Monday, March 18, 2013

If Only For A Night (Or a Few): Hook Up Buddy Etiquette

Despite what we may believe, the world hasn’t changed as much as we think. This is primarily due to the fact that it is inhabited by humans and human nature is timeless. Wars are fought over the same thing and people have the same fundamental needs that they always have. What has shifted, though, is the perception and acceptance of lifestyles and acts.

From the beginning of time, sex and relationships have been an intricate part of human existence. In centuries past, people were not celibate, however, they hid their sexual exploits due to societal pressure and the desire to appear a certain way. These days, there is a much more cavalier attitude to sex. There are those who wait for marriage, or those who only engage in intimate acts with ones that they are in love with, but a majority of the population, at least in the western world, have sex casually. They do it for the enjoyment of the act rather than putting some kind of sacred meaning to it. For some, it’s just filling a void, for others it’s satisfying a need. Either way, people are having sex for pleasure and are doing so openly.

Some people get their fix from one night stands and some seek out something slightly more meaningful, in the form of a hook up buddy, which is basically an arrangement between two people where they have sex, but without the randomness of a one night stand or the drama that a relationship could bring to the table. Hook up buddies are increasingly common these days, and despite the “no drama” factor, they’re actually pretty complex relationships, ones that I have spent the past few weeks researching (by email, whatsapp, and face to face interviews aka accosting people at bars barraging them with questions) It turns out, just like romantic relationships, no two are the same, they are unpredictable and rules vary according to the situation.

 People fall into these kinds of relationships for all different kinds of reasons: commitment issues, recent break up, “dry spells”, not wanting a relationship, or just the desire to enjoy the benefits of sex without having to worry about what it means.  Hook up buddies, can, in fact, work, despite protests by some that they can not. It’s all about frame of mind and ensuring that both parties are on the same page. As I said, there are very few rules aside from transparency, however there are some “best practices:”

To sleep over or not: I got such a wide variety of answers on this one. Some people (all men) were insistent that a hook up buddy should never spend the night. They stated that a sleepover blurred the lines. However, the more interviews I conducted (men and women), it was determined that the best practice in this case IS to sleep over, if for no reason more than morning sex. Most of the people I talked to stated that it was pretty much assumed that a sleepover would occur and that it wasn’t a big deal. However the bottom line is: one should do what they feel is right at the time. Also, it is never ok to kick someone out.

Communication:  Since a hook up buddy is obviously someone you know, you have a preexisting relationship with them so this shouldn’t be forgotten. It is ok, essential even, to have some kind of communication with them in addition to making plans to meet up. I’m not suggesting that you talk on the phone every night about your hopes and dreams but they shouldn’t be ignored. It is SO easy to communicate these without actually speaking days; we have email, texts, WhatsApp etc, so engaging in banter, flirting, and casual conversation is hardly challenging. If you expect for someone to be enthusiastic to hop into bed with you, then be willing and prepared to chat to them. Consider it an investment in your sex life. Five minutes every few days goes a long way. Most of the people I surveyed on this matter agreed that “even though they know what the situation was, they like the pretense and didn’t want to feel used.”

Discretion: This is between you and the other person, there is no need for everyone in the world to know your business. This person is not your girlfriend or boyfriend so talking about them incessantly will eventually get back to them and most likely result in a termination of your little agreement. 

Transparency and Honesty: In most cases, the ongoing situation is quite clear and doesn't need to be discussed (who likes the awkward, "So I'm not really looking for anything serious..." conversation?) but sometimes it has to be had. The only way, seriously, that this situation works out is that both people are fully aware of what the deal is and are ok with it. The second something changes, you need to be honest about it.

Respect: It's pretty obvious that we should be respectful of those around us, especially those we are sleeping with, but one of the points that kept coming up in my surveys was the matter that feeling respected was pretty important in these situations. Being respectful isn't that difficult and we all know how to do it so there are no excuses for behaving otherwise. On a side note: the person we are most responsible to is ourselves. If we feel uncomfortable or disrespected than it is our right and within our best interests to disengage from a situation that hinders this. 

