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November 20, 2000 e-mail e-mail to a friend in need

Sex and the Single Date?
How Long Should You Wait?*

Said it last week, I'll say it again: single women can get a sitcom, but we can't get a break. They say that we're too picky -- and that we're too slutty. As Amy Cohen asked in a recent New York Observer, "Why is there a growing perception that Manhattan women over 30 are giving Caligula a run for his money?...I've found the opposite to be true. In fact, many of us who in their college years thought nothing of going to a boy's room to 'listen to the new Tom Waits album' now debate whether to even kiss on the first date."

(Oops, Knee Deep, confused again?)

Disclaimer, before I dive in deeper: I do not mean to blindly extrapolate from Manhattan to the rest of the world ("What, you can't get one lousy shiso leaf after midnight around here?"). Why, even Brooklyn is different (longer trip home=different shacking variable). But Cohen's article does, I think, raise points that can inform and amuse us all. (Also, guys -- and gays -- stay tuned. I'm getting to you.)

So. Why are the women Cohen talked to saying STOP at the stoop? ("What, you don't know what a stoop is? It's like a porch, but taller, and really only the steps part. Think where they sat on Sesame Street.") She cites a few theories:

• Said one: "If I'm going to raise 'my number' [at this point], a guy had better be worth it."
• "Postponing sex extends the woo phase...[which] has become more precious than ever."
• "They want to get married [so sue us!] and, while they're not using sex as a bargaining chip, they fear making irreversible mistakes."
• Another friend: "It takes you a while -- like, all of your 20s -- to realize that casual sex is really depressing."
• And: "It's not that I'm more prudish now. I'm more prudent."
• And Cohen herself: "The hope is that waiting a little longer to have sex is like having your baggage [yes, 'baggage'] shipped instead of flown...I always hope that the more comfortable I become, the sooner some of my baggage will be lost in transit."

Now. As I've said before (key letter here), I've heard tons of lusty anecdotes about meant-to-be(d) couples who hit the sack the first night and left only to register for new linens. I have no doubt about/problem with that. But if you do, on any given night, then you might want to wait. And why not? Heck, you might not even "fear irreversible mistakes." Anticipation=aphrodisiac. You might just find "the woo phase" more fun.

That said, do not ever do not ever kick yourself for "giving in." Don't bother worrying that you "played it wrong." Don't think, "I don't sound like those Manhattan women -- what's my problem?" (Or, "What's theirs?") I get lots of letters like Ruby's -- "How do you recover if you think you've gone too far too fast?" and Wallowing in Waltham's: "We slept together and just like that -- poof! -- he was gone! Although it was totally consensual, I feel violated." And I totally understand those feelings. But there's truly no predicting how someone (including you) will react to...anything. Especially the only activity that makes otherwise rational people think things like, "Does darkness make me look fat?"

So I can give you a little reassurance, but I'd also like to give you more answers.

Over to you, guys: I just want to help bridges (not lofts); I've defended you on getting the digits, now give me the skinny on doing the deed. Help me help you live down the cliche. Tell me: is there any truth to the notion that she's chased only as long as she's chaste? What's behind this? How long do you like to wait? How do you decide? In this month's Glamour, one guy says 'If you know there's not going to be a second date, then, hell, you may as well -- but if you think you'll see her again, you'll want to save some." Aha! (?) So sometimes you don't follow up because you weren't planning to in the first place? My hypothesis: your diversity of responses could help women stop second-guessing you and trust themselves instead.

Gay readers: Do these algorithms ring true for you? Is how soon you have sex inversely proportional to the long-term promise of the relationship? Tell.

And back to you, ladies: So, in this context, New York minutes have gotten much longer. Ring true for you, too? Tell.

And how do you all answer these questions? On Breakup Girl's new Do Tell! boards!

*Teens: "UNTIL YOU'RE OLDER." I'm not saying grownups handle it any better than you do. If they did, I wouldn't be writing this column. But still.

"Movies end, but relationships -- the ones that work -- go on. Right?"


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