Don’t Title This Column!

Every week I send “Minus the City” to Daniel T. Murphy, my editor, and every week he changes the title before the column goes to press. I generally give my articles uninspired titles that are rarely longer than two words, such as “On Titles,” which is the current headline of this piece. Yet week after week, Daniel T. Murphy, god bless his soul, finds a way to turn my two words into something intriguing and headline-ish. You’d think I’d get the point and take some headline initiative. But the problem is, I hate titles. I hate that I spend x amount of hours putting together a piece, and when it’s all done and decent sounding, I’m supposed to muster enough writerly energy to slap on a good name. To me, titles are like cute underwear for your 8:20 – is anyone really going to notice? I have noticed, however, that my title-itude puts me in the minority. As college students, we love titles. Titles give us something to brag about on our r?esum?es. When applied to states of minds – ie, “I was sooo drunk” – they give us excuses. And in relationships, they give us a reason to be together (“we’re A Couple”), to not be together (“we’re Broken Up”), or to freely hook up with the rest of the student body (“we’re in an Open Relationship.”) My friend Molly is obsessed with titles. She refuses to believe that the guy she spends all her weekends with, who calls her at 2:00 a.m. to “watch” Family Guy, who buys her presents on every major holiday (V-day included), and who, over fall break vacationed with her instead of his frat brothers, is really her boyfriend. I swear she’s waiting, fifth grade style, for a “Will you go out with me? Circle yes or no” note. Said boy is just as bad. And so the two of them upkeep this charade, pretending they’re uncommitted while they pine for each other all over the place, dancing around their relationship drama until the Title Fairy leaves one of them that note underneath a bedroom pillow. Introductions would instantaneously grow easier if titles weren’t such a big freaking deal. Anyway who’s survived the awkward “Mom and Dad, this is my … friend” conversation will agree. Why can’t you just say boyfriend or girlfriend without it being the biggest deal since Mary Kate got bulimic? I mean, who cares if stuff isn’t that serious. Does calling it this title or that really make a difference? I say potato, you say well-he-might-think-I-like-him-more-than-I-really-do-if-I-call-him-my-boyfriend-and-I-don’t-want-to-freak-him-out-because-then-he’ll-never-talk-to-me-again. We like each other the way we like each other because of who we are, or because of the serotonin swimming around in our brains or because Molly’s beau knows when he calls her for a late night cartoon session, she will say yes. If we title people like we title our papers, we risk waiting for that magic moment when a “Yes or No” option appears between sheets. And time spent waiting is less time for loving, laughing, living.