L.A. Affairs: Forget ‘Facebook official.’ I’ll know it’s real when we take an ‘usie’
I met someone. He’s smart, witty, articulate and most importantly, kind. He’s a gem of a man, a rare find in the sea of generic fish and sharks that constitute the dating pool that is Los Angeles. He’s so great that I kinda wanna yell it from the mountaintop. But we’re not an item — yet. We’ve gone on four dates in as many weeks and we text like giddy teenagers who don’t have anything else to do with their free time. There are the “good morning” texts, the “I’m thinking of you” texts, the “You’re A. Fox” texts, the “Lemme tell you about my day” texts and the “Here’s a funny meme” texts.
Our dates are adventures, each epic in their own right. A 5 1/2-hour dinner at Love & Salt in Manhattan Beach that ends with the wait staff giving us the side-eye as they close up shop; a hike up the not-for-the-faint-of-heart Culver City Stairs, followed by mimosas at brunch, capped off with a car ride through Culver City’s quaint but bustling downtown in his convertible. After our second date, he texted, “I could talk to you all night.”
I feel the same way.
We’re getting closer, but there’s something that we haven’t done yet, something that will catapult our relationship into “couple” status …
We haven’t taken an “usie.” You know, the couple’s version of a selfie. We haven’t whipped out the cellphones, hit the front-facing camera button and grinned wide for the camera, our faces cheek to cheek in love-soaked glee.
There are many traditional relationship milestones (first kisses, lunches with each other’s best friends and formal dinners with parents), but technology has created additional relationship milestones that are trickier to navigate: the first “usie” and the first couple pic post to Facebook/Instagram. Accompanying that first pic is a barrage of questions: How soon is too soon? When is it appropriate to whip out the phone and huddle for an “usie”? Should you ask permission first? And if the pic is greenlighted, is the assumption that the person is agreeing to a public post?
Navigating “usies” and social media dating announcements can breed misunderstanding and mistrust in the strongest of budding relationships.
The first “fight” that my ex-boyfriend J. and I had was over my Facebook status. He wanted me to make it clear to the world that we were “in a relationship” as soon as we became official. But I didn’t. His feelings were hurt; perhaps he thought that I was embarrassed by him?
I wasn’t. I was embarrassed by what would happen if I had to admit to all of Facebook that we had split, be it six, nine or 10 months down the line. See, I think 10 steps in advance about everything, and the prospect of a future breakup was enough to make me not want to publicize this new relationship to the world — at least not yet.
Fresh in my mind, too, was my good friend E.’s breakup experience. She had posted her relationship status on Facebook after she met her beau. Then one evening, while doing her rounds at the hospital, one of the other residents leaned in and whispered, “I’m so sorry.” “For what?” E. replied in an equally hushed whisper, unsure what her colleague was referencing. “You broke up with your boyfriend.”
“How’d you know?” a stunned E. inquired. “You changed your relationship status on Facebook,” her colleague answered, either unable or unwilling to hide her pity.
“I’ll never post my relationship status on Facebook again,” E. told me weeks after the encounter.
She didn’t. Not after she met the love of her life. Not after they got engaged.
She didn’t post that she was in a relationship with her husband until after they returned from their honeymoon. I guess by this point she was convinced the relationship would last.
In light of this, J. and I started our relationship with no social media fanfare. A month or so after we became official, though, my friend Christie captured us at a birthday party at a mutual friend’s house just blocks from USC. Side by side, our profiles beautifully positioned in the center of the camera’s frame, the picture was captivating, so captivating that I made it my profile pic on Facebook. J. was surprised and delighted.
We posted countless other photos: “usies” and candid shots at family gatherings. But several months later, just as I had feared, I had to post about the change in our relationship status: “No longer broken up about the break-up. Breaking free.”
And then I deleted all of our photos together from Facebook, not because he was the scum of the earth (he isn’t), and not because I hate him (I don’t), but because love wasn’t enough to bridge our differences. There would be no sequel to our yearlong love story.
Despite the potential public social media breakup, I still want to take an “usie” with my #maybebae.
An “usie” says that this shared moment together is really something; something worth documenting, something worth remembering. An “usie” also says that we are something. It’s a digital memento, or proof, that there really is an us.
Maybe I want an “usie” because to me it quietly symbolizes the status change from “single” to “in a relationship.”
Maybe the underlying desire is for the beginning-of-the-dating-relationship awkwardness to end — you know, the awkwardness of not knowing someone super well yet increasing in intimacy with them. The awkwardness of knowing that they have their dance space and you have yours, but you wanna invade their space and get closer. Slow-dance close. Not just physically but emotionally, even though you know that true intimacy takes time to develop. Lots and lots of time. Time that must be traversed date by date, text message after text message, one sincere apology after yet another miscommunication.
If I’m to be perfectly honest, what I truly want is not just an “usie,” but for there to be an “us.”
I want to go from saying, “What do I wanna do this weekend?” to “What do we wanna do this weekend?”
If and when we do take our first “usie,” I will beam like a giddy schoolgirl. But I won’t post it. Instead I’ll bask in the fact that we’ve reached that milestone. Plus, I’ll have something to stare at midweek when I’m eagerly anticipating our next adventure.
Straight, gay, bisexual, transgender or nonbinary: L.A. Affairs chronicles the search for love in and around Los Angeles — and we want to hear your story. You must allow your name to be published, and the story you tell has to be true. We pay $300 for each essay we publish. Email us at LAAffairs@latimes.com. You can find subscription guidelines here.
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