Self-judgment is an ugly feeling. It’s always so much easier to play the comforter to friends, listening to their woes and validating their decisions. The fallout zone always seems so much more frightening when it’s in your own life. Foremost among many 20-somethings’ sexual concerns is their Number.
The ‘modern woman’ has been struggling with this for decades, since the sexual revolution really took hold and broadened social norms to allow some wiggle room on the whole pre-marital sex deal. It’s rarely ever ‘boy-meets-girl, love at first sight, and get married for the 2.5 kids with a white picket fence’ anymore. Chastity belts have been traded in for liberty, exploration, and more frequent free-condom-raids to the local Planned Parenthood.
My mother taught me to test drive a car before you buy it, and I hold to that wisdom. [Hey, even if you don’t make the purchase, the test drive can still be a whirlwind of fun!] Adventuring isn’t without its risks, though. (It wouldn’t be an adventure if it were totally safe, now would it?) Those Planned Parenthood trips aren’t only for condoms, and haven’t always been stress-free jaunts with girlfriends. Sometimes, they’re there for moral support as pregnancy tests are processed… and that’s somehow the least of the worries. This is a frightening new world we’ve been born to. Sex isn’t just fun—it can kill you.
It still is tough when the casualty is something like your heart,rather than your health. Sometimes I think that the stronger women hurt deeper. Everyone likes to treat us like we’re indestructible. They can throw anything they want our way, and we’ll keep trucking with barely a cold glance thrown their way. Hey, the higher you fly from hurt, the harder you fall, right? But more than anything, it’s likely just your bruised pride. [It’s total bullshit anyway, of course, to think my ego is more important than some vapid girl’s. A hurt girl is a hurt girl, bottom line.]
What I’ve always struggled with is the disconnect between my mind and my heart. I can examine, rationalize, and excuse an entire situation from beginning to end, but no degree of intellectual understanding will ease the emotional havoc surging through my veins. That I liked a guy, but never planned on committing because that spark wasn’t entirely there. I’m too young to settle down. He isn’t what I’m looking for. All those reasoned practicalities I figure out as I’m dating someone, they all go out the window when rejection walks through the door. Especially when it comes from a guy that slept with you, and turned around the next week with “I met someone else and want to try and see where it goes with her”. Via text. What a douche.
Even more so when at one point that night, when skirting around the question of what our Numbers are, he laughed and said, “well, not nearly enough to have to make a New Year’s Resolution about not sleeping with people, like you did”. Or something to that effect. I didn’t write it down, so don’t quote me word-for-word.
Yes, I had told him on date two that I wouldn’t sleep with him because I barely knew him. That only 24 hours from meeting, I wouldn’t be with someone past the PG-13 degrees of PDA. When pressed, I joked that it was a NYE resolution. After he said this the night that I did [perhaps mistakenly] sleep with him, I jerked up and set him straight. No, my number isn’t astronomical—it’s actually entirely average for my age. The need for a resolution isn’t a sexual one, it’s an emotional one. I went through a very dark time two years ago when I dealt with far more death, divorce, abandonment, and entirely life breakdown than a lot of people will experience in much of their lives. Even though I shouldn’t have needed to defend myself, I told him that my friends and I pulled through that year by any means necessary—and yes, sex was a key coping mechanism. But I’m not entirely back to how free I was at that time, because sexual liberation is still linked to mourning in my head. The emotions are a bit tangled, so I need to work on it a bit.
Not that it’s much of his business, to be honest. He didn’t comment much else on the topic, and I let it go, thinking it was just a moment of honesty in a conversation with a potentially consistent new guy. With my nifty 20/20 hindsight now, I wonder if that translated wrong to him. And by wrong, I mean that HIS perception is off, not my past. Because I damn well don’t regret my life and how I’ve survived grief—anyone that thinks I should feel ashamed can bite me and piss off.
And that’s the sexual long and short of it: women are shamed; men are acclaimed.
We have to do battle with the double-standard of sex. Among other gender inequities, women bear the humiliation while men get the benefits. Have you ever heard someone looking at a hungover guy walking home on a college campus at 7am laugh and comment on his Walk of Shame? No—because that’s something GIRLS do. Right? Today’s modern girl has to balance the empowerment of ‘I can explore my sexuality the same as any guy’ with the internalized repression that ‘girls who give it up are sluts’.
