Sex and the Ivy

Would I Date Me?

Filed under: Dating/Relationships, Friendship — Elle February 26, 2008 @ 4:54 am

The more attention a woman gets, the more stigma is attached to her. There are plenty of famous men with few detractors; there are virtually no famous women without tons of them. Girls who write sex blogs (or dating columns or anything that remotely relates to matters of the heart or pussy) come with extra helpings of stigma. I admit: if I were a guy, I would have some major reservations about dating me. Who wants their girlfriend’s Google search results to include the type of stuff mine does?

My friends and I had a little debate the other night. They (and a lot of people) think that any guy who “deserves” me, who is “perfect for me”, etc. wouldn’t care about the blog or my questionable reputation or any of that stuff. But I think that the weirdness surrounding me is a bit too much for just about anyone to handle upfront. I don’t think that guys who stop calling or who write me off are assholes because they’re freaked out by my very public persona. I simply think that the unconventional aspects of my life — things that have taken a long time for me to be comfortable with — would be difficult for any new acquaintance to get used to, most of all a romantic interest.

To me, it doesn’t make sense to simply say that the perfect guy for me wouldn’t care about things like this, because he should care. I’d be concerned if he didn’t! My daily life and interactions are far from normal, and if someone is going to get involved with me, I’d be worried if he didn’t care about the ramifications of my blog on our relationships. If one of my girlfriends started dating my male equivalent, I’d certainly caution her to be wary too. In fact, in my experience with guys, there is a fine line between being supportive after becoming fully informed of my circumstances and being … weirdly into fame. There are a ton of guys who fall into the latter category, are completely gung-ho about the blog, specifically request to be blogged about, and pretty much eliminate themselves from romantic contention by displaying an unhealthy obsession with obtaining their fifteen minutes.

The more I debated this matter with my friends; the more irritated I got with them. They thought I was being pessimistic about my options. “You don’t know what it’s like!” I said. “People get freaked out. That doesn’t make them bad people or less worthy.” They pointed out a recent example of a guy who was fantastic about it all, who didn’t judge me, who was understanding and patient. If he existed, then everyone who couldn’t do the same as he did simply didn’t deserve me in their minds. But I don’t think that’s fair. I don’t think it’s fair to expect that same unreasonable standard of absolute open-mindedness from all men when I only found it in one — and not even one I explored romantic possibility with. Maybe he wouldn’t have been able to handle it after all in the end. “But isn’t love supposed to be rare?” asked Tara. “How many guys do you expect to find? There will only be a few people for anyone.” My point, though, is that a lot of times, I don’t make it past first dates or initial meetings with people, and that’s what’s annoying. I’m not after true, all-consuming love. I’m after … whatever it is people do in college when they’re young and undecided.

I’m quickly finding that this is a game I’m walking into with a major handicap. That sucks, but it doesn’t do much good to blame others. “They can’t help it,” I told Tara. “My life is not normal and any reasonable person should be fairly freaked out.” Maybe I was feeling pessimistic because I just saw Julia and I was starting to think that New York really wasn’t any more forgiving a place (or less of a bubble) than Harvard. “There’s no one who could be expected to handle it. It’s just too much, ” she said to me over brunch. “It’s too much to ask for from someone you just met.” I had to agree. Sure, it sucks that I’m not given a chance to demonstrate that I’m kind and loving and selfless and all those adjectives my friends offer up, but my god, we’re talking about guys I’ve just gotten to know. I’m not going to fault people for being rightfully apprehensive, for wanting to back away slowly from this seeming mess of a girl.

And honestly? It’s hard to be with me, almost as hard as it is to be me. Relationships are difficult enough as they are, but loving me means figuring out how to negotiate between the public and the private, between my habitual neediness and my spurts of defiant independence. There are subtle cues that take forever to learn, that some guys — even the ones I fall hard for — will simply never become familiar with.

