I was talking to Tyler recently about dating in general and he mentioned third date sex. What is third date sex? Literally having sex on the third date, but also going on first dates and second dates and building up to the third date.
The concept was completely foreign to me. Why would I wait until the third date? Why would someone take my number? Why wouldn’t I just sleep with them if I found them attractive on the first night? It sounded like so much work!
Tyler said I didn’t grasp the concept because I never dated in my 20’s, which is true. I just married the first guy I dated, but to be fair I’d already had a crush on him from the ages of 11-17, so it wasn’t as if I was hasty about that. I considered it a conquest. I wasn’t completely wrong.
Anyway, I went through my list (the list) and realized, in fact, that I had experienced this phenomenon. I wasn’t in my 20’s. But they all were. And at the time I didn’t know what the deal was but now I could frame it contextually. Aw, what sweet boys. So earnest.
But, more fundamentally, why don’t I usually wait? That took a discussion with Maddie today to unearth. And in one word, it is Brandon.
Brandon and I met over Tinder four years ago. He was a rare find. As per usual standards and practices, I told him to meet me at The Shelter, the bar where I never had to worry about running into anyone who didn’t need to know my business. We got on like a house on fire. He was funny and playful, but mostly he just wanted to watch me be funny and playful.
He kissed me that night. It was pretty groovy, but it stopped there. Over the next few days though, we started texting. For like seven hours a day. Riffing, making up crazy dramas. We once had a fully fledged imaginary fight as two high school kids. I told him I’d recorded over his mixtape with Aerosmith’s Get A Grip and took all of his pictures out of my locker. He told me he wanted his jean jacket back and that he was going to spend the day sulking under the bleachers and smoking pot with his imaginary friend Toby.
He never did make me a mixtape because no one does that anymore (le sigh) but he did make me two YouTube playlists. His tastes were very hipster (Tame Impala, Little Dragon, Phantogram, Grimes) while I was barely joining the 2010’s (that’s a whole other thing but not for today).
We kept seeing each other and putting off the sex part. But I was having fun. I once gave him a cholo makeover while we were waiting for a table at brunch (I used to eat brunch…I know better now). He once carried my six inch jelly platforms after we left a concert.
As (also) per usual standards and practices, he was kind of dazzled with my brain and the fact that I could charm any bartender in town into free drinks and that strangers would come up to me out of nowhere just to compliment me. I was a whirlwind and he was just happy to get caught up in that. I liked having a playmate who read my pieces (this was three years ago so they were all drivel with just the beginning promise of lyricism). Brandon majored in creative writing while I majored in something decidedly less creative so I appreciated him teaching me concepts like “lyrical.”
He kept putting off the sex until probably three weeks and four in person dates in. I finally just had to ask what the deal was. I thought maybe he didn’t like me. He sort of sheepishly explained. He was worried he wouldn’t be able to please me. He was intimidated by me. I told him he was being ridiculous.
We slept together. But even with Kendrick Lamar playing (his choice–such good taste that one) it was…well, lackluster. He was decidedly a nice white boy in bed.
But my head was already involved…and my ego…and my heart.
Things got complicated after that. But suffice it to say that there were a few boys who hesitated in sleeping with me and it turned out it was always the same reason. They knew they weren’t up to the challenge but they just wanted to be in my life so badly that they kept asking me out on fun adventure dates. And then when we did have sex (I was always kind and really sweet because they’re no point in being otherwise) yeah…nuthin.
So after enough iterations, I just told myself that if the physical isn’t there I’m not gonna bother. Because I’m not entirely proud of having gone on the fourth date with a boy and all of his friends only to go home with someone else. It’s not mean. It’s just indifferent and uncaring. And I can’t be that person anymore.
I’m not going to sacrifice good sex for a connection (I want and shall have it all). Don’t be ridiculous. But now I’m trying to grasp the concept of this third date sex as if it were Amish bundling or Victorian letter exchanges. Do people even do romance anymore?
Now that we’re in Covid times and hopping into an Uber to bar hop and hop into bed with a Tinder date isn’t on the table (not in a small part due to the dearth of eligible candidates), maybe it’s time for a romance renaissance? I have friends who are on Hinge (too much work) and doing the whole virtual dating thing (nope nope nope). They’re looking for connection in a time of uncertainty. I get it. I salute them. I support them. But fuck if I’m going to invest in any stranger right now. I barely want to hear them talk when I meet them in person. Now I’m supposed to hear them talk over some janky WiFi connection? Hell to the no. Not now. Not ever.
When I was in Tucson this Spring, I was getting hit up left and right by guys I’d slept with, guys I’d talked to, guys who took my number. They were going through their lists and knocking on every door because that is what guys do. Again, no. Just no. Blocked every last one of them. So that’s out of the question (well, there was one short reprise, but we carried that out to its natural conclusion).
It leaves me with few options, but honestly, I’m not really that interested in dating for dating’s sake right now. I’m trying to stay focused on what I actually do want. I’ve only got so much time. And it’s not going to be wasted panning for gold like some old timey prospector.
If this is the time for a romance renaissance, let it be perfumed, hand-written notes and locks of hair curled into a brass locket. Let it be chivalry and grand gestures. Let it be deep. Let it be true. Let it be the stuff of legends. Let it be Brontë and Hemingway and Dinesen and Ondaatje and Wharton and Greene and Neruda!
These remarkable times call for boldness. They call for extraordinary feats. They call for connections so deep your heart aches and your feet float three inches of the ground.
Not just for me, but for everyone.
In non-Covid times, I’ve rejected this notion of romance out of hand. I eschewed it. I balked at it. I bristled at its mention. I’ve hissed in its general direction. But it’s really the artífice of romance that I can’t stand. When it is substitute for authenticity. What I’m really hoping is that people take this time to assess their values and be their most authentic selves.
If there be dating, let there be true connection. This isn’t cuffing season. This is something decidedly different.