What Even Is the ‘Talking Stage’ and How Do You Get Out of It?

Amanda’s* “talking stage” lasted for five months. When Alan’s* name lit up her phone, she’d meet him on a Friday night in a dimly lit, brick-walled tavern in the East Village. “It was the type of place you’d go to be romantic—or if you didn’t want to be seen,” the 23-year-old graphic designer recalls.

He had a magnetic charm and cartoonish tattoos on both arms. She knew almost everything about him…except for what he called her when she wasn’t in the room. It definitely wasn’t “girlfriend”—they hadn’t had The Conversation—but they clearly weren’t just casual hookup buddies, either. What to call this ambiguously romantic, not-yet-official situationship? “Dating” felt sterile;

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