Now as stomping on the idea of the boyfriend-girlfriend relationship is a mighty counter-cultural idea, I forgive you in advance for dismissing my ideas as one of Auntie Seraphic's weirder turns. But I will point out that there are many societies that frown on boyfriend-girlfriend relationships and think that if you are old enough for a boyfriend, you are old enough to be married off to cousin Whatsit in the next village.
I am not just thinking Pakistan here. I am thinking about the children-of-Italian-immigrants who dominated my high school in the 1980s. A lot of my friends were not allowed to have boyfriends. And one of my Italian-Canadian friends came to the Graduation Formal (which Americans would call the Prom) with the wealthy 30 year old fiance her father had found for her. I'm not advocating this, incidentally. I'm just pointing out that boyfriend-girlfriend relationships are not a universally accepted fact.
I grew up thinking that you had to have a boyfriend to be a whole and normal girl or woman, an idea I suspect I got from Archie Comics, the teen romance novels so popular in my elementary school library and the sexual dynamics of the schoolyard.
Being adored by boys has long been a major female desire, transcending centuries. I suppose having a boyfriend is proof that, even though you aren't the Scarlet O'Hara of your social set, at least one boy finds you attractive. The kicker is that you aren't supposed to have sex before marriage, a rule it is easy to obey if you have no boyfriend, but rather harder to obey if you do. It boggles the mind that Veronica Lodge has done nothing but leave lipstick prints on Archie since 1930. Of course, she leaves lipstick prints on Reggie, too, so I suppose that makes it more believable.
The problem with the whole boyfriend-girlfriend relationship as it is practised today is that it is modelled more on marriage than it is on platonic friendship. Girls and boys (or men and women) fancy each other, begin a sparky courtship which very often includes physical sexual stuff, beginning and not always ending at prolonged snogging, and begin hanging out as often as they can. If they go to the same school or work together, this mean every single day.
When the honeymoon period ends, both come down off Cloud 9 and see their girl/boyfriends' flaws, which can be incredibly painful indeed. There may be attempts to resolve conflicts, usually by the girl/woman who simultaneously resents that women seem to do all the heavy lifting of relationship-building. Very often one or the other starts feeling bored with the status quo. Then, either the couple moves in together, or gets engaged, or has a public pseudo-divorce, following which both are free to start another pseudo-marriage.
And if you think this is very cynical and unfair, you should read the "Canadian Dating" chapter in Seraphic Singles!
Since I usually got bored and fed-up with boyfriends after a year of snogging and hanging out almost every single day, I was a bit worried that I was irreparably fickle and would make a lousy wife. However, now that I am a wife and have been for a year and a half, I can report that I am not bored at all. I am also as snug as a bug in a rug. Possibly--I'm just throwing this out as a suggestion--it is because I didn't have chance to get bored of B.A.-as-Boyfriend. And maybe it is because marriage is a real relationship with a real, committed, till-death-do-we-part future. When you're just a girlfriend, you're left guessing. Yes, maybe you'll get married one day. But what woman in love can stand not knowing when that day will come?
Looking back upon a dating career that resembles the Battle of the Somme, I wish today that I had been more detached from it all. If I hadn't hung out with my nice, devoted boyfriends every darn day, they wouldn't have had so much cause to blame me when I, bored, broke up with them. And if I hadn't chased those who would have been happy just to be friends, I wouldn't have been hurt so much. At the same time, of course, I don't regret that somehow everything came right in the end, and I married Mr. McRight and hopefully will live happily ever after. But I wouldn't mind saving you unnecessary boredom and heartbreak.
I was very much struck by a comment in yesterday's combox about a boyfriend who exhibited his rubber-band nature by stretching away for two whole weeks before snapping back to be Mr. Wonderful. I now realize that we weren't told how long Mr. Wonderful's snapping back period lasted. If it were six months or so, then it wouldn't be so outrageous that the man takes two week holidays from boyfrienddom. But if he snapped back for only a week or so, then my conclusion is that Mr. Wonderful wasn't so wonderful. And I wonder why anyone would want to be the steady girlfriend of such a man.
When someone is not your husband but only your boyfriend, you are not in a position to make wifely demands. The same goes for men. If a woman is not your wife but only your girlfriend, you are not really in a position to make husbandly demands. This leaves you in a kind of limbo. Happy the girlfriend whose boyfriend doesn't push her for the stuff only a husband should expect. Happy the boyfriend who is not pursued 24/7 by his girlfriend.
What is the way forward? Well, as I've written before, it is that men get serious about courtship (which should follow or accompany finding a trade or a career) and that women not push for emotional intimacy by calling men up, or asking to meet up, or asking where these relationships are going, or demanding that men share their feelings whether they want to or not.
Boyfriends are not husbands. Hopefully, though, they are friends.
Update: I just told B.A. that I would have been so mad if he had kissed me without having decided already that he wanted to marry me. I would have been SO MAD! Words cannot express how furious I would have been. Extremely furious. Medusa furious, with hair turning into fire-spitting snakes.