My friends have been with me through this whole crazy journey, and they know. They know they shouldn’t take it personally when I don’t want to be touched because I’m anxious (like last night) or feel out of the loop when I blog about something I haven’t first told them. They don’t get freaked out when people recognize me at parties or offended when I leave parties because I’m freaked out. They no longer get surprised or even excited about the crazy shit that comes up, because unless I’m damn excited myself — and visibly so — there’s nothing more irritating than someone else getting ridiculously amped up on my behalf. It’s taken a long time and a lot of improvisation but they know the proper reactions to things, know when and how much to push me (and when not to), and know that my best coping mechanism for when shit gets especially bad is to just resolve stuff on my own. They know I will go to them if I really need to, that otherwise, they won’t get very far by prodding. All of these things, especially the last, are hard to learn, even harder to accept.

And even my patient friends don’t get it right 100% of the time. Our debate is a good example. They love me and so naturally, they want me to be happy. They think that I deserve nothing less than a person who fully accepts me as I am, but they don’t want to recognize that total acceptance — at least initially — is hard to come by with a reputation like mine. When it came to this debate, I wasn’t budging on my position. Like Julia said, “It’s just too much.” I’m not going to fault people for having perfectly valid responses to my freaky deaky life. And even though I’m certain my friends know one of my pet peeves is when others adopt common rhetoric (”Anyone who doesn’t give you a chance does not deserve you”) for my uncommon situation (sex blogging), they couldn’t help but do it anyway. They didn’t want to see me blaming myself and my choices for my bad luck in love. So what I thought was a realistic outlook, they viewed as overly pessimistic.

But I’m not saying that I’m never going to find someone. It’s just going to be much, much harder. And instead of dismissing everyone who doesn’t immediately accept me as someone who’s not worth my time, I should probably take a long look at the previous year and determine if my blog is worth the trouble.

The Post In Which I Alienate Everyone

Filed under: Dating/Relationships, Friendship — Elle December 14, 2007 @ 10:10 pm

Now that I actually have game again, I’m really intrigued by how I act when meeting new people and going on dates. It seems like it’s been so long (well, freshman spring) since I’ve attempted anything close to casual dating while in school. One thing I’ve noticed is that I’m really out of practice when it comes to relating to new people, especially straight guys. Maybe I have really high standards for conversation partners or something, but there are a lot of times when I’m with guys and all I can think is, “Shut up and kiss me already.” And this is not because I really want to kiss them. I’m just really bored.

Most of my straight male friends are people I met while a freshman, when everyone was eagerly meeting everyone else. Getting to know people as a junior definitely takes more effort and though I’ve made a few new girlfriends in 2007, I think I’ve only picked up two new male companions who aren’t gay. It is significantly easier to relate to new female acquaintances, because in my opinion, they’re just much feistier and more entertaining than men. And if they’re straight, we can talk about boys which is an instant bond-maker. Besides, I meet and make new girlfriends in groups. It’s so much easier to get to know someone with other people there. It’s like observing them in their natural habitat. Except my pals aren’t gorillas.

Going to dinner with someone, on the other hand, forces you to deal with a new person in their entirety, and it’s not like you’re at a party where you can make an excuse and run off. Even if they are the most boring individual alive, you made the poor decision to dine with them and now you have to play nice lest you look like an ass. This is pretty problematic for me because I often agree to go out with hot but boring guys (I like pretty things, okay?!), I don’t find most people that intriguing as it is (or as intriguing as myself), and I live a really over-stimulated (i.e. “coked up”) life so it takes a lot to get me excited. I’m also impatient and have no attention span, which is why I do all my banking online (hate waiting in lines), only shop in boutiques (malls and big stores make me panic), and get really bad grades (zone out in lecture). Thus, if I’m on a date with you, you pretty much have to douse yourself in flames, punch me in the face, and inject me with heroin to sustain my interest. That or take off your pants at an inappropriately early hour.

Further, the number one way I remain interested in a conversation is by talking about myself (any of my friends will tell you this is true) and the whole 50-50 split on first date speaking times just really does not do it for me. I often make a spectacle of myself and don’t share the limelight very well (not that I share anything well). My friends — god bless them — understand this and have been a really good audience all these years. They also enjoy my generally outrageous behavior and listen to my entirely serious demands to pay attention when it’s “Lena time”. This, in addition to their general fabulousness, is why I’m convinced that I have the best taste in friends. New acquaintances, on the other hand, take a while to learn that they’re the opening act to my show. Thus, I try to introduce new men to my friends as quickly as possible so they can observe how we interact and get with the program already.

