Zero strings attached

18 February 2013 - 02:26 By Pearl Boshomane
Phumeza Dzanibe is navigating a dating scene of casual relationships with minimal emotional connection
Phumeza Dzanibe is navigating a dating scene of casual relationships with minimal emotional connection

In the days of Jane Austen and in her novels, men courted women they desired, going out of their way to not only win their love, but also their hand in marriage.

Two hundred years later, many people in their 20s are not interested in courting and marriage. Nor are they interested in relationships - relationships in the traditional sense, at least.

While over the years marriage has lost its appeal, relationships have offered a safe space for emotional bonds between two people.

But this bond has become an inconvenience for some. Traditional relationships are seen as complicated. Why risk heartbreak when you can get the benefits of companionship without the unrealistic expectations that often accompany it? The new, looser arrangement starts with the change in the way people date. Dinner and a movie have been replaced with "hanging out" amid a group of friends or, worse, chance meetings at social gatherings.

Young women often end up on these "accidental dates", says Phumeza Dzanibe, 24.

"Guys make it clear you're just hanging out," she says.

"But after a while the girl will often wonder if they're in a relationship or just friends. They don't want to ask and come across as clingy because the guy has spent his time running away from clingy girls."

Phola Gumede, also 24, says she hasn't been in a "proper" relationship in three years, though she has "kicked it" with a few guys.

"Hanging out" or "kicking it" are the new phrases for dating someone. Instead of being in a traditional relationship, many a young lover prefers to keep things light by cutting out the mushy bits and doing things lovers do without labelling their liaison as a relationship.

There is no co-habitation for these couples and they don't see each other often. Whether or not the lovers "hang out" with each other exclusively differs from one situation to the next.

Gumede believes people are choosing to "kick it" because it is easier to handle.

"It's less messy break-up wise. It's very easy for the one party to declare they aren't feeling the 'arrangement' any more."

But these kinds of relationships are steered by guys, Gumede says.

Keith Morapedi*, 28, disagrees: "The clause applies to both genders. Men sleep with women who let them. If you're letting me sleep with you, then you also want to hang with me. We both get to have a warm body next to us."

Women shouldn't be with guys who only want to hang out if they're looking for a relationship, he says. By going along with it they allow men to have commitment-free fun.

"Don't bend your values just because there's a cute guy in the picture. Don't do the 'hang out' thing in the hope it will [eventually] get you a solid relationship."

But a lot of women do find themselves hoping their "hang" will turn into something more.

"We're hoping if we kiss this frog a few times he will turn into a prince," Dzanibe says.

In spite of this hoping, it seems hanging out is the future of relationships.

"We're moving away from commitment," Dzanibe says.

Jane Austen would not approve.

*Not his real name