Male Call: Advice from a guy

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I’ve been out on a few dates with a certain woman, and everything is going fine. We really enjoy each other’s company. But when do you know you’re an item, so to speak, or “going together,” or actual boyfriend/girlfriend? I don’t want to bring it up in those terms for fear of being too pushy and scaring her off. Thoughts?

Ah, things were so much simpler in sixth grade, when “going together” meant acknowledging, through some complex elementary-school shuttle diplomacy, that you “liked” a girl. Then maybe you’d share your Lunchables with her (though not the bite-size Snickers), and to cement the relationship, slam into her a couple of times during recess tetherball.

Romantic times, certainly, but these days things are more complicated. As with so many modernities (computer literacy, hip-hop dance moves, the availability of prescription drugs), there is a generational divide, and the chasm is particularly wide in regard to relationships. For example, this “friends with benefits” phenomenon, meaning, we assume, that you hang out with a gal, and she lets you use her power tools. We figure this is what’s meant by risky behavior.

And on college campuses, the preferred way of dealing with the stress of academic rigor is no longer to attend sorority mixers or burn down the ROTC building, but rather to “hook up” with other “hotties,” having no intention of ever seeing them again because you’re too busy with homework. As Mom and Dad say, school comes first!

But we sense that you’re a bit more old school. Dinner dates, amusing e-mail exchanges from work, PG-13 make-out sessions on her couch. What does it all mean? Simply that you both are enjoying the unfolding of your potential togetherness. Nothing more, at this point. So don’t screw it up by trying to “define the relationship.” (Which is good advice for women, too – that phrase being one that will seize up a guy’s heart faster than running a V-8 engine with no oil. We speak from experience. The truck, not the girl. Well, OK, both.)

So your best bet is to let the thing you have, whatever it is, develop organically. In the fullness of time it will become apparent that you either are or are not a couple. And if that is too Zen for you, take three deep, cleansing breaths and open another beer. In the meantime, here are some signs that you might be heading into BF/GF territory:

• You accidentally call her “Honey” and the color doesn’t drain from her face.

• She skips her Bikram yoga session to accompany you to your Renaissance jousting practice.

• She tells you about her psychotic family, and rather than sprinting for the door, you’re oddly intrigued.

• You use her name by mistake when flirting with someone else.

Male Call answers questions from men and women on etiquette, relationships, men’s style and more. Write to malecall@mercurynews.com.

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