As some of you might’ve noticed, I’ve created a new tab on my blog entitled “Ask Katy,” where my readers can pose questions and I’ll do my best (with my considerably limited relationship expertise) to answer them. Last week I received one message in particular that struck a chord within me and so—
One, two-week hiatus later, I’m back with yet another millennial rambling about sex.
“Sometimes I have moments where I'm like "fuck it, I'm young, I enjoy sex, I don't need the love" but then I have moments where I feel super guilty about enjoying sex and not having someone who loves me.
I know you said in one of your videos that you have yet to hook up with someone that you love and who loves you so I was just wondering how you keep yourself from getting down about not having that love?”
I hear ya, Bruna. On one hand, I’m that independent-creative-don’t-need-no-boyfriend-badass-bitch but on the other, I’m the hopeless romantic who constantly has her head on a swivel for love. Sometimes I feel empowered and other times I feel overcome with guilt.
This begs the question: why, so often, are we two-faced when it comes to our urges— both sexually and romantically?
By acting impulsively when it comes to casual hook-ups are we doing ourselves a disservice?
Taking the side of being pro-casual sex as a young, millennial woman is a very glorified concept these days. Swipe twice to the right on Snapchat and almost 90% of the “top news stories” pay homage to a celebrity’s breasts or “what he LOVES in bed.”
The times have certainly changed. It’s simply no longer “on trend” to be tight-lipped when it comes to your sexuality and what you do behind closed doors.
After all, we’re living in an age where it’s legal for women to walk around topless in New York City while our counterparts in the 1940’s were considered slutty for publicly showcasing their knees.
The millennial age might as well coin the tagline “getting what I want instantaneously with the least amount of effort.” The fact that with just several iPhone taps we can order a juicy burger to our bedsides is justification enough.
We want it now and lose interest when we don’t experience that instant gratification. Think Veruca Salt and the golden egg from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. For this reason, we really can’t blame ourselves for being impulsive when it comes to casual hook-ups.
The hard-to-admit truth: we rarely have the patience to wait around for the real thing so we settle for anything that closely resembles it. We hate to admit this because it makes us look easy and desperate, but it’s the truth.
Granted, we won’t hook-up with just anyone, but if they have the audacity to text us in the daytime or even pay for our dinner, it’s a totally different story. A real love story in the making, am I right?
You can stand on your soap box and proclaim, “The casual hook-up culture is getting the Millennial age nowhere! We need to stop giving into our urges!” but still find yourself at the club just one vodka cran away from an impulsive, drunken hook-up. *sigh*
So as you lay in bed reliving your latest impetuous male encounter that you promised yourself would never happen again— but did, allow me to ease your mind.
It’s not you, it’s your cortex.
(And no, I’m not talking about a hair styling tool.)
The brain’s cortex is the wrinkly outer layer of gray matter that dictates decision-making and self-control. Not too long ago, some mega smart researchers in Connecticut lead a study on 1,200 healthy Millennial brains with no history of substance-abuse or psychiatric disorders. They analyzed the participants’ cortexes and their reactions to scenarios that could potentially involve acting impulsively.
The researchers found that of the participants, those who were inclined to “seek thrills and/or act impulsively” had a thinner cortex than those who didn’t. The thickness of your brain’s cortex and your aptness to commit impulsive deeds are directly correlated.
Not to say that this should encourage you to jump off a cliff proclaiming “it’s not me, it’s my cortex!!” but at least you’re now aware that it isn’t solely your conscious behavior that propels you into bed with a stranger. It’s your subconscious.
Going back to Bruna’s question— how do we avoid finding ourselves buried in the Millennial hook-up culture rut? And if we’re going to give in, how do we deal with the regretful aftermath?
Identify your interests, your hopes, your dreams; anything that gets you out of bed in the morning and leaves you exhausted yet satisfied at the end of the day.
If your participation in the Millennial hook-up culture threatens any of the above in your daily life, you’re probably doing something wrong.
Your thinner cortex might justify your rash behavior on paper, but at the end of the day it’s up to you to consciously evaluate whether your subconscious is getting the better of you.
For impulsive people like myself, it takes a lot of deliberate, conscious “I will not do this again. I can not do this again” energy to combat my bad decisions. Every time I encounter a trigger (late night text, flirty conversation at the bar, proposition for an intimate dinner date) I squeeze my eyes shut and tell myself “I won’t. I’ll wait. I won’t.”
