Hypotheticals: the, “but the parents bought her the apartment” pickle

December 9, 2010

The blog is a year older today – and maybe finally wiser

December 9, 2010

Learning to speak relationship

December 9, 2010
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The most awkward part about your very first job is never the job itself.

You probably went to some liberal arts college where you studied some non-practical subject that lead you to some entry-level job based on a description that included things like, “self-motivated” and “detail-oriented” and “multitasker a must.” The tasks themselves were everything you’d been warned about, and you could (did…) knock them out with a mind-crippling hangover. The issue was the unanticipated learning curve of the work place foreign language. The ins and outs of business were conducted in some hybrid of American English mixed with lingo and acronyms and jargon specific to your chosen sector. Presentations were called “decks”; brainstorming was “ideation”; “coordinators” were assistants, and explaining was “briefing” and people who pay for things in exchange for your business are called “reps.”

Now part of whatever actual world you entered (mine was an entertainment marketing mix) and responsible for asking very important people to do specific things in their native tongue (if Amex travel agents are very important people and booking travel for your CEO boss is the very specific thing), you felt like a hack – an awkward, inexperienced, hack with a bad accent. The words didn’t roll off your tongue like you’d said them a million times before. It was more like a slow piddle out with a split second stop in your brain for over analysis and paranoia. Nothing about it felt natural.

Assimilating does not happen over night (says the girl who recently asked someone to help her make flash cards of Hollywood terminology). It’s a grammar school slow process of slipping into the job and feeling correct using its language to both be understood and prove you understand.

And it’s the same in every experience stepping into a new life environment. You enter the group, hear the way they speak, and slowly develop a comfort in communication.

Unleesss “the group” in question is a party of two – namely you and your new significant other. Because in that scenario you’re both the assistants, both the bosses, and both writing the lexicon of lingo.

As single people we are specific communicators. We think as “I”, act as “I” and consequently talk as “I.” And if the “we” in question happened to spend – say – the past 10 years locked in that fluency, switching brains to the vocabulary of being in a relationship bears a first job-style learning curve.

The intro to English vocab version: talking like a girlfriend is hard.

First there’s expression of desire in a non bratty manner that is both inclusive of both people and yet firm in personal need. I would like for us to want to go ____________ and to want __________ and _________ to join, and for around _____o’clock to be the time that works best for us. What are your thoughts on this?

Then there’s explanation of concern over a given action with motivation to change the action and any action like it moving forward, i.e. It made me feel sort of ________ when you did _________ when we were at __________. Do you a. remember what I’m talking about? b. agree? and c. feel like you could never do that again without being eternally annoyed at my making that request?

Of course that’s got nothing on the attempt at explanation of a given personal mood relative to life at large:

  • Guy: Why are you so upset about ________? It’s just a ________.
  • You: Well…it’s complicated because several instances of _________ have occurred in various formats over the past decade leaving me more than just your average bit of bummed when ________ happens. In order to aptly explain it to you I feel the need to go through each of those instances but know that if I do so you will probably break up with me, so can we just leave it at, “I’m fine”?

For me though – and perhaps for all girls who spent the past 5 years mostly single and fully in Ne York City – the greatest barrier to fluency is the vocabulary of affection. I love it when ________, you make me feel _________, I’m really ________ right now just being with you. Those very first times you feel like both some character in a high school-based romantic comedy (American Pie, perhaps) bumbling through your lines and the audience watching as it goes down with a, “ooooh, GOD, don’t say it like that, you sound like a moron!”

For those of us who like to choose and control our words very wisely slash tightly, speaking relationship is a mine field of awkward bombs that you can’t, “oops, texted the wrong person!” your way out of.

My approach: just start most/everything significant you have to say with, “okay, nervous, here we go,” ___________. This way nothing you actually have to say will be quite as weird as the way you launched into saying it.

And hopefully – if you’re really, really lucky – the person on the receiving end of your crazy will respond like the sweetest 1st grade teacher would with a, “Wow, good one. You’re really making progress!”


  1. i love this post! i think mostly because i have tried writing several posts on feeling the influences of those ackward new language moments, and have yet to properly explain what im talking about. this is what im talking about!well put!

  2. Jessie! I am so curious about R! Will there be a post in the future talking about how you guys met and how the romance first began? All of the 20 Nothing masses are dying to know!

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