I realize that if taken completely seriously in this post, I am coming off as the most self-centered person in the world, and I’d just like to take this moment to remind everyone that I’m not self-centered or self-interested at all; I’m self-involved, and yes, there is a difference. I like talking about myself and spending hours in front of a mirror, but I spend the vast majority of my time thinking about others and what I can do for them. So you see, I am really empathetic and caring if you just get to know me, but getting to know me is half the battle. Reaching the fantastic, non-self-involved bits means somehow capturing my interest and let’s face it: 99.5% of the world is really boring and I’m already friends with the .5% that isn’t.

The Costs of Friends With Benefits

Filed under: Dating/Relationships, Friendship, Hooking Up, News, Sex — Elle October 3, 2007 @ 2:32 am

Interesting piece in the Times about the first research study conducted about the friends with benefits phenomenon. Of 125 young adults, 60 percent reported having been involved in a FWB situation:

One-tenth of these relationships went on to become full-scale romances, the study found. About a third stopped the sex and remained friends, and one in four eventually broke it off — the sex and the friendship. The rest continued as friends-with-benefits relationships.

Further it found that the common thread in these arrangements was a fear of emotional attachment:

The relationships tend to have little romantic passion, but stir the same fears that stalk lovers: namely, that one person will fall harder than the other.

Paradoxically, and perhaps predictably, the study suggests, these physical friendships often occlude one of the emotional arteries of real friendship, openness. Friends who could once talk about anything now have an unstated taboo topic — the relationship itself. In every conversation, there is innuendo; in every room, an elephant.

Pretty spot-on, in my opinion.

During my time at Harvard, I’ve had six friends with benefits. I’m currently friends with five of them and still hooking up with two as of last week (though I’m determined to become “just friends” with one of the two and probably should break it off with the other one too). It can be on-and-off with most of the guys, and I’ve definitely revisited some old flames in moments of weakness/drunkenness. In fact, I recently re-hooked up with my first ever friend with benefits (from high school) after a five-year gap. We’ve been friends for so long after our initial experience that I’d almost forgotten about it altogether. Kissing him again was incredibly strange.

Personally, I don’t think that emotional elephant exists in my relationships, at least not any longer since I’m in the unique position of overanalyzing all components of my interactions with men in the process of writing about them. That makes it difficult to ignore the non-physical aspects of relationships and means I’m much more honest to myself about what I expect from certain people. Of the six FWB, I’ve had romantic feelings for 1.5 (the half being a guy I wasn’t entirely sure about) which is pretty safe if you ask me. As far as openness goes nowadays, I have no doubt my friends with benefits know where we stand. This article actually comes at a really opportune time since I’m feeling an ironic combination of commitmentphobic and hormonal. Time for a new pal?

So any thoughts on the study and the long-term feasibility of these relationships? Sixty percent of you guys should have interesting FWB stories of your own to share …

Tuesday Night in Park Slope

Filed under: Drinking, Friendship, Jules, Life, New York — Elle August 21, 2007 @ 10:06 pm

I FEEL impulsive and reach for my phone, hitting the call button at the first name under Contacts. Drunk dialing is a little bit like Russian Roulette. Nine times out of ten, no one picks up. After all, these calls usually happen late or on the weekend. But this is a weeknight and it is still early. On the other end, there’s an answer.

IT’S HER last night in Brooklyn and she has yet to set foot in a single establishment of note in the two months she’s lived here. With three jobs and plenty of friends in Manhattan, Jules never parties down the block from home. Instead, she hops on the train and heads toward the part of the city tourists think about when they hear “Big Apple”. Across the bridge, she downs drinks and flirts with dawn, the train schedule on the back of her mind. Somehow, she always returns to Brooklyn before the morning.

Sunrise usually finds her sobering up and dozing off in a quiet, still Park Slope bedroom, while street chatter and zipping cabs continue on in another world just a water’s width away. But after tonight, she won’t be back here, at least not as a resident. Tomorrow, Jules will be packing her clothes into the trunk of a friend’s car and driving over a hundred blocks north to her new apartment at 118th on the east side.

