On Giving Up Dating

I heard the canned speech most recently at a Middle Eastern restaurant, about how I’m so special, really, and any guy would be lucky to have me, but he’s just not in the market for anything serious. I’ve heard it in all its iterations and from all kinds of guys. There was the shaggy haired guy with sweet guitar skills in high school who was leaving for college. The nerdy chemistry genius who took ten whole minutes of non-stop talking to deliver his break-up message, most of which I tuned out by staring at the baseball game flashing on his TV. The gorgeous European man who managed to fit it into a 160-character text message.

At least this guy did me the honor of paying for my kebab dinner.

The amazing thing is that I agreed with his every word. I wouldn’t pursue anything serious with him either. A guy recently mistook my claim that I love being single as a nice way of saying I enjoy semi-intimate interactions with the opposite sex without any form of commitment, but that’s not what I meant. I wanted to say, “I have learned to enjoy life as a single woman because I can’t find a guy that works for me.” I didn’t say that because he didn’t strike me as a smart one and I didn’t feel like explaining myself any further, so I let him assume I was game for casual sex and went home with him.

I do this often.

I had sex for the first time one hazy Saturday night when I was 19 with a stranger and it fucked me up forever. The experience was everything I wanted at the moment and the ideal scenario for such an awkward milestone. He was well-endowed and taught me a lot about sex, and I didn’t feel pressure to make it special because I was just another girl for him and I could choose to never see him again. I needed to be in control; I wanted to be able to completely disconnect the primal act of sex from love. Except now I can’t ever put them back together.

The slightest tinge of love consumed me after having sex with a lovely bespectacled guy when I was 20. He was the first person I had dated for more than two weeks, an accomplishment considering how I had trained myself to detach. I lay in his twin extra-long, panting and wrapped in his flannel sheets as Andrew Bird nearly lulled me to sleep.

This was the closest I ever got to it. The split second I felt sex and love come together in his bed was an epiphany that ended as soon as he told me I should go so he could finish his homework. He broke up with me a week later, and it took me months to convince myself that I could never have loved someone I slept with for two weeks.

Every sexual encounter I have had after that has been a search for something: a diversion, an orgasm, a means of passing time, a connection. I have seldom found anything, but many have found all of those things in me. My French lover even tried to convince me to stay in Paris for him as he drove me to take my plane back to Boston. Knowing that he could find love (or something like it) in sex with me while I couldn’t do the same doesn’t stop me from trying with others, or from jumping into bed with guys in hopes of running into one that sticks. If anything, it fuels the desire.

The fact that I am the walking, breathing cliché of a girl looking for love in all the wrong places does not escape me. We’re mass-produced emotional messes.

A nervous breakdown recently caused me to admit to a friend that I don’t enjoy sex anymore despite having it so often. Part of the allure was thinking that perhaps some sort of affair could bloom from it as it did with the French guy. But they can’t get rid of me quickly enough, making the trip from Hoboken to Times Square in ten minutes flat, leaving me before the Sunday paper hits the doorstep.

She suggested I stop sleeping around. There’s one I haven’t heard before.

I am well aware that I am settling for mediocre (that’s what my peers call it); nobody ever lets me forget that. I am a classic catch; an attractive, smart young lady with a bright future ahead of her. I should have no problem finding a guy who will want more from me than just my body. (This sometimes makes it into the canned break-up speeches.) But I do.

All I can do is blame guys for my failed attempts at romance. All they ever offer me is sex with a warning, “I don’t want anything serious,” and I have no other choice but to accept it because I need some sense of intimacy—in other words, a girl’s gotta get laid. And while I enjoy the interaction, at least while it lasts, some level of commitment would be nice. No exchanging of vows or promises to love each other forever; just someone who sticks around long enough for coffee in the morning; someone to help me pick my produce and to listen to me explain French movies. None of these, I believe, are unrealistic expectations. Yet men make me feel like they are, as if I’m a fool to expect something—anything at all—from them.

My feminist self loathes how I settle for sex when I want more, especially with all this talk about how I’m encouraging guys to remain non-committal by making just-sex sex readily available. But I’m still human and I still have hormones that drive me to lust, and I go back and forth between congratulating myself for being a “liberated woman” who has sex when she feels like it and feeling like I’m getting the short end of the stick. I’m letting guys dictate all the terms of our interactions when I’m the one with most at stake; I’m the one whose heart could break. It makes no sense, but I still do it.

