So, Uh…How Many Josh Hinge’s Do You Have On Your Phone Rn?

Do me a quick favor, will ya? Open your Contacts app, click on the Search bar, and type in “Hinge.” Now do the same for “Tinder,” “Bumble,” and every other dating app you’ve ever used. (You’d be surprised how many matches from college are still taking up precious storage space.) Now tally them up. What’s your total?

When I did this, I counted five. When my best friend did this, she had nine. I suggested my girlfriends do it at a dinner party the other night and between the five of us, we had 17 (-ish. One friend saved a guy on her phone as “Mike [Last Name Redacted] OkCupid.” It counts!).

Conclusion: This weird “I don’t wanna give them a last name yet” mentality is most definitely A Thing We Do. Even if we know their last name (because you def already found them on social media or LinkedIn—don’t lie), we refuse to add said last name to their contact on our phones. I didn’t give my boyfriend a last name until after our third date. I have a friend who hasn’t saved her girlfriend’s number and they’ve been together for three years. She still comes up as “Maybe: Jane Doe.”

“I feel like it’s almost jinxing it if you save their number, so you’re just trying not to jinx it and hope the relationship works,” says Vicky, 30, who, like me, also has a last name phobia. “Like somehow, saving their full name and the permanency that comes with that will then have the opposite reaction in the universe and it won’t work as a result.”

For Nicole, 28, last names are a privilege. “It means I’m letting you into my life in a more wholesome and permanent way, like I’m making an effort to separate you from the dozens of other bogus men I’ve matched with on dating apps by full-on adding you to my Contacts. Basically, I’m giving you more permanence in my life.”

So the question is…what are we waiting for? What is it about a last name that feels so ~official~? Is giving someone a last name going to trigger some sort of fight-or-flight mode in the person’s mind that screams “SHE’S INTO YOU, RUN!”? They’re not gonna know what they’re saved as on your phone, first off, and second, even if they do, what is the BFD? It’s literally their name! Isn’t it better that they see (if they see) their full name instead of “Josh Hinge 3”?!

See, I know it’s deranged. Even as I write this, I think, “Why am I like this?” But I can’t help it—giving a prospective love interest a last name on my phone has always felt like a little too much; like if they have a last name, that means I’m invested in communicating with them, which means I like them, which means I’m hoping things will work out. And if they don’t, then I have to manually (ugh) go in and delete them so I don’t get the urge to drunk text them on a Saturday night after one too many vodka sodas.

Nicole agrees, and also considers withholding a last name a “tiny way to protect your space and your heart. If things don’t work out the way you anticipated—what’s easier to detach yourself from? A man whose full name isn’t even saved on your phone (probably because you always had some small hesitation about him or never felt like you knew him well enough) or a man who, at one point, you did care for, and have to face that facts that it just didn’t work out beyond a situationship?”

And guess what? It sucks! Deleting a number that belongs to someone you were excited about sucks. So why even bother saving it fully? And if you’re talking to multiple matches at once (which, hi, if you’re single and not exclusive with anyone, you should be—don’t put all your eggs in one basket, and all that), and you don’t want to get them confused but still want to remain slightly detached, well… “Josh Hinge 3” it is!

I know what you’re thinking. This feels…unhealthy, right? It’s a last name, not a marriage proposal. Giving someone you’re legitimately talking to a full name on your phone isn’t putting a label on the relationship before it becomes something. I know this! But that doesn’t change the fact that this little habit of mine (and of yours, I’m guessing, if you’re here rn) still exists. So I reached out to an actual professional for insight into what this all means.

To my very pleasant surprise, Dr. Gary Brown, a prominent relationship therapist in Los Angeles, told me it makes sense to not want to give someone a last name right away, especially when having faced disappointment in previous dating experiences—attributing that hesitation to a “healthy need to protect yourself in case future prospects do not work out.” (Feelings=validated ✅.)

“Not saving their last name helps to somewhat depersonalize them so that you don’t get too attached too quickly,” he says.

But, on the flip side, Dr. Brown also says that if we become too protective for too long, that could be a turnoff to the person we’re dating and inhibit our ability to grow closer. So basically, fine—there’s no real harm in not giving someone a last name in the beginning. But if that need to protect ourselves overflows into other areas of the relationship, it could keep us from opening up. And as anyone who’s watched The Bachelor franchise will tell you, that is…not good. Letting someone in is crucial to moving a relationship forward.

Some struggle with this more than others, and a lot of it comes down to attachment styles. According to Dr. Brown, someone with a secure attachment style (little anxiety, wants to engage) might not have an issue saving someone as First Name Last Name right off the bat. “They generally feel confident and know how to set boundaries when they need to,” he says. (Must! be! nice!) Someone with an anxious-preoccupied attachment style might get very emotionally attached early on, making them more likely to (if they’re aware of their tendencies) want to resist saving someone’s last name out of fear that things might not work out.

Someone with a dismissive-avoidant style is generally less anxious, but avoids getting attached—especially in the early states of dating. “Being avoidant is often a way of coping that is protective in nature,” says Dr. Brown, so a resistance to saving someone’s last name is understandable. And last but not least, someone with a fearful-avoidant attachment style can experience more anxiety and fear around forming relationships. This doesn’t necessarily stop them from cultivating them, but it might make them afraid of coming off as clingy or too intense. That fear could keep them from wanting to seem too attached, potentially making them less likely to want to save a last name. Dr. Brown, however, says it’s difficult to know for sure.

If you’re keeping track, that means that for three out of the four adult attachment styles, a resistance to saving someone’s last name makes sense. It’s not uncommon, and Dr. Brown says that for the most part, it’s (*drumroll please*) pretty harmless. In some cases, it can even be helpful.

“In this day and age where it sometimes seems that everything and everyone is so easily disposed of, it makes sense that people would and do use this helpful tactic,” he says. “I think it’s healthy in the very beginning stages of dating someone you don’t really know.”

So next time you save another John Tinder or Alex Bumble to your phone, don’t have an existential crisis (like me) and doubt whether you’re “normal” or worry you’re doing something wrong. You’re not an emotionless robot! It’s okay to stay a little guarded, and to some degree, it’s healthy to play it safe—even if it doesn’t make sense to anyone but you.

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