She Said, He Said: Be honest with yourself before jumping into the “hot vax summer” pool
She Said, He Said
Dear Lori and Jeff,
I’ve been single through most of COVID and am feeling ready to get back into the dating game this summer. As more people are getting vaccinated, the dating scene seems like it’s lining up to be a feeding frenzy. My friends are talking about using the hookup-rinse-repeat cycle as often as they can fit into their schedules. That’s just never been me. I’m anxious that the people I meet will have expectations for casual encounters. My best friend said I should loosen up and just have fun for a few months. It’s hard enough that I’ve been out of the scene for so long, but this is just making me feel even more overwhelmed. How do I navigate dating in this scene and still stay true to myself?
Signed, Scared to Jump In
Lori and Jeff: The “hot vax summer,” coined by Insider Magazine last month, is rapidly approaching like a freight train fueled by millions of affection starved, lonely and horny singles. After a year-and-a-half of living with COVID constraints and the emotional weights of fear, scarcity and isolation, people are yearning to embrace freedom and indulgence. There’s an unspoken consensus that everyone has permission to let loose and even go overboard without facing judgment. However, just because you can, doesn’t necessarily mean you should.
Lori: Stop worrying about everyone else and what they might think. Yes, this is going to be a wild season for many. But there also are many singles who are wanting to actually date. So if you don’t want to slut it up, then don’t. Be forthcoming about your boundaries and expectations, and if your date is disappointed, then that’s their stuff to sort out.
But I don’t think this is actually the permission that you’re asking for. Part of you is looking for a professional to tell you it’s OK to explore your wild side. That part, no matter how small, needs some attention. The simple fact that you mentioned your friend’s advice to loosen up means you’re considering it. It’s OK that you’re not really sure who you are, as long as you’re honest with yourself about it. This is a great opportunity to be curious about yourself, and perhaps even dip your toes into unfamiliar waters. Ask yourself why you have never been into casual encounters and more importantly what it is that you don’t yet know about yourself. Our sexuality is influenced from the time we’re little by messages we receive from society, culture, family, friends and religion. We emerge into adulthood with stories and beliefs that we accept as true simply because they’ve been there for so long. Take this time to be intentional about exploring this part of yourself. Use this opportunity to resolve any lingering unknowns you have now because they can easily become regrets once you’re in a relationship.
Jeff: Like with Halloween, Mardi Gras and Las Vegas, people are always looking for a reason to let loose, act less responsibly than they might otherwise and simply have a good time. The upcoming post-COVID dating season is no exception. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with finding ways to justify certain indulgent behaviors, it’s important to know what it all might mean to you. What are your needs at this time? Are you wanting to find that special someone or just a few months of fun like your friend suggested? This is more about quality vs. quantity and what fits into your life right now — more shorter-term, less significant connections or a deeper, longer-term bond?
Compared to a large part of the rest of the developed world, we happen to live in a fairly puritanical culture that imparts judgment and shame on those (especially women) who engage in sex for pleasure-based experiences outside of committed, monogamous relationships. If part of your resistance to more casual sex is based on conditioned cultural norms, then by all means use this opportunity to experiment with behavior that might otherwise be seen as more taboo. If simply “hooking up” or establishing the “friends with benefits” kind of relationships just isn’t your thing, then stay true to yourself and set the appropriate boundaries with your social groups and prospective date partners.
Lori and Jeff: Whether you ultimately decide to dip or dive in is no one else’s business. But you’re not going to stop worrying about their opinions until you’re secure in your own. Get anchored in your values, define what you want and most importantly get clear on your why.
Lori and Jeff are married, licensed psychotherapists and couple-to-couple coaches at Aspen Relationship Institute. Submit your relationship questions to info@AspenRelationshipCoaching.com and your query may be selected for a future column.
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