I have been in a committed relationship for nearly two months. I learned this last week.
I’m no idiot. I obviously knew I was dating the guy. But I thought that was it. Casual dating. Noncommittal. Fun.
And it has been fun. It’s been that European prince fantasy every girl dreams about — that one I completely debunked in a column in what seems like forever ago. Oops.
Little did I know that I’d soon be holding hands with that tall Polish guy in my communication class. Little did I know that he’d be taking me out for drinks, that I’d be cooking him an all-American dinner, that he’d bear a rose in his hand when I met him at the metro and that I’d even meet his family.
I guess these events should have made the whole committed relationship thing obvious.
And it was obvious. But in America, we like things to be painfully obvious. We demand the “conversation” to be had. After a minimum of a few weeks of steady dating, someone breaks down and pops the question: “So, what are we exactly?”
Then it’s established. Or it ends, because one person just isn’t convinced that the other person is worth being tied down to.
I told this all to the boyfriend after having an odd version of the “conversation.” I explained that in the States, you could be dating someone for a couple of weeks and then kiss someone else at a party, but it’s not cheating or anything, because there was no “conversation.” There was no contract.
He was amazed. That sort of behavior would never fly in Belgium. If you aren’t fully satisfied with a person, you don’t date them. Simple. If you like each other, you are committed. Duh.
I had trouble believing this European system of dating could really be that easy. How do you know you are committed? How do you really know the other person feels the same way if you don’t talk about it? You know what they say about assuming…
Apparently, you just know.
The boyfriend said that he knew I was his girlfriend after our first kiss.
That was startling, and surprisingly old fashioned. How can you make that commitment after just one kiss?
But it’s not just him. I talked to one of my Belgian host-sisters about the entire situation. She thought it was hysterical — well of course we were boyfriend-girlfriend. We went out on more than one date and we kissed on more than one occasion. Done deal, she said.
My American roommate and I were stunned. That’s it? Just two dates and I signed my romantic life away?
We tried to decipher all of this. We guessed that the Europeans just skip over the whole trial dating period we Americans relish. In return, Europeans generally have many more, short-term relationships, and those relationships don’t necessarily have all those intense connotations that Americans tend to obsess over.
Americans are just too attached to labels.
Why does that “conversation” seem necessary? Relationships don’t need to be so stringently defined. If they work, they work. If they don’t, it’s probably not because you had the “conversation” too early.
Likewise, we Americans can get pretty uptight. We want to talk about everything from our current feelings to our histories. We call it honesty and open communication. In Europe, these heavy discussions don’t happen. You just enjoy each other’s company — why bog it down with complications?
Europeans are far better at living in the moment. Americans are constantly thinking about deadlines. Time is always running out. There isn’t enough time to take our classes. We can’t graduate on time. We can’t find a job. We need to settle down. We need to find someone to marry, and quick, because we won’t meet people after we graduate. And our biological clocks are ticking.
This is a common mindset. And thus, we date. We date a lot. We date and we don’t commit because we don’t want to waste time. Someone might be great, but someone else is probably better.
Paris isn’t the only city of love. You see tons of completely carefree couples parading around all of Europe. If you want that too, stop over thinking, shed your urgency and choose to waste hours away on a park bench. There may be no future on that bench, but that doesn’t make it any less perfect.
JANELLE BITKER is still not accustomed to all this gentleman behavior. Remind her of normalcy at firstname.lastname@example.org.