This is mostly the reason why I, at the ripe old age of 21, have decided to jump ship. I renounce dating, friends with benefits, pity lays, faux-meaningful conversations with guys I meet at cafés, and all other forms of interactions with men that marginally satisfy my need for emotional intimacy. Because people always seem to have the solution to my dilemma and I take their advice, and I wind up on horrible online dates with guys who tell me upfront that they won’t see me for more than two weeks, as if I have my expiration date stamped on my forehead. Because my friends gush about how they know the perfect guy for me and then I figure out they were trying to get rid of someone by passing him on to me. Because even though I come off all sorts of dramatic, the truth is I am exhausted and I’ve realized this idea the world sells me that every single person on the planet is destined to find someone they fit well with is a sad sack of crap. But I’m jumping ship mostly because I had used sex to find love and now I use it because I can’t find love and frankly, neither of those is a healthy attitude.

And, of course, I’m only 21 and what the fuck do I know about life and love? Admittedly, not a lot. But as it pertains to me, the way things are going is not an incentive to push through and to rough things out. I’d rather pull the sails down and focus on other things. Maybe some of us are destined to just be really smart and work high-paying jobs and have huge apartments and never do the dishes for anybody but ourselves and have sex for pleasure, not for love.

The nightmare of every woman, ending up alone, sounds like a field of daisies when I think about what its alternative entails. Dating requires such enthusiasm for meeting men, such optimism, that more often than not it leads to disappointment. The time and energy that I’d have to put into many men to find just one suitable partner feels a more worthwhile investment when spent on my friends, my family, my career, or my general happiness.

After deciding to stop pursuing men beyond the physical and to just focus on making myself and my loved ones happy, accepting that it’s okay if I end up being nothing more than a career woman, I felt better about my attitude regarding sex. I can have sex just for the sake of it and turn the game on its head: If sex is all men are willing to offer me, I’ll gladly take it. They just better not hope for coffee in the morning, because, to borrow a line from their book, I don’t want anything serious.

Back at the restaurant, the guy who had just dumped me was surprised I didn’t react turbulently or try to bolt. He apologized profusely, but I appeased him. I knew why he was dumping me: he thought that any girl he saw more than a few times would develop an infatuation for him. He was trying to minimize his risks in the game and trying not to lead me on and end up looking like an asshole. And I totally get it—I opt for keeping things casual to reduce potential losses, too. Doing things my way allows me to get the satisfaction I want without the pitfalls of getting disappointed. I would have told him all of this, that I would have liked to explore a casual fling with him, except he’d probably get offended that I just wanted him for sex. I’m so used to being used for sex sometimes that I forget guys don’t like being objectified, even when it serves their interests.

We hailed a cab and he dropped me off at a bar in the Village. I never saw him again. TC mark

image – Funchal


More From Thought Catalog

  • brenna

    fuzzy-minded, quite circular at times, but that's an inherent element of the subject she's talking about, isn't it? nicely done.

  • M&Ms

    You just wrote my life story. Unfortunately, even when sex is under my terms and I kick the guy out, I still feel like crap after. Must learn to detach more quickly or live with being celibate forever.

  • Amy

    Maybe you're not such a catch.

    • Ted

      The one constant in all of these failed interactions is her.

      • amilena

        You could say this about anybody, including yourself. If that's how you look at all your failed interactions (that you are to blame for absolutely every shitty thing that happens to you), that's a really sad way to see yourself.

  • anonymous

    Some unsolicited advice from an older guy.

    Really, stop trying to find love through sex. It rarely works. Trying to fuck your way to a relationship is the norm, I know. And how's that working out? Anybody?Get to know someone without jumping into bed. This is a way to a) weed out the ones who just want to fuck and move on and b) learn what real emotional intimacy is. It is not the same as sexual intimacy. While you're taking your break, meanwhile, learn how to love yourself. We tend to attract people at our own level of wholeness. If you think you can't get what you want, you won't wait for it and you won't even recognize it when it's right there in front of you. So love yourself; it's the only way you can let yourself be loved by someone else. In my experience, hardly anyone knows how to love him or herself at age 21. Do it now and your life will change.One of the best explanations of this is a youtube video by Michael Brown called Love is to Evolve.Love requires courage. When we don't understand it, or are afraid of risking it, we tell ourselves we “don't want anything serious, anyway.”


