[Written By: Charlotte Dean]
Another Valentine’s Day has swirled past us; couples have fluttered the streets with roses and chocolates. It is a day that is the equivalent of hell for a commitment-phobe. Spring, however, is here (with a little more frosting than we expected). After emerging from our coves, wrapped in duvets and multiple blankets, we can finally stop using hot water bottles for extra heat in our beds. I sometimes find the transitioning between seasons to be akin to shedding skin – the temperature increases (or should, at least), and we get more light with each passing day, making me feel like I really should get out of the house and become that active version of myself that the summer sees far more of.
This shedding of skin has led me to look back on how I’ve behaved in the past – even as recently as this winter. There have been times, as I’ve detailed in my other columns, when I haven’t held back sexually – this only put me out on more than one occasion. When did it become normal for us to loosen our morals rather than tighten them? We have to be honest with ourselves, though, would we have slept with them so soon if we thought they had the potential to be as important to us as our family and friends? Was the chat as stimulating as the prospect of them in the bedroom was? I’ve come to realise for most of my sexual escapades, it wasn’t. The idea was a nice thought, but when you fancy someone for their looks and the sexual sparks you may share rather than their personality, it’s time to knock that habit hard over the head. Even if it was an array of adventure, be it in a van or on a bedroom desk, it still is better to tell yourself the truth rather than fake it.
I think the best relationships I’ve ever had have been those where I didn’t mix a sexual relationship with an emotional one. This is why, after reading Dolly Alderton’s book Everything I Know About Love, I can completely relate to her decision that her best relationships were the ones she made with her girlfriends. When I was young and still at school my relationships were like my friendships now; it was all about getting to know the other person, what their passions were and what made them laugh. Not what their favourite things to do in the bedroom are. I hear some boys like the girl travelling further south with her mouth than we ever expected…. Also, it is more common to hear that there are other reasons for your friend’s weekly nail trimmings. When did the mix of sex and emotions fog up all previous youthful perceptions of a relationship, and more importantly, the chase?
I was sixteen when someone made me my first (and truthfully only) mixed CD. It was a very romantic relationship and I was so close to having sex with him, but felt that I was too young. Ironically, when I did sleep with someone for the first time, I still feel regretful and like I should have waited a little bit longer. We all make choices in life – some we regret, some we stand by, some are very, very memorable – so I guess, like everyone, I try to not have any regrets.
When you’re not appreciated for going to get a wax, getting your hair done real nice, and spending one hundred pounds on that red, silky L’Agent by Agent Provocateur lingerie set (not to mention making the dinner reservation in the first place) it can deflate your expectations of other people and what you think you deserve. It makes me really enjoy spending more time with family and friends for a few years more – at least as they appreciate the little things. That Valentine’s Day with the red underwear, when I turned into a drunken mess after drinking more than my body could withstand, flailing my limbs in Merchant City just to make someone else happy, is one of those memories I can look back on and realise that I will not spend a fortune on anyone else who won’t appreciate it or me, end of. Later that night I was tied up when really it should have been the other way, let’s just say.
It seems that people in their early twenties fear their life will be taken away from them if they end up being with someone – they don’t want to compromise or make effort with people that are not typically built into their routines. Perhaps this is due to not being able to trust a new person; perhaps they’ve been hurt in the past. Or maybe they don’t quite realise how fulfilling life can be when you give your time to someone else… Perhaps this is why my friend with the pseudonym Tangerine is now dating a thirty-year-old: after drinking a bottle of red she was persuaded by her confidants to leave her number on a napkin for the cute barman to swoop up. Is it confidence men are after, someone tossing back a few glasses of vino whilst not giving a toss, or someone who’s ready to take chances? This guy is now cooking steak dinners for her, and maybe they’re actually a very good match. It sounds like they are, but could it also help he’s older? He’s ready to stop being self-centred and wants to start mapping his world around someone else. I recently read in John Gray’s book Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus that men actually work better in life when they have someone that needs them – despite feeling fearful of commitment, actually being given their original space to realise that they actually crave being of use to someone (the elastic band theory as our good friend Georgia from Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging taught our young fifteen year-old souls about).
If I am completely honest with myself, I never listened to that elastic band theory before I read the rest of John Gray’s book. I find it to be scarily accurate, and can notice the examples of behaviours and patterns in the relationships that I’m surrounded by, even with my happily married parents. But I guess when you meet the right someone, having your own space won’t matter so much and giving into sexual urges (or as I like to call it, the itch) won’t result in you just being something casual.
Separating sex and emotional engagement with someone is harder than we think. When we hadn’t yet engaged in anything above first base, it allowed us to really think about whether the person we were with deserved that much of us. At this age, life as a sexual being is more irritating than ever – as soon as you match with a cute guy on Tinder, chat for a week, and go on that first date, all you want to do is to live in the moment, grab their hand and show them where your flat is. Even with our guy friends, sometimes we wish there could be something more there, or we think of them through a new perspective or just view them as a mountain to conquer in the future; truthfully, though, it isn’t really the right thing to maybe do even if it might temporarily releave our sexual frustration.
Even if you’re not with anyone, it doesn’t hurt to keep the romance alive in life. You can shower your family and friends with gifts with the money you would spend on a partner. It really is the little things that can make someone’s day: buying a friend an avocado from Roots and Fruits (even if it’s part of their 3 for £1.50 offer), paying for their coffee on your latest trip to Cottonrake, or surprising your family by coming home for a few nights. When you least expect it someone will give you something in return, and a guy may want to make you dinner when you weren’t even asking for it.
Despite university swamping all of us into its dark and slimy soul which is like something out of Stranger Things, that the world is still full of possibilities if you have a little faith and confidence in yourself. Romance doesn’t need to start from your Saturday night out – revolutionary as this sounds, it can even begin by someone texting you and asking you the age-old question if you’d like to go out sometime. Everyone’s nervous and a bit fearful of the unknown, but as my friend, who we’ll call Foodie, said, “grab life by the horns.” So maybe we should stop being so scared of our independence being taken away from us (and that doesn’t mean to have more cows in your field either), but to perhaps make the first move or go on that second date even if you’re not quite sure what will happen. After all, Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither are the things that are worth having in life.