Unless you live directly in the center of your Dirt Devil, you’ve heard the joke:
“What does a lesbian bring on a second date?”
Say it with me, now: “A U-Haul.”
My lady-lovin’ ladies may get the most crap for this behavior, but in reality, no one is really exempt. Doesn’t matter if you are epic queermo, arrow-straight het or any of the trillion points in between. No one is exempt from the urge to go all-in with a new relationship. It’s spring, innit? It’s the season of rebirth, warmer weather and a rediscovered joy of sexitimes. If you are of the mind for a little bodily grooming, you may even start shaving, trimming and waxing your winter coat.
Come on, SA, let’s shake our mating plumage!
But even though it’s called dating and not U-Hauling for a reason, we all fall into the oxytocin trap. You know, the love drug — our favorite neurochemical ever. It’s a chemical we produce automatically within our bodies; it’s released in all physical touch and especially in orgasms. It feels yummy and we like it.
One of the things about it, though, is that it’s a brain-fuck version of rose-colored glasses. Oxytocin doesn’t just make us feel good, it makes us feel more likely to trust the person we are with. To think they are our forever soulmate of excellence and Sunday-morning pancakes. When really, let’s be honest, what we are really responding to is their expert tongue abilities.
The other problem is that the response is short-term. So we go all-in and then we burn out fast. Because the oxytocin response wears off with time, and we are left with someone who is … um … an epically bad idea snoring right next to you, and you’re feeling the urge to chew off your own arm to escape. Or maybe you were going along all fine and dandy, then all of a sudden they ghosted your ass. Yeah, guess what? You were dating a fucking addict who took off for the next hit when you didn’t trigger the high anymore.
What’s a ho to do?
First of all, you are grown and allowed to relationship however the fuck you want. You do you, okay? I’m not your momma. But if you are noticing this pattern in yourself, here are some things to consider doing differently.
Space is the safest frontier. The oxytocin mind-cotton effect wears off with distance — just like Kilgrave’s hold on his victims in Jessica Jones. If you’re always together, then you’re always under the influence and don’t see anything clearly. Yes, you wanna be all up in NewBoo, but try spreading out your time and seeing what you notice about your feelings when you aren’t in a post-O phase. Don’t fucking move in together. Seriously don’t. If you are that enmeshed and the breakup happens, it gets way fucking harder to untangle. And they are going to take off with your Leon Bridges vinyl, and they don’t even like Leon Bridges!
Don’t drag your peeps into it. If one-week stands are your pattern, don’t ask your friends to meet NewBoo for at least a month. If you have kids, FFS, wait six months. They aren’t feeling the oxytocin effect that you are and don’t want to go on the roller coaster ride. They don’t even want to try to remember NewBoo’s name. Trust Auntie Intimacy on this one.
Talk about other fucking things when you are hanging out with your peeps either IRL or on social media. Rule of thumb: 25 percent of your time is NewBoo reporting, 75 percent anything-the-fuck-else going on in your life. You do have one, remember?
Don’t presume you grok this person. Your brain chemistry is a fucking liar that will tell you that you do. But you sure as hell better get to know them the old-fashioned way anyway. As in, who are they voting for in the election? They are voting, right? Do they appreciate the brilliance of Blossom Dearie, or do they still have a hidden stash of Nickleback CDs? Are they down for a last-minute road trip to Taos, or do they have to plan everything with the military precision of Patton? What are all the idiosyncrasies that define NewBoo?
Don’t presume this person groks you. Make sure they get to know the authentic you. And if you get ghosted, remember that you didn’t know this person well enough for this to be a rejection of you-the-person. Swapping DNA is not the most effective means of communicating life goals. Did they know your favorite midnight snack is cheese puffs dipped in ranch dressing? Or that your imaginary friend growing up was a three-legged emu named Grunt? You know, all the adorable and strange-ass shit that your family and friends know about you and love you for? If you’ve only been together a week or three, they just don’t have the bead on you that you think they do.
I posted on Facebook recently that marriage was “fighting over who is going to check the cat’s butthole.”
And you know what, cupcakes? That really is what long-term partnership is all about. And I wouldn’t trade it for the world. But you have plenty of time to get to this place in your relationship. You want to be prepared to share your journey with the person they really are, not the person you think they are. I loves me some Dan/Joe, but I know he will never, not ever, willingly check the cat’s butthole for me. We all have our limits, and he and I know each other’s pretty damn well because we took our time to get to this point.
Don’t just date. Court. Courtship is the appropriate term here … it’s the formal process of gaining the favor of another. Enjoy the fun stuff. Get to know this person with their clothes on. So dance your peacock feather dance, you dazzling thing. See them — then go home. To your house. Without them.
And delete the U-Haul number from your phone.