Lessons in the ‘Girls’ Lexicon: “Main hang”

Main hangWe love HBO’s Girls, and we know you do too. Instead of doing a traditional recap of each episode every week, we will be taking a term that is used in each episode, and applying it to Brown’s own unique culture.

Main hang (n.): A person who inhabits the role of a significant other without taking on the responsibilities and legitimate (read: daunting) title of “boyfriend” or “girlfriend”

How it’s used in the show: Hannah attempts to discuss her relationship with Adam, reminding him that they’re not together anymore, to which Adam replies: “I don’t really care about labels. You’re here all the time. You’re my main hang.”

To use the term “main hang” is to acknowledge that there is some sort of relationship present without the weightiness and definite-ness that comes with using the term boyfriend/girlfriend. However, main hang is still, in a sense, a label, despite the fact that Adam doesn’t “care about” them. So what makes it any less daunting than it’s traditional predecessor? Maybe we college kids are scared off by what the titles of boyfriend and girlfriend have come to mean. We’re shown that in most cases, without a breakup (which seems to almost always suck), boyfriends and girlfriends move on to become fiancees, and eventually spouses. In our collegiate bubble that places a premium on individuality and independence, it’s normal for us to feel trapped by the seemingly inevitable chain of events that comes with boyfriend/girlfriend labels, regardless of how much you currently like being with your significant other. Having a boyfriend or girlfriend also means having to deal with a potential breakup. There are the awkward condolences from friends (and even acquaintances!), and the uncertainty of how long is appropriate for mourning and rebounding moving on.  

Enter “main hang”: a way of acknowledging some form of connection that, on our imaginary relationship spectrum, is sandwiched between a relationship that is exclusively defined by physical and sexual interaction, and another that involves more rapport and emotional involvement (i.e., between “hooking up” and “dating”).

But here’s where the semantics get tricky: the term “main hang” implies that there are, in fact, other “hangs.” While “hooking up” often (at Brown at least) implies exclusivity, “main hang” does the opposite: it gives people the go-ahead to be involved with other people. That begs the question: semantically, can we really have exclusive “main hangs”?

At Brown, if you’re talking to your friends about a girl or guy you “hooked up” with a few times the weekend before, they will probably ask you if you are “hooking up” with that person. Grammatically, this would seem to imply that it will happen again, as it connotes an ongoing action. If you’re at a party, and the person you are “hooking up” with is also there, the expectation, assuming there is nothing wrong, is that you would hook up with them there again. In this situation, we believe that the term “main hang” is a little less clear. For the most part, we aren’t really hooking up with multiple people at the same time. We’re sure some people are, but this seems like an unnecessary logistical nightmare.

While “main hang” implies there are other hangs, it also means that both people (assuming it is a mutual main hang) “care” enough about the other to say that he/she is #1. (Ed.- our middle school grammar teachers would be thrilled to see how we are utilizing our grammatical arsenal). Even though “main hang” is supposed to imply a certain degree of casualness—as we see in Adam’s reluctance to give his relationship with Hannah a label—the emotional attachment is still there. It’s like hooking up with an added element of emotional involvement, and like dating without the aspects of concrete exclusivity and the expectations and responsibilities that come along with it.

“Main hang” might be a phrase most Brown students should consider adopting into their vocabulary. After all, so much of our time in college is spent hanging out in various settings, whether it’s at meals, in between classes, at the library, or getting sloppy on the porch of Whisco. In fact, according to a recent New York Times article that discusses the changing landscape of the dating game, “The new date is ‘hanging out.’” In other words, the notion of a traditional, formal date is becoming obsolete. “Main hang,” in contrast to “hooking up,” implies that two individuals actually spend some time together, aside from their more intimate and physical interactions.

So what does this mean for Brown students? Will we put this label on these types of relationships that are characterized not only by ease and casualness, but also by the the mutual care that exists between two individuals? If the traditional date is dead and gone, does hanging out successfully fill the void that the date has left behind? We’re not really sure, but in the meantime, maybe “main hang” is the perfect term to describe that awkward state between the two poles of our imaginary relationship spectrum. BOOM, Brown lingo meets Girls lingo. Let us know what you think.

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