The dating meme of last week and into this one is "Overly Attached Girlfriend," the stereotyped girl every guy loathes dating but secretly wants to, anyway—as evidenced by the popularity of the meme—so that they can a) feel wanted, very much wanted (there is no fear of rejection here, which is some of the beauty of it) and/or b) mock said dater. Then came the related Boyfriend memes, because what's a good Girlfriend meme without them, and then the earnest "Wait, Boys Can Be Overly Attached, Too!" posts, with all sorts of meme-ing throughout.
The girl in the original webcam picture was performing a parody of Justin Bieber's "Boyfriend" with her own lyrics ("If I was your girlfriend / I’d never let you leave / without a small recording device / taped under your sleeve," for example), so she's clearly in on the joke, if not completely amazed and thrilled with what she has wrought. (Did she consider, for example, the feminist implications of said meme? Probably not.)
Anyway, we love memes because they are silly and simplify our always more complicated feelings, and we can pass them around and laugh and think to ourselves, as we do with "creepy" dating stories—I'm not that bad! You may have never, for instance, poked holes in a condom, or told someone you wanted to have their babies now, or accused them of dating someone named Wendy when really they were just getting burgers at a drive-through, thank goodness. All of our own dating flaws and faults, the things we've done, the embarrassing texts we've sent, appear way less bad.
But as much as we try to deny it, we're all attachment daters on some level. That's what dating is: Attaching, and detaching, and sometimes attaching again. You're not as stereotypical as a meme, but chances are, you show some signs of attachment to whomever you are dating. If not, you might be a bit of a psychopath. The key, in the parlance of people who don't get paid for therapy sessions (aka, us), is figuring out what attachment works for you. And the person you're dating, ideally. There's some attachment level for everyone.
This means that, very simply, you are not dating and are not even in like. Perhaps you regard one another fondly, in a human-to-human sort of way, but that's about it. Maybe you've texted now and again, or planned to do something, but you haven't and quite possibly never will. It matters not; no one's getting hurt. On some bored Friday you may even receive a phone call from this person, or maybe it's you texting them. Message/text might say, "Hi, what are you up to? Want to come over? I have ____ and ____ [fill in the blank: pot, brownies, pot brownies, pizza, booze, a couch and a dog, a large bag of nacho flavored Doritos, an air conditioner]." You may or may not respond. This is probably not the only message being sent out into the ether, and there are plenty more fish in the attachment sea. Once you actually interact physically with this person, however, and maybe begin to have feeeeeelings, you have moved to "Physically Attached."
In this case, you've been in a physical scenario that, unless you're a member of a very conservative religious sect, involves more than hand-holding. Maybe you've kissed, maybe you've slept together. But whatever it is, you've either done it more than once, possibly on a regular basis, or, one or both of you have esteemed it with the importance of a more-than-physical attachment. If the former, assuming both parties remain emotionally relatively detached, this is called a "no strings attached" relationship, fodder for many a recent Hollywood rom-com. Unfortunately, or possibly fortunately, because if we were all running around without strings we'd be pretty intolerable, these things rarely last. Because there's one things humans have, and that's emotions. Damn us. If emotional attachments develop in the course of the physical attachment, you may have yourself a full-blown "Mutually, Disgustingly Attached" type of thing going on. Alternatively, you may simply be leading one another around by handcuffs, or perhaps a piece of rope. And you might be art. Photo: Linda Montano and Tehching Hsieh Art/Life: One Year Performance (a.k.a. Rope Piece)
Uh oh. This is when it starts to get messy. If the relationship ends at this point, there will be hurt. So you brace yourself, you listen to Lisa Loeb's "Stay" when your handsome suitor hasn't made plans with you and it's Wednesday afternoon. Or you smile uncontrollably while cuing up the genetically engineered One Direction's hit song, "What Makes You Beautiful" because hey, you know exactly who they're talking about when they sing, "the way you (your crush) flip your hair gets me overwhelmed." What we're trying to say is that your mate matters enough to sway your your happiness and sadness levels. Tread carefully.
Just because you live on the Internet doesn't mean your heart isn't susceptible to attachment. Stop us if this Gchat sounds familiar:
Lo.Bosworth: I don't know where Ryan went. I texted him at 9:40.
LC.Conrad: Totes weird. It's like 11:00. What's the deal?
Lo.Bosworth: Well, he posted a dumb status message on Facebook at 10:15, then tweeted something about True Blood at 10:45, and he's a green dot on Gchat right now ....
