Last week I was in the elevator at work when a group of people stepped on from the floor below mine. Among them were two African American women and a blonde white guy who was probably in his early 30's. He wasn't wearing a ring and I thought he was kind of cute. Even before they spoke, I noticed how he was gazing over at the younger African American woman standing next to him. It felt more like we were in the elevator at the mall than at work.
The other woman complimented the young woman's new hair weave and the guy immediately chimed in that he thought she looked cute too. There was a brief pause and the other woman looked confused for a moment. "It's ok. We're together," the young woman reassured her friend. "We have been dating for about a month now."
She went on to explain how he has learned all about hair weaves and that he totally "gets it." The guy smiled and nodded in agreement as the elevator doors opened. I watched as they walked away together towards the auditorium.
Since when did workplace dating become such an open topic of conversation, I wondered to myself as I headed out to my car. In most places I have worked it has been strongly discouraged, if not forbidden. And even if you were dating someone at work, it was certainly not something you would talk about in a crowded elevator.
And those people had only been dating for a month. Does that even count as a relationship? I have been dating the Boy for almost two years and sometimes it still feels awkward to call him my boyfriend. The only reason I use that term is that it is more socially acceptable than calling him "the guy that I get drunk and have sex with once a week."
I have never been in a hurry to declare that I am in a relationship. In fact, I usually try to avoid declarations. Maybe I am afraid that by saying I want something, I am somehow less likely to get it. Or maybe I just want to save myself the embarrassment if things don't work out, because no one will know that I really wanted it in the first place.
Strangely enough I was watching two different sitcoms this week where the subject of vision boards came up. The idea behind a vision board is that you cut out pictures of things that you envision as part of your future and then you paste them up on a board. The board should remain in a prominent location where you can see it every day. Whether it is by some cosmic twist of fate or by your own focused efforts, the things on your vision board will eventually come true.
The vision board seems to contradict my longstanding philosophy about declarations. If I did create a vision board with my future goals all laid out for me, what would I put on it? And would the Boy be a part of my perfectly envisioned future?
The Boy and I had another one of our talks this week. I have been around the Boy long enough to know that when he starts talking about his future and brings up some random problem, that is usually not the problem at all. A few nights ago, he started talking about how he wants to go back to school. We ended up having a 45 minute conversation about him taking engineering classes so he can feel engaged in his work again.
The entire time I knew that what he really wanted to talk about was our relationship. But he doesn't know how. By the time we finally got to bed it was after midnight. He was tossing and turning and I finally asked him what was wrong.
"I don't know," he replied.
"Yes, you do." I said bluntly. "Every time you start talking about figuring things out in your life, I know that what you are really talking about is me. You know exactly what is wrong, so maybe we should talk about it."
We both agreed that there has been a distance between us lately. And I explained to the Boy that the issues really started after he turned up the heat on the baby conversation. Before then, our relationship was moving along just fine. That conversation put this huge external deadline on us. Yet, after the initial discussion the Boy never wanted to talk about it again. It was like this huge elephant in the room and we were both pretending it didn't exist.
Instead of talking in circles for the next hour, I decided to lay it out for him. "Look, in a normal relationship it is the woman who pushes the marriage and kids agenda. The guy is never ready for it. After they have been dating a few years, the woman tells the man that its time to put a ring on her finger. Then after they have been married for a few years, the woman clues him in that its time to start a family."
He seemed interested in my line of reasoning, so I continued. "You are not dating a typical woman. I will never be the one to suggest that its time for us to get married or have a baby. If you want those things someday, then you are going to have to figure out the path for us to get there."
"But do you even want those things?" he asked.
The truth is that I didn't want those things, at least not in the way that most women seem to view motherhood. As if it is an inevitable destination. An inherent part of being a woman. But I also know that the last time the Boy and I talked about having kids was the first time that I seriously considered it as a possibility in my life. And I left the door open for him, even if it was just a small crack.
"Well, I can tell you this. I would consider having a baby with the guy I was dating six months ago. He was kind and sweet. He anticipated my needs and he took care of me. There is no way I would have a baby with the guy I am dating right now. You are not communicating with me and I am so frustrated with your choices. I cannot even begin to imagine how trapped I would feel in this relationship if there was a baby sleeping in the room next door."
It felt good to get everything out in the open. I have been so irritated with the Boy lately that I didn't even bother to tell him what was wrong. I just left him to figure it out for himself, which is clearly not his strong suit. And if he didn't figure it out, I was going to break up with him.
"Thanks. That is good information to know," he said. "I just feel like we need to make our own plan so we know where this is going."
"I agree. Right now we are so disconnected that we need to go back to the beginning," I told him. "You should stop worrying about whether I want to have a baby with you and try to figure out how to make me want to go on a date with you."
The Boy left the next day for a weekend trip to see his family in Kansas. I guess we both have a lot to think about while he is away.
Maybe you do need to declare what you want if you are going to get it. When the Boy comes home, we are each going to list three things we wish the other person would do more of and three things we wish the other person would do less of. It may not be a vision board, but hopefully it will help set us in the right direction.