On the phone in the evening, my mom often asks me if I “hooked up” with any of my friends today. For a split second I always wonder why she is asking me something so personal in such an off-hand manner, until I realize that she is wondering if I “met up” with anyone.
I remind her constantly that hooking up today does not mean what she thinks hooking up means. Then, she reminds me that “hooking up” was not a relationship status when she was young, and she can’t be expected to keep up with all of this nonsense with young people these days.
There have been so many articles written about the perils of hookup culture that I can hardly bear to add to the cacophony, but I do have something to say that I feel might be at least somewhat novel: If you hate hookup culture, stop hooking up.
The problem with hookup culture, and thus the problem with our generation, is widely considered to be the fact that one member of the hookup couple inevitably develops more-than-a-hookup feelings for the other member. As I see it, the bigger problem is not the young folks today who only want a hookup, but rather those who settle for one.
Going into a hooking up sort of relationship, there is always (and I mean always, do you hear me? No exceptions. No maybes. Always.) one person who proposes that this relationship will not develop beyond a somewhat consistent hookup. I don’t care if you think it’s mutual: it’s not. There are definitely varying degrees of investment in the relationship, and perhaps both people have relatively alike expectations of their future together. However, there is always one person who initiates the definition of the relationship as a hookup.
So, here’s how to solve the problem. Are you listening, fellow 20-somethings? If you don’t want to be a part of a relationship that is just a hookup, don’t be. Just say no. For real, it’s that easy. The person who suggests “keeping it casual” is never going to be the one to fall in love with you a month from now, even if you feel like your relationship might be turning into something closer to dating. Just don’t do it. Sometimes the person you’re hooking up with might be a really good kisser, or really funny, or remind you of your ex minus all the stuff you didn’t like. Even so, don’t do it. Staying strong now will save you from heartbreak down the line.
Even more importantly, my young grasshoppers, don’t put off asking the other person what your relationship is to them. If you feel like you might be developing feelings for someone, but they might be in a more hookup-y state of mind, bring it up as soon as possible. Nip that confusion in the bud, friends, and don’t get too invested.
Now that I’ve solved that issue, here’s the next problem with hookup culture: what to call your hookups. “That guy I’ve been hooking up with”? “A girl I’m seeing”? “This is Casey, we’ve been dating-but-not-really-mostly-sleeping-together-but-also-having-coffee-dates”? Even the term “hooking up” is unclear. Depending on the person, it could mean virtually any romantic or sexual activity. As a generation of smart, multi-tasking individuals, we can solve this issue if we just set our minds to it. Maybe a new word is in order, so my mom doesn’t keep inadvertently asking if I’m having sex with my friends.