When I learn just how little she’s seen of her own neighborhood, I decide that this is something that must be amended immediately.

“This is what we’re going to do,” I tell her on my way out of work. “I am coming to Brooklyn — god knows I won’t have a better reason to be in Park Slope until motherhood — and we are going to go to one restaurant and one bar, and that will comprise your Brooklyn experience.”

It is an eleventh hour try at redeeming the past eight weeks of flight from a neighborhood she will probably see little of from now on. But that is precisely why we need to do it.

IT ALWAYS surprises me when the F train lurches above ground as it moves deeper and deeper into Brooklyn. From afar, the skyscrapers and water seem eerily removed, as if they are imagined destinations and not within less than an hour’s reach. This part of the ride reminds me of my favorite moment on the Boston subway: when the Red Line train rises over the Charles River and offers a brief and blissful view of the water that lasts just the length of the journey past Charles-MGH. Every Monday during fall semester, I caught this sight twice over on my commute to an internship downtown. Every day this summer, Jules has glimpsed its New York twin.

I get off at 7th Avenue. We opt for a Thai restaurant just footsteps from the train station, our decision mostly resting on its cocktail menu. She orders a Long Island; I get a lychee-flavored martini. To our amusement, my fried rice is shaped like a Star of David. It is also unexpectedly spicy. After just a few bites in, my eyes begin to water.

“Jesus,” I sniff, not ironically. “I don’t know how I’m going to finish this.”

Across the table, Jules laughs at my dramatic deep breaths. Her safe, though bland, selection of pad thai suddenly doesn’t seem like such a bad idea. I take a large gulp of water and ask our waitress for a side of white rice.

“I just lost hearing in my right ear. Is this an allergic reaction?” I ask my giggling friend.

I am being ridiculous as per usual but I’m not entirely joking. I sniff again and blink back tears. With genuine concern punctuating her laugh, Jules suggests that we go for post-dinner ice cream.

We wind up in a liquor store instead. After I miraculously (and painfully) finished my meal, we downed the last of our drinks and decided to go bar-hopping, only to discover that the Park Slope crowd is neither young nor college-friendly. The establishment we walk into is not like any store I’ve been in before. There is a thick pane of glass between us and the shelves of alcohol. I can only assume that the strange barrier is a preemptive measure against theft. And here I thought we were in the Pleasantville of Brooklyn.

In front of the dread-locked cashier is a sign that says “Cash Only”. I wonder if anyone actually walks in with enough green to purchase several of the bulkier bottles. Jules and I can’t decide what to buy so we finally settle on what we drank the last time we were together: a miniature bottle of Skyy, enough for four shots each.

On the way home, we pick up a pack of cigarettes. We’re already feeling good — the drinks during dinner have hit us — when I spot on the lowest shelf of a corner deli the bottle of Welch’s White Grape Juice I’ve searched three stores for. Fuck bars. This is all we need.

“MMPH,” she murmurs, handing her emptied glass to me. “Get another.”

Jules and I are in her apartment, determined to turn our unfruitful search for a bar into a nonetheless entertaining evening. I’ve been mixing drinks for half an hour, but this time, when I reach for the bottle, it’s empty. I’m slightly taken aback though I know perfectly well where the alcohol must have gone.

“Jules, I have to tell you something,” I say.

She returns my grave expression with a quizzical look. “Okay,” she says.

“You have to promise me you’re not going to freak out.”

“I promise.”

I pause dramatically before I lean in and tell her, “There’s no more vodka left. We finished the bottle.”

“What!”

She is incredulous. I pick up the bottle and flip it over to demonstrate the severity of the circumstances. Jules screams and covers her face, bursting into giggles.

“Holy shit,” she says. I can’t help but laugh too. It’s not even the alcohol, though I’m starting to feel tipsy. The entire situation is comical.

“Oh my god, Jules. In about 15 minutes, it is going to hit us. Hard. We are going to die in 15 minutes. What do we do? What do we do to prepare for this?”

Jules can barely respond. She is on the floor laughing with the box of cigarettes pressed against her lips. A few minutes later, we discover the bottle of juice uncapped and we embark on a frantic search around the room for the top.

“We need to find it while we’re still sober!” she says.

