Magazine article Dissent

Like a Married Couple

Magazine article Dissent

Like a Married Couple

Article excerpt

My friends treat my girlfriend, Jennifer, and me like a married couple. They have a point. We have known each other since our first year at the University of California at San Diego, and now we are on our own in San Francisco, where I am getting an MFA in directing from the Academy of Art University and Jenna is working for the school district counseling autistic children.

In our circle, our exclusiveness is rare. Most of our friends have not gotten beyond the hookup stage. In the past, our situation would have been more normal. Today, we clash with others of our age and with the culture we have grown up in.

I met Jennifer in 2004. It was the start of our freshman year, and we were standing in front of Camp Snoopy (the name given our college's freshman dorm area), in a grassy field surrounded by two-level dorm suites - one for the boys and the other for the girls - waiting for something to happen. We had all arrived that day for orientation and had just met our roommates. At night, everyone was called out into the quad for an announcement. That was where I saw Jennifer. She had long curly hair that was every shade from brown to blonde, and she had a tomboyish demeanor that was rare among the girls I knew. She looked remarkably strong and was chatting with other students around her with an air of self assurance. I tried to move closer to get her attention, but it was too late. "OK! Everyone now! Grab a partner and spin them around!" yelled one of the dean's young assistants. It was my first chance to make an impression on Jennifer. I grabbed her, lifted her onto my back, and started to spin. When it was over, she gave me a wild look and disappeared. Jennifer tells me she remembers that moment as terrifying.

More than a year went by before we fell in love. It was hard for me to acclimate to the university lifestyle, and for support I relied on a newly developed group of friends that included Jennifer. We all would meet up after classes to shop, watch movies, or look for some excitement. Jennifer had a boyfriend back home in Sacramento, so nothing really developed between us until we all moved offcampus together in our sophomore year.

The house we lived in that year was a mess. Our stuff was everywhere and the dishes were always in a pile. We thought we had been learning to live independently before, but it was nothing like being on our own. We also had different school and work schedules, so more often than not some people would be celebrating the end of their week before others were finished. Jennifer and I began to depend on each other more and more. We shared rides, helped each other with homework, and looked out for each other when we went to parties. Eventually her relationship with her high-school boyfriend fell apart, and I was there.

The few months following the breakup were reckless. We would all go out every weekend to drink and find potential hookups. Despite my feelings for Jennifer, I kept my distance. I thought she needed space to get over her breakup, but it wasn't long before she started to notice my interest. We went dancing one night, and it happened: we kissed and danced with each other the rest of the night.

At first we hid our relationship from our roommates. We had just been liberated from living at home, then freed from living in the strict dorms on campus. Why would we want to be tied down by an exclusive relationship? The unspoken code of the house had been violated.

The love Jennifer and I felt at this stage was new and exciting, but it didn't seem lasting. Neither of us wanted to be in a deep relationship. …

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