So where’s the trade-off? How do guys ‘get laid’, while girls ‘get trashy’ by committing the same act? Guys grow in each other’s esteem after sharing the news of another conquest, yet those girls’ stock plummets. They are lesser. Suddenly, they’re ‘undateable’. She’s now the kind of girl you meet at a bar or party to get drunk with and make stupid decisions. She’s never the girl to take to the movies, or meet for dinner. Which is amusing to me, because many guys have told me the reason they wouldn’t casually date me is because I’m the kind of girl you make your girlfriend. [Even if that’s not what I want at that time.]
I’m still figuring out where this unbalance happens, and how they [such men] could possibly think it’s just. I guess we’re all still trying to puzzle this one out, taking each obstacle as it comes. Yes, I struggle against my society and the internalized repression it still has instilled in me. Sure, I fight against the judgment of others for my sexual life. All I know is that for the most part, my Number is just right for me and my life, and I sure as hell won’t let anyone take that hard-earned knowledge from me. Because I know that with each of those numbers, I’ve climbed mountain after mountain of self-understanding that have taught me who I am. And I’m not done adding to that Number, or climbing those mountains. The rest of the world can just settle themselves down and mind their own fucking business.
Though I’m not genuinely this bitter, I can’t help laughing at dedicating this as a farewell to the Stealth Hippie:
Sex gives a whole new meaning to the classic 80’s song. Originally the Clash’s version of romantic angst, it always pops into my head when struggling with the decision to take it to the next level with a guy or not.
It’s never asked to him, because I know what his answer will always be—a resounding ‘Yes!’ It’s more like a mildly schizophrenic internal discussion. ‘Should I let him stay, or not?’ I’ve been out with this one guy a few times, genuinely like being around him, and definitely like the kissing activities. But to be honest, that could be chalked up along with a lot of guys I date—this one simply intrigues me enough.
For me, it’s all about the experiences. Your youth is the time to explore, and I’m not trying to squander my life by worrying too much. I worry just enough for myself, and the rest is history. There have been times when amazing chances slipped out of my fingers in the past, and I’m not about to let it happen any more.
Carpe diem 2012! Right?
I believe this Exploration Era should be applied to sexuality and dating, too; in fact, that should be a huge chunk of your self-examination. How can you expect to meet Mr. Rest-of-Your-Life if you haven’t fully expanded into who you’re meant to be? So try new things, figure out what [and who] you like, and the rest will fall into place.
That’s why this guy is so fascinating. Let’s call him ‘Stealth Hippie’, for a codename. He’s one of those guys that listen to Phish, go to music festivals, have trippy tapestries on the walls, and then wake up bright and early Monday morning to go to the office in suit-and-tie. It’s probably one of my favorite social typecasts, this balance of hippie and yuppie that realized they’re no longer in college and actually grew up a little. It’s an amazing mix
So, my Stealth Hippie. First date was a great start. We met for some beers at a favorite spot of mine, talked about everything from work to travel, all the usuals. He seemed like a cute, DC corporate-newbie, until I mentioned music festivals and he perked up with the name of my favorite one. I haven’t been caught off-guard by a Stealth Hippie in awhile, but it was a great surprise. I’m pretty sure that’s where the friendly atmosphere shifted to genuine interest for both of us. He drove me home after, in a mix of gallantry because it was raining, feigning the need to play this band he’d been telling me about, and most-likely just figuring out a situation that ended in a good-night kiss.
The band was incredible, it had been awhile since I’ve been in a car besides a cab, and I ended up thinking his uncertainty for a kiss was adorable enough to just lean forward and initiate it myself. It was a solid decision. He had this sort of controlled intensity that piqued my curiosity even more.
The next night, he kept in touch while I was at work and managed to meet up with some of my restaurant friends at a bar we hit on Thursdays for drinks, my favorite salsa band, and to shoot pool. His roommate came with, and they both seemed to have fun checking a new place out. I figured they would head home together, but the friend ducked out after awhile to leave us the pool table to ourselves. On the bus that goes to both our houses, he asked if I wanted to keep hanging out. Laughing, I asked if he meant in general, or continue that night?
So he came over to listen to music. Hey now! I made sure to detour him to an ATM to get cab fare home, since the last bus had already run. I insisted that knowing a guy 24 hours does not get a sleep-over invitation… But that doesn’t mean we didn’t make-out to Pink Floyd like I haven’t done since I was in high school. And this Stealth Hippie had one more card to play—that controlled intensity raised a mental flag for a reason. At one point, I laughed and said he had an interesting style. When he responded with, ‘What, sexually?’, I nodded. He said he likes to be dominant. I asked why, wondering if he consciously knows what he likes.
