By: Jenny Foughner

Thanks to the fools who invented language, generations upon generations of men have been forced to split their time between trying to get ass and trying not to say something that’s going to hinder their ass-getting pursuits. It sucks. But if it makes you feel any better, it blows for us, too, because while you’re trying to say the right thing (or, in the very least, trying not to say the wrong thing), we’re spending precious mental energy trying to decode every single word that comes out of your mouth. (And if you’ve never had the pleasure of replaying a conversation over and over and over in your head, ad nauseam, then you’re living a charmed life. Enjoy it.)  

It would all be so much easier if we could just revert to the more civilized days of grunting and gesturing, but in the absence of a socially-acceptable return to pre-glottogonic modes of communication, it looks like we’re stuck with a mess of words and their frustratingly complex meanings. For example: “I love you.” When put together, these three monosyllabic words have a power not unlike a flesh-melting A-bomb. (In fact, it makes me nervous just writing them. I’m suddenly afraid this is getting too serious.) In Relationshipville, a visit to the Love shack isn’t just a fun afternoon pursuit; it’s a Pretty Big Deal – at least, it probably is to your girlfriend – so before you go off and blurt out something you can’t easily take back, familiarize yourself with a few basic guidelines regarding the big “L”. 

Don’t: Assume your GF hasn’t noticed that you haven’t said it.
It’s quite likely that your girlfriend has a relationship timeline in her brain that she checks every now and again to make sure she isn’t “wasting her time,” “giving it up for free” and/or “chillaxing on a bullet train to Nowhere”. On this timeline are things like “first kiss” (within one week, or you’re headed straight for the friend zone); “first ________” (no sooner than date 2.75, or she’s headed straight for the skank zone); and, much to your probable dismay, “declaration of deep and oceanic feelings for one another” (timing isn’t firm, but if it doesn’t happen within a year, something’s definitely amiss). So if you’re coasting along around month seven or eight without having made the verbal leap, then she’s most likely waiting frustratedly for you to poetically tell her how you feel, and the longer you wait, the harder it’s going to be to say it nonchalantly between mouthfuls of Count Chocula. 

Do: Say it like you mean it.
You might thing that the I.L.U. is like a free pass to free booty, but if you don’t wait to say it until you (mostly) mean it, then you’re going to become the object of obsession for a girl you only sort of like. Even if she’s extremely … talented, this is not something you’re going to enjoy in the long run. It doesn’t matter if you don’t care what you say or when you say it; you must remember that “I love you” is a big deal to (almost) all girls. Say it like you mean it, or don’t say it at all. 

Don’t: Feel like a pussy if you say it first.
By no means do you have to say “I love you” first, but you also don’t have to wait until some arbitrary time to say it if you’re really feeling it. Expressing your feelings is a good thing. Unless, of course, you’ve only been dating a girl for a week, because (1) you really don’t know if you love her yet, even if you think you do, and (2), you’re going to come off sounding like a loony who’s eventually going to require a padded cell and a restraining order. If your relationship is under two months old, cease and desist, brother, even if you’re SO SURE that this girl is THE LOVE OF YOUR LIFE. Waiting a little while to tell her how you feel is always more effective than being the creepy fella who blows his verbiage too soon.

Do: Cut the girl a little slack if she doesn’t echo your sentiments immediately.
Even though females are genetically programmed to be ready for love anytime, anywhere, some girls suffer from skittish guy syndrome, even if they won’t admit it. These girls are probably glad you haven’t taken the Love leap yet, because they’re worried – just like you are – that there’s something scary about making such a seemingly intense commitment to someone they’ve only known for a relatively short time. If you suddenly find yourself in the position of being the weirdly emotive one in the relationship, then don’t fret, little lamb; just give your girl the time you’d hope she’d give you if the roles were reversed, and know that you’ve just succeeded in breaking down a gender stereotype created by eons of emotionally unavailable dudes and overly emotive ladies. Congratulations. Liberal arts college students all across the land are rooting for you.