There’s no time to be an ingenue when you’re an upperclassman. I’ve slowly come to the understanding that by the end of my first two years of college, I should’ve been out on weekends, flirting with cute guys and making my debut into the realm of dating and hookup apps.
Now I’ve reached the final stages of undergrad only to realize that I damned myself for the first two years of college that I spent on weekend movie nights with my friends, drinking from the comfort of our home, dancing to our own music in our own rooms.
Because now, after meeting with a guy once or twice, there’s an underlying assumption that I’m supposed to be putting out. The courtship ritual shifts within a week from friendly texts and witty banter into late-night Snapchats that I don’t really want to open. After hanging out with a guy for a few hours one time in public, suddenly I’m at fault for not wanting to come over at 12 a.m. Everyone’s supposed to be on board with casual sex.
And that’s a problem because relationships — especially those between gay men on campus — don’t exist in a vacuum. There’s simply not that many of us on campus, and thanks to modern technology, I know (or at least can recognize) a lot of them. And they know me.
For instance, if I’ve talked to a friend of theirs before I talk to them, they know. The friend might tell them what we talked about, whether they liked me or whether I’m worth it. And I, no different, walk in with my own background knowledge — my friends might give me friendly warnings that the person I’m going to meet is pushy or that they sleep around a lot.
As a result, I go into these “hangouts” feeling like I’m walking into a den of lions. If things go beyond my comfort level, what do I say? If I stop things from continuing, will I be labeled as a prude? If I refuse a few late night Snapchat invitations, will I be a tease?
So I attend these midnight rendezvous, though I don’t really want to. And when things go further than I’m comfortable with, I have a hard time saying no. I end up doing things I don’t want to.
Because it isn’t like the straight world where I can make a mistake or stop things and leave, come home, be embarrassed for a few days and then get over it (my friend told me how she would walk back with guys and then simply leave if she felt uncomfortable). If I do something wrong, or make things awkward, I’m not severing my acquaintance with that one person. I might be cutting myself off from the whole network of their gay friends.
Consequently, it’s difficult for me to say no and walk away when the time comes. But even when I go beyond my comfort level, I still ask myself: was I good enough? What will they tell their friends about me? There’s no way to win.
Oftentimes, I’m simply at the mercy of the maturity level of the person I’ve been talking to. And in an ideal world, they’d understand if I were uncomfortable with doing something or wasn’t interested in trudging across Collegetown after 1 a.m. But when they bring up questions during our one allotted pre-sex screening — who I’m friends with, if I know this or that person, what other people have said about them or sometimes even blatantly who else I’ve hooked up with — I don’t have much faith in their confidentiality or their respect.
For how supportive the LGBT community claims to be, it feels like a particularly fraught space on campus. The main reason why I’m writing this column under the cover of anonymity rather than attaching my name to it is not because I’m still closeted or uncomfortable with my identity as a gay man. It’s because I have serious reservations about attaching my name to it and sending it out to the wolves. I don’t want to become ‘that kid who wrote a column’ to the rest of the gay community, and I don’t want to give people more opportunity to cancel me than they already have.
I wish only to accept my doom with dignity and grace.
Luke Warm is a student at Cornell University. Guest Room runs periodically this semester. Sex on Thursday appears every other Thursday.