Summer’s nearly here — let’s look for love!

Let’s talk about sex for the last time this school year

Summer’s nearly here — let’s look for love!

People talk about getting to the various ‘bases’ of sexual interaction as if just anyone could waltz onto the field and pick up a bat. Chuck the ball, go the whole nine yards or so. But not everyone’s a star pitcher or batter — they may not even have tickets to the game. No — some of us need directions to even find the stadium.

If you’re like me, someone whose experience in the field begins and ends on the screen, at best you’ve watched a game or two in your free time. Maybe even watched a few plays before bed — or, let’s be honest, more than a few if you’re feeling festive.

Either way, there’s a solid chance, even from an outsider’s perspective, that despite lacking experience, you do know how the game works, whether you believe it or not.

See, everyone exists as a node in a network that connects each of our intricate relationships with one another. But certain relationships, because of pesky human society, become something beyond just another connection — they become a symbol, an image.

Virginity, marriage, and even the idea of being exclusively committed to another human being exist simultaneously for ourselves and for others. And as if we were chefs looking for seasoning in the pantry, the keen of us might look at this and say, “Ay, there’s the rub.”

That’s the crux of the issue with not getting into relationships: thinking you can’t play the game. Putting up walls, relying only on yourself, overly depending on a partner — they are all symptoms of attachment to a prescribed image.

I would wager that a significant part of feeling apprehensive about relationships is not your fault in the slightest. Because in most cases, a truly good, and dare I say, healthy relationship, romantic or not, begins with believing that you’re worthy of one. Not in fitting some image of what a relationship ‘should’ be.

And I’ve found that the moment you realize this, you start giving yourself opportunities to get in base and give it the ol’ college try. You play the game at your own pace, in your own league.

In the end, who cares what the professionals do?

It only matters what you do.

This new year, resolve yourself to get into a game or two. And if you’re scared, just know, dear reader, that I’m in the same boat, striking out more than I’d like to admit.

So come take a few practice shots with me. Slap on the equipment even if it doesn’t fit perfectly. Probably lose a few here and there, but eh, who’s counting? Play your cards right, and kid, you might just hit it out of the park without ever having touched a damn base.

Why my best friend from college and I are not even friends on Facebook anymore

Let’s talk about sex, the friend zone, and overdue apologies

Why my best friend from college and I are not even friends on Facebook anymore

Dear MG,

I decided to address you formally, mainly because of privacy concerns, but also because a cozy “Hey buddy” probably won’t work for us given the length of time we’ve been verified by Facebook as strangers.

I’ve known you since October 2010, the first day of college, when everything was still open to possibilities. A cohort of art students treaded on cigarette butts outside of the library, smiling at each other as we sought out a sense of belonging. Among those smiling faces, I took a long hard look at my face, as I looked at yours — a heart-shaped face circled by a coarse beard and wild hair ­— and thank god I used to dig that hippie-dippie sort of thing. There was a second of irregular heartthrobs that now aches for a lifetime.

Being a racial minority and an international student in the conservative UK where xenophobia still flares, I found it hard to blend in, even at a liberal arts school. Not to mention, my lack of interest in shopping and money for dining further excluded me from many social occasions. My friend zone had always been stylishly exclusive, by which I mean its membership included a total of two. And you made the cut. Yay!

It is thanks to you that for a large part of my college life I succeeded in feeling like I truly belonged. I felt British. I felt in. I had a good-looking British guy who wasn’t ashamed of being my friend, who phased in and out with all kinds of girls but never fell out with me. I thrived on that and rejoiced. Even though there were moments when we could have turned that friendship into something else, for example, the night when you crashed in my dorm room, and we shared my single bed. You tossed around against my back while I faked snoring, but I made sure that nothing happened because I didn’t want to be phased out. There was never a day when I wasn’t grateful to you for having my back, and even with so much effort on my part not to distort our friendship, I guess it did evolve into something else. After the night of our sleepover, we became each other’s sexless innkeeper who always had a room available in each other’s hearts.