We are stumbling.

AFTER the fifth or sixth cigarette, I get up from the stoop. Before I am even halfway upright, I stumble backward. The open night air feels like it is throbbing, pulling me to the floor. It’s been over 15 minutes and I’ve overestimated my sobriety. This was what I was telling Jules about earlier — “dying”, or rather losing all feeling and emotion. I am numb. Every part of me is numb.

She pulls me up and I clutch her hand hard while spreading open my arms for balance. It is a warm evening with the occasional cool breeze and I am clad in her clothes: a pair of boxers and a green t-shirt I’d never buy for myself. Unsteadily, the two of us circle her block, walking arm in arm, cigarettes in hand. We are having a full-fledged conversation, but I know that it’s the kind we’ll forget about the second there’s a pause. Each step is heavy, heavy like our intoxication, and my feet land in thuds against the pavement.

The smoke and the scent of Jules’ clothes on me make for a heady combination. Her voice has a lulling effect. But everything does when you’re drunk. My fingertips are raw from lighting multiple matches, most of them burning out too quickly to be of use. After we strike the last of them, Jules and I light up by pressing the tips of our cigarettes together in a sort of kiss. I suck hard on mine and exhale slowly. It burns my throat. It almost smells sweet. And suddenly, it occurs to me that I don’t know what it is I’m drunk on, if it’s the alcohol or the company or the city or the weather.

Jules flicks her cigarette and an ash lands right on the web between my index and thumb.
“Fuck!”

I flinch. The unexpected pain pulls me right out of my thoughts. Maybe I’m not so numb after all.

By the time we walk up to her doorstep for the second time, our tongues are dense with tobacco and we are so heavy in our drunkenness that we have to pull ourselves up the stairs by the railing. When we get inside her room, we collapse into bed, one after the other, abrupt and indelicate, as if weighed down by lead.

I’m worried that I won’t wake up for work in the morning, but Jules shoves a vibrating alarm under my pillow and assures me that if it’ll wake up someone with ADD, there’s no way I could accidentally sleep in. I shut my eyes and wonder how soundly I’ll sleep tonight. Her sheets feel cool and crisp against my skin. Our nightcap is doing the opposite of its intended purpose and the more I try to calm my mind, the more thoughts simmer to the surface. I think back to the conversation I had earlier as I sipped my white grape cocktail and made phone calls on impulse.

“Listen,” I said. “This is important. This is really important.”

“Okay, I’m listening.”

“I need you to do something for me, okay?”

“Depends on what it is.”

“You’re going to be in New York a while, right?”

“Right.”

“Well, I’m going back to school in September. But Jules is still going to be here.”

Out of the corner of my eye, Jules perked up at the mention of her name.

“All by herself,” I continued. “And you have to promise that you’re going to watch out for her. Can you please do that for me?”

“Of course.”

Even in the darkness, in my darkness beneath my eyelids, everything is spinning. I don’t know if I’ll ever get over this feeling, this nothing.

IN THE morning, I wake to the pulsating device beneath my pillow. I groan. Turning over makes me dizzy. Sitting up makes me dizzy. My throat is thick, my voice husky and ragged. Beside me, Jules sighs deep as my movements stir her from her slumber. I have an hour to get to work in SoHo.

After a shower and a change of clothes (out of hers and into mine), I drag Jules out of bed for breakfast. At less than six bucks and under half an hour, it is possibly the most satisfying meal I’ve had in New York yet. I know that there’s no one else I’d rather share it with.

“Brooklyn is beautiful,” Jules comments wistfully as she walks me to the train station.

There is a tinge of regret in her voice, perhaps because we both know the ride to suburbia is too long for either of us to come back here very often. But for now, we revel in its charms. It feels like the neighborhood is just waking up, and I am pleased by the subdued activity. I take in the sunlit awnings, the sidewalks, the quiet, and I wonder when I was last somewhere that felt as suburban, that felt as much like a home as a place could in a city.

“Brooklyn is beautiful,” I tell her in agreement.

I pause a beat and turn my head to Jules. “Let’s never come back.”

She looks me right in the eye and grins. Her skin, pale and pink, is glowing against the sun.

“Never,” she says.

