Fake Boyfriends and Why They’re Fabulous
an explanatory treatise on the Pseudo phenomenon
Pseudo is a shortened version of Pseudo Boyfriend, a phrase I started using (and feel like I coined) back in 1998 when Craig and I first became friends. Craig was not my first Pseudo, but if we’re going to have a linguistic discussion about the relationship between the signifier and the signified, then I think it’s important to note that he is linked to my adoption (creation!?) of the phrase.
The Pseudo Boyfriend (or, if you’re feeling like an inclusionist today, the Pseudo Relationship) despite what you may think, isn’t negative. The word pseudo may seem inherently critical in that it means fake, false or not genuine and is often adopted as a negative modifier, but I don’t believe the inauthentic is necessarily bad. It means not genuine, which isn’t the same as disingenuous, if you see what I’m sayin’.
I think, as an adjective, the tone of the word pseudo is directly and inextricably related to the noun that follows it – in this case, boyfriend or partner. And a partner, if you ask me (and you did), isn’t a bad thing to have. As for Pseudo Partners, well, in some instances, they’re even better.
Some Pseudo Nostalgia
I adopted the word pseudo into my personal lexicon in the mid-1990s after a boy at my high school (who I particularly liked) began a yearbook quote to me with something along the lines of:
“There’s little beyond pseudo-depth that one can write in a yearbook, but…”
Oh man. Did I think he was sophisticated? Yes. Yes I did.
That boy’s name was and is Todd. (He’s actually a “facebook friend” now, and I’m sure will be shocked (and potentially amused) if he reads this.
He was older than me by, I think, five years. A boy who’d transferred to my school as a Senior to finish up after taking “time off”. I liked him right away. I didn’t have a crush on him exactly, but not being familiar with the Pseudo vibe, I just assumed I did. I had a tough time that year. Felt a little heart break. A lot of social pressure. And out of nowhere (and maybe as a result of that angst) developed this strange friendship that basically involved me and this relative stranger having three-plus hour conversations in which I’d pour my poor little teen heart out, which led to philosophical chatter about the ways of the world. It was oddly comforting.
I met Todd when I was fifteen years old, on the day after Labour Day, 1995. I remember because it was the first day of school. Since then, the truth is that we’ve only had a handful of real conversations. Less than ten, I’d say. But I credit him both with charming me with the word pseudo and maybe even with being my first actual Pseudo. I never wanted to date him. (I considered a five year age difference to be an absolute show stopper, which is pretty ironic when you think about what’s happened since, but whatever.) In the end, my friendship with Todd was essentially vague and distant. We were never truly close. But I liked it. And when the opportunity arose to have that again with someone else (and to make it better) I jumped at the chance.
Here Comes Your Man
Craig is far and away the best friend I made at Queen’s. He is fun. He gives me a hard time when necessary and is a fan of tough love, but also refuses to fight with me about anything, ever. (Which is to say, he never lets me pick a fight with him if my feelings are hurt, which is frankly the best and only smart way to deal with me.) We annoy each other at times (who doesn’t?) but I am never worried that we’re suddenly going to stop being friends, or that I can’t be straight with him about things, even if he isn’t going to like them (which, I find, is an absolute indicator of a good Pseudo Relationship). Craig is charming when he wants to be and makes a good date to weddings and formal work functions and other horrible events requiring dates. And he is one of only a handful of people (maybe five in the whole world) who has seen me absolutely lose-my-shit-fall-apart. He’s since admitted that he found it terrifying, but he’s still here. That’s Pseudo Love. My parents assume he’s either gay or that we’re eventually going to “realize” what’s actually going on and get married. I suppose that’s a possibility, but I doubt it. Know why? Because…
Pseudos Never Hook Up
Yeah. Never. Never EVER. The Pseudo Relationship is inherently platonic. It’s more than a traditional friendship, yes, but a Pseudo is NOT under any circumstances to be confused with any of the following*:
A friend with benefits.
A huckleberry friend.
A fuck buddy.
*with apologies for the use of fairly stupid and vulgar terms.
That’s the whole POINT. Pseudos are NOT THE REAL DEAL.
Hooking up is (literally?) the kiss of death to a Pseudo Relationship. On occasion, you can have an effective Pseudo pairing with someone you used to date. (I have one going right now with the boyfriend who caused the aforementioned teen heart break.) But if you’re crushing on your Pseudo for real, in the now, you’re probably in trouble. Real romance just brings too much drama into the Pseudo sphere. It takes the comfort out of the thing and lowers the relationship to the level of any generic dating drama. And that ruins it. Pseudos are, inherently, something more than all that. Something better.