In second year, we moved in together as housemates. You came to my room in the middle of the night, venting out frustration over being in the midst of three girlfriends. I retaliated the next day by perching on your bed and lecturing you for hours on end on some pretentious crap I’d read. We went to classes together, drew penises in the snow collected on random cars, bought Nutella crepes from Christmas market stalls, and raced to town for buy-one-get-one-free Cornish pasties together. Being together, I felt safe. I felt at home. And in such togetherness, I omitted the possibility of change as we geared toward the end of college.

One night, we went home and laid on the slope outside our house, looking at the night sky. I was stoned, and you were drunk. I complained about how now that the city council had finally fixed the street lamp, I could no longer see the stars. You offered to stone the lamp so it would be out again. And we laughed, one head against the other, hands in arms. It was cold and then there was warmth as you turned your head toward me and said, “A, between us, possibility is never off the table.” But like the night I turned you into the sexless innkeeper, I pretended to be too stoned to remember. A couple of weeks later, you got into a new relationship. Only this time, you didn’t phase out.

But how would I know?

I made fun of you in front of your girl like I was really your sister, like no matter what I did, nothing could break us. You were pissed off at me for my disregard and picked a fight with me for someone you’d picked up from the Mac room only months ago. I reacted badly and eventually developed an eating disorder. By the time you cooled down and told me your concerns about my health problem, I was as enraged as I was mortified. I thought I did a good job hiding it, and even if I knew how to seek help, I certainly wouldn’t have asked for it from you. What I didn’t know was that beyond the anger and mortification, I was hurt.

We went on without speaking to each other during the last month before our graduation. I moved out before the end of the tenancy and refused to pay you my last share of the water bill.

Two years since then, the girl you picked up from the Mac room is still in the profile picture on your Facebook account from which I have long been removed. And yet, even now when I type M in the search bar on Facebook, your name is still the first one that pops up. It hurts knowing that these disconnected years have rendered me entirely irrelevant to you. But I hope you know that I’m really sorry and I am grateful to you for our great ride once upon a time.

Regards,

Ali Hendricks

Dating as a high school queer

Let’s talk about sex, first relationships, and coming out

Dating as a high school queer

Listen, dating as a high schooler is one of the most awkward, confusing, embarrassing, and emotional things a person can go through. And if you’re queer — and this is a conservative estimate — it’s 10 trillion times harder. Take me, for example. As a semi-closeted girl in grade 10 in a high school with less than 40 students, my dating options were fairly limited. To make matters worse, I lived in the suburbs and didn’t have a car or a driver’s license — I still have neither — meaning I couldn’t really get anywhere unless I could get a ride. One of the few places I could actually walk to was a local discussion and hangout group for LGBTQ+ youth. I am forever grateful to that space for offering much-needed support, friendship, and community. It was also where I met a person I’m going to call “Amy.”

I don’t believe in love at first sight. I do, however, believe in the sweaty-palms joy of crushes at first sight. Amy appeared to be effortlessly cool, funny, and charming compared to my nervous, fidgety, and weird self. Not to mention, she was really cute.

I managed to pluck up some courage and ask for her number. From that moment on, we started texting constantly, talking about all the movies and books and shows we liked — for me, it was Doctor Who and Jane Austen, and for her it was Les Misérables and Neil Gaiman. When we both expressed mutual admiration for the Stephen Chbosky novel The Perks of Being a Wallflower, I decided to seize the moment by asking if she wanted to see the film adaptation, which had just come out. We made our plans and I casually informed my mother that I was going to go to the movies with a girl I had met at my youth group.

My mother, both supportive and aware of my bisexuality, asked, “Is this a date?” and I, in that classic, patented voice that only kids in grade 10 with lots of teenage angst can truly master, said something like, “Ew! Mom, no! Gross! She’s just a friend.” And to be honest, I really did think this was just going to be two friends seeing a movie. Because, while I definitely had a massive crush on her, I also assumed that I had no chance with her either. I also didn’t know how to flirt.