Hang Out: There was a bit of discrepancy on this one but the majority of people I spoke to agreed that you should hang out with your hook up buddy, especially prior to hooking up with them. You may not want to date the person but spending time with them having drinks/dinner shouldn't be completely repellent to you. If it is, perhaps opt for a booty call or one night stand. Or someone you pay for.

Be realistic: You may agree to a situation but it's important that you actually understand it and what it entails. No matter how much fun you have, or how nice it is to hang out with that person, or how flirty they are, the fact is that it isn't going any further than where it is right now. It is what it is and expectations of it evolving will only result in disappointment on your end and annoyance on their end.

Third Parties: Remember: this person is not your girlfriend or boyfriend. While they should respect you and make you feel comfortable they don't owe you anything more than what is established. They are allowed to see other people, it is none of your business if they do, nor should you ask them about it.

Don't be selfish: Just because you aren't dating the person, doesn't mean you should be an inconsiderate lover. This is, after all, an agreement between two people that they are both supposed to benefit from.

Be responsible: Hopefully I don't have to explain this. 

So key take aways:
1. In regards to sleeping over, do what you feel comfortable with, though staying over is optimal. Never make someone leave.
2. Flirting/banter/casual conversations should happen. This isn't a stranger and you don't want someone to feel used.
3. Don't talk about it
4. Make sure you're on the same page
5. Be nice and respectful.
6. This isn't a booty call, therefore some hanging out is usually required. Drinks/dinner is not a big deal, and if it is, then rethink the situation and person.
7. Don't have unrealistic expectations, it is what it is.
8. Who else they're seeing is not your business. Just like yours isn't theirs.
9. Both parties should enjoy this, so bring your best to the bedroom.
10. Be responsible

I mentioned booty calls several times, and even though most everyone knows what they are, especially if they are reading this post, here is a definition of what a booty call is, and how it differs from a hook up buddy:

Booty Call: As discussed in my relationship handbook, a booty call is something in between a one night stand and a hook up buddy. A booty call is someone you call simply for sex, you don’t generally hang out outside of the bedroom, nor do you sleep over. No chatting necessary. However, most people are more onboard with the idea of being someones hook up buddy vs a booty call.

*Thank you to everyone that I interviewed, who patiently (and honestly!) answered my zillion and in-depth questions and “what-if scenarios” especially GS, JW, AL, AB, BL, JM

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Haven't We Met? You're Some Kind of Beautiful Stranger: A Guide to Flirting

It’s happened to (almost) everyone, you’re at a party/bar/coffee shop and you see an attractive stranger, one that you want to talk to. Maybe you can’t explain why, chances are that you see attractive people all the time but every once in a while, someone is different in that you decide you want to approach them. So you do and you walk away from the conversation either wanting to see them again or knowing that you probably won’t, but either way you did it. You flirted with a stranger. (This can also apply to someone that you have seen around but don’t really know)

Let me state that I don’t believe I am at all qualified to write this post. When it comes to flirting with someone I am interested in, I am rendered incapable. I become shy. I am the queen of awkward. I blurt out the most random and often counter productive things including but not limited to: “Your shirt is blue” or my personal favorite, “You seem like a player.” (cringe) For some reason, I have no problem walking into a networking event and engaging with new faces but when it comes to that cute guy across the room I can’t bring myself to do it. Maybe this is because in a work or friendly capacity, I know where I stand and what’s at stake, but when an undefined element enters the picture I’m thrown off my game. The truth is, walking up to a stranger/someone you don’t know very well and trying to flirt with them is pretty scary, no matter who you are. The main reason being that rejection isn’t fun regardless of how healthy your self esteem might be.

