By Julian Patterson

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The question that usually precedes this statement goes a little something like this: “Are you guys, like, dating?” In some instances you might respond with an emphatic “YES!” Other instances you may shrug you shoulders and continue about your day. Or, you might even get defensive and deny until you die. But what about those who respond, “We’ve been hooking up for a few weeks?”

This person is trapped in a classic college situation—no shortage of uncertainty here. Because you have been “hooking up for a few weeks,” does this mean you are in a committed relationship? Dating? Friends with benefits? Booty call? All things considered, “we’ve been hooking up for a few weeks,” is a pretty loaded statement—it can mean a lot of things. Conversely, it can mean absolutely nothing. It’s all about how you look at it.

Hooking up usually entails multiple sexual encounters with a particular person over a period of time with limited emotional investment. Generally, hooking up for a few weeks does not constitute being in a committed relationship because both parties involved still have agency to get it in with other people. However, we enter the gray area when one person develops an emotional attachment to the other. This is precisely where “hooking up” gets confused with words like “exclusive” and “together.” Sure, you might hook up “exclusively” on that particular night or drunkenly sleep “together”, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you are exclusive or together. So if hooking up with someone for a few weeks doesn’t put you in the committed relationship category, what exactly are you? Single? Here is where things get a little fuzzy.  

While you can easily avoid the relationship label, you can’t claim to be 100% single. Hooking up regularly with someone indicates a unique affiliation with that person. As a result, others will appraise your value and identify you as fair game with an imaginary asterisk next to your name. Thus, while you are technically still open for business, you will sometimes be perceived as unavailable because of your “hooking up” status. You can still go out and fraternize with others, but it would be frowned upon—kind of like taking a dump at a party. It’s dirty, somewhat inconsiderate, and someone will inevitably get offended.

Nevertheless, should you remain in hooking up purgatory, you must eventually proceed one way or the other with your situation. Option one: you hook up for a little while longer until you drift apart, at which point you are back to being an unrestricted free agent. Option two: you keep hooking up until you both decide you can’t stand to see the other person with someone else, at which point you are signed to a long-term contract loaded with bonuses and incentives. Both options have their pros and cons, but just know that you don’t owe anybody anything and you are not owed anything as long as you are casually “hooking up.”

What does this all mean? It means that “hooking up for the past few weeks” is merely a fleeting Facebook status—it never last too long and often ends terribly. There should be a check box next to “hooking up for a few weeks” on all official documents where marital status is required. That being said, we are all slaves to our sexual desires, which is why we will inevitably find ourselves in this very predicament, wondering if fleeting romance will turn into a flourishing relationship or fizz out like flat soda. Choose your words wisely the next time someone asks you, “are you guys, like, dating?”

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