I should not have said it if I did not mean it. I remember saying it simply because we were both so desperate to feel something other than loneliness
Today, I’m a happily engaged, relatively well-adjusted thirty-something guy. But I wasn’t always so lucky, and it was a long (occasionally miserable) path to get to where I am now.
For starters, my love life in high school was non-existent. Things got a little better when I went to college—women started actually paying attention to me! But my ~skillz~ when it came to love and sex in my late teens and early twenties were abysmal. Looking back on it, here are a few of the big things I wish I had known at the time:
1. Physical intimacy is not just about getting my P in her V.
For me, sex got a lot better when I started to slow down and appreciate the moment. The sights, sounds, and smells (yes, smells) all contribute to a unique, unforgettable, experience.
2. Love shouldn’t (and doesn’t) feel like you’re settling.
In a few of my early relationships, I made a number of emotional compromises because I simply had very little experience. I learned much later that there’s no room in a relationship for thoughts like, “this is as good as it gets” or questions like “everybody’s relationship is similar to this, right?”
3. The word love should be used with great care.
I should not have said it if I did not mean it. I remember saying it simply because we were both so desperate to feel something other than loneliness. We were both lying to ourselves and, even worse than that, we were heaping ridiculous expectations onto something we both knew would never work.
4. Condoms are not “optional,” no matter what your partner says.
There is no fear quite like the fear of a couple of 19-year-olds in the middle of a pregnancy scare. Oh, and did I mention gonorrhea?
5. You have to just relax.
Dating in my early 20s was super stressful. I was putting all sorts of pressure and immediacy on something that should have been fun, casual, and slow. Instead, I was constantly swinging for the emotional fences. I struck out—a lot. A lot of girls that were somewhat curious were immediately turned off, and rightfully so, by my regrettable intensity. In one of my favorite movies, High Fidelity, John Cusack’s character says, “Only people of a certain disposition are frightened of being alone for the rest of their lives at the age of 26, and we were of that disposition.” I think about that, a lot.
6. Don’t hang in there out of fear.
I should have never stayed in my early relationships out of a misguided fear of being alone. It makes everyone, including your friends, family and both partners involved absolutely miserable. And I sacrificed my happiness for, what, security? It wasn’t worth it, and ending things was always better than whatever it was I feared.
7. Awkward positions make for awkward sex.
There’s a reason that missionary and reverse missionary are classics. One time, we tried to have some legs-at-all-sorts-of-different-angles sex in the shower and I put my hand right through the tiles on her wall. That was an awkward call to the apartment complex management.