The thing is, society gives straight people a framework for how relationships should function early on, in all kinds of media. From an early age, straight people get to see how their romantic relationships play out — or at least how society tells them they should play out — thanks to endless books, movies, and other media catering to their romantic fantasies. There’s the prince and princess in fairy tales, the cutesy love stories of tween and teen dramas, romantic comedies, romance novels, side plots in most genre films, and so on.

We are socialized from an early age to understand romance between men and women. But what happens if you don’t fit into these heterocisnormative ideals? What happens if you grow up without seeing anyone whose romantic life might resemble yours? Because, at least until high school, and even then, I never saw any romances between women, not in real life or in the world of fiction. I had no clue how to flirt with another girl, how to ask her out, how to tell if she liked me. And I had also been taught that straight girls might compliment each other’s appearance, might be somewhat physically intimate, and might even say “I love you,” and still be 100 per cent platonic. So really, in my defence, I had no way of knowing that Amy might have liked me too.

So we met up at the movie theatre and hugged in that awkward way that friends-who-might-be-more-than-friends sometimes do. Half my attention went to the movie and the other half went to an extremely self-conscious examination of my every move. Did it mean something when our hands touched over the popcorn? Did it mean something when we made eye contact and laughed together?

After the movie, we went out for dinner at a nearby restaurant and spent most of the meal dissecting the movie. So it wasn’t until we were leaving that I finally, somehow, to my own amazement, managed to ask the question that had been on my mind the whole time: “Was this a date?”

And she responded, “I was wondering the same thing.”

We realized that it was up to the two of us to make the call whether it was or was not a date. And to my great delight, we decided that yes, it was a date. And since it was a date, Amy decided it could also be a time and place to share what would be my first kiss.

My relationship with Amy didn’t end up lasting forever, but we parted on good terms, with the knowledge that, on occasion, things can turn out in favour of the awkward queer teen dating in high school.

When ‘friends with benefits’ no longer benefits you

Let’s talk about sex, second tries, and no strings attached

When ‘friends with benefits’ no longer benefits you

A couple of months ago, I decided to get involved in a friends-with-benefits relationship. Do I regret it? No. Does it suck? Yes. Am I surprised that it sucks? No. After all, these situations rarely work out, but I also knew that I didn’t want to shelter myself anymore or cower away from new experiences, even if that entailed making myself vulnerable to getting hurt.

This was the second time I chose to get involved with this guy because I thought the feelings I once had for him were gone. Logically, I understood that we wouldn’t work out together, not only because he had expressed to me before that he didn’t see me ‘that way’ — ouch — but also because I genuinely could not see us in any type of relationship beyond this weird hookup or friends-with-benefits thing.

We don’t share many similar interests, we don’t really have the same sense of humour, and we just aren’t compatible. I figured that my judgment could override my emotions; naturally, this did not work out.

At the time, I didn’t even want a relationship, but tasting intimacy was simultaneously comforting and unsettling. I enjoyed it in the moment, but retrospectively, I felt fake because he didn’t actually want me and he just wanted to have sex with me. I began to crave something genuine.

I realized that my feelings had not disappeared and that I subconsciously thought that if he spent more time with me, he would like me. I eventually had to accept that I was the rule, not the exception, and that if a guy is acting like he doesn’t care, it’s because he doesn’t care. He was doing everything he should be doing for the type of relationship I agreed to: nothing more and nothing less. Could I really blame him?

I rarely dabbled in the dating scene, so I was disturbed when I began to doubt myself because a boy denied me affection. I began to question my emotional and mental depth. I overthought whether I was interesting enough to deserve romantic attention. I have always been strong-willed and self-assured, so I disregarded myself when I began to crumble over a guy who wasn’t worth crumbling over.

I hate to turn this oh-so-sexy article into a Chicken Soup for the Soul narration, but after I ended things with him, I realized how much love was in my life that I had been oblivious to while I was sleeping with him. Was part of this romantic longing a sick need to prove to myself my own worth by trying to win his validation? That’s when I knew it was time to end it.

