He is her ‘question mark’

The other day, I found myself — as I often do — waiting in line with some friends to satisfy our stress-induced hunger at CREAM. To distract ourselves from the scent of sweet bliss wafting from the doorway that only served to make waiting even more painstaking, my friends and I attempted idle conversation. After a few minutes, a group of people walked by, and among them was a boy with whom one of my friends exchanged the classically awkward I-know-you-and-you-know-me-but-we’re-not-really-friends “Hey!” Once the group was out of earshot, the aforementioned friend turned to me and said, “That’s my roommate’s question mark.” Yes, she actually used the words “question mark.”

As a self-proclaimed connoisseur of grammar, this comment resonated with me even as the conversation advanced into a discussion of the pros and cons of having a friend with benefits (as it became clear that this was the relationship my friend was implying). It then occurred to me that in a world so consumed by the need to label every detail of our lives, perhaps we get too caught up in the intricacies of using the overwhelming plethora of words at our disposal to describe our romantic and sexual endeavors. We would be better off describing them in terms of a simplified set of punctuation marks.

So the next time you are struggling to find the right way to describe that one person where no combination of words seems to work, refer to this guide and use a punctuation mark — in either verbal or written conversation — to communicate exactly what you mean.

The question mark (?)

The question mark can be used to denote a relationship that is just as quizzical as this punctuation mark would suggest. Perhaps you and your “question mark” have yet to DTR. Maybe it’s a confusing friends-with-benefits sort of situation but both parties involved have unaddressed romantic feelings. Your “question mark” could also be a Swipe Right that seemed successful but is puzzling you because they haven’t hit you up again.

The period (.)

The period in its grammatical use suggests a sort of finality, and the same goes for its application to a relationship label. Your “period” is your endgame, your soulmate, and you’ve probably started picking out baby names together. You’re planning to shack up together in a cute studio apartment on Northside, and the average weekend will find you and your “period” on an Instagram-worthy stroll by the Berkeley Marina.

The exclamation point (!)

The inherent excitement connotated by the exclamation point is perfectly applicable to a new, fun and upbeat relationship, where you still wear outfits other than Cal sweatshirts and jeans on dates. Your “exclamation point” could be your freshman-year floormate from Unit 2 Cunningham whom you just started dating but always secretly had feelings for. The “exclamation point” could also be that special someone in your Computer Science 61A lab whom you’ve been eyeing for weeks and with whom you are now involved at the romantic level after a not-so-productive “study session.”

The ellipses (…)

The punctuation mark that is used to indicate some kind of omission or trail off, the ellipses is the perfect way to describe that awkward and shameful hookup that you’d really rather not go into too much detail about. When referring to someone as an “ellipses,” the general assumption will likely follow that your encounter with them began on a Friday night at a fraternity house under the influence of questionable jungle juice, and no questions shall be asked when you swerve into a different line at the Golden Bear Cafe in order to avoid eye contact the next Monday.

Contact Hannah Nguyen at [email protected].