This display of social media-stalking is just the tip of the iceberg. For some of you, Facebook already knows that when you type in that first letter into the search bar, the name of your "person" will come up—but you still won't star them as your "close friend." Or you watch and play the waiting game on Gchat, changing your status and dot color to make you seem like you're having fun or are very busy or witty and smart, but not too much of any of those in hopes your crush will chat you back because you're RIGHT THERE LOOK AT ME NOW.
In Denial of Attachment
Oh, you sad person/couple. You are he or she who laughs hardest at "Overly Attached Whatnot" but this is because you staunchly fail to admit the nature of your own attachment. Secretly, you look at the object of your attraction's Twitter or Facebook pages, or maybe their Foursquare (why do they insist on using Foursquare?) every six or seven minutes, but if caught, you'll claim it's so you can find new ways to mock them. You check your phone—is your phone even working?—hourly for a text or call, and while on your computer, you scroll down to check for their green "available" gchat symbol at least five times daily. But you'll never text or write them, oh no. You're just keeping tabs, keeping your friends close and your enemies closer. You don't like them. No sirree, Bob. That would be creepy. Note: Two people in perpetual denial of attachment will never get anywhere with each other. Deny, deny, deny!
Attached on the Inside, Detached on the Outside
"So call me. Maybe," Carly Rae Jepsen sings nonchalantly, like she doesn't really care if the dude of her dreams will actually act on her "crazy" whim and give her a call (electronic attachers, we totally agree with you that phone calls are over). But really, if you're internally attached/outwardly detached, just like Jepsen (she would beg, borrow and steal!), what you really mean is "CALL ME NOW, PLEASE. YOU ARE THE AIR I BREATHE!"
Attached and Analyzing It
You're savvy. You know you are starting to feel yourself act like a lovestruck idiot at times. You totally gave him or her the last bite of your tapas meal even though you were hungry and wanted a meatball of some sort. And you sure as hell don't want to be the person who likes the other one more, because that's obviously a stinky situation. So you start chatting and talking to your friends about your next move. And they ask and tell you simple things like, "Who asked who out last time?" Or, "Of course he likes you. He cuddled you! He let you be big spoon! Don't be silly!" You're at a point where you pick apart every text message you get, re-enact the tone of your last goodbye to your friends, and still haven't figured out whether "How's it going?" means "Please come over. I am drunk," "What are you doing later?" or if it actually means: "How's it going?" Because you, you attachment analyzer, are the one who's getting overly attached. Fie.
Mutually, Disgustingly Attached
Every once in a while there's that magic thing that happens when two people fall for each other seemingly in the same, exact sort of mushy-gushy way, seemingly at the same, exact time. This is fleeting, and therefore, it's magical. By fleeting we don't mean it won't last, but that this perfect harmony of spirits is destined to ebb at some point. Still, by that point you might be married with a house in Scarsdale, or have identified other interests, at the very least, that you can share. And you'll always think back fondly to the time that you could finish each other sentences and make everyone around you puke in adoration.
Attached So Hard, the Other Person "Must Be" Cheating to Flee Attachment
Please stop yourself if it's come to this. It's not okay to make your lover "Say My [Your] Name" at all times of day and when you're calling him or her, no matter what Destiny's Child said. But yes, at this point you've become so attached that reciprocal forms of attachment just won't suffice, and you think he or she must be cheating. Said person probably isn't, but you keep asking who they're going out with, what time they're coming back, and getting spies to go and see if they're telling the truth and they just might. You are dangerously close to a meme.
As modeled by Glenn Close's character in Fatal Attraction, Richard Gere's character in Unfaithful, and many a Lifetime movie villain (See: Mother May I Sleep With This Criminally Attached Person?), this is the man or woman who takes attachment too far. Way too far. No longer amusing or sad, they are horrifying and so is what ensues. Sometimes they kill bunnies. Sometimes they attempt to kill people. Abusive relationships would also fit this mold. None of these situations are good. However, if you happen to meet, say, in jail, perhaps while you're visiting Sally Tomato in Sing Sing for the weather report and he, well, who knows what he's there for, you really didn't have time to ask, that's basically a meet-cute and you might just be able to make it to a next level of attachment, assuming no one gets up to any funny business.
You are the last two people on this earth, and you must decide: Would you touch each other with a 10-foot pole? What if all the poles are gone, too? Point being, you're the last two people on this earth. Stop trying to figure out how attached you are and go stockpile cans of soup to prepare for the alien invasion.
Photo of keyboard by: Motion Karma via Shutterstock.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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