After it was over, I continued to wonder if casual sex was ever sustainable, or if getting hurt and developing feelings for your partner is inevitable. A friend of mine said that her experience with casual sex worked out well. However, she only recommends it if you don’t see them often because otherwise “you’ll probably get attached, catch feelings, and start freaking out.”

I don’t regret my decision. I still care about him, and he still cares about me. I broke it off because hoping for anything stronger than platonic care is a waste of my time and energy. In a weird way, friends with benefits did work out. I learned from it. I sustained the friendship. I walked away.

If anyone relates to my experience or is in a similar situation, my main advice is to end it when it’s not fun anymore. If you want more from the relationship but can’t get it, or if you find yourself feeling generally dissatisfied or frustrated, you should probably move on.

Stop beating your dead horse. The horse is already dead and the punching and kicking will only make you winded. We all have too much to do to be winded.

This winter, the time is nigh to catch your feelings

Let’s talk about sex, ‘Netflix and chill,’ and cuffing season

This winter, the time is nigh to catch your feelings

The cultures of the world have changed much in the 700 years since feudalism was Europe’s ‘hot new gift’ to society. If you ripped a fourteenth century peasant out of their straw-thatched home and somehow got them on Twitter, you would probably be solely answering frantic, God-fearing questions for the foreseeable future. 

But after careful translation and explanation, one thing would still be abundantly clear: humans are and always will be walking contradictions.

Human languages are efficient at describing everything except the ironically unplanned ‘love child’ between our grey matter and the fact of the matter: love, and its adjacent cousin, intimacy.

Based on the millions of artifacts, documents, and tweets produced by us since time immemorial, you’d think that our willingness to admit how caught up we are in love would somehow ignite a sense of cultural candour. But no — the peasant would certainly agree — that would be too simple for us.

Even in our most intimate moments, when we’re allowing someone new purchase into the most vulnerable parts of us — in every sense of the word — humans get afraid. 

Humans reacting negatively out of fear? What a hot take! But really, our collective unwillingness to vulnerability is a bit of a cultural phenomenon. 

Take ‘Netflix and chill,’ by which the bashful — I mean uncreative — mask the embarrassing advent of planned or possible sexual intercourse with dinner and a movie. 

Take the idea of ‘cuffing season,’ when for a whole five or more months, we collectively use cold weather and seasonal affective disorder merely as a complex gateway event for prospective coitus.

It’s one thing to commit to watching Disney’s Mulan, but if you’re using it as an excuse, like so many of us, to sugarcoat your vulnerabilities instead of ‘getting down to business’ to defeat some ‘buns,’ that speaks to a common impulse. 

It’s in our nature to be skeptical — our mere existences are extant proof of that. It’s kept us as a species alive for a couple hundred thousand years.

Though we’ve learned to put aside our inward urges to create the civilizations and institutions that make us distinct from our feral ancestors, these are failsafes of a much different time. We feel the need to give ourselves excuses to be intimate, instead of just being intimate, simply for fear of being hurt. 

And if you think these symptoms of our fear — our ‘Netflix and chill,’ our ‘cuffing season,’ or whatever other excuses we may conjure up — seem inconsequential, they are only the tip of our anxious, dubious iceberg. 

I’m aware that I’m preaching to the choir; this isn’t news to anybody.

What should be, though, is the realization that we have the capacity to resist this side effect of fear that’s been homebrewed inside of us for millennia. It’s an audacious, courageous claim to choose trust over skepticism, to be vulnerable even when you aren’t ready for it.

And I don’t blame anybody for their doubt. Many cultures, including our own, gladly trade and reward empathy for cold exactness. The world is such a hurtful place that it’s practically revolutionary to be sincere.

It’s high time for us to break down the walls we’ve become so accustomed to building. Watch your movies because snuggling is the best, or because the plot is airtight, or because it gives you an excuse to procrastinate, or just about anything other than denying yourself your right to candour.

I’ll level with you — odds are not in your favour. You will get hurt by being wholehearted. And you probably already know that.

But I say that it’s worth it. 