    • Veronika

      This was really good advice. Thank you.

      • anonymous

        You're very welcome.

      • anonymous

        But I wish the paragraph breaks had worked. ;)

    • Svgtambas

      did you or any of the 19 people who've 'liked' this comment even read the article? or, just rush straight to mansplaining based on seeing the words 'sex,' 'love,' and 'woman?'

      seriously though, did you even try to read the article?

      • Reallyyyydude

        if anyone ever keeps tabs on comments for this site, they'll notice most of my comments are calling people on their racist/homophobic/misogynistic/transphobic/whatever-else-ist/phobic shit. we both read the same thing. i didn't particularly feel like he was 'mansplaining' – he's a male, and he's offering advice. none of it was malicious or even ignorant. there wasn't even subtle male privilege in it. he could have given this advice to a male and it probably would have been the same, too.

      • Svgtambas

        newsflash, 'dude'. proffering advice, rather than a response, is a blatantly privileged posture to assume. you can keep your faux-radical cred, i mean i'm not trying to tear anyone down but perhaps what i can learn from this is instead of asking whether someone read the article is instead to ask “how did you miss the point so completely?”

      • Reallyyyydude

        i understand what you mean. it's not 'faux-radical cred'. i'm not going out of my way to be the buzzkill just to get 'cred', i mention it to begin with because treating people that aren't like you with respect shouldn't be difficult. thanks for tearing me down, though. anyway, the majority of these articles are just 20 somethings with topsy turvy existential musings, so what point is there to get? you can respond however you want to these articles, and if it's offensive enough, usually it will be removed. im not trying to excuse his post or invalidate yours, i just generally thought it wasn't the most terrible form of misogynistic oppression ever. i can tell i'm a little bit in the wrong, but, like i've also mentioned before, this is thought catalog. nobody really gives a shit about anything here, because all the posters are privileged hipsters and the commenters usually are, too. his comment, yours, mine, and essentially everyone else's on this article is so incredibly pointless. nobody cares. bigger fish to fry, whatever.

  • http://profiles.google.com/amaviena Amanda Viers

    I'll be 26 this year and I'm still experiencing all this. Focus on school. Focus on paying off the car. Focus on taking yourself out for dinner. Go to the mall with your sister. Tell your best friend you can't see her anymore because she married your exboyfriend. Go to Target late at night by yourself to get a bottle of wine and a box of cookies. Maybe two bottles of wine. Become friends with a boy who's admired your poetry online for four years and lives in San Fransisco. Let him propose to you a few times then only respond to his text messages, play Words with Friends with him, and stop accepting his calls. Drink by yourself.
    Things may never get better, but, interpersonally speaking, maybe they'll never get worse. I've been by myself for a year. Had random sex with random people. Insisted on going home at 3am because I “have to be up early.” Let people use you and use other people. Never satisfied. Even if this is my plan. Not to get intimate because maybe you won't have to worry about getting hurt when things don't work out the way you want them too. Still get hurt.

    I don't think there is any easy way out. You can lie to yourself. That lasts for a little while. Then you find yourself in a three year stand maybe. Is it better to be alone? In my experience, it is.

    • Hotmail

      I didn't read your post but the answer is masturbate more often.

      • http://profiles.google.com/amaviena Amanda Viers

        The answer is to masturbate TO YOU more often. Thanks.

  • http://disrespectfultone.blogspot.com/ Daniel Schealler

    Like all populations, men fall into a bell-curve.

    Pay attention to the short tail of the curve. The kind of guy you say you want must be out there, simply by the laws of statistics.

    However: Even if you found one who was interested, how likely is it that you'd actually want him?

    Be honest.

    Which Buffy character would you prefer to be in a relationship with: Spike or Xander? [/cliche]

  • lex

    I love it. For the past couple of years I've experienced not focusing so much on men and more on myself and it's worked wonders for me. If it's meant to be, it will be. The right things come at the right times; and to be honest, I refuse to become one of those women whose lives depend upon a man to make her happy. Men don't do it, why should we?

