I’ve been trying recently to talk to my mother about boys. I want to share these kinds of life details with her, but it’s hard. We just have different frames of reference. So I’ve developed a special language.
“Wanting to hook up” with a boy translates to “liking.” “Sorta hooking up” is “seeing.” “Hooking up” is dating. And “exclusive” in her world is “a little more than hooking up” in mine. Sometimes there’s confusion. Like one time when I told her I “kissed” a boy (read: hooked up) and she replied: “That’s because he respects you.” I think that was a linguistic-ideological miscommunication.
I’ve tried to explain to her that there is a different romantic process now. A process that can be roughly divided into four stages:
Stage 1: Seeing each other while out. You may hook up for the first time at this stage.
Stage 2: Calling/texting to coordinate being out. You may hook up for the first time at this stage.
Stage 3: Formally arranged being out, like coffee. Or a drink. Maybe even dinner. If you’re going to hook up, it’s definitely happened by this stage.
Stage 4: The time-share period of the relationship, when there’s no “event.” You just arrange time to “be together.” This is what our parents called “dating.”
Sometimes hooking up does not occur in Stage 3 or even Stage 4. That’s because this person, whether you like it or not, is your “friend.”
I fear, occasionally, that our system replaces real intimacy with physical intimacy. I’ve been thinking that more and more because I’ve started seeking, more and more, emotional validation from strangers. A couple of days ago I saw this poster outside Durfee’s calling for participants for a study involving ketamine. So I called the number. This guy answers.
“How can I help you?”
“Um … I’m calling up about participating in the ketamine study?” I reply.
“OH,” he says. “Where did you see the poster??”
I look at the poster. It’s on a bulletin board.
“A bulletin board.”
It took me a little too long to remember the word for a bulletin board.
“Okay … so you know what ketamine is? You know, on the street they call it ‘special K’?”
“Yeah I’ve heard that,” I reply, trying really hard not to sound like I wanted to seem hip to street-drug slang.
I’ve actually only heard of ketamine because a couple of my friends from high school have told me stories about taking it. They continue to take it, and tell me these stories, even though every time they just describe feeling terrified for 15 minutes and then falling asleep.
“It’s a horse tranquilizer, right?”
“Well, they give it to children too. Like babies. To anaesthetize babies in pain.”
Beat. I had no idea what I was meant to say in response to his babies-in-pain comment.
“We need to screen you,” he said.
“Screen me up!” I said, because I’m a tool.
“Okay. Do you have any history of mental illness in your immediate family.”
“Well, my mom’s crazy. Ha. Not really though.”
“Okay. What race are you?”
I thought the word “Caucasian” would sound more official than “white.” But nope. I just sounded like a tool.
I was nervous. My palms were sweaty. Nothing makes me want to get a guy to like me more than humiliating myself in front of him.
“Single,” which I’m pretty sure I said flirtatiously.
“Could you possibly be pregnant?”
“Nope,” which I definitely said flirtatiously.
“Is there any metal in your body?”
“Yeah, a little. A plate and seven screws in my ankle.” This shit was getting lewd.
“Are you a veteran?”
“A veteran of what?”
“Uh … war.”
We both laughed.
We talked about my family, my psychological health, the amount I drink, the drugs I’ve tried. My weight. My height. Whether I’m on birth control. He never judged me once.
I passed the screening. He wants to see me again.
Isn’t it absurd how human beings in our modern world, atomized and really awkward about race, find serendipitous moments to connect with one another? They should totally make a movie about that. With Sandra Bullock. And that movie should never win an Oscar.
My mother, for all her “liking” and “seeing” and “dating” could never have had that symmetry. She couldn’t appear too interested, express desire or make a move. She couldn’t be the subject in her own movie. Her movie also couldn’t have had an all-star multi-ethnic cast of characters because people were hella more racist back then.
So I can’t talk to my mother about modern love. But not because our generation has devolved into animal-lust and moral bankruptcy. The opposite, in fact.
I’m pretty sure it’s because of progress.