Suffice it to say, our world is not that of our forebears. Singlehandedly, humans forged societies with opportunity for class growth, the existence of equity, and the chance to diversify our narrow, single-world views. Being frank and heartfelt could be the next insurgency that brings us to be better than we ever were.

Even if it’s one small opportunity — one TV show, an obligatory date, a conversation you’re beating around the bush for — there exists a space for frankness that we can fill with probity.

And maybe if we’re broken when we come out on the other side, the cracks in our façades may give way to a better foundation that will last us for generations to come.

“thank u, next” — contributors talk about relationships they’re leaving behind this year

Introducing The Varsity’s newest column: Let’s talk about sex

“thank u, next” — contributors talk about relationships they’re leaving behind this year

The lady on the screen above the dated stainless steel washer said it was going to start snowing at 2:00 pm — and start snowing it did.

Everywhere I look, I see you.

As the snow falls, I am transported to the Brooklyn bar under the highway where I held your hand and asked you to follow me. Reaching for your beer, you say, “You’re going to move here.”

You look down at your beer rolling it between your palms. “But I can’t come with you, I just can’t.” I look past you at the snow lit red by the neon light. My throat tightens.

I wake up in a cold sweat in a tiny Bushwick apartment. In my dream, a tiny blonde slipped out of your bedroom, while I, a stranger, slipped on my shoes down the hall.

I don’t think of you anymore. Except when it snows. Or a certain song comes on. Or when someone says, “It’s a toss-up.”

I wanted you to feel pain when it ended, but that would have required you to first feel passion.

You felt nothing and I felt everything. I told you nothing and you told me everything. I became the kind of woman I thought you might love. You became the kind of man people would call a ‘good boyfriend.’

You never knew me. I never fell in love with you.

So allow me to send my love letter from New York. I’ll keep it simple. I am happy you left me. I am happy I left town. I am happy that you are finding yourself.

I hope you find the passion too. I know you’ll find love. I hope she knows how precious you are. As for me? I did it babe, and I am so happy.

— Chantel Ouellet

 

If you’re reading this, I don’t care.

What is typically gleaned from years of therapy can be told with three simple words: thank you, next. Pop sensation Ariana Grande tells her listeners to dump the douche and love yourself. 2019 is a year of possibility, devoid of that I’m-trying-to-figure-myself-out love, followed by a don’t-worry-I’ll-only-spend-weeks-neglecting-you-because-of-it love.

Yet 10 missed calls and a “I wish I could kiss you at midnight” voicemail does not scream ‘thank you’ nor ‘next.’ Not everybody can be grateful for a cheating, manipulative “I’ve just been really busy” type of ex. But you can start a new page. The next chapter doesn’t have to be ripped from the spine of a Nicholas Sparks novel, nor does it have to come from the ambitious pages of The Alchemist. You don’t need to be bursting with love or dripping with inspiration to be important.

Real treasure doesn’t need to be sought out, and a man is not what’s glowing in your gold-encrusted chest. If I could do it all over, I’d stop guessing why he hadn’t texted back and instead simply say, “Thank you, next.” His vacant words will not draw you any closer to your goals.

They won’t tie you to a storyline or secure the future you doodled into the pages of your childhood diary. Choosing a person who always puts themselves first will only force you to put yourself last each time. It’s important to know how to accept love, but also to know when to admit Ariana is right. If you’re reading this, it’s likely you’re drafting an escape route for your toxic relationship.

My advice: this year, skip the bull. Tell the flighty dude, “Thank you, next,” even though 2019 is the year when we’re so grateful for ourselves. Don’t waste your time with greentext paragraphs or old Instagram photos. Simply put down the phone and make 2019 noteworthy.

— Grace Meany

 

I guess it’s kinda sad that we broke up. The time and money that neither of us had in the first place but used on each other essentially went down the drain as the long distance coupled with our growing irritability toward one another resulted in the inevitable demise of our relationship.