  • Kirsten

    Thanks for writing this

  • girlplease

    i think most single women can probably relate to this. and i am gonna give some totally unsolicited advice. i was there a few months ago and and gave up on dating and sex only to be inadvertantly set up with a latin american male model (i told him i was not interested in dating). naturally, we ended up having a short-lived affair and some of the best sex i've ever had. and then i left and tried not to think too much about his promises to see me again. i enjoyed it for what it was (amazing sex) and learned that an absolutist strategy like “no more sleeping around,” or “i'm just gonna use guys for sex” is not going to make you happy and it's not going to get you the kind of connection you crave. it's like a diet: you don't really lose weight sustainably by becoming anorexic.
    you think you're a catch and maybe, on paper, you are. but if you're using sex to find love (when you know that's not effective) and then just using it to fill a void (equally ineffective) is it any wonder a guy doesn't want to stick around for that? those vibes are always palpable. you're 21, that's really young. so use your youth to learn how to get in touch with the instinct and figure out how to enjoy sex for what it is or, if you can't do that, figure out how to enjoy life without meaningless sex. you have your whole life ahead of you, so figure out what is is you want (like actually concretely want, coffee in the am is not a substantive want), stop with the proclamations of dating ending at 21 (girl, dating doesn't even BEGIN until you leave college and date peers in the working world), and get some perspective.

    • anonymous

      I wrote the unsolicited advice above. Maybe we should write an unsolicited advice column together.


      • http://disrespectfultone.blogspot.com/ Daniel Schealler

        Heh. I can actually see some humor in that.

        HEY, TIGER WOODS!!!!

        Either own your promiscuity, or just keep it in your pants already. This half-assed crap isn't making anyone happy. Go all or nothing.

        Soulunsold and Anonymous
        Unsolicited Advisers to The Internet

    • http://www.facebook.com/gregpphoto Greg Petliski

      I think single guys relate too. This article could have easily been written by my brain while I was asleep.

  • http://twitter.com/kyleangeletti Kyle Angeletti

    this reminds me of an Ask Barf I read recently..

  • http://brianmcelmurry.blogspot.com/ Brian McElmurry

    I liked this. It seems that if you like a person and have passionate sex, then why not hang out with the person more? You don't need to name it. But then after some time, attachment and feelings form and you're in a relationship. It will happen eventually. You're only 21. Have hope.

  • Darcy

    I took a one year hiatus from sex when I was in college because I felt a lot like you did, it just wasn't getting me where I wanted to be. And in the spirit of offering unsolicited advice, maybe you should try it. Not necessarily for a whole year, but however long it takes for you to feel like yourself again, to feel less dependent on someone else for the high that intimacy creates. Sex clouds your head. And when you're a beautiful smart girl, who's thinking clearly you'll be able to identify what it is that you really want out of your sex life and get it. :)

  • Matarij

    Good post – as an older woman, I applaud the fact that at 21 you are already beginning to question your relationship to sex and what it means. For me it is about being true to what is best for me, but this was hard fought for, but soooo worth it.

  • Svgtambas

    this hit wayyyyy to close to home and i am going to need to get some more coffee before reading the comments.

  • http://www.facebook.com/gregpphoto Greg Petliski

    A question I have is why, from the get go, were you so intent on being detached? Why does it seem so common amongst women that they fear intimacy? Its like everyone is living a Virgina Woolf existence. Stop being afraid of everything and just go for it, so what if you get hurt thats life! If you quit playing every time you scrape your knee as a kid where would you be?

  • lesigh

    was going through a similar thing. i lost 15ish pounds though (not that i needed to, my bmi was in a healthy range to begin with) and i literally had the opposite problem. everyone wanted to be my boyfriend, ughhh

    • Reallyyyydude

      god, it's just the worst when people show an interest in you. it must be horrible being so attractive and generally appealing.

      • AL

        Lol Not to be “feminist” (which is negged so hard on TC these days btw), but I think the fact that she only got monogamy offers based on the fact that she dropped to an unhealthy body weight says a lot about society at large and negative reinforcement of the female body image. I'm sure getting verbally/sexually harassed –I mean, catcalled, on the street should be tres flattering too, right?

        BOT, I feel this will be seen as an ad hominem, but generally when men give girls that relationship/sex disclaimer er w/e it's usually because they think they can do better, not that they are anti-commitment or legit relationships. Or so I've witnessed and been told by many a dude.