The Adventures of Kay and Elle

Filed under: College, Friendship, Kay, Partying — Elle September 5, 2006 @ 3:33 am

With just a week left in Los Angeles, now is the perfect time to devote an entry to escapades with my favorite Californian Crimsonette.

Oh Kay, where do I begin? My accomplice, my sidekick, my pet project — this girl made all the difference in my freshman year. And to think that when we met at Pre-Frosh Visiting Weekend, we were the least likely candidates for friendship. What change a year has brought and for reasons too innumerable to list, I now consider her as close a girlfriend as ever. I’m also the president of her fan club and with good reason. For starters, she lets herself be the unfortunate subject of my matchmaking ambitions. After last year’s disastrous results, I promise to surrender all attempts to hijack her love life. But more importantly, she has a knack for making even the lamest of parties entertaining affairs.

One time, I left a drunk Kay to her own devices during a party at The Owl. Thirty minutes later, I found her in the charming company of not just one, but two much older, much bigger guys. I was befuddled and impressed by how she had acquired two new towering acquaintances in the same time it took me to meet and charm just one. After delicately declining their invitation to hang out at their cozy Leverett double, I led Kay toward the door.

Our most infamous, oft-referenced experience occurred unsurprisingly in a final club. Because of illegal substances consumed that night, I can no longer recall how we ended up there. What I do remember is being grossly outnumbered, extremely naïve, and eager to try marijuana for the first time. At one point, we had our coats on and both feet out the door, but were convinced to reenter the establishment despite our better judgment. Little did we know that her hookup that night would later come back to haunt us … in the form of a belligerently drunk passenger on our JetBlue flight home. Were I a better person, I would have refrained from teasing her mercilessly when he jumped on the baggage carousel at Los Angeles International Airport and proceeded to lick every piece of luggage. I am, unfortunately, not a better person.

Kay and I learned several valuable lessons from that night (other than to avoid hooking up with lushes who may potentially embarrass you with future drunken antics). For example, the appropriate responses the following questions:

“Drink?” No.
“Bong?” No.
“My room?” No.
“Attic?” NOOOO.

My ever-objective companion notes in retrospect, “To be fair, we did ask for the pot … and the tour.” But I beg to differ. I enthusiastically proclaimed, “Let’s see the mansion!” not “Let’s see your disappointingly small dick.”

Let me explain. Because Kay and I have a habit of pairing off, while she was making nice with the AA member, his pal was trying to convince me to do the deed in the dark … on a questionably unstable oak table in the attic. Unfortunately, he didn’t pack the heat or the charm to sell his proposal. And after months of hooking up in darkened spaces with guys, I had become the Helen Keller of penises at that point. For a fairly accurate dick-stimate, all I had to do was cop a feel. Who needs light anymore? Illumination was not going to make it any bigger, and darkness certainly didn’t fool me.

But back to the point — that being, the girl. The best part about my friendship with Kay is that we’re similar enough to be friends but different enough to avoid competition over academics, guys, or extracurriculars. And because we have fairly distinct preferences and personalities when not inebriated, we give each other great advice and fresh perspectives. Our relationship is characterized by unconditional turning of the other cheek and looking out for each other’s best interests. We treat boys we’re not into like drinks that don’t go down well. We swap to see if it’s more to the other’s liking, and if still dissatisfied, we leave them by windowsills for someone else’s consumption.

Not unlike wedding crashing, there are certain gal pal-ing rules. Here are just a few:
Rule #1: Never leave a gal pal behind. Gals take care of their own.
Rule #2: Never use your real name. Facebook will make you regret it.
Rule #3: When crashing an Indian party, identify yourself as a guest of a well-known SAMC member.
Rule #4: No one walks home alone.
Rule #5: Never let a guy come between you and a fellow gal pal.
Rule #6: Do not sit in the corner and sulk. It draws attention in a negative way. Draw attention to yourself, but by flashing someone or making out with a girl.
Rule #7: Blend in by standing out.
Rule #8: Be the life of the party.
Rule #9: Whatever it takes to get in, get in.
Rule #10: Guest lists are for pussies.

And of course, Rule #76: No excuses. Work, play, and party like a champion.

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