You Might Be ‘Fleabagging’ and Not Even Know It

Here's everything you need to know about the dating slang.

phoebe waller bridge, fleabag
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  • There's a new dating term known as "fleabagging," inspired by Phoebe Waller-Bridge's TV series, Fleabag.
  • In the dating world, fleabagging is dating slang for a constant cycle of relationships with people who aren't right for you.

    Phoebe Waller-Bridge's TV series Fleabag received critical acclaim for its unflinching portrayal of a self-destructive woman. Waller-Bridge's portrayal of the main character also had viewers screaming "it me!" at their screens in hordes, as her increasingly poor decisions were so hard to watch because they were all-too-relatable. The show, and its unforgettable antiheroine, have since given rise to a new dating term: "Fleabagging."

    What is Fleabagging?

    Inspired by the first season of the show in particular, in which the fourth-wall-breaking narrator embarks on a string of sexual encounters and doomed relationships, "Fleabagging" refers to behavior of which many of us are guilty: dating people who just aren't right for us.

    This cycle of bad dates and toxic relationships existed long before Fleabag, of course; that just happened to be the most recent pop culture phenomenon to skewer the trend with laser-like accuracy. But it comes on the heels of decades of books, TV shows and movies which depict romance as a constant battle, and true love as a tumultuous, on-and-off, up-and-down whirlwind. Hardly surprising, then, that some singles internalize the idea that continual conflict and pain are normal things to deal with in a relationship.

    Here's the thing. Narratives thrive on conflict; real partnerships don't. Fictional characters hide things and make frequently bizarre choices to create tension and further the plot; real people talk about their feelings and take other people's needs into account.

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    "The problem with fleabagging as a term, though, is twofold," wrote The Guardian's Stu Heritage. "First, there’s the fact that it is a gross misreading of what Fleabag was about. Second, repeatedly dating people who are wrong for you already has a term; it’s called dating. That’s the whole point of dating."

    Heritage also speculated that the popularity of the TV show may have inadvertently created a kind of aspirational trainwreck; a cultural successor to the "hot mess" of the late '00s. As he put it: "Everything in your life is falling apart, and you are filled with existential dread about your own future, but you still wear nice clothes sometimes."

    When Waller-Bridge turns to the camera to give a soliloquy with cut-glass diction on her own terrible choices, it's arch and funny. It can be tempting to adopt a similarly smug remove in our own lives, or to think that it's enough to just be cognizant of certain cycles of behavior. But self-awareness means little if you're not actively making changes and breaking those patterns.

    It's important to remember that Fleabag was fiction, not a dating how-to. And—spoiler alert—even she got her shit together in the end.

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