Just look at us: We are the portraits of overworked college students and borderline alcoholics. We’re overachievers and under appreciated. Maybe we’re juggling part-time jobs to support a full course loads in liberal arts majors that will never translate to gainful employment. We are the future of the companies that won’t hire us. Some of us hung our college degrees in bedrooms in our parents’ homes as a shrine to student loan debt. Our fingers fly fastest over keyboards, and we think in 140 characters. We’re old enough to know better, and young enough to post it on the Internet anyway.
We are the 20-somethings. So what? You want a freaking medal?
Of course we do: We’re the millennials, the generation you can’t scan a newspaper without reading about. We were the childhood athletes demanding trophies we didn’t deserve. We are a texting-while-driving, social-network addicted, over-privileged menace to society. And most of us have no idea what we’re doing.
It’s a weird time to be a “young adult.” Real-world responsibility clashes with the ever-present terror that is “growing up.” Eventually, you need to figure out who you are, what you need, what you want, what you deserve, what you can afford, and what you can stand to lose … and never at a time convenient for you.
So what do you do when you need to take a leap of faith, but are afraid you’ll fall flat? Step off the ledge!
My name is Lauren, and I’m here to help — with a heavy dose of cynicism and a smidge of sarcasm. My qualifications? I’ve been in this so-called “real world” for a year: I graduated with a 3.6 GPA from a four-year state university in 2012 at age 22. I’ve experienced all five the Elisabeth Kübler-Ross stages of grief during the job-hunting process. I’m a freelance journalist, writer, blogger and vegetarian. I’ve lived on the East Coast and in the Midwest. I’ve been in a stable relationship for two years, but I’ve had my fair share of heartbreak. And I’ve dealt with enough bullcrap that you shouldn’t have to.
Send me your most pressing life concerns, and I’ll take your hand and lead you back to solid ground. Or at least backhand some sense into you. Maybe you don’t deserve a medal, but you do deserve a break.
So let’s get to it, shall we?
Dear Step off the Ledge: I have a crush on someone. They’re really great, but I’m afraid they aren’t as experienced, if you know what I’m saying, as I would like in a relationship. Should I keep trying to pursue them and see if they are more experienced than they seem, or just give up?
What’s great about romantic relationships is that they can be as physically intimate as you want them to be! This can also be disappointing – only you have the power to set your limits in a relationship, which means the same courtesy is extended to the person you’re crushin’ on. For some people, being in a relationship that involves physical intimacy is more important than a relationship where both partners have the same political affiliation. Other people might see having relations as less important, if necessary at all.
The easiest way to know where your crush falls on this scale, of course, is to ask them what kind of physical intimacy they’re looking for in a relationship. But I don’t think you’d anonymously write in for advice if you were so bold as to express yourself that way. Because it would be totally embarrassing, right?! In what kind of setting do you ask that sort of question? A mall food court? Via snapchat?
You did write that you have a crush on this person, not that you two are in a relationship. Why don’t you ask this person out on a date? I know, right? Can’t you just send an emojii of how you feel? No, you can’t. Actually, stop sending emojiis altogether. It’s nonsense communication.
It doesn’t have to be something as stiff as “dinner and a movie,” nor does it have to be as quirky as any of the “20 Creative Date Ideas” I see on every Pinterest board. Go for a walk. Try a new restaurant you’ve both never been to – you can even pay for your meals separately! Stay in and watch a few episodes of a failed 80s TV show on Netflix instant streaming. Just do something without other people, and with the understanding that you’ve asked this person to be with you alone because you’ve thought about what they look like naked. It’s amazing the gross miscommunication that can be avoided if interested parties just followed those two simple rules.
If your crush has agreed to go out with you, congratulations! If your time spent together goes well, double congratulations! You now have two MAJOR accomplishments to back up what you need to do next, which involves some feels.
Start by making some painfully obvious statements: “This was fun! I really like you, [person I have a crush on].” This allows your date a final way out: “I had fun too, but really just as friends.”
It’s a first date. No matter what Match.com commercials lead you to believe, you do not fall in love on the first date – you specifically haven’t talked about physical intimacy, so there’s no awkward reason you can’t remain friends!
But let’s say your crush mirrors your answer. “I really like you, too.” Look at you! You’ve successfully asked someone out, had a great first date, and established that you have mutually reciprocated feelings! You didn’t have to “give up!” I’m so happy for you I could burst!
Now, remember how I said only you have the power to set your relationship limits? It’s time to set those limits! Don’t put the pressure on the other person by asking, “So … what now?” Continue the conversation on your terms by asserting what you’re looking for in a relationship:
“I’d like to go out with you again!”
“I’d like to be exclusive. When I get home, can I Tweet about you?”
“I’m not really looking for a relationship, but something more physical.”
Then your crush gets to set their own parameters:
“Sure, let’s go out next weekend!”
“I’d love to go out with you again, but I’d still like to see other people. When I get home if there is a relationship request from you on Facebook, we definitely can’t move forward.”
“I’m not looking for a relationship right now. We could do friends with benefits?”
If you both have interests in a “relationship” that doesn’t set physical limits, you have to ask yourself how important that kind of intimacy means to you. You’re going to have to, metaphorically, feel it out with your new partner.
It’s can be kind of hard to tell how sexual someone “seems” if they aren’t vocal about it. Vocalizing your own sexuality could turn them on or off doing the same, which is why it’s better to have that conversation about your feelings for one another BEFORE you bring up you favorite positions.
Some people have specific limits drawn when it comes to what they want sexually from a partner. This is what you’re going to want to know early, no matter how awkward it might be to talk about it. Because honestly, what’s going to be worse: Finding yourself really attached to a person and suddenly learning that they don’t want to have the same physical relationship you do, or asking on the second date, “I’d like to [insert sexual act here] with you one day. Is that something you want? Can we talk about where you are sexually, and where you want to be?” You obviously don’t have to sound like Dr. Phil during the conversation, but really, whatever works.
Acknowledge how awkward the conversation is! “I know this isn’t ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ passionate, but I want to know what you’re cool with, and I want to tell you what I’m into.” Write down what you’ve done before sexually, and rate how you enjoyed it. Play “Never Have I Ever” to learn what you both haven’t tried, but would be willing to, and what you won’t want to do under any circumstances. Share the info in a Google Doc. Put the lists in an Excel spreadsheet and do some fancy calculations to determine compatibility. As long as you’ve shared some personal opinions on where your relationship could go sexually, you’re golden.
Some people may not know their limits until you ask. Key word: ASK.
You could be totally right, and your partner isn’t as experienced as you are physically. But when fooling around you ask them if they want to try something they haven’t – or even YOU haven’t – tried before, they might totally be into it. Or they might say no, and that’s the final word. No begging or bargaining.
When it comes to physical intimacy, you have two majorly important factors that, easily enough, both start with the letter “C”: consent and comfort. You NEVER EVER NEVER have to do something during sex that you don’t want to. EVER. Nor can you EVER force a sexual act on someone who does not want it/has asked you not to/from whom you have not received permission. Got it? I’m going to say it again: You never have to go beyond the sexual limits you set for yourself, either before or during sexual activity, nor can you force someone beyond their limits. Always remember that!
And comfort doesn’t just mean the 1,000 thread count sheets on which you get busy. Sex is such a conundrum: You are putting yourself in literally one of the most exposed and vulnerable situations you could possibly be in, but you don’t want to talk about how you can have the most enjoyable experience possible? If you’re in a comfortable sexual relationship with someone, you both should always feel like you can stop or suggest new ways to pleasure each other.