But sometimes we get tired of fighting. Sometimes it just feels really good in the moment to leap instead of timidly standing at the edge of the cliff, weighing our options, watching the spontaneous situation slip out of our grasp.
It’s hard, simply because casual hook-ups align with the Millennial ideal of instant gratification that I discussed earlier. If we want it now, we can have it now, low-risk and casual. What could be better?
It’s exhilarating to participate in something so spontaneous that come Monday morning will be reduced to just a story we tell our friends. “And you won’t believe what happened next…,” she said, as her friends eagerly, hungry for every last detail of her steamy affair.
Bottom line: I can’t say that I’m entirely for or entirely against today’s hook-up culture. While it’s great that we’re open about our sexuality, I do feel that some people sleep around to avoid whatever deeper issues are nagging at their hearts.
If you find yourself like Bruna and myself, struggling with our constantly flip-flopping perception of ‘to sleep with him or to not sleep with him,’ you aren’t alone. In fact, I’d go to the extent of saying that every single Millennial has struggled with this at least once.
So you slept with that guy you said you never would? You responded to that sleazy 1:30 a.m. bootycall text? You did something that has sent you on a spiraling-out-of-control journey of self-hatred?
Perhaps you just got tired of fighting and wanted something exciting to happen to you for once?
You’re not a slut. What you did last night does not define you.
Be the type of person that could be so hurt but still manage see the good in the world; to find that silver-lining. After all, the greatest creatives, artists, and musicians to ever exist had experienced a bout of sadness or two. They channelled the melancholy that they felt into explosive and colorful works of art.
You’d be surprised how massive and full of opportunity the world appears to be when you’re sitting at the bottom. Like a series of levels at the subway station, sometimes you have to go down before you can go up and find the right track. A change in perspective, even if it takes a negative event to get you there, is necessary for growth.
If an author came out with a book with zero conflict, I doubt a single copy would be sold. Conflict and rising from the ashes makes for a great story.
Remember this: no one actually knows what they're doing all of the time. No one truly has their "shit together" 24/7. It's okay to be confused about it all. No one embarks on a seamless journey to self-discovery. Take each day as it comes. You'll get it right someday and when you do, you'll look back on all of this confusion as the winding path that eventually got you there.
I pride myself in saying the things that we’re all thinking as millennials, but unable to put into words.
Call it bravery, stupidity, or simply being fed up with enduring the same old romantic patterns— but, let’s be real: a lot of us would rather admit to waxing our mustaches than publicly project our failures with “stupid” things like the opposite sex, texting, dating, etc.
Our close-knit group of friends (and whoever takes the time to analyze the memes we tag each other in) is the only audience privy to our secrets. And even then, we don’t tell them everything.
We don’t want to come across as whiny, childish or— heaven forbid— needy.
So we bottle up the bulk of our frustrations, hastily shoving them in the back of our minds like the pointless knowledge that we acquired from 11th grade AP statistics. We assume neutral personalities, swallowing our feelings until they’re reduced to hollow bones.
In result, we commit the same crimes and make the same mistakes, spinning on the same, fucked up merry-go-round that we’ve been seated on since our early teens.
In a perfect world, we’d permit ourselves to speak candidly about our pitfalls and learn from them like the civilized adults that we try to be. Perhaps if we are rational and vocal about what eats us alive, we can finally make sense of this broken world.
But why be rational when you can silently overanalyze every element of your life until you’ve pictured yourself alone in your forties with a throng of 17 cats?
For the sake of my own personal sanity, I strive to be “that girl” on this blog. I’m not afraid of the backlash. I’m not afraid of the flurry of “hey, is this blog post about me?” texts. I'm not afraid of people labeling me "emotionally unstable." Allow me to shed some candid, raw light on the reoccurring skeletons in my closet (and quite possibly yours, too).
Reoccurring Dilemma #1:
“Are they into me or am I wasting my time?”
You know what’s really hot? What’s sexier than a striptease or cool ranch Doritos?
Not having to guess someone’s feelings or intentions.
Unfortunately, however, we don’t live in a perfect world so mixed signals are more common than fidget spinners at convenience store check-out counters.
Modern dating is like trying your hand at Russian roulette; loading each potential relationship into the revolver like silver bullets, spinning the cylinder, and feeling the cool metal of the barrel on your temple.
