January 18, 2011

Relationship Oriented, But Not Narrow

After reading the top three essays in the Modern Love college essay contest (Want to Be My Boyfriend? Please Define; May I Have This Dance?; My Dropout Boyfriend Kept Dropping In), I wanted to add my personal experience to the dialogue about my generation’s conception of love, sex and relationships.

I consider myself relationship oriented. I find them simple. Straightforward. I don’t like starting my shivering walk of shame without saying goodbye. I don’t like getting hickies from over-zealous partners who don’t know about my “No Hicky” policy. I enjoy my rough, one-night-in-Vegas hookups, but I can't always stop myself from developing romantic interest afterward. Hooking up can be edifying, but is also as potentially lethal as entering a relationship.

Why am I like this, especially when avoiding commitment seems to be the official philosophy of my generation? The rules of the game are: Don’t ask anyone on a date. Don’t expect exclusivity. Don’t ask if you’re going to see someone again. But I do ask people on dates (I’m careful not to use the terrifying word date,) I do expect exclusivity (though this is not requisite for all successful relationships) and I do ask people if I’m going to see them again.

I don’t have a laundry list of interesting characters that I’ve done interesting things with. My post-college romantic life has been a sandwich: a couple of hook-ups buttressing a long, committed relationship. This relationship was the meat-substitute of my romantic life. I wouldn’t trade a million encounters in far-off locations or quirky stories for what I had with her. When our relationship ended I felt wounded. All last semester I was only able to hook-up. I rearranged my non-negotiables. I reevaluated my preferences.

In the midst of this, I asked a girl on a date off-campus. I was relieved when she said she didn’t want to pursue anything further. I didn’t see a relationship unfurling between us, nor the potential for a hook-up. My relationship-oriented brain didn’t calm down until it knew the other party had no interest. In my simple world, if you like a date with someone you go on another. And then eventually you are in a relationship. This narrative is hopelessly quaint. Impossible to achieve consistently, if at all. Did this really use to be my life?

I’d like to analyze the Malcom X movie with someone and make-out with them afterward. Someone I can go out to dinner with. Someone I can have amazing sex with. (Preferably someone who is into kinky shit but is also a sexual health nerd.) Someone I can go thrifting with. Someone with a car. Someone I can dance wildly with. If I met someone now who embodied all these qualities I would feel crushed. Like a butterfly in an exhibit. I don’t like the feeling I get after watching Malcolm X with someone who might hold my hand or fix my collar, but nothing more. I am frustrated by long, intimate, sexually tinged conversations with essentially straight friends. I feel alienated when I grind with someone I couldn’t converse with. This incompleteness is new to me.

The few queer girls I knew in high school rotated around me like a merry-go-round. In middle school I went to sites like Mogenic. In high school, I used Myspace and Facebook (Is anyone else disappointed that on Facebook you can’t search for people by sexual orientation?) My most epic moment was an awkward, groping kiss near the entrance of a Plano mall that was the result of a month-long long-distance online relationship. Then I met another girl who played World of Warcraft and sent me a (obviously fake) picture of her hot girlfriend in Iowa. We watched Brokeback Mountain in a theater (where she got asked to leave the women's restroom) on New Years Eve. She drove me to my house and we watched the ball drop with my family. Then she had to go home, ostensibly to feed her grandmother's cats. Another girl, the reason for the phrase "You looked better on Myspace", visited me at Vacation Bible School. Meeting people online still feels shamefully juvenile and desperate. (The origin of stories you don’t tell anyone, unless you write for this blog.) Over winter break a friend suggested I start using OkCupid. It has so far proved worthwhile; though I've already contacted or rejected every single gay female in a 25 mi radius.I think the more gay saturated an area is, the more the gay and straight youth converge in their attitudes on relationships. If I had more women to pick from, I might not feel the need to commit. (I could also be permanently relationship oriented, or value my relationship skills enough not to let then atrophy. )

I first meet someone in person, usually at school. We start talking. We start talking more and seeing each other more. Eventually someone makes a flirty comment. I’m nervous. I like this person a lot but don’t expect them to feel the same way. They do. We starting hooking up and going out, everything blurring together. Eventually someone pops the Facebook relationship status question. We’re official. In my narrative there’s no room for disappearing acts. If someone becomes unresponsive I imagine that they got busy. I wait. I don’t pine for them. No relationship, no problems. Then the cycle begins again. I don’t envision another relationship created by my dated high-school formula. Like the quadratic formula, it doesn’t work for every polynomial.


