No Sugar Added: The dating 'situation'

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Something is amiss in the wonderful world of mid-life dating.

It seems more and more often, friends and acquaintances refer to a dating connection as a “situation.” As in, “the Greg situation,” or “the Enrique situation,” or – if it’s under deep scrutiny and being analyzed on a daily or weekly basis – merely shortened to initials: “the R situation.”

The word “situation” implies that something is not working quite as effortlessly as one would hope. When things are proceeding along blissfully in dating-ville, you do not call it a “situation.” For instance, I never dialed up my mom from college when I was madly in love and said, “I need to discuss the Drew situation.”

A situation is unhappy. A happy dating thing is not a situation; it’s a healthy relationship. A love affair. A torrid romance.

When did our dating lives turn into a collection of situations, similar to World War II encounters requiring the strategic skills of a bunker full of generals, huddled around a 3-D map covered with toy tanks? Why do we keep anything labeled a “situation” in our lives?

I’m thinking this is mainly a female issue. Or perhaps it’s just a small-town thing. Do women in New York City have more “situations” than romances? Or is the pool of possible dating material so much more diverse that they drop a guy as soon as it becomes clear he’s crossed the line from “fun” to being pictured in the dictionary on Page 447 – next to the word “situation.”

Merriam-Webster lists several definitions for “situation,” but I can tell you with great certainty that if a girlfriend calls you at 11 p.m to discuss “the Floyd situation,” it falls under definition 5b: “a critical, trying, or unusual state of affairs: a PROBLEM.”

Perhaps I’m romanticizing the past, but did Grace Kelly call her girlfriends to discuss “the Prince Ranier situation?”

I’m guessing not.

I am, at times, as guilty of this over-analysis as anyone. It’s like checking on the state of your IBM stock each morning upon arising.

My girlfriend texts me, “So how’s the (fill in name of your choice) situation today?” This is sweet and caring, yet also points to our probable, mutual dysfunction.

I can tell you one thing with 100 percent certainty: men do not text one another from the waiting room of their dentist’s office inquiring about the state of a buddy’s “situation.”

They might text to see whether the buddy got any action the night before. They do not text to see what today’s pulse is on “ the Tiffany situation.”

I have friends of the male persuasion, and they do not generally think in the ways of most of my female friends. The female brain possesses amazing powers of analysis, and many women tend to analyze things to death. We may try to stop ourselves, but speaking from personal experience, I admit that it’s sometimes nearly impossible.

Which may be part of the reason that in dating, things can transition from “fun” to “situation” in the time it takes to put on new toenail polish.

Now please do not bother writing to tell me a brain is a brain, and that men and women are exactly the same. I am not an anthropologist, sociologist, scientist or therapist of any variety. But I am here to tell you, we are not the same. And I will defend that opinion to the death.

When I was approximately 15, I recall my lovely mother, Louise, adamantly declaring that men’s and women’s brains didn’t operate in quite the same way. Not yet mature enough to understand that “different” does not mean “not as good as,” I also remember rolling my eyes, thinking, “You have no idea what you’re talking about. We’re equal!”

Of course, a few decades, one marriage, one dead husband and hundreds of dates later, I feel the need to offer up a public apology to my mother, and defer to her obvious wisdom.

The situation seems to be this: if you are analyzing more than having fun while dating someone, it’s probably time to change the, ummm, situation.

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No Sugar Added is Cape Elizabeth resident Sandi Amorello’s biweekly take on life, love, death, dating and single parenting. Get more of Sandi at or contact her at