When I was a kid, I played a lot of make believe.
From cops and robbers with my next door neighbor and Mary Kate & Olsen detectives (forgive me, please) with my childhood best friend to Peter Pan & Wendy with my pre-school playmate – I was always imagining a world outside of my own. And, when my friends and I took a more classic approach and played “house” – I refused to be anything but the girl because well, I am a girl, after all.
I can remember full days of pretending to be something else – a princess, a mermaid, a singer, a movie star, and of course, a reporter. There was something magical and wildly entertaining about escaping from reality and entering into a new realm where I could be free to explore and to capture a persona I didn’t actually embody. Plus, who doesn’t enjoy a great dress up (even today!)?
As we get older, the masks we put on and the roles we play change, and while it’s not make-believe, per se, we present ourselves in different manners depending on what the time or situation calls for. We can turn on happy-and-enthralled while at a networking event, or super-duper professional for work, or pseudo-interested for a date that’s going all wrong.
And sometimes, if we are clever enough to trick even our most difficult critic, ourselves, we can pretend we’re in a relationship when we’re not. We can even call them non-dates and non-relationships and non-love because we’re calm, cool, and collected about the situation. We can even have sex without terms or conditions or without saying the infamous three words or without spoken expectations.
But – in terms of love and well, dignity – is it ever healthy to play make-believe with a man? Or is it better to send Mr. Non-Committal back to where he came from?
I can’t say I’m in the situation where I’m seeing someone I want to call my boyfriend or I want to be exclusive with. But, I will admit, without giving names or specifics, that I’ve dated a few guys that could have possibility in this big, beautiful city. Somehow, though, my relationship with myself is currently trumping all of them. Call me selfish and self-absorbed with this journey, and I’ll nod my head in agreement – but somehow, the getting to self-love is helping me grow in leaps-and-bounds, without requiring a man in the mix.
Though, as I’ve been going on non-dates and kissing non-boyfriends – I’ve thought a lot about the relationships we go through as single ladies that never “technically” (by Facebook standards, anyways) ever become official. Does a lack of a title or commitment make them less important or influential? Or is a label something we place on a courtship because with commitment comes a promise that we can depend on?
I’m not sure if actually becoming a pair as opposed to just mimicking one, truly changes the relationship – but I will say that playing make-believe with love doesn’t result in a happy ending…in the long run. But at the beginning, before happily ever after, I think a period of pretend is necessary.
The reasons for make-believe and dress up in the first place – where it be as a little girl or a 20-something woman – are to test the waters and try something new that you enjoy. How do we know if we will ever be a famous celebrity if we never act? Or how can we be sure we’d accept the princess lifestyle if we don’t give it a whirl in our minds? (I doubt any of us would decline putting on Kate’s shoes, though). The same goes with any new courtship with a dude – if we don’t act like we’re in a relationship, without the title or the supporting documents, we can’t be sure we really want to be part of an “us” with them.
At some point, the talk we all dread bringing up needs to be addressed – but when you’re just starting to get to know someone, why rush? Before I started this journey, as soon as I started remotely liking a guy, I was damned-and-determined to reel him ‘em and put a “taken” bow on his forehead (and profile). I wanted to do everything and anything in my power to make sure he made me his girlfriend so that I wouldn’t risk losing him to another chick.
But now, instead of letting myself get lost in the rush and the romance and visions of our kids and what my last name would be – I step back, I enjoy his company, and most importantly, I just take it slow. I picture in my head and feel what it would be like to be by his side, on a permanent basis, and I figure out if I want to move to the reality of a relationship or if playing pretend for a while is all I really need. While I do want a committed relationship one day, there is no need to be Ms. Committed when I first meet someone.
There is no hurry, no reason to worry – because if during playtime you realize you don’t want to be a fairy princess or a famous musician or a girlfriend – you just take off the crown, put down the mic, and let go of his hand…and go back to you. But if you do happen to enjoy it, while playing make-believe, that magic you feel reminds you that anything is possible.