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It's Complicated: The Words of Teen Romance

going-steady

You are looking at a photo of my teenage daughter with a teenage boy. They’ve known each other for years, go to the same school, been in the same musicals, and belong to the same a cappella group. Last month, during that choir’s trip to Italy, the two of them decided to make things a bit more official. But what were the words used for this teenage romance?

“Did he ask you out?” I asked my daughter. “No,” she replied. “It’s not ‘going out.'”

“But are you going steady?” I tried again. “Nobody says that, no,” she answered.

“Is he your boyfriend?” I finally asked. “Are you married, engaged, living together, is he your baby daddy, just, what?!”

It seems the language of love has become a more complicated playing field than the one of my childhood, which included first base through home run in an easy to understand matrix of escalating making out.

Recently I conducted an exhaustive survey of teen love parlance, which means I texted my daughter and son a few times. This is what I learned about teen romance words.


  • image-5 1 of 7
    image-5
  • image-6 2 of 7
    image-6
    This means the couple is, uh, talking. In this stage, they are feeling things out to see if there's anything there. You like each other, but it is not official.
  • image-7 3 of 7
    image-7
    This basically means becoming physical with someone on a scale from kissing to sex. It can also imply hanging out with someone consistently, but without commitment. Hooking up with more than one person at a time can often make one of the Hook-Ups stop "talking" to the perpetrator.
  • image-8 4 of 7
    image-8
    This implies hanging out with someone consistently too, and may or may not imply being exclusive. It's definitely more serious and romantic than hooking up. In the early stages, dating can be referred to as "having a thing".
  • image-9 5 of 7
    image-9
    When you say you're going out with someone, it's usually in the beginning stages of a relationship, after talking but before a deeper commitment. One doesn't have to actually go anywhere to be going out.
  • image-10 6 of 7
    image-10
    This means things are exclusive and romantic.
  • image-11 7 of 7
    image-11
    This is Facebook for Nah nah I have a boyfriend and you don't.

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