It only takes one shot to kill you— a single flick of an index finger— but you have no way of knowing your fate until you pull the trigger. There’s always that slight chance that the bullet won’t escape the revolver.
The adrenaline junkies that we are choose to ignore the rationale and assume a façade of blind optimism. Will I meet my husband at the club? Probably not, but theres always that chance, so…
There’s a chance that they’re actually into me and not just using me for sex.
There’s a chance that they’ll open my text and reply.
There’s a chance that it’ll all work out this time.
There’s a chance that I’ll finally be happy.
It’s that chance that drives us all insane.
Yesterday I was at a Rosé cafe near my apartment— yes, these magical places do exist— mulling over the trials and tribulations of life with my friends, as we frequently do. In between bites of the most delicious truffle pizza I’ve ever tasted, I couldn’t help but overhear the exasperated conversation in the booth next to mine.
“He might not have texted me back— but Kaaaaaren, he viewed my snap story 37 minutes ago,” a young woman in a striped tunic bellowed, her hands gripping the table. “What does that mean?” I couldn’t see the woman’s face, but I imagined a pair of bulging eyes clouded with the type of confusion that only unrequited love instills.
“I feel your pain,” I thought, a rush of familiarity sweeping over me. I’m no stranger to the familiar pangs of rejection followed by a surge of confusion and blind hope.
If I had to guess, I’d say that the young man in question got his fix from whatever is underneath the woman’s striped tunic and bolted in hopes of escaping the shackles of a relationship.
Nothing is scarier to a straight, millennial male than commitment (especially in the form of labels, liking your Facebook profile picture or unwanted pregnancy). The picture of their Mother on their nightstand might give off an air of “husband material,” but in no way does this mean that they are well-versed in the art of properly treating the women they sleep with.
Like I said, we don’t live in a perfect world. Instead of common decency, we get the opened-without-reply and the averted gaze in passing. We get the late night “Hey” texts and promise ourselves that we won’t reply— but we do— and slowly, without even really knowing it, we relinquish any hint of an upper hand. We trade our free will for desperation.
You could get an A+ in advanced calculus but still fall victim to such naiveté.
He gives you the cold shoulder? Yep, okay, now cue the overthinking and venting to friends between nervous gulps of alcoholic beverages.
What we want is a long-winded, fat novel of a romance... not just a handful of haikus.
But, here's the bottom line: Our time is so limited. Unlike the carton of eggs sitting in our fridge, we will never know our exact expiration date. This instills a constant state of panic within our being. Are we wasting our time trying to salvage a sinking ship? A lot of the time, as it turns out— we are.
A friend of mine once said to me, “Don’t expect anything. That’s when life is good.” Perhaps its our expectations that threaten to destroy us.
Generally speaking, if you are given reason to consider that you might be wasting your time, you probably are. If they’re into you, they’ll prove it. If they want to be in your life, they will be. Don’t give them the benefit of the doubt if they don’t deserve it.
Reoccurring Dilemma #2:
Do I like them, or do I just like the idea of them?
Although I initially came to New York City to pursue work opportunities, my brief time living in “the city that never sleeps” has brought on a considerable amount of excitement in my social life. There’s just something contagious about the electric energy of the city and those who call it home. (I’ll save the story of how I wound up en route to the club drinking Veuve Clicquot in a metallic Lamborghini for another time..)
Last weekend between pre-game pulls of tequila, a friend of mine mentioned that we were invited to a penthouse rooftop party. The penthouse belonged to a childhood friend of hers and would involve “cute boys and handles,” therefore we’d be stupid not to be in attendance. Any female with half a brain knows that cute boys and free alcohol is a combination better than even Ben and Jerry can boast.
As is customary for moments leading up to an unfamiliar situation, we took long pulls from our carefully disguised, tequila-filled water bottles in the elevator, fixing each other’s hair in the reflection of its mirrored doors. Sure enough, both a copious amount of eligible bachelors and liquid courage awaited us on the top floor.
Tom was a recent graduate from Columbia, he’d said, flashing a I’m-cocky-but-you-love-it smile in my direction. He launched into an anecdote about his budding career on Wall Street and I struggled to latch onto any shred of detail that I could relate to. Zilch. “No spark here,” I noted, as I nodded my head, simultaneously feigning interest and critiquing his choice in cologne.
I felt a hand brush the small of my back and *thankfully* it was one of my friends rescuing me from the egotistical cloud of musk I’d stumbled into.
“Katy, you have to meet so-and-so,” she said, giving me a raised-eyebrow look that equated to “please help me find out if this guy is weird or not.”
I averted my attention towards the gorgeous blonde that my friend was referring to. His firm handshake and boyish grin was enough to send any bachelorette to the moon. We came to find that the man in question is not only a graduate of an Ivy league school and an Olympic athlete, but has not one, but a string of names, with a fancy “the third” tacked on the end. Plus, his cologne was the opposite of revolting. My friend and I exchanged “holy SHIT” side eye glances and she leaned in closer to the Olympian.
The next morning, a hungover brunch ensued. Hungover brunch, a.k.a. a theatrical performance of appearing like we have our shit together for our Instagram followers but really just a feeble attempt of piecing together the events from the night before.
I sat opposite of the friend of mine who caught the Olympian’s eye and pried her for details. It turns out that in her haste of swapping the penthouse for a nearby bar, the two parted ways. I asked her if she planned on ever seeing him again and she replied with an uncertain shrug.
“Maybe,” she said. “I mean he sounds great on paper, but truthfully he was a bit on the awkward side.”
She played with the rim of her coffee cup. “Sometimes I think that people sound so great on paper that we convince ourselves that we need to like them.”
“Do we like them… or do we just like the idea of them?” I mused. Are "good on paper" individuals forever? After all, paper can tear, fade and burn...
This type of dilemma is comparable to a sunset.
Convincing ourselves that we’re in love when we’re truly only in love with the idea of it all
is like being naïve enough to think that a photo of a beautiful sunset is the real thing— and that real sunsets don’t exist outside of the rectangular photograph.
When you first catch wind of the “well shit… do I like them, or just the idea of them” sensation, you begin to see the edges of the photograph tear free, revealing the true sunset that exists in a much larger scale elsewhere. But it’s all a bit hazy. You can only see the greater picture when you step back, squint and turn your head to the side a little.
More often than not, we know the truth. We know there’s something greater out there for us, but we choose to remain where we’ve convinced ourselves is “comfortable”. We root our heels into the sand of the “love story” we’ve manufactured in our minds, refusing to let go of a “love” that is truthfully just a mirage.
Like I’ve mentioned in previous posts, we’re obsessed with the idea of finally “getting it right.” We just want to land Prince Charming ASAP and be done with all of the messy bits— the waiting, the pining, the awkward flirting and potential for rejection.
I think I speak for a lot of us when I say that we just want a partner that we’ll be infatuated with, our friends will be drooling over, and our parents will be impressed with. (let’s be candid, okay.) So when we land someone who satisfies the latter two qualification points, we convince ourselves that we’re infatuated when we’re not. We ignore that nagging “maybe this is isn’t working” feeling in the pit of our stomachs and trudge on, hoping it’ll get better someday.
Not once, but twice this past year, I was exceedingly guilty of this, myself. I knew for a fact that something was missing, but I was sick of searching for the right guy. So, I settled. I was so in love with the concept of finally being “done,” that I ignored my instinct. I silenced my gut. I held up my white flag with a sigh.
But guys, there wasn’t any chemistry. And when there’s no chemistry— even if the guy looks like frigging Liam Hemsworth and has his PhD— you bolt.
When it comes to wondering if you’re in love or just in love with the idea of it all, trust your gut. Trust the butterflies, the ease and general excitement of being with him or her, even if it’s just in an aisle at the grocery store.
If it boils down to catching yourself in a union without chemistry, don’t feel too discouraged. Don’t feel as though you’ve failed or that you’ve wasted your valuable time on lust.
Sometimes you just give the wrong people the right pieces of your heart.
- to be continued -
The Universe has a funny way of tricking us into thinking that we have our lives under control, and then one day, without any proper warning, pulls the rug out from under us.
That feeling of “Damn, life is good” contentment that we all spend tireless hours chasing seems to disappear as quickly as it arrived. It only takes one “we need to talk” text or appointment reminder from the Dentist to completely soil our fleeting moment of triumph.
So you’ve screwed up? Whether it’s for the first time or the eleven-billionth time, the feeling is quite the same. It’s that punch-in-the-gut “FML” sensation of discovering a typo in an important email, sleeping through your alarm or hitting a neighbor’s mailbox with your car.
Sometimes it only takes a few seconds to royally fuck up a part of your life that you spent days, months or even years cultivating.
