But Hooking Up Is More Fun
Now, I have no qualms about sexual exploration when you're not in a formal relationship. I've done it myself, and I encourage it—because sex as dirty is Old Testament sh*t. It took me a long time to come to terms with that, and it wasn't until my 30s that I let myself off the leash a bit to explore no-strings sexual intimacy. A lot of it was fun; some of it wasn’t. But it revealed something about my own intentions that I’d done a good job of hiding.
I engaged in a brief fling with a man I met online: a handsome, put-together dude whom I thought could make a hook-up buddy. It seemed like a hot thing to do, and I did it. The first time he left my apartment after having unabashedly wild sex on my sofa, I felt kind of meh. The experience was fun, but it didn't have any staying power. We hooked up again—and during the brief time we chatted before having at each other, he mentioned that he had started seeing someone new. And I was shocked by my response: I felt hurt. I realized he had no intention of taking me out to dinner. Hooking up, in this case, was a closed loop. Part of me secretly believed that he would come around because I was clearly so awesome, right? Wrong.
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Let’s Drop the Act
I saw a chink in my tough-girl façade. And I see yours, too. The pseudo-feminist affect you use when you say you just want to get it on and then get on with your life without getting "too attached" isn't believable. It runs counter to your wiring. It's pretending you don't care so that you ward off the risk of getting hurt. Show me someone who's too busy to be loved, and I’ll show you someone who’s afraid of not being lovable.
Now, not everyone gets hitched forever and ever. I don't think everyone needs to or should be married, and I believe committed relationships can be negotiated in many ways. Hell, I'm not even married and have no plans to be. You’ll probably go through many phases. Perhaps a good few years of monogamy, followed by a few years of unattached fun—as well you should. But avoiding real intimacy and connection as a Life Strategy, and choosing people who even you think suck, just to get off? That's not a plan for getting ahead. That's a strategy for avoiding the greatest fear of all—fear of loss.
You want to call yourself a feminist? Conduct your life from a place of power. And that means being in control of your choices, but also being open to risk—the risk that comes with being emotionally vulnerable. Recognize that wanting to love someone doesn't make you deficient or weak, but it does mean being brave in the face of potential loss. Because no one can promise eternal love, or guarantee that you won't get hurt. A mature adult knows this full well and loves anyway. Avoiding any attachments to self-preserve is to operate from a place of fear—the opposite of power.
You don't learn what you don't do. So if you want a relationship, now or ultimately, you have to practice connecting with people, and that may mean having sex, but that also means sharing a meal, exploring other stuff together. You can't do that if you're running scared that you may get "attached." Someday you may run into a dude you knew in college who has matured nicely, but unless you've explored what you like in a relationship, your ability to connect will remain squarely undergrad.
Anyone can keep herself busy with something disposable. It takes a more empowered, confident woman to engage in something that's worth her time, and to put herself in the riskiest position of all—to have something she can’t bear to lose, even if, at some point, she must.
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Terri Trespicio is a writer and lifestyle expert. Visit her at territrespicio.com or on Twitter @Territ. She lives in Manhattan.