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How To Answer The “What Are We?” Question

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Replying With Style, Clarity, And Effectiveness

It is surprising that this question is stilled asked, given the conditions of today’s “hook up” culture. Indeed, it is widely accepted that the looseness and freedom engendered by the latter makes any attempt by one party to tie down the other a sort of violation of the rules of the game. You and the girl you’re dating may have an implicit understanding: to enjoy each other when and how you like, for as long as it suits you both. For her to suddenly pop the “what are we?” question seems unfair—as it puts you on the spot.

You should not, however, leap to the conclusion that she’s trying to marry you or force you towards some other extremity. Despite the façade of indifference that she, like many other girls, assumes to survive in the dating world, she is still a living being who will occasionally develop strong feelings. You may be someone she has come to really like; and while she understands the difficulty of going from mere dating to a monogamous relationship, she wants to get some sense of how you feel about her. This is not a crime. You should not panic and think her a sly thief out to steal your liberty and bachelorhood.

You must not mislead her. Although you may be unprepared to answer the “what are we?” question when she asks it, there are responses you can give that will buy you the time you need to give a more thoughtful answer.

One of the best responses to this kind of question was told to me by my childhood pastor. When he and his future wife were dating, she asked him if he loved her. He took a moment to consider. He knew that saying yes would commit him to marriage almost straightaway. He was in college at the time and had no intention of marrying until he got his degree. Yet, he didn’t want to lose her. So, he answered the question thus: “I want to love you.”

The answer is simple and direct, but it is the most brilliant I have ever heard to such a question. It is one that stayed with me as I grew up and entered the dating world. And I have modified the idea behind it to suit questions of the “do you love me?” and “what are we?” type.

One possible answer to the latter is “I don’t know, but I’d like us to find out.” Or, if you dare venture into the hokey: “Whatever we are, it is something good and worth holding on to.”  Words like these don’t commit you to anything, but they show that you are still interested in seeing her.

However you answer this question, the fact that she asks it is a sign that she wants more from you. Eventually, you will need to decide whether you want her as your main squeeze. Putting her off with an intentionally vague or mawkishly sentimental answer will buy you time; and she will no doubt know that that is exactly what you are doing. She will nevertheless appreciate the fact that you are willing to consider the state of your relationship seriously. By not changing the subject or otherwise blowing her off, you will increase the goodwill between you and stave off the potential for tension.

Responding well to the “what are we?” question requires presence of mind and a willingness to pursue one of the best prizes in the dating game: keeping a girl you enjoy being with interested while not tying yourself completely to her.

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About Christopher Reid Chris was born in Washington, D.C. and lives in Britain. He works as a blogger, essayist, and novelist. His first book, Tea with Maureen, has just been published.


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