      • lesigh

        YES! this is what i meant to say. also i didnt lose weight on purpose; i was going some stressful life things and it just happened. still, i didnt think boys were that vain. i am after all the same person on the inside, my face/body isnt THAT different; they were just vanity pounds. still, it seemed to make all the difference in the world, which disgusted me. because i played into it, and by keeping my weight off im part of the awful beauty standards that stopped boys from liking me at a normal weight. alas, i cant change the world. so i might as well 

        that being said, im also now in grad school and dating/relationships are a tid different after college. people just kind of outgrow the hooking up scene. so maybe that was it too? idk, idk!

  • http://www.facebook.com/maria.huitron Maria Huitron

    i read this thinking i was going to read a feminist rant, but it was far from it and it not only hit home but was admirable. it reminds me of the philosophy i have just adopted with men: “you dont have to go home but you cant stay here.” and it has been the most liberating chapter in my life.

  • NKT

    Words from my mouth. I could have written each and every word of this. Thanks for the article because now I know I'm not the only 21 year old girl who feels exactly this way.

  • Lokisan

    Use it until you change.

  • geekette

    WOW.  this is exactly my life, word for word.

    lost my virginity the same age and way, desperately dated in college, dated a parisien in paris in a very similar situation, and left paris for an internship in boston… and now in nyc, there is NO man looking for more than a fun friday night.

    thankfully, i have my expensive ass diploma and a career / corner office to look forward to…

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=704016484 Joe Ott

    Damn, this article has attracted a veritable storm of advice and commrodaries; I think that speaks volumes enough for it’s prescient relevance to everyone our age.  My only addition is this: while enjoyable to read, confessionals like this make you subject to your reader’s approval, as if (s)he were a priest. I’m sure your quite the godless person and this disgusts you, so for real: start being the powerful person you are, not the guilty persona you write about.

  • Georgia Simon

    This resonated with me so much, and I sent it to a friend who I thought would appreciate it too.  I’ve had a lot of meaningless sex.  My problem has tended to be more that while I do have some very sound, cogent arguments why I should wait to have sex with a guy I’m with, when he does invariably ask for it some night early on, all that nice reasoning suddenly pales in importance next to more, ah, hedonistic pursuits.  Then it’s incredible how quickly I lose interest in him and couldn’t care if I never saw him again (sometimes before it’s even over :/).  I enjoy sex, but never as much with a brand new partner as with someone I’m really comfortable with.  The real trouble with this “system” is that I end up hating/tiring of my partners before I even get close to them.  (Actually, the *real* trouble with this system is that I end up sucking a lot of dick, which although I’m really good at it, I get almost no reciprocation, and while I do get to have a fair amount of sex, it’s pretty much always disappointing.)

    Dating requires an unreasonable amount of the most stubborn kind of optimism.  I’m seeing a guy now whose sexual hangups are such that after a month *he* still isn’t ready.  As a result, we’re still in the game.  Watch, he’ll probably end up being my husband.

  • Georgia Simon

    This resonated with me so much, and I sent it to a friend who I thought would appreciate it too.  I’ve had a lot of meaningless sex.  My problem has tended to be more that while I do have some very sound, cogent arguments why I should wait to have sex with a guy I’m with, when he does invariably ask for it some night early on, all that nice reasoning suddenly pales in importance next to more, ah, hedonistic pursuits.  Then it’s incredible how quickly I lose interest in him and couldn’t care if I never saw him again (sometimes before it’s even over :/).  I enjoy sex, but never as much with a brand new partner as with someone I’m really comfortable with.  The real trouble with this “system” is that I end up hating/tiring of my partners before I even get close to them.  (Actually, the *real* trouble with this system is that I end up sucking a lot of dick, which although I’m really good at it, I get almost no reciprocation, and while I do get to have a fair amount of sex, it’s pretty much always disappointing.)

    Dating requires an unreasonable amount of the most stubborn kind of optimism.  I’m seeing a guy now whose sexual hangups are such that after a month *he* still isn’t ready.  As a result, we’re still in the game.  Watch, he’ll probably end up being my husband.

  • Delilah

    To the author – it’s been almost one year since this post. I was wondering if your perspective on such matters has changed at all or stayed the same? As many others have noted, this phenomenon is commonly experienced, and not to play too much into the ‘it gets better’ mentality, I was hoping for some updated advice. Really, really hoping.  

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