Right before I met my husband, I flew to another state for a graduate school interview. After we landed, I kept running into the crew from the plane. Turns out they were staying in the same hotel as me, including a very attractive man around my age, who I assumed was a flight attendant. He invited me to dinner, and in a very uncharacteristic move (I had to get up early for my interview),, I agreed. That was my idea of living on the edge!
Turns out the guy was the co-pilot and quite a hot, charming co-pilot at that. After Cuban food and an excellent mojito, I went back to his room to see his “flight plans.” Uh-huh. So we were making out, and it was cool. I didn’t feel pressured or uncomfortable, or any of those things “they” warn you about. I was having fun. So what did I do? I excused myself and went back to my room to rest up for my interview (an interview, mind you, I didn’t really care about). I think I am still feeling the sexual frustration from that night to this day.
Why did I leave my pilot friend (and myself) so unsatisfied? I had learned somewhere along the line to assume that I would regret a casual hook-up. I didn’t have any personal evidence for this. There wasn’t anything at all about the situation to suggest I might regret it. The guy was a perfect gentleman, and I really liked him. And yet, regret was the only possibly outcome in my mind. There was no part of me that considered the possibility that I might be glad I had hooked up with him.
I’ve received many messages, all the way from my mom, to female friends, to male friends, to media, that hookups lead to regret, especially for women. But no one warns us about regretting not hooking up. No one shakes their finger at us and says “One day you are going to be up at 3 a.m. changing a shit-filled diaper, wondering why you passed on potentially hot sex!” (Well, no one but me says that, anyway). Oh, my poor single friends having to listen to my rants.
When you are raking your brain, considering how to have good sex with the same person for 20-30 years, having that hot night with the co-pilot under your belt could actually help! Thinking about that hot night with a co-pilot could help sustain an exhausted, overburdened mom. Sitting up at 3 a.m., baby screaming, shit covering your hands, thinking about how hot that night could have been… now that’s lame!
In this month’s Monitor on Psychology, there was an interesting review of research on “sexual hook-up culture.” The article states that “on average, both men and women appear to have higher positive affect than negative affect after a hookup.” Of course it goes on to qualify that the positive feelings may be short-lived and the emotional responses complicated, but overall it makes the point that folks are not, on the whole, regretting casual sex.
Reading this made me recognize some of my own biases, especially from earlier in life. I distinctly remember this image in my mind of an inevitable “walk of shame” – wandering the streets the next morning feeling dazed and a little hungover, my dirty underwear balled up in my purse. I pretty much had this built-in assumption that “hook-ups” would leave me feeling empty, ashamed, and just overall regretful. Looking back from the vantage point of a married, suburban mom, the “walk of shame” actually sounds kinda fun!
The truth is, I’m not glad I was more conservative about hook-ups back then, quite the opposite. My regrets, by and large, are over not hooking up. I was way too focused on the “walk of shame” and not paying enough attention to the “walk of lame.” I’m not talking about other people thinking I was lame for not hooking up. I’m talking about me going back to my room alone, having missed out on something I STILL regret not doing ten years later!
A few years prior to meeting my co-pilot friend, something happened to me that I once believed didn’t happen to real people. I met a guy in a bar who I actually liked. Granted, it was a bar filled with graduate students. None-the-less, I brazenly inserted myself into a conversation with a bunch of men, one of whom turned out to be an attractive teacher, working on his masters. I myself was teaching at the time… and he was bald. Bald in a really good way! And yes, I am still sexually frustrated 10 years later!! So what happened? We talked for hours and ended the evening making out right at the bar. And what was I doing during the making out? Freaking out about how shady I was for making out at a bar. Can you believe this shit?
Course I didn’t go home with him, and I’m sure that was a fine and safe choice. The real lameness of the situation comes later, after our second date – no offense to the hubby – still the best date I’ve ever been on. At the end of the night he very politely asked if I’d like to go back to his place for a drink or go to another bar. Oh, the chemistry with this guy! I wanted to go back to his place, but somehow what I wanted didn’t matter, because I had no doubt I’d regret that. At the end of the night we kissed goodnight, one of those kisses where you lose feeling in your whole body. I SO should have gotten some while I had the chance, because here is where things went really bad.
Turns out my bald friend was too tipsy that first night to remember our discussion about religion – the one where he asked me if I believed in God, and I said no. He called me after that second date to invite me to go to church with him on Easter. Say WHAT? Drama ensued, and we met up on a cruelly beautiful spring day in central park to discuss how to proceed.
Oh, how serious everything seemed back then. I remember giving him this long speech about what spirituality meant to me, and how I could accept his religion, but I wouldn’t join in. His response was, “I believe in the bible.” That was the moment I knew I wasn’t going to get any. He went on to talk about raising children, quoting Abraham Lincoln, “A house divided cannot stand.” WHAT? It’s our third date!
Fools we were!! If only I could have conceived at that point that I’d still be wondering about sex with baldy after all these years. You just don’t think at that age! Single ladies, I am shaking my finger at you through cyberspace – get out there and get laid!
In college I had this “best friend.” He was the kind of “best friend” who makes out with you, sleeps in your bed, and tells you he loves you, but also dates other girls. Now this was a situation where I knew I needed to protect myself. Fair. But somehow it didn’t occur to me that while I was protecting myself by not having sex with him, I was stilling letting him twist my heart in knots and step on it. Did celibacy protect me from getting my heart broken? Not in the least. I don’t think the situation could have hurt any more than it did, but at least I’d have gotten some!
This doesn’t even begin to cover my regrets about not having sex with women! But that’s for another post.
So ladies (and men, but mostly the ladies, because you are the ones “they” will try to warn about the evils of “regret”). I know you are out there! Younger ladies, single ladies, non-monogamous ladies and ladies who don’t have 2 year-old twins and would be physically capable of keeping your eyes open during a sexual encounter. Don’t buy the idea that the only possible outcome of casual sex is regret! Sure, there can be plenty to regret if you have a bad experience or a really unhealthy approach that ends up making you feel bad about yourself. But that’s not every situation! Just sayin, there are other outcomes other than regret.
You can also regret not experimenting! You can regret passing on great sex just because a situation was doomed from the start. What’s to say a bald Christian and a horny atheist can’t have a good time together for a few weeks? You can regret not having had more partners. You can find yourself caught between wanting to have those experiences you missed out on and not wanted to hurt someone you deeply love.
And ladies, if you’re going to let someone repeatedly fuck with your head and stomp on your heart – that’s cool, sometimes we need to go through that to learn what we don’t want – but for the love of god, at least enjoy a hookup while you’re at it! Be smart, be safe, set boundaries when there are things you know you don’t want, but if you do want to hookup, go to it! And for now, I shall live vicariously through you.
Your Faithful Bad Influence,
Agent Lyla Cicero
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