“I like to be in control.”
Ohh… what an unusual hippie… A Dominant one? I’m utterly fascinated. I did manage to keep my shit together enough to scoot him out the door around 2am, instead of caving. It wasn’t about upping my number in itself, I just won’t add someone to the list just for a one-night stand deal. He quietly said ‘I don’t think we have to worry about it being like that’. As much as I hoped that meant what I wanted it to, I let it lie and opted to repeat myself from earlier. Like I said, I had only known him since the night before, so it wasn’t going any further than PG-13 on the second night.
When he asked why, I said I didn’t know him yet. ‘Well, what do you want to know?’ Laughing, I said ‘everything’, but that would have to wait for another night. He was ready to go away for the long weekend, and I wanted to see if he was actually genuinely interested.
The interest apparently held strong over the weekend. We met up again last night, and it was pretty memorable on all accounts.
I love it when I get to the point in dating when the guy asks “So what, are you looking for a boyfriend or something?” My response is an easy one.
“No, I’m looking for consistency, not monogamy.”
I love getting that question, though. Most of the time, it’s asked in a tone of voice that implies anything in the affirmative is a deal-breaker. Which, to me, means the guy is immature, has serious/recent baggage, or both. And THAT is a deal-breaker for me, so just move along until you grow up, Peter Pan.
It’s especially amusing when it’s in response to putting on the breaks. I’m not judging the One-Night Stand practice. It can be fantastic, fun, and just what someone needs for their emotional and social state. But at this point in my life, I’m not really interested in raising my number for that set-up. I don’t think your number is what matters in the end, per se, but the experiences it represents. Falling into bed within 24 hours of meeting doesn’t make the standards cut.
“But if the number doesn’t matter, I don’t understand why we can’t…” Well, you don’t have to understand, now do you? No, you don’t. You just have to respect that my clothes are staying on, and we can both deal with the frustration of PG-13 activities. Deal with it. If you stick around, then we’ll both find the other person actually worth the wait, now won’t we?
So no, I’m not looking for a relationship to disrupt my current routine or dedicate all my social time to. Then again, that’s probably because I haven’t met someone that piqued my interest long enough. I have to WANT to spend that time with someone; once you’re intrigued enough, the time seems to magically rearrange itself.
First, I have no problem with monogamy. I think it’s a beautiful thing, and in our deepest nature to crave someone to spend our lives with. Mankind doesn’t generally like to be left alone. We are social creatures, and are too dynamic to be able to amuse ourselves forever.
What I DO take issue with is the abuse of the institution. Serial Daters drive me nuts, and have society wound so tight that we all carry anti-commitment baggage that probably isn’t even ours. Guys are convinced every girl wants to settle down and tie the knot, even though the thought hasn’t even crossed some of our minds. Girls are defensive when asked if they’re looking for a relationship, scared it will spook whichever guy is asking.
A friend and I had an interesting conversation on polyamory vs. monogamy the other night, and he had some interesting additions to my general philosophy. He said that humans are meant to be monogamous in the end, but what if polyamory is just the time until then? I like that way of putting it.
I am not a polyamorous personality, but I am living the lifestyle for now. That’s the difference between people like me, and Serial Daters. I have no problem being on my own, until I find someone worth giving much of my time to, and getting to know multiple people until I do meet someone special. These guys I’m dating, they aren’t the only ones and I don’t expect to be the only one for them either. I like to multi-task, and social stimulation makes me happy.
If I get into a monogamous relationship, it doesn’t mean I want to marry that person. I think your youth should be spent experimenting, with both freedom and commitment. You learn a lot about yourself in both social states, and that’s necessary before you meet the rest of your life. I also think it’s important to try dating different types of people. You might be surprised by what turns you on, and which personalities mesh right with yours. This is the time to explore.
Life is pretty amazing when you practice monoga-me.
For myself, I’m enough. My beau, DC, has given me plenty of fascinating guys to spend time with and explore myself. I carpe diem when- and whatever I want. I’d rather take advantage of that rather than get hung up on searching for The One. People miss out on life, rushing about the way they do. I’d rather mosey on about and enjoy whatever comes my way.
In the words of one of my favorite philosophers: