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It's hardly news that conventional dating norms have gone out the window and, with them, so too have traditional dating labels.

"Boyfriend" and "girlfriend" seem to share the same fate as the now arcane "going steady." People are still dating -- sure -- but recently, would-be couples less readily refer to one another as "boyfriend" or "girlfriend," opting instead for basic , sans label.

Of my friends who entered into relationships in the past year, every single one of them first entered a period of exclusivity before even remotely venturing into "boyfriend/girlfriend" territory.

With absolutely no parameters beyond "don't hookup with anyone else," how do those in exclusive arrangements know what to expect from their... It's funny to think that such innocent terms as "boyfriend" and "girlfriend," that floated so effortlessly around the halls of high schools, now imply some sort of deep, long-lasting, sticky commitment of the utmost seriousness.

"How is dating her exclusively any different from calling her your girlfriend?

" I asked a friend who had recently broached the exclusivity threshold with his consistent hookup.

Indeed, labels are often black and white, imposing undesirable norms upon huge swaths of people to whom rigid conventions cannot and should not be applied. I mean, honestly, why is it such a big deal to call someone your boyfriend or girlfriend?

Labels do well, however, to simplify and clarify -- to provide boundaries and set expectations. Unlike married couples -- or even cohabitating, unmarried couples -- should a boyfriend and girlfriend breakup, there are few -- if any -- financial or familial troubles to navigate.

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