In the sprawling White Mountains of California there is a tree called the “Great Basin bristlecone.” With it’s leafless, weathered and twisted limbs, the Great Basin bristlecone is a contraption straight out of a horror film or the Wicked Witch’s castle in The Wizard of Oz. Despite its looks, the Great Basin bristlecone has been named “the oldest tree in the world” at a mere 5,062 years old.
“5,000 years ago,” aka roughly 3300 BC, was a time known for Mesopotamian civilizations, “an eye for an eye” and any modern female’s comparison to the last time they shaved their legs. (“I haven’t shaved my legs in like 5,000 years. Holy sh*t.”)
All the while, the Great Basin bristlecone has been around to watch humankind royally screw things up (ie: two World Wars, the leaning Tower of Pisa, Steve Harvey at Miss Universe circa 2016 and Chipotle charging extra for guacamole…).
The Great Basin bristlecone has endured 5,062 years of growth, yet could be snubbed in just a few minutes with the right sawing equipment.
Putting it bluntly: It simply doesn’t matter how long a dream/project/relationship of yours has been around, or how many hours you’ve spent watering it. Similarly to the world’s oldest tree, it could potentially be eliminated without a second thought.
The earliest known time that I, myself, screwed up was back in the second grade.
In Elementary school your level of “coolness” was based on the number of neon pens in your pencil case or your position in the school lunch line.
One day, in my haste to ensure that I was the first in line, I’d chosen to ignore my screaming bladder. Within minutes, my body publicly betrayed me and my favorite pair of flare jeans with butterfly iron-on patches (my first ever D.I.Y. project, I will add) became soaked in the crotch. Embarrassed and convinced that my life was over, I proceeded to hide behind a potted plant until my Mother came to my rescue with a new (not nearly as cute) pair of jeans.
Although that was the first (and hopefully the last) time that I’ve ever peed myself in public, I experience the same sensation quite frequently.
Quite frankly, I’ve adopted “screwing up” as a normal part of my weekly routine. With each spilled coffee, parking ticket and overdue library book, the act of screwing up doesn’t really surprise me anymore.
Life could be going exceptionally well and I’ll have my head on a swivel, thinking, “Okay, Satan, when will you appear in my life today?”
You aren’t alone in thinking that the Universe is out to get you. We’ve all been there.
A lot of us— myself included— ruin the greatest parts of our lives by worrying about when the next shit storm will roll through. We overanalyze and try to perform damage-control before the damage has even been made.
This type of behavior, however, is like carrying around an umbrella on an impeccably sunny day— bulky and unnecessary. We can't keep living like this.
The truth that we've all heard but refuse to believe: screwing up is essential for growth.
J.K. Rowling’s first Harry Potter novel was rejected by 12 publishers.
Walt Disney was refused 302 times before he received proper financing to construct Disneyland.
Vincent Van Gogh only sold 1 painting in his lifetime out of the 800 pieces he created.
A lack of failure in your life is genuinely more concerning than excess of it. If your life lacks “screwing up,” it can be assumed that you don’t take nearly enough risks. You haven't done nearly enough living. After all, we aren’t around forever. You might as well learn to dance in the rain with the time that you’re allotted. Success is not a path for those who are afraid of failure. Beyond popular belief, it isn’t a path paved with gold.
It’s like rummaging in the bottom of your bag to locate your headphones— 9 times out of 10 they won’t be retrieved tangle-free.
A massive misconception about recovering from failure is the idea that we aren’t allowed to feel any degree of sadness. There are numerous quotes circulating the Internet that offer post-failure advice along the lines of “don’t cry, put on some lipstick and get over it.”
I agree that failure shouldn’t be dwelled upon, but I’m also an advocate of not suppressing emotion. Margaret Atwood said, “I’m not sure which is worse: intense feeling, or the absence of it.” I believe in the latter.
We aren’t robots. We’re wired to feel things— and many of these things we feel quite strongly.
When failure creeps into our lives, it is natural for us to react. Don’t you dare beat yourself up for feeling something.
So often we don’t allow ourselves time to cope with the failures in our lives. We sprint recklessly from one pitfall to the next because we haven’t allotted ourself enough time to process things.
When the Universe sticks its foot out to trip you, lay in the dirt for a moment to take in the view. Take a deep breath. Allow yourself to learn something from the set-back. Then, pick yourself up, shake the dust from your clothes and walk it off like a champ.
I don't own any of the images in this post.