Problematic Petting — When I Say ‘Don’t Be a Stranger’ I Really Mean ‘Come Over and Sleep With Me Immediately”

The new courtship practices dive into a dizzying hell hole. Are you among the weak or the victorious? The banal or the amazingly (and enviably) coy? I’m ashamed to say I typically tend to fall into the former, more undesirable category. I’m possibly magnetic, though. I’ve been told I’ve got “moxy” and have maybe mastered the art of the hair flip and inviting glance. In fact I never really considered this an art, it just kind of came naturally (see the disgusting point I’m making here).

Yet I struggle and hideously pine on the brink of babyhood and doe-eyed eagerness. If I want someone I usually find a way to let them know, and then tend to make seemingly cute yet borderline annoying advances post-short era of slight relations. It’s not like I need to marry this person, however the fear of coming off too excited and thinking that person thinks I’m getting a little too excited or that I want to make them My Boyfriend when I really actually don’t but actually maybe I don’t really ever know what I want and I did really enjoy that one time we had breakfast and wasn’t that like, a ‘thing?’—

In short, it all becomes too frustrating, embarrassing, and tumultuous.

Was it always like this? Did even the men of the 1940s think “well no one can actually be a Bogart” or did they actually just shutup and go up to a girl and ask for her number or buy her a drink or offer a date or whatever? I’m not a sociologist, obviously, and I tend to fear ignorance while making sweeping general claims about gender roles and society and people and relationships, but is it just me or has everyone become too afraid to be the vulnerable one?

We’re in somewhat of a 21st century-22, wherein we want to sleep with people, don’t we? But when we do, we’re most likely faced with the inevitable lingering question: Do we want to go any further than this, or stay casual? Yet not many (at least those I have known) seem to have been able to conquer the “casual” idea. Everyone has text messaging and Facebook, and everyone spends what seems like days but is actually minutes waiting for that person to respond to your “just read an onion article about obama wanting to murder jesus’ text to no avail. Everyone has endured the heartbreak of the (what seemed like flawless Facebook Technique!) post that sat on someone’s wall like a hopeless puppy, thinking you would remember to nourish it, pay attention to it, love it–ANYTHING.

That’s it. They don’t care about you, never will, and you’re stupid. But wait, weren’t you just trying to be “casual” anyway? Okay play it cool and don’t talk to them for weeks and then try and make out with their friend (bonus points for this taking place right in front of them).

My one question is(among many, I suppose), have our ways of courtship changed simply due to technology? Was “everything better back then” or is that just something people who are now 50 who used to be 20 “back then” say? See: Fran Lebowitz’s genius explanation concerning this idea.

Everything was great in what way exactly? In my ignorant and Teddy Ruxpin-esque intelligence, there exists the giggly girl idea of boys coming my way in droves. If they’re interested, then they will say so . They will do something about it. They will make the first move. At least I’ve gone on to believe that they should make the first move.

But most guys I’ve talked to feel they shouldn’t have to do that. Gender roles have changed, and I mean if girls wish to own the kind of power and independence they so fervently hoped for in the past forty or so years (I have not taken WGS 101 guys), then the “Yeah, guys should call us!” religion is not something to ascribe to. Sorry, ladies.

But if you’ve done it the 21st century way, then you: have received the text “come 2 tom’s” around 1:34am, got real drunk, received surprisingly un-shy advances from your desired party (they usually just tell you about why you should watch Community and throw a surreptitious smile into the mix), have walked down unidentified brick streets, and have subsequently made out and tumbled around in what seemed to be possibly the most sensuous hour and a half of your life. You then smoked a cigarette and giggled a little, maybe. And it was a night of sex and love to be envied by the gods.

But then you’re humans again, and now lines swivel uncomfortably in and out of sensuality and closeness. Do you cuddle? Kiss again now that it’s not foreplay? Hug? Should you get breakfast? Would you be offended if breakfast wasn’t made for you, if nothing was offered to you, if not even a pair of basketball shorts were presented in order to nullify possible morning glares and stares? (Stares undoubtedly still scheduled to take place, as basketball shorts never go convincingly with glitter)

Sure, people hooked up back then. Of course. However what I’m interested is in the few weeks after the hook up. Because maybe this is someone you did have breakfast with. Someone with whom you liked kissing AND discussing something cool. Someone you considered taking to the record store (even though they never returned your text. Okay NEVER TEXT THEM AGAIN).

Then what. What do you do? Are serious monogamous relationships doomed? Is liking someone with all your heart uncool and too Oprah? Is walking down the street holding hands too cliché, cutsey, or sickening?

While writing this last line, incidentally, I just saw a [dare I say] cute couple walking down the street hand-in-hand. And you know what they looked god damn happy.


It’s been a while since we’ve made the run-in with Problematic Petting. Your gal Cynthia’s working on finding a job. Maybe she should stop writing about sex so she can actually get one.

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