I only recently gained the ability to partake in hookup culture.
For all of middle school and the first half of high school, I couldn’t make eye contact with boys/men because I did not want to be looked at. I hated the way I looked, and, even more, hated my inability to socially please the men with whom I spoke.
Lucky for me, I had a fantasy that provided relief. In it, I had many friends, and a lot of money. I was hot. I didn’t care about boys, but many of them were attracted to me. All of this could not have been further from reality.
Throughout the three months before eleventh grade, for a variety of reasons, I gained a lot of confidence. No longer viewing myself as repulsive, I set out to rectify the tattered image of a Micaela who had felt so worthless as an adolescent. Rectifying meant proving that I could hookup with, or get attention from, whomever I wanted.
That rectification process was cut short by my finding a boyfriend, whom I loved a lot.
When I got to college, and lost that relationship, it was that same fantasy I’d created as a 12 year old that again helped me to cope. For example, sometimes I would cry while running on the treadmill at Rains. During those unfortunate instances, I would envision myself as independent, carefree, and sexually liberated (see: androcentrism), a fantasy that would dry the tears off my face and make me feel more hopeful.
Though I am no longer crying on the treadmill at Rains and am now happy here at Pomona College, the fantasy remains a source of empowerment.
However, my fantasy days are numbered. Though it is a source of motivation in hard times, it now does not align with what I actually want; most notably, these days I care less about having people attracted to me, and care more about having people maintain an emotional interest in me.
I suffer because I took on a challenge of fulfilling my initial fantasy of physical attraction, while also getting people to emotionally invest in me.
This is exemplified well by a recent hookup of mine, which, at face value, fit the fantasy perfectly. He was far removed from my life, a freshman with a completely different social circle and interests, the perfect low-stakes hook up. I assumed I wouldn’t be upset if we only hung out once.
When he came over, we spoke for a very long time. I liked talking to him because he was kind of weird, but in a way that was funny and calming. The way he spoke, with soft s’s and lots of eye contact, was so incredibly swoon-worthy that I feel ill when I think about it. He is also very beautiful.
It is always the talking that seems to disrupt the fantasy. I find myself often having prolonged conversations prior to hooking up. I frequently mistake these long conversations as emotional, when really the other person is just being polite, trying to make me comfortable. These conversations are often just a means to an end.
Though I knew he just wanted a hookup, the talking made me want to pursue him. I texted him a few days after I saw him, and he did not respond. I became sad and obsessive.
I try to emotionally invest in people whom I know from the start are just looking to hookup. I seek out these people because my 12-year-old self would be proud to see me with them: They usually fit conventional beauty standards, have social capital, and hook up with a lot of people.
My game of trying to get hookup partners to emotionally invest in me is one that I am losing and will continue to lose. I am looking for something in people who absolutely did not sign up to give me anything.
Perhaps my fantasy is something I can use as an energetic outlet but is not something I need to practice. In reality, I am not okay with hooking up with someone once, then not speaking to them again.
However, it will take some time for me to dislodge my current desire for the attention of hot bros who just want to hook up. While I work on that, I would like to make the rejection experience less painful.
During my freshman year, I would cry in my room nearly every day, usually thinking about the boy I dated in high school — how many girls he was hooking up with, how many friends he had, and how perfect his GPA must be.
When I would start to obsess about him, I would remind myself not to worry about him, and instead focus on where I was, what I was doing, and how I was feeling.
These days, whenever I begin to obsess about these people who reject me, I try to do the same.
I remind myself to dedicate my time here to focusing on myself.
Now, I remind myself to think critically about what I actually want, versus what I have wanted for so long in my fantasy.