Tuesday, April 3, 2012



Single, in a relationship, married … every experience with love is categorized into a box. Even experiences only involving love making: one night stands, fling, hook up, "number five hoe". What about the less obvious relationships? Open relationship, dating (the least easily definable of them all), "fuck buddies", international lovers … they still have a label. Why is it necessary to label each interaction? Aren't they each individually unique? It's like stuffing a bunch of pipe-cleaners into a box-- they all bend to fit. Why bend your relationship into something society tells you to shape yourself into?

If each relationship is different, why all the labels? It all boils down to one of the most natural responses: fear. If there isn’t a label to constrain behavior, “god only knows what he’ll do!” And, “she’ll probably find someone else!” And, “there will be no real intimacy, no real trust!” What are these exclamations? Fear. Fear of losing the person you care about, fear of the person you care about experiencing other people, fear of "letting it be".

Why are we all so afraid of leaving love up to chance? What’s wrong with trusting that, no matter what, it will work out for the best: together or apart. What is wrong with living by, “if it’s meant to be it will be”? 

What is wrong with experiencing other people if you know you truly love one person—isn’t sex sometimes just physical? What’s wrong with the label of cheating? Why do these labels provoke such strong reactions from us? Why are we so afraid?

Maybe the boundaries we put on the interactions we have with other people are actually boundaries constricting ourselves. How many times have you said yes to, or even pushed for, a relationship, even though you didn’t 100% want it, but were afraid of the other possibilities. How many times have you remained in a relationship, not because you 100 % wanted to be with that partner, but because you were afraid of being lonely, afraid of being single, afraid of ending up alone. How many times did you push yourself to date, even though being single felt right at the time, just because of what checking “single” implies: inadequate, lonely, desperate, undesirable, snobby, damaged goods, emotionally abandoned, inaccessible, maybe even bad in bed. How many times did you avoid the label of “relationship” because, “every time my friends have been in a relationship, they end up having a terrible break up,” or “relationships add too much pressure” or even something as simple as, "I hate relationships." How do you know all relations with other people will end up the same way just because they share a common label? Why use any labels at all? It's not the relationship that adds the pressure! It's what the label tells you to do, how the label defines you. 

The reason why people cling to labels is to ensure a certain ending and to keep control... And, the reason why people jump away from labels is because they are afraid of these very rules that labels will impose on them. 

People sprint away from labels because they involve everyone else as well. The moment it is known that you are checking a certain box, every aspect of this label is now up for public scrutiny. Especially with the label of “relationship.” Even facebook has a relationship status. How many times have you liked a friend’s relationship status change? But, how many times is their simple, one-word label on facebook much more complex and multi-worded in real life? And, why does the world need to know who is dating whom? 

Why do people find it necessary to mark their labels with such public advertisements as facebook statuses, hickeys, his and her towels, inscribed tiffany bracelets, or wedding rings. Each object implies a different label, and a different interpretation of each label. Hickeys imply promiscuity if you are single and emphasize "I am taken" if you are in a relationship. His and her towels? They just emphasize "we're happy, I promise." Since when did towels prove a couple is happy? Inscribed tiffany bracelets? They imply that the woman wearing the bracelet is property of the giver, "I own her, so all you other suiters back off." And, it reminds the girl, every time she looks at her wrist that she has a dedicated man to stay loyal to. And, wedding rings? These big and glamorous rocks that glower at you from the dark seem to be less of a display of affection, and more of a boasting point. The more expensive the wedding ring, the more worthy the wife? If the love is real, why do you need a diamond to show this? Isn't it just as real either way? Again, this wedding band dilemma leads us to other labels: "perfect wife/husband," "trophy wife," "white collar husband," "unfaithful spouse," "partner," "companion,"... suit yourself! 

