When I entered college, I scoured the internet for rules on hooking up. From looking up how to properly give a blowjob to how to not be so awkward, I tried to compensate for the fact that I had negligible experience (the boys in my specialized high school were unattractive, okay). Nothing could really prepare me for reality: First times are learning experiences, and sometimes you can’t know how to do first times until after you’ve done them.
First Hook Up
My first real hookup, not including kissing a friend in preparation for a date, was a boy I went to prom with fresh out of a recently failed relationship. We went from zero to almost 100 (unreciprocated oral sex but not in the direction you’d think) with his mom dropping by the basement room about every 20 minutes. It wasn’t a great time, neither of us knew what we were doing. Nevertheless, I told all of our friends about the hookup (in far more detail than anyone wanted or asked for), was led through erroneous blowjob instructions and hoped to lose my virginity before college. A couple of days later, I texted him asking about seeing each other again, only to be told that this was a mistake and would never happen again. I felt humiliated and sulked about for months, complaining to anyone who would listen about his transgressions.
In retrospect, his faults were not that great, aside from him being a bit insensitive and harsh. He was also just a teenage boy, maybe having his first one-night stand, so when it came to rejecting someone for the first time, of course he didn’t know what he was doing. At the same time, I was also having my first one night stand and getting rejected for the first time — we were both children. We didn’t know how to reject people nicely or how to take it well. It took experience and being ghosted and the one doing the ghosting for me to figure out that sometimes people don’t mesh, and it’s nothing personal — and likely not a negative reflection of you.
First Time Having Sex
I did not lose my virginity so much as I got rid of it, eager for the badge I would earn would that indicates somehow that I have more experience. Being jackhammered for less than 10 minutes while on my period hardly made me more sexually adept. There is a point to be made about the pressure that girls feel to lose their virginity, and for teenagers to be more sexually adept when they may not be ready, which led me to grab the first vaguely interested guy to do the deed (pun intended). Virginity is a heteronormative social construct anyway, but one that we mostly can’t help but abide by. Nonetheless, this O-week hook up proved to be forgettable, even though I missed my swim test for it.
Someone Else’s First Kiss
After our dinner at a fancy French restaurant, she invited me back to her place, without us having even kissed before (my first mistake). She said she didn’t really hook up for first dates but invited me to sleep over. Then it got weird. She grilled me on how I used Tinder, how many other times I had hooked up and what I usually do during hook ups. She also joked several times about how I could feel safe sleeping over there and how my mom shouldn’t worry — she wouldn’t kill me or anything.
And out of the blue, as I was trying to fall asleep, she kissed me. This was her first kiss, as she mumbled afterwards. And I could tell. For the next half hour, we awkwardly fiddled about, her wavering back and forth on whether or not she wanted to go further in any capacity, even though I really didn’t want to. The conversation circled back to how she wouldn’t murder me in the morning. Lying there awake, I thought about how this could be the exact plot of a Criminal Minds episode, with me as the hapless victim — dead by the morning — when I realized I could just … leave (using a friend who called me pretending to be my mom). After, I wondered to a friend, did I overreact to a couple (okay, five or six) idle jokes about being killed in my sleep? Did I hurt her feelings? The friend responded that I introduced her to the disappointment of being in the dating world, and if anything it’ll be easier for her now. Was I this bad on my first few hook ups, both in the technicals of making out and being awkward myself? Are first times inherently awkward?
Someone Else’s First Time
The answer to the last question is, at least in some cases, no. During another date over a year ago, as we were making out she casually informed me that this would be her first time going further with a girl and asked me if I’d be okay with that. Far less awkward than I have been in that same position, and when I had to say, “This is my first time giving a blowjob.” Or, “This is my first time having sex.”
By now I’m running out of firsts to have and it feels like I’ve only just learned some of the do’s and don’ts of first times. Though some are quite obvious, like not joking about killing the person sleeping next to you, others took some practice to learn, like not treating experience as a substitute for skill, accepting your own inexperience and that even though most hookups may lack intimacy and emotions, they still deserve privacy. First times aren’t items on a checklist. And sex and love and romance? They aren’t about checking off the boxes as quickly as possible either.
The Hoeletariat is a student at Cornell University. Afterthots runs monthly this semester. Sex on Thursday appears every other Thursday.