Late Night Thoughts on Hooking Up

There is a certain sense of tranquility when it's 5AM and no one except the resident squirrels are there to witness my untimely stumble back to my dorm. The stillness of the campus relieves me of my thoughts. The air is refreshingly cool against my skin. Surrounded by the lush greenery that Scripps prides itself on, I can almost trick myself into thinking that this is a pleasant morning walk through the woods. But it's not, and soon enough that whimsical feeling disappears and I'm nothing but a girl with smudged makeup and blistered feet. Before long I'll be stretched out on my bed, already nursing the inevitable hangover from last night's cocktail of regret, slurred words and questionable choices.

The above scene has become all too familiar to me since the first semester of college. It became a weekly routine for me--toss back one too many shots, meet a guy at a party, go back to his room with him and then slip out at the crack of dawn to avoid the 10 A.M. rush-hour walk of shame. I became so familiar with the neighboring campuses that I could navigate it blind-folded. I lived for Smirnoff and Saturday nights. I treated my body carelessly. And every Sunday morning when I woke up feeling both nauseous and empty inside, I would suppress the tiny voice in the back of my mind that always asked the same question: Is this really how you want to live your life?  For the longest time I convinced myself that the answer was yes. I was so caught up in the excitement of finally becoming independent and being at college that I acted with reckless abandon. I was seduced by this new-founded concept that I could do whatever the hell I wanted with whoever and nobody would judge or even know. I felt like this was my clean break from my 12+ years in a relatively conservative culture where my every move was held against me. I told myself that I was being a progressive adult, and that casual sex is the modern woman's form of empowerment.

This may be the case. Many people argue that hookup culture has provided some liberation from outdated, misogynistic double standards. Women are now freer to explore their bodies and sexuality without judgement. We've come a long way from the days when an exposed ankle was deeply frowned upon and chastity was central to a girl's character. ^I felt the need to insert that small qualification there to show I'm not saying that casual sex is wrong, but rather that it was wrong for me. If I'm being honest, I haven't felt empowered in a long time. I felt the very opposite, as if each action and decision I made was slowly sending me down a hopeless spiral. The more I wanted to truly connect with someone, the more I self-medicated with alcohol and hookups. I believed that there was no way in hell I was going to find a decent guy who would want to know me for more than just my body, who would message me during the day instead of sending the sporadic "you still up?" texts at 2 in the morning. This was such a sobering thought that the only way I could feel happy was if I was not sober.

In college we are told to never "catch feels," as if human emotion isn't a fundamental part of us but rather a disease we must avoid at all costs. I became so terrified of feeling anything for a guy that I would sometimes list all the stupid things I didn't like about him, just to steer me away from the heartbreak that would inevitably happen if I did develop feelings and he didn't reciprocate-- his room was really messy he's short so I'd never be able to wear heels if we went out he probably has 10 other girls lined up already

--I feel ashamed just thinking about it.

I'm scared. It scares me that these days my only source of excitement is when I get a text or friend request from a boy I don't even care much about. It scares me that for the past four weekends I haven't slept in my own bed even once. It scares me that the thought of ending the night guy-less and by myself sends a crippling sense of loneliness through my body.

Before college, I used to pride myself on my empathy and the deep love I had for people around me. It terrifies me that I can no longer do that for my current self. I've become an emotionally paler version of who I used to be, so afraid of intimacy and getting hurt that I've lost a big part of my own identity.

I'm also so, so tired. At brunch the other day, I was relaying to my best friend a recent experience where a guy who I thought might've been my shot at a real connection ended up causing a lot of pain. I shrugged and poked at my food, faking a nonchalant tone, "It's fine, I'll just forget about him." My friend looked at me and asked with awe in her voice: "Wow, how do you live like that? I don't think I could ever do what you do." Instead of priding myself on my "unique" ability to be aloof and get with random guys as I would've in the first semester, I found myself close to tears and replying with "I don't know, but it's exhausting."

And it's true. I've finally come to realize that I don't want to live like this anymore. They say the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem, right? So here it is. I'm finally admitting to myself, to my friends and to whoever is reading this super long post that, as deeply terrified as I am to do this, I'm going to turn my life around. I feel saner already. And every time I feel myself slipping back into old habits, I want to be able to read this and know that there is another way.