So when it came to writing this post, I sent out a mass email to friends, both male and female, some and attached some single and asked them for their expertise in this rather daunting forum. Some responses made me laugh, some made me cringe, but for the most part, I was surprised to find that very few had an exact methodology or approach to how to pick someone up. 

I also was told that the concept of picking someone up based on attractiveness is shallow, and to a degree it is. However, I think we need to be honest that-in addition to the personality aspect- we tend to engage in romantic relationships with people that we find physically attractive. And what each person finds attractive is different. (For instance, I don’t find Bradley Cooper or Ryan Gosling good looking but there are thousands who would disagree with me. However, Will Arnett...that's another story)

I’m digressing a bit. We’re talking about how to pick someone up and from my research I have determined some of the best approaches and some glaring no-no’s. (On a side note, this list is designed for approaches in which the goal is to get to know the person better, not just for the night:)


Smile. Sounds simple but appearing friendly and open is a big part of the battle. Furthermore, it might give the person you’re interest a reason to approach you, thereby saving you the work! I’m not suggesting to smile like a crazy person the whole time but try not to look bored or scowl.

HAVE FUN. Piggybacking on smiling, make sure you’re having fun! There is something intrinsically sexy about someone who is enjoying themselves and their surroundings. They have a sparkle and allure to them that people want to be a part of. Don’t spend your time worrying about whether the person you’ve been eyeing has noticed you yet, do your thing. The odds of getting positive attention from them increases if you’re having an awesome time with your friend vs standing alone impassively staring at them. (That just SOUNDS creepy, imagine what it looks like!)

Start a conversation. Some people are comfortable just walking up to someone but a lot of us aren’t. So for those who fall into the latter category: stand nearby, in a queue or something. Comment on something to them about the place, bbq, drink choice, anything really, as long as it isn’t negative. Get talking, Stand a little bit too close. Look rapt by everything they say, keep eye contact, laugh at their jokes. Say intelligent things. One thing that I HAVE learned over the years is that you can find common ground with anyone. The secret is finding what it is and building from there. One way to do this is by asking questions, actually listening to the replies and adding in if you can. If things go well, then all you need to do is work in a way to exchange information and see what happens from there.***please refer to the bottom for some tactic that I've seen work 

Have a wing(wo)man. No, this isn’t primary school and your friend shouldn’t go up and say, “My friend thinks you’re really hot,” that doesn’t work and nor should it. However, friends can be utilized in different ways. Let them make the initial approach/start the conversation, only to have you join in at some point. Flirting is really just an extended conversation, if the person likes you they'll continue talking to you, if they don’t, they'll stop. So then, you just move along and keep having fun with your friends. No harm, no foul.

Be yourself. Sounds pretty basic, right? However, when we’re trying to impress someone sometimes we get lost in the art of picking up and forget ourselves. While it’s normal to be a little bit nervous, it’s essential that we are comfortable enough with ourselves to be honest and realistic. The best conversations occur when we’re being natural, when we don't realize that we're flirting. If we don’t click with the person we’re interested in, then it’s best to move on anyway.

Be confident. We’ve talked about before that it’s sexy to be independent and confident, and it’s also sexy to not appear like it’s your goal to be picked up, because really it shouldn't be. (Your goal should be to enjoy yourself and your surroundings to go about your business as normal and see where the evening takes you.) One friend of mine just had an experience where she met a guy, had a great conversation and later on in the relationship they discussed how each one thought the other was picking them up. She wrote, “MAYBE the secret to picking someone up is actually believing you are the one being picked up. This could potentially go very wrong I suppose, but it probably does something to your confidence and thus your swagger and eventual success in the picking up. She’s right. You know your worth and what you have to offer, so it’s safe to assume that others see this as well and would want to pick you up.


Use pick up lines. They’re cheesy, they’re annoying, they show a lack of confidence and originality.

