In my last article I introduced the notion of communication. “But wait, isn’t communication only supposed to happen in one of those real relationship things?” Not unless you genuinely enjoy being in a constant stage of confusion. If that’s the case, you are reading the wrong blog. Might I suggest a jigsaw puzzle, or attempting to follow an episode of Homeland when you’re high.
I’d like to introduce a concept that is foreign to many in the hook-up culture. It’s called honesty.
Honesty is that thing you do where you take the thoughts you have in your head and you say them out loud to another person.
While I may never be comfortable with confrontation, or talking about my feelings, I have acknowledged that people are not mind readers, so if you haven’t communicated to them directly, the only person you can really blame is yourself.
(Sidenote: Fellow FTS contributor Amma Marfo dropped that gem in a text message once and nothing has ever encapsulated my life so accurately)
Unfortunately, if we want to avoid the confusion that comes with casual sex, honest communication is the lesser of two evils. For some reason, there’s this unspoken rule that we’re not supposed to talk about what we want or how we feel. Not only do we avoid this conversation with the other person, we avoid this conversation with ourselves.
When I say honesty, I’m not so much implying that people are liars. It’s more that people are indirect. Instead of being clear about what we want (or what we don’t want, which is equally valuable information), we resort to inconsistent behavior or social media to send a message that we’re too afraid to deliver.
Some examples: “Instead of telling her that I’m not looking for a relationship, I’ll just post a confusing Facebook status about my ex.” Or “I’m not really interested in him anymore so I’m just going to make bullshit excuses every time he asks to hang out.” While I do stress the importance of picking up on nonverbal clues, we wouldn’t have to do so much deciphering if people just used their words, and said things.
‘Assumptions Make An Ass Out Of U And The Word “Mptions”‘: I don’t know who came up with that quote, but god dammit do I love it. So many guys forego honesty because they assume that women will FREAK upon discovering they aren’t looking to be exclusive. I’ve had guys say to me “But if I tell her I don’t want a relationship, then she won’t have sex with me. I don’t want to get punished for being honest.” First of all, if a girl decides not to have sex with you, that’s not a punishment. You weren’t entitled to sex with her. And no one’s saying you have to have this conversation on the first date. But this is a quote from the guy who introduced me to this whole “honesty” concept, and it’s pretty perfect. “At a certain point, if you’re not actively lying, there might come a time where you’re having sex under false pretenses, which is potentially ethically murky.”
Don’t Say It If You Don’t Mean It: If you have to mislead someone in order to get them to sleep with you, you’re doing it wrong. While it’s true, there are some women who are looking for relationships, who might decide to move on upon discovering the truth, that is their choice to make, not yours.
While this might be a bit of a generalization, I would argue that the same resentment men feel when women lead them on, only to then drop the “friendship” bomb, is equivalent to how women feel when men act like they’re headed towards Relationship Road, and all of the sudden make an abrupt detour to Booty Calldesac.
You’re Not Avoiding Awkwardness, You’re Just Postponing It: Trust me, if there is anyone who knows about avoiding awkwardness, it’s me. The majority of my mental energy throughout the day is dedicated to having the least amount of awkward encounters as possible. But if there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s that avoiding a mildly uncomfortable situation only creates a significantly more uncomfortable one. You’re trading a minor “oof” for a major “OOOOOF”.
Here’s an example of an extremely uncomfortable situation that was avoided by simply being honest. Long story short, I had been hooking up with a guy who we’ll call Jared. (I’ve never hooked up with a Jared before so I think I’m safe. And if I have, sorry, you clearly were not that memorable). Anyway, it had only been a few weeks, so we weren’t in any rush to put any labels on it. I was invited to a party by one of our mutual friends, and had a feeling he might also be there. I wanted to find out if he was going, because anyone else who has social anxiety knows that when it comes to social interactions, I need to be mentally prepared. I sent a text saying I might be there (cause, ya know, PLAYIN IT COOL RIGHT?) And then casually inquired if “he would also be in attendance”, because when I feel vulnerable I take comfort in speaking like a character from Downton Abbey. That’s normal, right? Anyway, I was blown away by his response. “Yes, I will be there! But you should probably know that a girl I am also seeing (not exclusively) might also be there, so just wanted to give you a heads up.”
This would never have even occurred to most people (myself included) as an option. I truly did not know how to respond.
This gave me nothing to overanalyze or read into. I mean if you’re going to be that direct with people you might as well interact with them in person. LOLZ JK that’s way too extreme. Joking aside, my initial reaction was “Wow. Thank you.” And then I thought, “Wait, shouldn’t I be mad?” But I wasn’t. I was relieved. It was this moment that the source of my anxiety has never been the lack of commitment. It’s the lack of clarity.
Was it slightly uncomfortable for him to tell me that? Probably. But what surprised me the most was that he had the decency to actually consider my comfort level, rather than avoid the issue altogether for the sake of his own. It was then that I realized, the whole “exclusivity” talk doesn’t have to be a big built-up conversation. No one can fault you for being honest. If I had freaked out and called him an asshole, it would have been because I made my own assumptions about the relationship. Not only was I not hurt, I actually felt better about everything. And more importantly, I was relieved that this didn’t have to be me:
Be Honest With Yourself: This is my favorite type of honesty, because it requires zero interaction with another human. Again, it’s not that we actively lie to ourselves, but we do avoid the truth. My mistake in the past was that I never even stopped to think about what I wanted before entering into a relationship. I automatically assumed the role of the passenger and just went along for the ride, passively going along in whichever direction I was taken. Instead of really asking myself “Am I ok with this? Is this actually what I want?” It was more like “Well this is what’s happening so if you’re not ok with it suppress those thoughts until you convince yourself you are!”
There have been plenty of times where my connection to someone was purely physical . But there have also been plenty of times where because I didn’t want feelings, I convinced myself they didn’t exist. Unfortunately, that’s not how emotions work. You have to be able to check in with yourself about whether it’s truly casual for you, or if you’re just trying to suppress your feelings because you know the other person doesn’t want anything more.
On the flip side, I also spent an entire year in a relationship that deep down I knew I wasn’t ready for. I felt suffocated and unhappy, and I blamed myself for being a “bad girlfriend”. In reality, I wasn’t ready to be in a relationship, and I should have had that conversation with myself before it started.
My point is, whatever you are feeling, or whatever it is that you want, pay attention and don’t judge it. You’re allowed to just want casual sex. You’re allowed to want a committed relationship. But what you want should not be determined by what you’re getting. Switch that shit around. Decide what you want and then look for other people who want the same thing.