When I came to Yale, I had five indelible guidelines for hookups. Never mind that I was 18 years old and from a sheltered Chicago suburb. Never mind that my longest relationship was barely six months, First Base was still a BFD, or that I’d gotten plastered and hooked up in the Sig Nu house on Bulldog Days (seriously, though? That’s a problem). Mine was to be the hookup gospel:
1. No cheating, on or with anybody.
2. Don’t hook up with somebody you can’t track down on Facebook the next morning.
3. Don’t hook up with people your friends have hooked up with (what I still affectionately refer to as the “Fingerprinting” rule).
4. Don’t hook up in the shower — the lighting is unflattering and it’s tacky anyway.
5. No anal.
To the best of my knowledge, rules 1 and 5 are still intact, although I’ve certainly encouraged friends to break both on occasion. Rules 2-4, however, were out the door faster than my poor “thanks for a great evening, see you in class!” prom date.
Actually, as I dropped the hookup rules, I dropped hooking up, per se. First semester freshman year I was prolific; from then on, however, I’ve basically been in long-term relationships. I went from serial SAE Late Nights to serial monogamy. And I came up with some more rules to that end.
1. No cheating, on or with anybody.
2. Don’t talk about it in this column.
3. Long-term long-distance relationships are more trouble than they’re worth.
4. “We” are important, but not as important as “me.”
5. No anal.
This is the story of how, once again, I’ve broken rules 2-4.
I think it’s important to note that the rules weren’t just about having rules, they were for good reasons. Take long-distance relationships for example: How do you know a relationship is right if it’s not right there?
Sure, there’s that whole “love” thing. But from the day I left home I’ve looked on high-school sweethearts as ticking time bombs and summers apart from one’s college love as a necessary evil justified primarily by the lack of alternative ass — therefore just slightly outweighing the hassle of a breakup during finals. Distance messes things up, and going through formative life experiences separately has posed serious challenges for every relationship I’ve known.
So how, you might ask, did I come to be in a long-term, long-distance relationship of my own?
I met Alex last year when we were cast in a play together. Our characters were dating, and Scene Four featured a relatively intense onstage love scene. You get to know each other pretty quickly when, one week into rehearsals, you’re straddling each other. Right around the time the show ended, we started seeing each other.
Things have gone so smoothly between us that we’re totally becoming one of those couples who you just hate. I hate us sometimes, and I am us.
I had never said “I love you” to somebody, meant it, and had somebody say it back (and mean it) until Alex.
Here, verbatim, is an excerpt from that conversation:
Me: Fuck it. I love you.
Him: I love you.
Me: You don’t have to, you know.
In retrospect, I’m not sure if this response signified some tragic emotional scar tissue built up from previous failed relationships, if it was the epitome of my life-long proclivity to ruin any earnest attempt at romance, or if it was simply a defensive reaction against the idiocy into which I was plunging.
Has it ever been a good idea to become emotionally involved with a second semester senior? No. They do things like graduate.
And then they move to sub-Saharan Africa for a year on unpaid save-the-world-from-AIDS internships.
There are many careers I’ve considered pursuing: forensic lawyer, psychotherapist, much beloved kickass American princess who marries into the British royal family … Needless to say, “that weird girl with a boyfriend in Africa” was never one of them. Yet here I am. Neither of us doubts that it’s the right thing for Alex and me to be doing at this point in our relationship and our lives, but, really, what the fuck?
We’ve leveraged about half a year of together-time as evidence that we can weather a full year of apart-time and, objectively, I know how dumb that is. Our relationship, furthermore, was largely predicated on time together, a shared environment and occasionally getting physical. None of that is possible anymore. We are unbelievably spoiled to live in an age where telecommunications enable virtually continuous correspondence, but even that is not without its difficulties.
Phone sex is definitely too impractical; Skype sex had promise until we realized that we couldn’t maintain a reliable connection for more than a minute or two, and there’s only so much you can convey in a plain-text e-mail message.
We’re challenged by the divide between college and post-college life, a six-hour time difference and his exceedingly spotty Internet connection. It’s frustrating that I want him to care about who I saw at Toad’s or the struggles of our co-ed bathroom when he’s dealing with a public health pandemic and the inefficiencies of the local government. Not only have my hilarious-in-retrospect drunk dials cost 30-odd cents a minute, but they reach him painfully early on Saturday or Sunday morning.
The only way to deal with this was to break rule four. I know that for this to work it’s going to take some effort on both of our parts. So I am gearing up to do what may actually become the most romantic, fated and absolutely foolish thing I’ve ever done: I’m going to fucking Africa for winter break.
How do I know this is right? How do I know this will work? I’ll tell you what I told him:
If I’m getting vaccinated, buying plane tickets and literally going to the ends of the earth, we will MAKE IT WORK.
I may not be the most romantic person on earth (in fact, I may be the least), and I may not always stick to my own rules. But this commitment, like those precious surviving items on my Hookup Manifesto, is a decision I am not prepared to renege on any time soon.
Sarah Minkus always keeps her promises. Well, almost all of them, but we’re not telling.