But I’m glad that we did when we did, because if one thing was made painfully clear to me as frosh week turned into reading week and then exams, it’s that the difficulty of the academic transition between high school and university, along with the availability needed to build new social relationships and my own attempts at keeping a part-time job, would have only erupted into a disastrous mess, had I also set aside the time and energy needed to keep our relationship going.

I can’t lie though, there are times when I — and my entire body writhes as I say this — miss you. For one, I’m no longer part of the elite Spotify premium class and am instead an ad-listening pleb. I see posts from people I didn’t like in high school and have no one to readily trash talk to, and no one else will willingly listen to me rant about how the MLB is committing corporate suicide in the face of younger generations.

However, I know you’re still present in my life in many really crucial and meaningful ways, including your HBO account that I still use to watch The Sopranos, the comfy rag & bone sweater I stole from you and doubt that you’ve missed, and finally your contribution to my oral health with that electric toothbrush you gifted me last Christmas.

And with that, it’s time for me to pursue my 2019 dream boyfriend — that sexy sexy 4.0. I can’t wait for him to stop playing hard to get.

— Angie Luo

 

One of the most basic new year’s resolutions, other than getting fit, is finally cutting out that ex you know is no good and I, unfortunately, am one of the countless girls who brought in the new year to “thank u, next,” promising to cut out the toxic ex. Here’s hoping I stick to it this semester.

I’ve been back in Toronto for a little over a week and I’m already so deep into my university routine I can barely remember lying in a queen-sized bed and not having to do laundry or eat cereal for dinner. In first year, going home for winter break brings up a wide range of emotions, some which make you question your sanity, one of them being nostalgia. Maybe it’s something about going back to places with so many memories, but somehow there is always some sort of communication with your ex, and I know I’m not the only one who got the “Hey how’s uni?” text.

I was in a long, confusing relationship for most of high school and I was just about done with it, and university was the perfect exit point, a point where we both decided that we had a good run in each other’s lives. But it was time to move on and go separate ways. So my question is why was it necessary for me to get a reply to my Snapchat story of my airplane window, asking me when I was reaching home.

Unfortunately, I am not completely innocent, having replied and indulged polite conversation until the point the conversation escalated from “How are your classes?”  to ”Do you want to hang out?” too quickly.

Thinking back, I realized that it’s always the one ex who hasn’t really met anyone or who has had a bad experience in university who texts first. If you’re the one who hits your ex up, shame on you. If my friend can meet a guy, and 20 minutes into the conversation be asked if she’s going to have an arranged marriage just because she’s brown, and still not hit up her ex, I’m pretty sure you can do the same.

— Krisha Mansukhani

 

One day, my then-girlfriend suggested those four dreadful, short-circuiting English words: “We need to talk.” Naturally, this came as a surprise, so I asked, “What’s wrong?”

She explained that she loves me, that her family and friends like me a lot, and she assured me that, she hopes, the issue is something I’m totally unaware of. She claimed, when we’re out and about, for example, on campus, that I walk through other people’s photos. She hoped that I was just scatterbrained and unaware of my actions and demanded from me an acknowledgement and explanation.

I replied that I like her for all the same reasons. However, I’m totally aware of my actions and insisted that I had a great argument to support them. Firstly, most are using digital cameras; if it were film, I’d genuinely feel guilty, since the price and patience required mean something more.

Secondly, the world doesn’t revolve around them. When I take photos, I wait for gaps, aim high, and don’t expect the world to stop for my self-indulgence — I’m just not that self-important. I thought hard about my argument and developed a provisional conclusion, since, honest to goodness, I’m open to change in light of more compelling evidence, really.

She retorted, and I’m paraphrasing here, “What if this lady taking a photo is from, say Chile, and when she returns home and shows off her travels on a slideshow to her family, and in every Toronto photo there’s this tall bearded guy? Her family would rightly ask if that’s how Torontonians look and act, eh?”

She said, “I love you, but you need to be a better ambassador for where you live.”

“At the very least, when you’re photobombing the poor people’s photos, you can smile!”

These days, I smile every time I do it!

— Oscar Starschild


If you are interested in contributing to “Let’s talk about sex,” email arts@thevarsity.ca.