by: Mar Curran
It takes a lot to pin me down in a relationship, internet. I am more than reluctant to invest the time and emotional energy it takes to be in something “official,” especially as I am quick to label someone as just a friend and then assume they won’t be interested in making out with my face. It’s not that I don’t want to be in a relationship. I’m just, as my therapist puts it, able to be selective because I’m so fulfilled in my relationships with myself and my friends. I feel this is my therapist’s way of telling me it’s okay to be picky, and I fully embrace it.
Due to not having a drive to enter into a romantic situation, I often instead enter into fake relationships. Listen, most of us have been there: you’re so close to a friend that you tell everyone they’re your platonic boyfriend. Or your mutual friends keep asking when you and your friend are finally going to date, so you joke about it online. Or you drunkenly tell a bartender to sneak you whiskey because your “partner” won’t take you home if you drink any more, because you think that’s less embarrassing than saying your friend has that much influence on your night (this logic thus proving how drunk you are). We’ve all been there, right? Right? But I digress.
I recently started thinking more about the people who I’ve been in non-relationships with (usually my friends), how those represented different times in my life and different ways they fulfilled me. I compiled a list of all my fake relationships below.
My first fake relationship was during a time when Facebook first became popular in high school. This was by far one of my best proposals to date. At lunch one day sitting next to each other, I asked Caitlin what was wrong with her hand. When she held it up, puzzled and said nothing, I asked to see it, and then slipped a ring on her ring finger, yelling, “HA now we’re engaged!” Please note that this was before I’d figured out I was queer, and although I never had any romantic feelings at all for Caitlin, this maybe should have been a sign. We had a Facebook engagement status for a week before she pulled the plug on it; we remained friends for years, which is better than I can say for any of my real relationships.
One of my oldest college friends, Asia and I initially bonded because we were in parallel romantic relationships for years. We both had partners with a shit ton of issues who cheated on us and were unhealthy to different degrees. One of the biggest differences between us, though, was that once my relationship was over, it was “bury it in the ground” over, whereas Asia’s was more “bury it in the pet cemetery so it can come back in a week” over. I had to ask every time I talked to her whether they were off or on, and as time went on Asia grew more and more frustrated with the situation.
During an “on” period with some weird fights between them, Asia invited me over to drink wine and watch HBO’s nighttime sexy shows (the latter I did not know until I got to her apartment; it was very odd). We eventually got silly drunk and decided to put on Facebook that we were in a relationship to see what people would say. The comments ranged from joy (“I’m so happy for you two!”) to confusuion (“Whaaaa?!”) to humor (“I think this was a graduation requirement.”). It confused a lot of people for the 36 hours or so we kept up the ruse before Asia’s girlfriend got upset and yelled at her about it, forcing our breakup. Asia would like me to mention here how many hot women she is now dating since their breakup became final.
I’m not exactly sure how we became faux-engaged, but IOW brought us together. Actually, thanks to Facebook I just looked up what happened. Johnny reposted my zombie article, captioning it, “Must resist the urge to propose to Mar. Must hold out.” The rest is now history. Since then we’ve pushed back our engagement, as we’re both 14-year-old boys, he with loving “Call Me Maybe,” and me with second puberty. It’s always affirming to see a post of yours on your fake future hubby’s page talking about what a sexy brain you have when you write articles about relationships and reality television.
My friend Tyler and I worked together in our senior year on rape research, which, let me tell you, is not as romantic as it sounds. Our whole group became fast friends and after finishing our research we were drinking at Big Chicks one night, and Tyler and I began talking about how we were going to go to a bear bar together as he is a bear and I am a self-professed “cubtwink.” I told him I’d pretend to be his boyfriend at the bar and he laughed and agreed. A pitcher or two later we discussed how confused people would be if we were dating and I yelled, “You’d better not reject the Facebook relationship request I’m going to send you!” He earnestly said he would not, and at the time of publication we’re still fake dating.
I really blame this on on him, folks. My IOW boss and I went out to dinner one night after our regular staff meeting. We walked into a small dingy Thai restaurant, sat across the table from one another, and Patrick pulled out a crossword puzzle. For us to do together. Friends don’t do crosswords together, people. Married couples do.
We spend about 30 hours a week together at our real-people job where we’re coworkers, and it began to be a fun joke for me to talk about how we’re going to be married someday. Then Patrick started to get into it, too. I am now at times referred to as “shnookums” or “honey,” even in front of customers. We joke about our future kids and music we’ll play at our future fake wedding.
I think reflecting on my fake relationships shows a progression of how I have changed in my real life: a failed engagement, some casual dating, an open relationship and future marriage. It can also be fun to look at trends that emerge that might be revealing. I see the word “marriage” popped up a lot in my fake relationships, which surely means nothing about my desire for a stable long-term commitment. Mostly I think these relationships just speak to a desire to connect to another human being in a way that feels less vulnerable than a real relationship. It’s easy for me to tell Patrick I love him if I follow it up with a riff about wedding vows, or to tell Tyler I miss him if I joke about being a neglected boyfriend. Maybe someday I’ll be in a place where I can just say those things. For now, though, l’ll keep arguing with Patrick about walking down the aisle to Journey.
Mar Curran is a trans/queer rights activist and community organizer; he is on the boards of Video Action league, Advocate Loyola, the Queer intercollegiate Alliance, and works with GetEQUAL. As spoken word artist, he has read at each All The Writers I Know event. He studies Communications and Women’s Studies at Loyola University Chicago. Curran likes beer and cats.