Hollywood, pop songs, and your mom agree that your relationships should be monogamous and committed. But those expectations can breed drama, doubt, the death of spontaneity, and the birth of babies. You want none of that. You’re a coatimundi bounding through the treetops of independence (relationship-wise). Can you bound freely while still getting to touch another human’s butt now and then? Yes. Just keep it casual. Here are some tips on how to commit to non-commitment.
For first dates, don’t go to a restaurant where you need reservations. In fact, don’t go to a restaurant at all. Staring at another person’s face for three hours can feel like an endless job interview at a temp agency — a job interview over calamari, but still. Avoid this torture by suggesting that you eat beforehand and then meet up someplace where you can sit next to each other. This will feel way more relaxed, and offer opportunities for actual physical contact if the moment is right. Isn’t that at least fifty percent of your motivation for doing this in the first place? A bar is a totally fine venue for tasteful knee-knocking, but you can also go to a primo people-watching spot in your area like a public park, and share theories about the guy screaming about how somebody “stole his door.” (How is that even possible? Why would anyone steal a door? How was this man able to afford property? Or did he just own the door?)
Talk About Real Stuff
It seems contradictory, but the more trivial the small talk, the more formal and stuffy the date feels. You’re keeping it casual, remember? Challenge yourself to bring up zero of the following: jobs, schools, family, pets, previous relationships, how many kids you want and whether you’re going to name any of them Kyle. If your date brings up one of these snore-inducing topics, find a way to transition to something more visceral and compelling. What are you afraid of? Where do you want to travel? What’s the one accomplishment that would make you feel like your life was worthwhile? (Unless it’s having five kids named Kyle, in which case you should skip this one and reevaluate your life goals.) The big questions are so much hotter than the small ones: they convey confidence, and that confidence will help you keep it casual. Remember, you do want a connection with this person, you just don’t want a mortgage with them.
Skip the Movie Theater
Some people think that “casual dating” means you can’t see someone more than once or twice. Those people are wrong. And by the third or fourth date, you’re going to be ready for one of the most fun parts of any relationship: binge-watching Hulu. It’s so much better than going to the movies — you’re still getting to know this person, and if you try to have a conversation in a movie theater you’ll incur the wrath of the general public. Although you’re probably not going to want to talk much while you watch Casual, Hulu’s new comedy series that delves deep into exactly what it’s like to date not-so-seriously. So skip the overpriced popcorn, clean your apartment, and invite your “special friend” over. Benefits include: better, cheaper snacks, booze, and if the spirit moves you, taking your clothes off without getting thrown out. Unless you have roommates.
Don’t Celebrate Your “Monthiversary”
If you’re seeing the same person again and again, it might be hard to keep things low-key. If you’re seriously into non-serious dating, you’re going to need to avoid tracking relationship milestones, obsessing over labels, and chiseling your beloved’s face into marble. (Also, avoid calling them your “beloved.”) Get out there and see other people! That’s part of the wonderful freedom you signed up for. If that doesn’t sound cool to you, maybe you’re not the “casual” type. And that’s okay — It’s good to learn that about yourself. Just go sign up for one of those serious dating websites like foreverbetrothed.com (disclaimer: not a real website). On the other hand, maybe you just need a reminder that there’s no need to commemorate the first time you saw a certain person’s boobs or man-boobs. Consider this your reminder.
Go to Other People’s Weddings… Alone
Weddings are parties with dancing, free booze, cake, and hopefully a bunch of people you don’t know. That’s a recipe for the best kind of party. When you’re invited to a wedding, you may have the option of bringing a “+1.” Now, pay attention, because this is important.
Do not bring a +1.
Going to weddings by yourself means you can party with amazing people who are also celebrating the permanent, contractually binding romance of a couple that (thank God) does not include you. It’s an awesome opportunity for a dance floor minus the expectations that come with being on an offical date. You don’t have to see your new make-out pal again unless you really, really want to. They may even live in a different state, which means a serious relationship is off the table anyway — even if you didn’t have a phobia of joint checking accounts. It’s not like you’ll be seeing them the next morning at work. Wait, is it someone you work with? Definitely don’t make out with them.
Don’t Be a Jerk
Remember, you’re dealing with actual humans here. So be honest about what you’re looking for, make sure your partner’s looking for the same thing, and if you want to take a break, try not to pull a fadeaway. Although, yes, sometimes it does seem like the only way.
Relinquish Control, Mortal
Tattoo this on a part of your body that you see a lot: YOU CAN’T CONTROL YOUR FEELINGS. Your casual “thing” has a number of potential outcomes: overnight disintegration, unrequited serious feelings, or an evolution into something… not-so-casual. All of this is okay, because a casual relationship, like EVERYTHING IN THE UNIVERSE INCLUDING YOUR OWN LIFE, is temporary. It’s a cold, dark world out there. So just, like, be cool about it, you know?
Tony Carnevale is a senior writer for Studio@Gawker. He’s available on Thursday, but maybe text in the afternoon to confirm.
Illustration by Jake Inferrera.