels come certain expectations. A label lets others know: who is this person to you? If a man and woman are out together at a party, people will react to them based on whether one of them introduces the other as “my friend”, “my girl/boyfriend”, or by the person’s name only. My “friend” is sometimes, but not always, used to indicate a non-romantic relationship. This way, if one “friend” hits on someone they’ve introduced the other “friend” to at the party, there is no reason to suspect anything between those people, no sense that those 2 people were a couple or dating.  An introduction with the label of girl or boyfriend clearly indicates a dating or couple relationship.

No label, just an introduction as “this is (person’s name),” is open to interpretation.

Such vagueness is often intentional. Maybe those two people haven’t discussed what label, if any, their relationship has. Maybe one person knows that the other wants a certain label, but they don’t want that label. Or, the label (or lack thereof) may be left open for the everyone to speculate and inquire about. Or maybe there is just too much being read into the whole “label” thing.

Some labels, like my “boo” or my “home girl” or my “friend”, can have meanings that vary based on the person using them. This is why in these past few posts, I can’t stress enough that communication is the KEY to heading off potential arguments and embarrassing situations that can arise in the context of male-female relations, especially regarding the use of labels.

Labels are useful when it comes to quickly and easily letting others know what’s going on with you and the person you’re out with, provided that the label has a commonly understood meaning. Jumping into a discussion about putting a label on a relationship between a man and a woman can be just as unsettling to a man as it can be to a woman, if that person isn’t at a point that they feel the discussion is needed (or doesn’t want to discuss it.) Of course, there will always be people who, for whatever reasons, want to “label” a relationship without regard to what the other person wants.So, label if you like — but make sure you know what the label means between you and the other person.

If you happen to be in a relationship that exists, with no expectations (other than the basics like being treated with mutual respect and as a friend) and you already know the answer to “who am I to this person?” — then, there may be no need for labels, and that’s perfectly ok too. Well…that’s this woman’s point of view, anyway. 🙂

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “Who dat?

  1. sameeoneverything

    yeah Dre! why can’t people just “be”? 🙂 thanks for reading!

  2. Dre

    I agree with Samsonite. Labels aren’t necessarily a bad thing, but I have always had a small about of disdain for the restrictive nature that a label brings. When a label is placed on a relationship, there comes a certain about of assumptions and “rules” that come into play. For example, if you are “dating” or in a boyfriend girlfriend “relationship”, why does that imply that the two people are on the way to the altar? And why cant two people just date exclusively without being led to buying a ring and having 2 kids and a dog? Why can’t the person be Mr. or Mrs. “right now” instead of Mrs. or Mr. “right”?

    Is it me or does it seem like that labels are also used to imply ownership or marking territories for people who feel insecure about their situations, so they need to use words instead of actions. If I’m satisfying my woman and doing my job as a man, and Im also happy, why do I care what my label is? Whether i’m boyfriend or boo or homie…. she is going to come back for more of what I’m offering as she likes what she’s getting. As long as she comes back, I will be more than happy to oblige, as long as she uses the right label **sarcasm** If she doesn’t address me properly, I will have to get rid of her, no matter how well things are going! We have to get rid of the “putting everything in boxes and categories” mentality!

  3. sameeoneverything

    excellent points, samsonite! i tried to present this post neutrally, to encourage comments such as yours. thank you!

  4. Samsonite

    I completely understand the need for titles, however as I have known since I was a pup, they don’t mean anything, at all. Boy/girl friend, what does that mean? Well if you’re in 3rd grade it means something different than high school, and yet another difference in college and yet another difference in post college world. So, how does one know what it means to different people or prospective mates? You never know, b/c relationships outside of marriage are made up, just like fo-sheezy and badunkadunk. It means whatever you want it to mean at any given time, and have no permanance. The thing about marriage is that it forces a person to define a relationship and live up to an expectation or face legal repercussions. Everything else is just made-up stuff. A guy once told me that if you are going out with a girl and she decides to be with another man, you really can’t say or do anything b/c you ain’t got no papers on her. It’s easier, from an administrative standpoint, to break-up with someone than it is to get out of a cell-phone contract. Food for thought for those people who are in “committed relationships” but not married. In effect a person who has a boy/girl friend and thinks that their mate owns them something more than common courtesy, is sadly mistaken. There are no rules, even the so-called ones that you and the person may agree to. Why? Because who’s going to enforce them and what’s the penalty for breaking the rules. I think some women, and men for that matter, seem to think that calling a person “boyfriend” or “girlfriend” actually means something. Guess what, it dosen’t. It means about the same thing it did in 3rd grade. Boyfriend/girlfriend is to marriage as sidehustle is to incorporation.

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