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Parallax - Advice            June 5, 2000

   She caught him unaware with the boyfriend title

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When does a girl become a girlfriend? It's been happening to me recently that I'm going out with a girl, all casual like, and then all of a sudden she's introducing me as her boyfriend. I mean, without a discussion or anything, she just decided like that: we're an item - and I had nothing to do with the decision. I think I'm OK with being the boyfriend, but shouldn't we have had at least some sort of 'moment'?

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Her view:

Dear Boyfriend,

Yes, technically you should have had the 'it's okay to call me your boyfriend' conversation. But so what? Lighten up - you should be pleased she refers to you this way. She could have introduced you as 'this guy I use for sex.' Instead she gave you a very nice title. For all you know, she could be using you for sex and then you would wonder why you weren't worthy of the boyfriend title.

Now, if you're still cruising for chicks and don't want to be tied down, I can see how this could pose a problem. If this is the case, you should probably have the 'back off - I still want to sleep around' conversation. Tee that up and you will instantly nix the boyfriend title - pretty much forever.

So you decide - but I think it's no biggie. Next time introduce her as your wife and see how she likes that. When she suggests that maybe you could have had a conversation around that, you should have the 'conversations are so passť' conversation.

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His view:

Dear Boyfriend,

What we have here is an insidious problem of the old chicken-and-egg variety. What comes first, the title, or the status?

Normally, the status comes first, and the title simply confirms it to the outside world. You don't become a boyfriend as the outcome of a single decision, be it premeditated or sudden. Instead, the transformation takes place as the accumulated effect of a dozen earlier choices (intentional or not) pushes you over the fuzzy line that divides 'just dating' from 'being an item.'

However, in your case it appears to have happened the other way around. You were given the title before you had a chance to make all those little choices and ease into 'boyfriend status.' In essence, she yanked you into the world of exclusivity, hand-holding in public places, and don't-even-dare-make-weekend-plans-without-me, without your consent.

This happens often, whenever the woman is more clever than the man, and for two main reasons. She has decided your opinion is irrelevant, or, she assumes you're just too shy to take the lead.

In either case, other than breaking up or sticking it out, you don't have many choices. By not immediately contesting her assertion, you basically conceded the point. If you don't want to break off the relationship, but you also don't want to be her boyfriend, then you'll be in the unenviable position of having to figure out what exactly you are, since she already is, most certainly, your girlfriend.

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