So What’s The Real (Not Real) Deal?
Pseudos are people you go on dates with. They can be either gender depending on your preference (but to be a Pseudo, one must be of the gender you prefer with exceptions for bisexuality). They are not your best friends, neither are they the sorts of people you hang out with in groups, see at parties, and enjoy, but don’t particularly connect with. Pseudos are basically people you like MORE. They are people who, under other circumstances, you might have dated, but didn’t and don’t and won’t. As a result, they are people you just … talk to.
The Pseudo Relationship is traditionally a one-on-one sort of thing. Pseudos have a lot in common, or at least a sympathetic understanding of each others' ideals and world views. Each finds the other endearing in some way. And most importantly, as already stated, Pseudos meet for traditional date-type activities (coffee, dinners, long-walks, etc.), but ultimately, it’s the quality of the interaction that counts. Pseudos are people you share secrets with. You discuss real stuff that might otherwise be reserved for actual relationships (serious personal history, family, heart break, deep and abiding views on pop culture, etc.). You see what’s appealing in each other, sure, you just don’t want to go there yourself. Maybe it’s weird, but it works.
Speaking Of Weird, Some Wild Card Issues (Flirting, Set-Ups, Etc.)
I want to make one thing absolutely clear, because I think there are a sticking points where people might pause on the road to buying the whole Pseudo concept: flirting is permitted. Innocuous flirting, I mean. Nothing that might truly be misinterpreted, nothing too aggressive. (Sidebar: I’ve often been told that I am a big flirt, which isn’t fair, really, since I think the judgment is based entirely on the fact that I giggle and smile a lot, both of which are protective/defense mechanisms and neither of which I reserve for men, but I digress.) Some Pseudos are flirtier than others. My friend Nick, for example, is a flirt. That’s just who he is. But he’s a non-threatening flirt who uses silly, canned-lines for comedic value, and spreads that vibe among his friend-circle fairly indiscriminately. Craig, alternately, is actually not much of a flirt. He tends to reserve his flirting for women he’s actually interested in dating and/or hooking up with.
Strangely, I’ve found that flirting is most common with Pseudos not when both sides are single (which is what you’d expect) but when both sides are firmly linked to other people. I think this is because, if both people in a Pseudo Relationship are single, there’s really nothing definite keeping them apart, and flirting might therefore give rise to scary questions like “why aren’t WE together?” But if both Pseudos are with other people, if you carry the certainty that you’ve both (or even just one of you has) definitely chosen something else and therefore, the certainty that there is absolutely no potential for you as a real couple, Pseudos can partake in a little flirting with no pesky what ifs nosing their way in to ruin the vibe.
And while we’re talking about vibes and what ifs, I think it’s worthwhile to mention that Pseudos often go through a period where they try to set each other up. I don’t know why. I think it’s an anxiety thing. It tends to happen early on, when the Pseudo Relationship is new and maybe unsettling because, let’s face it, many people aren’t particularly accepting of opposite gender friendships. Deep down, a lot of us are Harrys (as in, Billy Crystal in When Harry Met Sally) who don’t believe men and women can ever truly be friends. As a result, many new Pseudos pass through a period where they try to prove that they are NOT interested in the other person “that way” by pimping each other out.
In my experience, Pseudo setups rarely work out. Pseudos tend to be good at supporting each others respective Real Partner choices, but terrible at picking those people themselves. I think the mistake made most often is that we pick potentials for our Pseudos who are either just like us, or exactly the opposite, neither of which makes much sense. Nick and I discussed this the other day because he is my only Pseudo who’s never tried to set me up. When I asked him why, he was predictably cute about it. “Because I want you all to myself,” he said. “I don’t want to share you.” (See the Flirt Factor, mentioned above.)
The Oh at the End of Pseudo
In the end, all I’m really trying to do here is explain what a Pseudo is. And before you start thinking me a big pseudo slut, let me say this: I don’t actually have a lot of these relationships. I have a few. At the moment, I also have a couple of male friends you could say I’m Pseudo Dating, but they are not (yet?) actual Pseudos. It’s a small circle. It takes a lot to get in. I love these men because they are kind to me in a way the men I’ve actually dated have certainly never been. They’re steadfast and into the fidelity of friendship, which I love. And most of all, though I expect a lot of them, they never let me down. That’s the criteria. I guess it’s a lot to ask, but if you can get it, why wouldn’t you?
Pseudos are seriously good stuff.
Anyway. Asked and answered. You brought this on yourselves.