"Sometimes, tearing off your clothes is just a pathetic attempt at taking control of the uncontrollable: love. It took me a while to realize that I wasn’t always getting what I wanted from hookups. As a friend recently told me, “It’s a terror to put your heart on the line and ask for what you want. You don’t have to be naked to feel naked."
Salon: Who Needs Casual Sex
I wasn’t a virgin when I got married, but I was close. Growing up in small midwestern suburb, I was more focused on sports than I ever was on smoking cigarettes or sneaking out late . My close-knit group of fringe nerds spent our weekends playing NBA Jam, drinking Pepsi and renting movies. Outside of adolescent fiction, you couldn’t believe that a group of pubescent high schoolers could be so clean and so square. Drama ripped straight from the headlines of a Baby Sitters Club novel (one girl did actually have diabetes so the analogy really works here). We had curfews, we listened to the adults, we wore seatbelts, one time we jumped into a neighbor’s pool with our clothes on after drinking too much caffeine. We were so innocent.
Senior year brought my first serious relationship with a junior who also quarterbacked the football team. He was a Baptist and had the body of an Adonis. Early on, he told me he was waiting to get married to have sex, which is basically the conversation every parent dreams their daughter will hear from her hormonal teenage boyfriend. We mostly held hands and showered together that one time before I left for college and I thought I got pregnant even though I was wearing a BATHING SUIT because Ann Landers said it was still possible. We broke up because he told me I was not Christian Enough and he is probably a youth minister somewhere, with 2.5 kids, still abstaining from soda, swearing and fun.
When I look back on the trajectory of my expectations over time, it seems I would always take whatever was offered. Never asked for more, never got disappointed with less. Never the type to send a meal back to the kitchen, I am the eternal optimist who can always find a silver lining, can always Make Do. I’ve always prescribed that this is a healthy and positive philosophy on life, and it probably is if you’re not a completely passive aggressive conflict avoider who has trouble articulating wants and vocalizing needs. The model, while appropriate for Life, seems less so for Love.
When the marriage counselor sat us down together and told me I had a choice, insisted I got to cast a vote even if it was an unpopular vote, the pendulum swung. In the same breath that I found my voice, I managed to lose my marriage. For us, the two cold not coexist. The worst part about therapy is when you arrive at this indescribable juncture when you learn what you and your partner are unwilling to change and you’re forced to choose to compromise, resignation or self-preservation. And so I chose.
The first guy I slept with after the papers were signed was a college acquaintance. We had mutual friends, lived 3 blocks apart and I quickly presumed we would get married someday because my Pepsi drinking, video game playing, 18 year old mind couldn’t consider us not. Fueled by my therapist’s encouragement (she should seriously have her license revoked for this) I wrote him a delusional two-page, single space email inviting him to be in an exclusive relationship with me BECAUSE WHAT NORMAL PERSON DOES THAT.
His delayed (and let’s be honest, appropriate) response was simply, Whoah. As in, a response email, with nothing more than the single word Whoah. I think he moved a few weeks later and possibly blocked me on Facebook. The whole embarrassing episode taught me all the wrong lessons. I learned I was too honest and too needy. Too desperate and too transparent. From that point forward, I decided I would not ask for titles, would not question motives. I decided to Just Be Cool and it has all systematically gone down hill from there.
I can’t pinpoint the science behind it, but the guys I like, always seem to like this Cool Girl type.
A girl who is confident and casual, independent and carefree. A girl who can flirt without appearing needy or over-interested. A girl who is relaxed in her expectations and ambivalent about any definitions. A girl who maintain a certain level of mystery and unattainability. A girl who doesn’t ask too many questions and doesn’t require any explanations.
Maybe the reluctant lesson learned all these years later is that being cool doesn’t help you attract or more importantly keep a partner. Cool is inherently absent of care and the only redeeming quality of ambivalence is never being vulnerable enough to be disappointed. Perhaps being naked isn’t the problem after all. It’s not being naked enough in the right way.