  1. I sincerely love your honesty.

  2. The quadratic formula doesn't work for every polynomial?

  3. Thank you, Veronica. This was fantastic. I truly admire both your courage and honesty. Posts like this keep me coming back to this blog, thank you.

  4. I absolutely love this, Veronica! So great and so well written.

  5. Aww, I just read this from Spain! It's very good!

    I guess what I'd say to this is, Duke is a very unique situation!! (Read: small community and difficult to find new single people.) Maybe try integrating with outside campuses or venues. I think a lot of the inability to find someone might be stemming from people's busy Duke schedules...which sounds so lame but I honestly think it's part of the equation.

    Good luck, and keep me posted! =)

  6. Hey Megan! Thanks for commenting.
    I am looking for women in other venues. I also have very specific taste. You know me.

    This article says nothing about whether I even WANT to meet a woman right now, nor does it say that I haven't met new queer women.

    Your comment misses the fact that my article places no (or little) value judgment on my orientation towards relationships, even if it MAY be the result of a smaller pool of options. I'm not bemoaning my lack of options. I like my relationship skills. I like that I don't have to worry much about STDs or pregnancy.

    I know that we've talked a lot about this topic previously, so I don't blame you for making assumptions. I want to be clear about what this article is actually saying, and I hope you see it for what it is, rather than a rehash of Woman Seeking Woman.

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  8. non sequitur —

    Saw you fumbling around my pub pol class today looking for something you left in the room. Thought it'd be funny to put up a "Missed Connection" post about you on Craigslist. Have you seen those before? They're kinda fun to browse, and very queer-heavy for obvious reasons (..it's hard to approach a stranger in a non-gay club venue without feeling you're being too presumptuous), but it's a lot less disturbing than some other sections on Craigslist...Also just discovered this (http://www.duke.edu/web/coffeehouse/faq.html) where I work. Which is really cute. Not sure who put that there.

    sequitur —

    I really love this comment: "I wouldn’t trade a million encounters in far-off locations or quirky stories for what I had with her"...mostly because it totally rips at the fabric of almost my entire gay experience.

    I have tons of "quirky" sex experiences. International ones, funny ones, distinguished ones, groupie ones...Which is really fun to email friends about, but like, not keeping me warm at night, right? But I guess what I mean to say is I really want a boyfriend.

    I tend to sleep with my friends. Of my highest inner echelon, all are hetero...I dig the intimacy, the physical contact, the feeling of——since I go to school 2600 miles from home and thus don't see them so often——not wasting a single minute when we're in each other's presence, even if asleep.

    And I'm thinking of how intoxicating that's gotta feel with someone I not only admire platonically but also adore amorously. Must feel great, right?

    The day after I hooked up with this 30 y/o Dutch writer living in Spain, we had breakfast and flippantly discussed (dissed?) monogamy. He'd just ended a long relationship, wasn't interested in "settling down." Guess I should've read that with some skepticism, because within two weeks of seeing him fairly frequently he wanted to be "together." I kinda gave him the slip after that because I was twenty years old and traveling frequently and in Europe. But the last time I saw him, a few days before I left, I really felt the kinda crushing blow of the imminent tyranny of distance.

    "Oh i wish i had a boyfriend/I wish I had a loving man in my life." —Girls, "Lust for Life."

    Ok, so no, I got PLENTY of loving men in my life. Who aren't afraid to spill their guts and cry in front of me or Skype me for three hours while I make quesadillas and do homework, or cuddle when we are freezing in the desert or just because it feels good, or give me unwanted hickies while I try to get away and scream rape .....

    ...So I guess my point is I treat my friends like lovers, but now I need a lover to be my friend.

    Awesome post Veronica Ray. I think you're rad let's hang out soon. Queer party Friday, my place. Pre-Vespa. Spread the word. Werd.