This past weekend, I was inspired. Between observing friends’ religious practices and new spring-fever diet and exercise regimens, I was motivated to think about my own values.
Okay, I may only know three or four Bible stories. And sure, I may think that Red Bull, cookies and leftover fried rice make an appropriate breakfast. But I have strict rules and beliefs when it comes to certain activities. Things like fingerprinting, which I believe is one of the most important rules of hooking up.
Simply put, fingerprinting is the principle that if one of your good friends hooks up with somebody, that somebody is off-limits for you. Your friend has left her metaphorical fingerprints on that person (or literal, if you’re into chocolate-sauce and body-paint kind of stuff).
Now let’s be clear: There are limits to when fingerprinting applies. Any good friend will say that insignificant hookups are still fair game. To say anything less would be straight-up selfish. After you drunkenly swap spit with Mr. Nearby against the sticky walls of the CD cafe, I don’t think it would be fair to preclude your friends from such a clearly glorious experience. More importantly, if you’re unsure of said hookup’s name, how can you even put him off-limits?
“Um, so girls, I’d appreciate it if you’d stay away from this guy with brownish hair. I think he’s from New York somewhere. Or Connecticut. He’s a history major, I think. And he does … something political. But I made out with him last week, so don’t do it, OK? Plus, I got the feeling he might be gay anyway.”
Congratulations, sister. You just described 80 percent of the guys at Yale.
Obviously, the rules of fingerprinting don’t always hold true. But if it was serious, long-term or ended badly, hands-off.
For some people, fingerprinting is an unfamiliar and seemingly impossible rule. Maybe you went to a 17-person high school in Wyoming. Maybe you’re in TD. In environments like these, I grant you that fingerprinting can be especially difficult. But it is a good guideline for many reasons.
Let’s consider, at the most basic level, the awkwardness factor.
Pretend it’s 3:15 a.m. You are sitting at your computer, maniacally IM-ing people’s away messages and chugging water from your Nalgene in hopes of avoiding a hangover tomorrow morning. It’s weird enough when your suitemate’s hookup for the night emerges from your suitemate’s bedroom. It’s even weirder when you realize you fooled around with him several times last semester and — by the way — does he want his boxers back?
If it works between the two of them, you’re pretty much guaranteed a dose of Uncomfortable on a regular basis. I think most of us would like to spend as little time as possible at the crash sites along our booty trails. I’d also venture to say that few of us want more than a subjective account of our friends’ sexual escapades, but if they’re hooking up with your ex, you probably have a pretty clear picture of the experience. Fingerprinting is designed to help you avoid these unpleasantries.
There are also issues of ickiness.
Things like clothes, lecture notes, food, ownership of the pet snake we hope to buy for our suite … No problem to share. But some things you can keep all to yourself. Like your toothbrush or an unpleasant virus, a hookup with any significance is someone you just shouldn’t share with people you like.
Most importantly, though, following the same booty trail as your friends leads to inevitable comparisons between you, which can generate massive insecurity. Are you as good of a kisser as he was? Will they have more fun together than you did? How high can she put her legs up over her head? Does his tongue ring really make it that much better?
Overall, you’re left to wonder whether they’re picking up your sloppy seconds, if it’s all a matter of coincidence or if your former hookup has found a new and improved partner in your friend. This last possibility is especially tricky. We see the positive qualities in our friends — presumably that’s why we’re friends to begin with — and we’d only expect somebody else to notice how great they are, too.
I cannot deny that — like fingerprints — all people, friendships and hookups are unique. But sharing isn’t always caring like they said in preschool: proceed with caution.
Sarah Minkus would like to fingerprint that brown-haired Econ major that lives below her. Because he’s hot.