Editorial: Relationship Taboos

Andrea Baumgartel '19

Well ppl, welp. r me to stop avoiding responsibilities. The time has come for me to rant. So here we go! I apologize in advance for the parenthetical pummult.

After consulting with the weirdest people at Grinnell (aka, my fellow editors (also, that’s saying something, right?)), I’ve decided that I’m going to write about the topic of ~relationships~. Specifically, the tabooggling ones. Yikes!

First, I want to acknowledge that some people experience no romantic and/or sexual attraction at all, and that is totes cool. In fact, it underscores some of the stuff I’m about to talk about, primarily the ludicrousness of our society’s overall failure to recognize relationships that don’t fall under the highly delineated and at times restrictive categories of 1) long-term/monogamous relationship, 2) friendship, and 3) friends-with-benefits (or “hookup” or “one night stand” or “person I hook up with casually and then do my best to avoid elsewhere because now that we’ve done this thing I can’t, by social normy logic, act like I care about them as a person.”) Obviously, these 3 forms of relationships are themselves real and valid; I am emphasizing that there are other types not as commonly recognized in society, and this can be thwarting.

Two main identifiable factors, serendipity and the fact that I aspire to be the realized form of Cupid and Oprah’s hypothetical lovechild, have resulted in the current timing of my participation in a decent amount of relationship-centered conversations with friends, acquaintances, and randos alike. What I’ve gathered from these discussions is that many people are consciously and subconsciously frustrated with subscribing to the 3 main socially-emphasized relationship types. Because sometimes (and probably-statistically, many times—although I’m totally just guessing at this point) a particular relationship isn’t going to perfectly fit one of the socially-sanctioned 3. Such as: an amorous friendship, polyamorous relationship, or a romantic-but-not-sexual relationship or vice versa, or a relationship that doesn’t fit any of those labels because labels are OvErRatED! In Grinnell, people tend to be more open-minded regarding the fluid variety of interpersonal connections, but despite the seemingly gorilla-glue strength of our bubble’s questionable social norms armor, notions inflecting language like “walk of shame” “finding the one” “my person” “awkward tension [that I feel would be the end of the world if openly acknowledged]” etc. still waft predominantly throughout the mainstream dialoggia.

So, what to do with all this, since now we’ve gotten to the part where I hem and haw and say something constructive? It would be great if someone invented a taboo-remover to be used on all things unnecessarily taboo (although, is anything justifiably taboo? That’s a whole new can of worms.)If the majority of people felt that it was OK to be open and chill about the existence of the many forms of unlabeled, nonprescriptive relationships instead of treating them as weird, abnormal, necessarily secretive, or dirty/indecent, that would be gr8. Until then, “you do you” should continue to be freely and rightfully overemployed. U 2 the do 2 the U.