Are You Someone's Dirty Little Secret?

Updated: Aug 10




An article in Refinery29 UK covers the latest dating phenomenon - stashing. If you're like me, you just stopped and asked yourself, "What does stashing mean?"The term, coined by Ellen Scott in 2017, is one of many cutesy made up words that writers hope will take-off and become the new ghosting. Here's Refinery29 UK's definition:

“Stashing” is what you call it when you date someone who’s happy to spend time with you one-on-one — but they never introduce you to their friends or family. More often than not, their social media profiles don’t show any evidence that you exist. Used in a sentence, you’d tell your friend, “It’s been two months and I haven’t met a single one of his friends yet. I think he’s stashing me.”

In other words, that person you're casually dating isn't making the relationship public because you're not exclusive yet. That last part? That's a salient point both articles fail to address. It's one thing to be dating someone new and for them not to incorporate you into their life relatively soon after you're first date. If this goes on for several months, then - yes - that's troubling. But if it's only been a couple of months, don't assume you're being "stashed." Rater, consider the possibility the person you're dating isn't ready to take things public yet or they simply aren't the type of person who likes to broadcast their personal life across the internet. That's the problem with these made-up terms: most of them mean the same, usually innocuous, thing. We had an all-encapsulating term for that at one time.

Gather 'round, children. I'm going to take you om a fantastical journey back in time.


Picture it: Televisions (not iPhones, because we didn't have them then.). The early aughts.


A little show called Sex And The City bestows upon women everywhere a pearl of wisdom so profound it changed the dating landscape as we knew it.


Stashing, bread crumbing, benching, ghosting, paper clipping (what?!). Dating terminology aside, it doesn't matter what you call it. All of those terms mean exactly the same thing: they're just not that into you. And don't get me started on kittenfishing. (Where someone lightly embellishes their bios on dating apps. Hi. That's called online dating.) God, things used to be so simple before dating apps, smart phones & global pandemics.


While there are certainly cases where someone is keeping you away from their immediate social circle because they're being deceptive, there are plenty of people who don't jump into things until they're sure - really sure - the relationship has legs. There are even more people uncomfortable with making intimate aspects of their life part of the public space.


  • Maybe they have kids and haven't broached the subject of wanting to start dating again.

  • Maybe they work in a field where use of social media is frowned upon.

  • Maybe they work a job that requires discretion or strong boundaries, like a teacher or a therapist.

  • Maybe they want to be respectful of an ex after a break-up.

  • Maybe they don't want to endure the barrage of questions that inevitably roll in if you announce your split.

  • And, yes, maybe they're just not that into you. As you can see, there are far more reasons - none of which have anything to do with the state of your relationship - someone does not wish to incorporate you into their social media world.


For many people, making relationships Instagram-official is a big step. It invites a lot of unwanted attention from well-meaning (not really) friends and family members. Then there are the exes and creepy looky-loos who, unbeknownst to you, might have ulterior motives for keeping tabs on you. Remember, once it's out there, it's out there. Forever. Those pictures can be screen-shot, downloaded, and shared. It's not wrong to take that seriously.


Personally, I think people in a rush to post stuff to Instagram or Facebook are only doing it for the validation. And please keep in mind that I know plenty of men who do this. It's not just women. They write tweets and updates where the sole purpose is to say the words "my" and "girlfriend." If you're itching to get placement on someone's Facebook or Instagram page, ask yourself why.


Yes, someone you've been dating a couple of months very well might be dating other people. Unless you've explicitly discussed being exclusive, that's their right. Nobody is obligated to commit on your timeline. To a point, of course. If it's been six months and there's been no conversation about only dating each other then, yeah, they're a flight risk.


But here's the thing: you don't have to wait for them to initiate "the talk." My rule of thumb has always been that once a relationship settles into a rhythm - you speak every day or so, all your dates are planned and scheduled in advance, you spend one weekend night together every week - that's when you start talking expectations and where the relationship is headed. It's tempting to let things go on without clarification, but understand that, at any time, you could have the rug pulled from under you. If your partner seems ambivalent or vague, take that as a sign that you and they are not on the same page yet. You might be in the near future, just not right now.


If your entire relationship consists of vague plans and nothing planned too far in advance, let that be a clue as to what kind of relationship you are actually in. (Hint: it's not a serious one.)


If you need a catchphrase to make someone's ambivalence or indifference more digestable, by all means, use one. That doesn't change the reality of the situation - they're not interested enough to give you what you want.

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