Have you been career-zoned? Ten new dating terms driving us crazy

Dating has never been more confusing. People make specific plans to meet up and then cut off all contact and block you. (That's called "cloaking.") Others might ghost and then attempt to come back from the dead. (Also known as zombie-ing.) Having a word for confusing dating behavior can make it a little easier to bear – it allows you to describe what happened and commiserate with others who've experienced something similar.

After confabbing with colleagues, friends and a one-and-done Tinder date I'm somehow Facebook friends with, here's our attempt to make sense of the frustrating things you might experience while looking for love in 2019. (Most of these have happened to me or someone I know.) Yes, we're trying to make "textual chemistry" happen.

Career-zoned (verb)

When someone rejects you romantically but wants to connect professionally. Natural hazard of living in Washington, D.C., where some daters would rather be LinkedIn than HookingUp. Example: At the young Republican mixer, I thought he was hitting on me. But turns out he just wanted to know if I could introduce him to Kellyanne Conway. I'm tired of getting career-zoned, so I sent him George Conway's email instead.


Textual chemistry (noun)

On text, your connection is off-the-charts hot. In person, it barely registers. Example: My Bumble match and I were messaging till 3 a.m., sparring about the Oxford comma, but once we met up, the vibe was so awkward. It was nothing more than textual chemistry.

Soul-mining (verb)


When someone tries to cram three months of emotional intimacy into your first three hours together. May seem exciting in the moment, but is usually followed by never seeing each other again. Think of it as an emotional one-night stand, or Before Sunrise reenactment without the sequels. Example: I thought it was sweet my Tinder date wanted to do the 36 questions to fall in love, but once she ghosted, I realized she was just soul-mining me.

Heart-bargain (verb or noun)

The law student or lawyer who tries to reason their way into or out of an emotional decision, such as a marriage proposal or a breakup. Example: I said we should move in together, but he heart-bargained me down to a weekend vacation.


Owl (noun)

That person who texts only when you're asleep – not in a booty call kind of way, but because they spend their days in a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility or they just want to seem inaccessible. Problem is: If you can't find a time to text when you're both awake, how will you ever meet up? Example: Who-who could be texting me at this hour? Oh right – it's my owl.

Instabait (verb or noun)

Uploading Instagram stories to prod a FOMO-prone crush to get in touch. May work in the short-term, but effects are likely to disappear quickly. Example: I hadn't heard from Anna in days! So I Instabaited her with pics from that hot new bar we'd talked about checking out, she DMed me, "We should totally go." We never went.

Faux beau (noun)

That guy who acts like a boyfriend, all as a ruse to just continue his string of hookups. Example: He introduced me to his friends and his parents, even brought me to a work dinner – and then said he wasn't ready for a relationship. What a faux beau!

Popsicle (verb or noun)

When your instinct is to play it the opposite of cool, but you try (just this once!) to play hard to get. Like the frozen dessert, your chill does not come naturally and may appear only seasonally. Since you are not at all skilled at this game, you act so chill that the object of your affection deems you uninterested and moves on. Example: I'm really into Sam, but I popsicled too hard. He got a brain freeze and stopped texting back.

Social-squatter (noun)

Someone who breaks up with you but wants to keep seeing your friends platonically. Understandable because your friends are awesome, but totally unacceptable. Example: Aaron dumped me, but then tried to get my besties to join his bocce team?! What a social-squatter.

Ted (noun)

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That person who doesn't realize the type of grand gestures that look like devotion on screen – like when Ben Stiller's character in There's Something About Mary goes to extreme lengths to track down his high school crush years later – are actually super-creepy when performed in real life. Example: I broke up with Dan, and then he showed up at the airport, where he professed his love through a flash mob and everyone watching started chanting "Take him back! Take him back!" I got on that plane, alone and safe.

The Washington Post