September 28, 2023

SEX ON THURSDAY | The Fine Lines Between the Camera and the Memory

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This semester’s first day of school corresponded with another important event – the Bachelorette season finale (and if you’re waiting to watch it, this is your official spoiler warning). In my living room, and others across Collegetown and the U.S., we watched as Charity chose a husband. I don’t wish to talk about the happy couple, however, but rather the runner-up: Joey. Joey, sweet and cute Joey, was left rejected. 

In a cruel but compelling moment, Charity recites a speech to Joey, telling him how much she cares for him and how wonderful their time together has been. But he is not chosen and it is all there, documented for posterity, some form of heartbreak. Whether that heartbreak is fully genuine, scripted, fake or some combination, I didn’t really care. I was struck by the idea of having footage of such a moment that even in unrecorded form, would hurt to look back on. 

Just two episodes earlier, Charity and her remaining men finally enjoyed private nights together in the fantasy suites. Her first night was spent with Joey; there is no footage of their bedroom activities, just a gentle fade away of the doors and a cut to the next morning. Charity and Joey are in bed, blissfully staring into each other’s eyes. She says, “thank you for last night” and they snuggle, complaining about the prospect of leaving the sheets. 

As I later watched Joey’s failed proposal, I thought back to this moment, a we-will-never-know-for-sure-if-they-did-it post-sex glow. Beyond this, there were countless sweet and private moments between Charity and Joey in prior episodes. I wonder: Has he watched this? 

After a breakup or ending of any sort, it is natural to question the sincerity and existence of the other person’s feelings. This is a pang I have felt all too often: Was anything real? Did they actually like me? Did they like having sex? Was I alone in thinking we shared something special, even if fleeting? And now — what if I had video recordings of every moment we spent together?

It might be helpful. To tame the runaway thoughts and insecurities, check that the kiss was really as passionate as you remember. Verify that the laughter was genuine, that the post-sex smirk was mutual, and that the half-asleep snuggle was authentic. 

To an anxious overthinker and questioner of her own memory, this first seems great. Whenever I may feel insecure or unsure of my remembered reality, all I have to do is rewind the tape. Hopefully, I’d find the proof that would verify my memory or at least a definitive contradiction that would put my questions to rest. 

Spending a bit more time thinking about this possibility, I began to think it was actually a terrible idea. How could anyone ever move on? Constant replays would be a huge time suck and beyond that, incredibly unhealthy. 

In class the other day, the idea of closure came up. My professor offered, “Why should we even see closure as a goal?” For the rest of the class (sorry, professor) I reevaluated all the time I had spent “seeking closure” from a relationship or situationship. I’ve begun to think that true resolution is impossible, and true closure can only come with the recognition that you will never truly know the full story. 

While none of the former Bachelor/Bachelorette contestants will respond to my emails, I can imagine that having footage of a failed relationship readily available to them, not to mention their family and friends, is harmful. The idea of having all the answers is tantalizing but unrealistic. Closure is overrated. 

Though our lovely college campus may exacerbate run-ins and re-emergences of an ex, try to block out a reanalysis of each moment after every unfortunate sighting. We are all probably going to be rejected far more often than we are handed that final rose, so let’s get rid of our mental rewind button.

Whorat is a student at Cornell University. Her fortnightly column Cowgirl Chronicles is a discussion and exploration of sexual norms and cultural quirks with a dash of feminist theory. 

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