My boyfriend is more attractive than I am. His narrow face and strong features — a nauseating mix of stereotypically tall, dark and handsome — illuminated among a blur of cafeteria faces. I wanted nothing more from my soon-ending high school career than to get with him.
Our routine exchanges of physics problem set answers during our senior year gradually transitioned into a different kind of transaction: offering and receiving stories of past wild nights and their subsequent hookups. In my attempt to truly impress him, I divulged an unforgettable Phi Sig pledge party during Cornell Days. He echoed with stories of multiple nights crashing with Temple University co-eds and drinking with Drexel nursing majors as a high schooler. I felt especially outperformed, as my greatest flex was a heavily embellished and ultimately uneventful night, where I was accompanied by my only friend Franzia as I socialized with the poorly-concealed and hopelessly nerdy pledge class.
However, while I offered up Andrew, Jake and Kaleb-from-summer-camp, he could only reciprocate with the nebulous details of his alcohol-muddled sex life. I asked him how many girls he’d been with. “Six? Seven?” He couldn’t even remember the number. I was destroyed.
I soon learned from his close friends that this was routine for him: Get completely gone and hook up with a stranger and go home before even learning her name — simply because “it feels better drunk.” I felt sickened, heartbroken and desperate as I yearned to be one of the girls he fucked without thinking twice about. I craved to be a notch on a bedpost in disrepair.
“You going to Ross’?” he asked one day during our pset answer exchanges.
“I don’t really know anyone going.”
“You can hang with me if you want. I won’t know people there either.”
I can be oblivious to hints sometimes, but I’m not stupid. We ended up hooking up at the party, to no one’s surprise. Our first kiss is ingrained in my mind forever: Our mutual friend could barely stand yet goaded us through slurred words. “You two should make out. Now.” I laughed hesitatingly, while looking at him to gauge his reaction. He was gone, and despite him looking right at me, I couldn’t make anything out. I had been fantasizing about this for weeks now. Was this seriously how it was going to happen?
“Do it,” our friend bellowed.
“Stop it,” I said, and suddenly he pressed his thick lower lip against my open mouth, scratchy from his beard. His tongue wedged its way between my lips, and I moved my hands against his rough cheeks. We were both inebriated but I vowed in the moment that he wouldn’t forget this like his other hookups.
So I gave him something to remember — on the couch, in the bathroom, in someone’s backseat, etc. In the following weeks, I gave him something to remember in a department store fitting room, on a playground and a week-long stay at his house while his parents were away — to name a few.
However, as our relationship evolves and complexifies, it evokes some dire questions like, “Is he with me because it’s an easier hookup than targeting a new girl every night out?” or, “How can I know he’s being faithful when all these girls I know are pursuing him?” Once at a graduation practice, I overheard, “Rahul is with her? He can do better.” A confirmation of my greatest insecurity. I cried for an afternoon.
Of course, I know rationally that if I like him, of course other girls would like him too. And that hurts. It hurts whenever he goes out with friends I don’t know, whenever he acts aloof when we hang out with our friends, whenever he refuses to tell me who he’d been with in the past. The fabric of trust in our relationship is being tarnished by the very thing that had made him so attractive to me in the first place. None of his promises or reassurances to me can ever stop other girls from liking him, but ultimately it is unfair for me to expect them to.
And I know that when I begin college, he’s going to find someone better. These thoughts run viral in my brain sometimes — that the best I’m ever going to do is a fluke or an accident, and that there’s someone who deserves it more than I do. And though I have no way to predict what my college experience will throw at me, I intend that my fear of inadequacy does not define my romantic endeavors, nor any aspect of my college experience as a whole. I intend to continue pursuing the things I perceive to be “out of my league” as I please.
Riley Read is a student at Cornell University. Tongue Tied runs monthly this semester. Sex on Thursday appears every other Thursday.