Same goes for the label of "love". Everyone has felt the pressure whelming up inside of them leading to a quick, soft "I love you." How many times have you said this and not felt it? How many times have you felt it, preferred not to say it so that you could enjoy the moment in silence, but felt oddly obliged to say it, and so, "I love you" escaped from your lips. Why is saying "I love you" so necessary? Some say it's a way of showing a person how much you care... but "show", to me, implies an action. Saying "I love you," doesn't seem quite big enough to show just how much you care (I mean, really, just three words? I say those to my family and friends). If you want to show someone you love them, why is it necessary to say “I love you”? Why can’t you simply show them with your actions? (listen to this song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UrIiLvg58SY). And then, once you've showed them, add a couple "I love you"s into the batch if you'd like. The label of "I love you" becomes more of a reassurance than anything else. And, if you need reassurance, "I love you" won't help-- talking about the problems or worries will. You have to ask yourself, why do we need three simple words, labels of sorts, to believe someone loves us? 

So, why not strip yourself of any labels, and simply make your own rules. Aren’t the best relationships defined by the two people experiencing them, and not people trying to fit into the labels society has created? It is argued that labels are not necessary as long as you “talk it out.” If you love and trust someone and these feelings are reciprocated, why is it necessary to label this if you talk about what you are comfortable with? 

Why follow society's labels when you can just feel your way naturally through experiences. If you stay true to yourself-- how you feel and what you want-- there is nothing to be afraid of. Because, if you lose someone and you’ve done just that? It just “wasn’t meant to be.”

Make your own rules. 

The Woman Behind Unleashed and the Words                     
   I am a Practice of Art Major and Creative Writing Minor at UC Berkeley. My passions are writing and the arts in general. I created Unleashed for the empowerment and enlightenment of women everywhere. I am the editor, designer and contributing writer. I truly hope this magazine speaks to each and every woman.  Sasha Martin 


Anonymous said...

This is more of a linguistic argument than it is advice on relationships. The article fails to account for the commonality of human experience as justification to labeling. If a "one night stand" wasn't a common human experience there wouldn't be a label for it in the same way there is a label for as abstract a concept as "love". Commonality of abstract concepts and experiences warrants labeling, if it didn't we could not use words to describe anything that wasn't concrete.

The beauty of words is that their power to describe is limited. It is understood that the qualitative experience of a "one night stand" is different for every participant, just like it is understood that the word "love" means something different to everybody.

Labels are not boxes for concepts but ways to connect to other human beings by describing certain qualities that are common in human experience.

The article assumes that those pursuing romantic relationships desire a certain uniqueness in their relationship which might not be true for all. If you feel entitled to a unique experience, I agree you should go out and make new labels, but do not disregard the ones already in existence, unless, of course, you sometimes tend toward solipsism.

"I define nothing. Not beauty, not patriotism. I take each thing as it is, without prior rules about what it should be." -Bob Dylan

Unleashed Magazine News Central said...

Thank you for your comment and showing your perspective so thoughtfully. There are commonalities (qualia, they are sometimes called) in life at all times. I was trying to touch on the idea of not letting these commonalities haze out personal preferences. Nonetheless, your comment is insightful and well written. We need more like these! Email me at sashalm13@berkeley.edu if you're interested in writing for Unleashed. I think that you might have left comments before. Thanks again. -Unleashed

Anonymous said...

This article is thoughtful and entertaining but I feel like the writer doesn't truly understand the complexities that come with a relationship. A simple "I LOVE YOU" from boyfriend to girlfriend or vice versa can be nothing more than a person wanting express themselves. Every relationship in the world, formal or informal, has certain social rules, what the article refers to as labels. It wouldn't be a relationship without it. For example, the writer suggests that if two people really love each other it is okay to have sex with other people so long as it is for physical pleasure only. That would completely ruin the dynamic of the relationship; it wouldn't be a relationship anymore. I would argue that these labels on a couple that is truly in love with each other would not harm either individual. I would even argue that these labels have been good for women as well. As backwards as it may seem, I love my Tiffanys jewelry from my boyfriend. I see it as him trying to make me happy and as a token of his appreciation, not necessarily an attempt to get other men to back off. If that was its purpose, it certainly hasn't worked. In this day and age men are biologically and socially expected to be womanizers, so I think the labels are more for a woman's benefit than not.