Ladies like to have sex, too! So goes the message behind a slew of trend pieces on female sexual behavior. I’d like to think we’re all past the shock factor when it comes to people with vaginas enjoying random, no-strings-attached sex.
What interests me far more than the notion of anyone, male or female, wanting sex is the transition many seem to undergo from reveling in youthful sexual abandon to craving serious commitment.
A decade or so ago, a mentor told me: “When you’re ready to get married, you’ll settle down with whomever you’re dating at that time.”
I didn’t believe this because it was easy to view the guy who said it as a middle-aged curmudgeon—and because I didn’t want to. I always figured I would meet my Mr. Right one day by some generous act of the Universe, and that he would inspire me to abandon my single ways. (While the concept of the one irks me for being statistically ridiculous, I’ve long believed there are only a handful of sensible matches for each of us.) But could it be that rightness (or oneness, if you insist) is a quality we bestow upon someone once we’re prepared to meet a potential life partner?
Sure enough, throughout my mid to late 20s, I watched as even the most libidinous of my Georgetown classmates (most of the lacrosse team, for Jesus’ sake) married. For every giant heart announcing an engagement on my Facebook newsfeed, I guesstimated internally how long it would be before one party cheated. At the time, you see, I couldn’t relate to the choice to couple up for good. My desire to remain single was still too damn strong.
Until—so very suddenly—it wasn’t.
Around 5am one New Year’s Day a few years ago, I slept with one of my guy friends after hopping from New Year’s Eve party to bar to party in silly top hats, plastic noisemakers around our necks. It was a perfectly fun evening, but in our drunken disregard for reality, we didn’t use a condom.
When he called the next day, I was delighted. The sex was awesome, and he wants to do it again, stat! New Year, New hookup buddy! Weeeee!
After ten minutes of the playful back-and-forth typical of our flirtatious rapport, he revealed his true purpose.
“I’m thinking you should get tested for STDs and report back,” he said. “I was tested just last week, so I know I’m clean.”
“Okay,” I said, because I recognized that it was dumb to have unsafe sex. The request was unexpected and the opposite of ego boosting, but refusal wasn’t an option.
That afternoon, I marched over to a clinic in Chelsea that offers free STD screening. Along the way, I hummed a song I learned from a Vietnam veteran at a bar one night while dining out solo:
Her name was Maria
It hurts when I pee-ah
She gave it for free-ah
It’s called Gonorrhea
As I sat waiting for my results, I inevitably considered only worst-case scenarios. My fears—about having to pop pills daily, or being limited to Positive Singles in my choice of online dating networks—escalated until a smiley staffer delivered the good news.
With proof of vaginal health scribbled on a yellow piece of paper tucked inside a business envelope, I left contented. Back at home, I photographed my certificate of cleanliness and texted it to my friend. He replied immediately: “Awesome!”
But I did not feel awesome.
It was wonderful to have proof that I wasn’t a walking Petri dish of venereal disease, but it wasn’t wonderful to think about the events that had led me to that point. It occurred to me that I couldn’t even recall the details of our drunken romp. How can something be fun if you can’t recollect it? More than that, I couldn’t shake the thought that my male friend may have been turned off by my wiliness to bone him (bareback, mind you) at the spur of the moment. That old adage about a cow giving its milk away for free planted itself in my consciousness. That’s when I realized that I was either hallucinating from an undiagnosed flu, or I was ready to exchange my boozy floozy ways for a serious relationship.
To be clear, I am all for random, safe sex and all forms of sexual experimentation. But for whatever biological, psychological, environmental, or spiritual reasons, I believe that a lot of us experience a desire transformation at a certain stage.
Mine arrived later than most of my friends’, but it definitely came. Something deep within me changed the day I got tested to prove something to a friend slash one-night stand. As another put it, “you went from being the girl I call at 10pm to meet for last minute drinks whenever I’m downtown, to being the girl I schedule breakfast with a week in advance.” That may be an exaggeration, but it’s accurate in essence.
A week later, a guy I’d met at a dinner party years before invited me on an impromptu ski trip. Two and a half years to that day, we are in an exclusive relationship. In fact, I now count myself half of a sickeningly loving couple that doesn’t shy away from silly pet names.
It would be remiss not to mention that I was exceptionally attracted to my current boyfriend the night we first met. He was married then, so dating him wasn’t an option—something for which I’m grateful, in retrospect. Because I cannot discount that things worked out when they did thanks to my newfound readiness to commit.
So maybe the pronouncement I once wrote off is mostly true. The right person won’t magically make commitment seem appealing by way of arriving, and simply being perfect for you. Part of what qualifies someone as right is beyond their control, because it rests in you. Of course, whatever makes a person who they are—appearance, personality, style, penchant for restaurants with all-day breakfast menus, lack of a criminal record, etc.—matters. But their positioning on your personal timeline matters, too. What matters more is up to you.