Yesterday, after I made a few points (with some help from the author of Chastened) about the benefits of holding out, a male reader named Cory Vashon wrote in to take me to task. "It's not about holding out," he said. "It's all about whether a girl becomes clingy or not."
I want to thank Cory for writing in; I think that most of you lady readers appreciate some honest male input as much as I do.
Cory seems to have missed the point of my post somewhat, however. I was not saying, Hey ladies: By acting like a prude, you'll have a better chance of roping a guy in. Rather, I was saying, Hey ladies: If you've felt an extreme emotional hangover after having sex too early on in a "relationship," why not take a step back? Don't put pressure on yourself to have sex — and don't give in to that kind of pressure if you're feeling it from a guy. Take your time with the whole sex thing, and you may reap plenty of benefits.
Regardless, I think this Cory person makes a good point: Men are not necessarily turned off by a woman who is up for having sex early on in a relationship — but they are freaked out, almost uniformly, by any sign of "clinginess."
That raises the question: What the hell are we to do about it, if we become "clingy?" If we feel ourselves wanting more attention with a man as part of the natural progression of a dating situation?
One thing we can do about it is ... to move slowly, sexually.
For those of us who are not naturally aloof, I think waiting to have sex until we are as emotionally or psychologically comfortable with the idea as we are libidinally ready can help us to remain detached. Because — blame it on oxytocin — I, for one, feel a lot more invested in a man after we've had sex. After we've slept together, I'm much more eager for reassurance (in the form of contact with him) that I did the right thing by shagging him. Why not wait until I myself feel very confident that sex with him is the right move?
But, really, haven't I gone on enough about holding out?
How else — you might be asking — can we remain footloose and fancy-free, above and beyond the postponement of intercourse?
The three other tactics that come to mind are familiar ones:
- Date more than one person at a time.
- Keep busy doing things you like to do — and certainly don't sit around, keeping your calendar free, in the hopes the guy in question will ask you to do something.
- Spend more time with your friends.
I always find these kinds of suggestions rather .... annoying. For one thing, though it occasionally happens that I'm "dating" more than one person at a time, more often than not, I'm hoping to find ONE goddamn member of the male species who so excites me that I get the desire to reveal to him both what's in my head and what's under my skirt. Also, I make a concerted effort to build a lot of alone time into my life. As a writer, it's necessary for me to spend as many hours as I can reading and writing and thinking. Filling up my schedule with activities simply to distract myself from some guy seems aggravating, and it certainly doesn't make me feel self-confident and powerful.
Nonetheless, in the past, during periods of particularly egregious obsession, I have abided by the exhortation to "keep busy," knowing full well I might go nuts otherwise. At the same time, it never really helped that much when I was in serious straits. How can it, in this age of digital reality, when it's possible to wonder at every single second of the day (thanks to your iPhone, your BlackBerry, your cell) why you haven't heard from him yet?
Anyway, my darlings, I'm turning this over to you now. What do YOU think about this whole topic of trying not to seem too attached? (I don't love the words needy or clingy. I think there's no need to be derisive about the desire for attention and affection, which comes naturally — and powerfully — to all of us, though we can't always get what we want.) What do YOU do to distract yourself, or to remain detached or aloof in the early stages of a relationship, before you've both agreed to a certain level of commitment?