Latch on. Having a great conversation/flirtation session is great, but it doesn’t mean you’re attached at the hip for the rest of the night. If you are really confident you don’t spend all night talking to them, but smile, or catch their eye occasionally, - you are so popular and busy talking to everyone else. you can text them later or the next day. The chase is fun.

Be rude or insulting. Somewhere along the road, people got the notion that playing hard to get translated to being rude. Instead, bad manners are just obnoxious and a sure fire turn off.

Overindulge. Liquid courage is something many people rely on to generate initial momentum, but there is a limit. Falling down and slurring your words, hysteria or any overtly out of line behavior will only hinder, not help your cause. The only exception is on your birthday. Because everyone gets a birthday pass. 

Be creepy. Quirky and zany are good. Creepiness is not. A mild example came in a friends email, At the weekend I had a man point at my shoulder dimples and say ¨Do you know you have dimples there?¨, I was like...¨.....yeah¨, and then he stood and grinned manically at me.” This isn’t even that bad, there are many incredibly creepy and disturbing things that people say and do to garner attention, but it’s the wrong kind.

Lose sight of reality. The bad news is that not everyone we’re interested in is going to be interested in us. Sometimes, they won’t want to talk to us, sometimes they’ll decide after 10 minutes that we’re not their type. Sometimes they won’t ask for our phone number. This is kind of a blow to our ego but not the end of the world. It happens. Usually, it’s pretty obvious when someone is brushing us off, but we are too single minded to see it. Please, be objective, take the hints given, and gracefully make your exit while your dignity is still in tact.

Be desperate. Remember that thing called dignity that we just talked about? Try and hold on to yours. Nothing is more unattractive than being desperate. Except maybe being crazy and desperate. Or a crazy desperate stalker.

Let rejection get you down. This is just one person. Out of billions in the world. Just because they don’t want you doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with you. Sometimes people just aren’t compatible. Sometimes you’re just not their type. Shake it off and move on.

Be over the top. A friend wrote that “Last summer I had a guy gushing over the fact that I was the most beautiful woman he´d ever seen (!!!!!!) and couldn´t actually put a sentence together without having to stop and breathe. I still can´t work out if he was joking.” To do something like this, even if meant as a compliment is way too much. Telling someone they are beautiful is great. Doing it in a way in which they can’t tell if you are sincere or not, is um…not so great.

Be awkward. Coming from me this is rich. I can't really give tips as to how to avoid this, since it's something I am still learning. All I can say is to avoid it.

***Three tactics that have worked:
1. My friend Harry swears by getting someone to teach you something.  Obviously you have to be in conversation with this person for this to happen. So for instance, if the person you’re talking to mentions surfing or cooking, it’s the perfect opportunity to say, “I’ve always wanted to learn how to X!” if they’re into you, chances are they’ll offer to teach you. Only do this if you mean it though. If you can't swim, don't ask for surfing lessons. 

2. Another friend of mine accidentally picked up a guy when she went up to him and said, "Listen can we have a pretend conversation because there is this really creepy guy who is bothering me and I want him to go away." The guy she approached responded with, "How about we have a real conversation instead?" They got together shortly after that.

3. One night at Mao's, my friend and I spotted a very attractive guy at the bar. I have no idea what came over me, but I marched over to him and started speaking to him.  It went well. Sometimes the simplest approaches are the best. 

These aren't fool proof. The reality is that every situation is different, just with people being the variables there is no real way to control a situation or how it's going to go. The best way to look at it, I suppose, is that you've got nothing to lose and everything to gain. Starting a conversation is just that, a conversation...wherever it leads is another story. Maybe nowhere, maybe a friendship, maybe a romance. You'll never know until you try, and the worst that happens is that you'll have to try again. 

*thanks to "Blue Shirt" who was the original inspiration behind this post; and an even bigger thanks to all of my friends who so generously procrastinated from their day to respond to my email. You anecdotes and tips were wonderful. I promised that I wouldn't divulge my sources but you know who you are