After happily hailing the death of dating and determining that cultivating relationships with your very own gaggle of guys has replaced sitting around in a little black dress and waiting to be asked out to dinner, the next logical step in our re-ordering of the romantic universe is to figure out exactly who these guys are. Your charming co-worker? Yes. Your brother? No. That crazy-but-kinda-fun guy you always bump into at your favorite bar? Yes. Your gay best friend? No.
Remember, your gaggle is "the select group of guys in your life who compel you to put in that little bit of extra effort because they are, or potentially could be, romantic prospects." That extra effort on your part, however small, still needs to be there.
So which guys in your life keep you on your toes? Who convinces you to go that extra mile (or at least a few extra meters) to come off as smart, funny, attractive and likeable? How can you go about recognizing these guys in your life? Because the first step in embracing this new age of romantic ambiguity is to start engaging with the guys you already know - once you realize that they're, well, there.
Check out the following profiles of the guys who can make up your gaggle. And while you're reading, try to conduct your own personalized gaggle inventory (e-travel over here at www.WTFIsUpWithMyLoveLife.com for more detailed, in-depth descriptions of each guy). You'll also find a smattering of true stories from real women who have already adopted the gaggle mentality and have started to recognize that not every guy needs to be a knight in shining armor in order to play a meaningful or exciting role in your life.
Strip away any doubts. Whether you come up with two guys or twenty guys, you have a gaggle. And while you're probably not dealing with all ten types of men right now - who has the time? or the typing skills? - you should use the profiles as a framework for categorizing the men you already know and the men who have yet to enter your gagglesphere...
The Ex-Boyfriend Who's Still Around
This is the guy who knows you best, eliciting a combination of fond memories and frustrating emotions. For better or worse, he's on a first-name basis with almost everyone in your life.
"I'd just had a big fight with my mother. There were lots of friends who could've talked me down, but ultimately, I only wanted to talk to my Ex-Boyfriend (who was still kind of around) about it. He just knew me so well - and knew my dynamics with my Mom so well - that he was the person I wanted to call." - Chelsea, Research Assistant
The Ego Booster
A "great guy" who makes you feel good about yourself, despite never quite being at the top of your romantic list. He's the guy who will help you with that annoying favor.
"I was bummed when I gave my number to a really hot guy from my racquet club and he never called. So after sulking for a few hours, I texted my Ego Booster to come to my next summer league soccer game. He showed up and, good as gold, cheered me on! While obviously trying really hard not to stare at my legs." - Rose, Paralegal
The Boyfriend Prospect
A legitimate romantic prospect who treats you with respect and seems to have long-term relationship potential. The one to watch!
"I realized that my cute ex-intern was actually my Boyfriend Prospect when he helped me move offices. During the hour we spent in the car, I made conversation by asking if he was seeing anyone. I was surprisingly disappointed when he said, "I've always been a relationship guy, but I think it's time for me to start playing the field!" So I couldn't help probing, "But if you met someone awesome, would you consider dating them?" He looked right at me and answered, "Absolutely." - Rachel, Non-Profit Consultant
The Hot Sex Prospect
A guy with whom you have physical and sexual chemistry, despite not being mentally, emotionally or intellectually attracted to him. You don't really want to sit through a whole dinner conversation with this guy, although you'd be more than happy to grab a late night drink...
"I call my Hot Sex Prospect my '13-year-old poster boy,' because I haven't been so giddy and day-dreamy since photos of *NSYNC covered my walls in the 90's. It's nothing serious, but he just makes me feel all kinds of hot and flustered. And yes, he's a musician. The sexy is back!" - Linda, Event Planner
The Prospect You're Not Sure Is A Prospect
A maybe-prospect who consistently sends you mixed signals, sometimes showing romantic interest and other times treating you with platonic ambivalence. His unpredictable actions probably drive you a little crazy.
"My Prospect You're Not Sure Is A Prospect invited me on wonderful outings full of laughter and drinks and flirtation. But then he would always kiss me on the cheek and run away at the end of the night. I never knew what he was thinking, until we talked about it two years later and he revealed that he'd been trying to throw his A game at me!" - Kelly, Publicist
An impressive guy who boasts some admirable trait or skill and is the first person you book for dinner when your out-of-town friends are visiting. You feel cooler just knowing this guy, but the buck stops there.
"My sophisticated friends from my study abroad semester in Paris were coming to town and I wanted to impress and entertain them, like any hostess would. So I made sure that my ultra cultured Accessory was sitting to my right at our dinner party, regaling them with tales from his year in Italy - when he was studying and performing the works of Puccini." - Emily, Art Student
The Career Booster
A professional contact who makes your workday a bit easier. He offers access to power, resources, inside information and/or an expanded network in exchange for a little extra attention.
"I was gunning for a promotion at work, but things weren't transpiring as I had hoped. I was about to give up when my Career Booster, who had been a thoughtful mentor and friend in the industry for years, encouraged me to pursue some other options and set me up with some great meetings to get me started." - Barbara, Film Executive
The Super Horny Guy Who Happens To Be Around A Lot
A party boy who never stops thinking, talking and joking about sex and has openly stated his desire to hook up with you (and almost everyone else). You don't take him seriously, but your inhibitions still drop when you're in his presence. Livin' on a prayer, baby!
"Barry is fun and charming, and he hits on anything that moves. I know he's just the Super Horny Guy who I shouldn't take seriously, but having him around to dance and flirt with really makes the night a lot more fun! Besides, I've gotten pretty good at feigning shock when he tries to make out with me, and I've got the "we can't do that or it'll ruin our friendship" speech down to a science." - Melissa, Sales Rep
The Unavailable Guy
A guy who has a serious girlfriend but still engages in a light, outwardly non-threatening flirtation with you. No one's wrecking any homes, but there's a mental and possibly emotional connection there.
"Sometimes I talk to my Unavailable Guy so often, and it's so comfortable, that I feel like we're dating. But then he'll decide to hang out with his girlfriend over me, and I think, oh yeah, right, he's not my boyfriend." - Michelle, Teacher
The Guy Who Just Blew You Off
An undeserving guy who is not treating you well but is still on your mind. You're likely tempted to contact him in an effort to get closure or "fix things."
"I was hooking up with this guy who basically disappeared on me. Except that every day, he would be 'Available' on Gchat! It killed me to know that he was online, and I kept wondering if I should talk to him, or ask him what went wrong, or say something cute...it sucked." - Jenn, Writer