Is College Hookup Culture Bullsh*t?

Five years after graduation, I still have thoughts.

Happy August, everyone. I’m on my annual two week summer break from TED, and it’s a miracle how much writing you can get done when you’re not spending all day on Facebook and Twitter. Right now I’m in Vermont with my family where my grandfather just went into hospice care—he has Alzheimer’s and dementia, and his decline recently escalated. When I said goodbye to him today, he looked at me with wide eyes and said, “Be well, be happy.” So I’m doing just that, focusing on what makes me happy. Today that means writing about hookup culture while wearing sweatpants I stole from my mom’s suitcase.

I’m making solid progress on my memoir, with three chapters under my belt. I officially no longer feel like a fraud when I tell people I’m writing a book. The essay I finished most recently is about a one-night stand that left me feeling particularly shitty about myself. He never texted me back, we pretended not to know each other in the cafeteria, yada yada yada. It got me thinking about what I wish I could tell myself at age eighteen. My issue wasn’t that I didn’t want to have casual sex, it was that I judged myself harshly when I developed unrequited feelings for someone. Everyone else seemed to have no problem compartmentalizing their heart and not getting attached. Was I the weak one?

Of course not. But it took me a while to figure that out.

You can read my new mini essay about this on my blog, WHAT I WISH I’D KNOWN ABOUT HOOKUP CULTURE BEFORE GOING TO COLLEGE.

Here’s a taste:

Listen, kid, this next part is important. You are not weak for having feelings. You aren’t weak for being disappointed when your text messages go unanswered. You aren’t weak for cringing when they walk past you in the dining hall and don’t say hello. You aren’t weak for caring that she looked so gorgeous in the red glow of the party, that he took your arm to help you across the icy sidewalk, that they brought you a glass of water in bed as your racing heart slowed down and you caught your breath. You don’t need to learn to compartmentalize, to not get attached, to get over it. You are human and sometimes you will miss things, you will get stuck on someone’s smile or sense of humor and emotions will catch in your heart like rain in your eyelashes. This isn’t a failing, it’s a strength. Getting pieces of yourself tangled up with someone else is part of the deal of sex sometimes. It’s not a crime to care.

I hope you enjoy the last few weeks of summer. I’ll be hunched over my laptop trying to make sense of things.

Ella

P.S. Here’s a quote image you can save and share as long as you link people back to my essay. You can use the link bit.ly/DawsonHookup