I was taking a nighttime stroll with a friend, as he will be called, to participate in my favorite nighttime activity, namely, my favorite daytime and afternoon activity and “I’m-bored-right-now” activity: listening to jazz music. Both having been bored, we agreed to the excursion with the only issue being that of the setting. The ominous “where” often clouds my mind, but this night dissipated quicker than expected. Being familiarized with the many places to indulge in some easy jazz, I suggested a secluded area of sidewalk, sandwiched between a wood-paneled fence and a stop sign, with the roll of car wheels only slightly interrupting us. Deeply taken by conversation, I excitedly lured this friend to the spot. We came upon a man walking opposite us, walking closer and closer in the dusk. As he passed, I took a glance at him. I could feel my brain deciphering the image in front of me until I realized who it was: my latest noncommittal “something casual” that I opened myself up to briefly dating. Time ellipsed as I horrifyingly faced my juggling act; this secret spot I was leading my newfound friend to was entrusted to me by this person passing me…whom I did not ask permission to share.
Anxiety riddled, I felt caught. Thankfully, a pleasant night’s rest made me re-assess the situation at hand. Even though nobody was at fault for any tribulation, I still felt compelled to question what I owed this person. I mean, what does “something casual” even really mean? Does everyone have the same definition? Is this two-word descriptor enough to encompass an entire connection with another person? Was I in the wrong for leading my new friend to the spot where my previous one had led me? Do I owe my “something causal” spot exclusivity?
We can habitually look at pop culture to guide us and receive a consistently mixed response shaped by systems of oppression. There’s not a paper nailed to a church door distinctly outlining the do’s and don’ts of the elusive “something casual,” or “SC” as it will be referred to. Both parties are left to their mental duel regarding the guidelines of what the other person truly means. It seems like in our generation of quick and shortened information, less is more. I aim to explain what should be at the core of every relationship, specifically with nods to the SC. Though not an expert, I hope to subject you to my opinion on what these relationships should look like and hopefully bring some clarity to the phrase.
First and foremost, anyone in an SC has universal autonomy over what goes on in their relationship. This is not to act as a hard and fast rule book, but rather a Post-it note on the mirror of your relationship advice. And yes, in fact, these are relationships despite what their tag on Bumble says! Admitting that you both are consensually engaging in a connection (romantic, sexual, or both) is essential when trying to have a mature and fulfilling SC relationship.
I have concocted 5 “pillars” of SC relationships that I believe should be at their foundation, with enough room for circumstantial adjustment. They are as follows, in no particular order:
I feel like these are the most important traits of a “something casual” relationship. It is important to note that I do speak in terms of a monogamous SC for the sake of writing, but feel free to apply this to any type of casual relationship, regardless of how many people are involved.
You do not have to swim in the murky waters of convolution when honesty is at the center of your relationship. Oftentimes, a lack of honesty is a projection of fear; fear that the other person may respond unfavorably, or fear of losing something in exchange for it. However, one man’s corny dorm room poster is another woman’s life mantra: honesty is the best policy. Honesty allows for both parties to live in the same world of truth. With an SC, it can be confusing to know what the other person is feeling about facets of the relationship. Being honest from the start about intentions, pleasures, dislikes, issues, wants and needs allows for a clear view of what the relationship is going to look like. Trust is built when honesty is practiced. In order to have a relationship of mutual honor and respect, honesty is needed.
In tandem with honesty, communication is another hotly debated topic of conversation in the relationship advice doling corner of Twitter. To many, communication is key, but I believe an overlooked aspect of communication is understanding. How we use language is so varied and continually changes. The words you use to convey messages may be words that genuinely do not mean the same things to another person. Communication does not come easily; it must be created and worked on by people in the SC so that when things are said, they are understood the way the communicator means. Open communication should be continually occurring. A chance for conversation should never be shot down or ignored, but rather embraced.
Equality is personally very significant to me because of how highly I value myself. One must recognize that they are an equal shareholder in their SC. Your feelings and opinions have just as much validity as the other person. Having self-worth is valuing the personhood of yourself, as well as your effects on other people. Both people in an SC should feel like they are equivalently important and seen. When one makes space for their partner, their partner can make space for them. Knowing when to involve yourself can be tricky with an SC, therefore making sure that you see the other person as an equal can be a useful tool.
I do mean “Consideration” like the Rihanna song, minus the white horse. One must consider the other person’s feelings when communicating or behaving. Consideration should permeate all aspects of life, but in SC relationships especially. Taking into account that the other person may not always do the right thing or perfectly understand you will make the SC more authentic. Stepping outside yourself to consider the complexities of life can provide peace and stability to the relationship. Furthermore, simply being nice is so important. Fostering kindness will allow for an easier flow between partners and a feeling of safety. Consider how to be considerate!
Everything is subject to change. In an SC specifically, the word “casual” suggests that it is not a fixed relationship. Allow yourself and your partner to modify the relationship to fit each other as necessary. How can a relationship be productive if it does not take into account how dynamic humans are? This is crucial for SC relationships, as emotions can switch in an instant. Not taking changes in the relationship as a reflection of yourself will allow for better flexibility.
Nakia is a writer for Sex and the Crescent City. She is a freshman from NYC majoring in philosophy and digital media practices. She enjoys all things pop culture, is a big fan of reading, and a major cat lover.