Monday, June 16, 2008

Feeling fisky

(Part one above.)

Keeping all that in mind, we can now read Ms. Pregulman's column with open eyes.

This may be your first time sharing a room. Respect your roommates by not hooking up when they are there - even if you think they are asleep.

Neither here, nor anywhere else, will you observe the author advising us to respect ourselves. One can at least congratulate her for her lack of hypocrisy.

So please, for the sake of your sex life, have a signal; put a ribbon on the door, anything to show the room is occupied. Even better, meet an upperclassman that has a single bedroom and go there.

This advice is in response to nearly being caught mid-frolic with her boyfriend. Now, many people would describe this as a wake-up call, but the author has hit the snooze button. Let us not be caught napping ourselves: a ribbon on the door is not a solution. My generation used a rubber band or some other subtle signpost. Believe me, when the roomie's dad walks her back to her dorm and she sees the ribbon (or whatnot), it isn't going to spare one the embarrassment: he is going to see it, and he is going to know. If one is worried about one's good reputation, one needs to actually preserve it, and not merely keep up the pretense. Pretenses slip - for example, when one writes a column exposing the reality behind the appearance, with one's name for a byline - or just when one grows incapable of keeping track of what one told whom, when. Here, the advice of Joe Torre comes into play: "I always tell the truth. This way, I never have to remember anything." *

And, under the heading of "harm mitigation" - if any young ladies are reading, please do NOT choose a beau simply based on how many other people are in the house with him. And if you do feel the utter and absolute need to frolic, do NOT give up control of your surroundings by going to his place, and ESPECIALLY if he lives alone. Should you suddenly feel differently, you have less resource to escape or refuse there, and less reason to hope that somebody will interrupt to your benefit.

Always use a condom. I know it's old news, but just do it. I have a friend who takes birth control and stopped using condoms to "see what it feels like." So far she has been lucky, but I don't want to be the one to take her to Planned Parenthood. The abortion clinics in D.C. have the most protesters because of their location - you don't want to be harassed while taking care of an unplanned situation.

This is high on the list of positive values in the zeitgeist - the Freedom Not to be Hassled. ** In fact, you can see it here before the author ever reaches her gripe about protestors: "I don't want to be the one to take her..." Why not? Better that she have to get harassed by herself, so the author doesn't have to be bothered? Being there for others means taking on some hassles; it comes with the territory. In fact, any attempt to achieve mastery (or even competence) requires that we take some trouble; we have to learn, we have to persevere, and we often have to stop our ears to people who tell us we're wasting our time. It holds true for education or athletics or hobbies or creativity, and it certainly holds true in love. Refusing this essential aspect of life is a major indication that the author isn't ready for sex at all, and her advice on the topic is not likely to be helpful.

A little bit of bubbly never hurt anyone's libido, but girls, don't go home with the guy you've been taking shots with all night. Get a number and call later.

"Hi, is this Ally? Hi. We were getting totally blitzed the other night, remember? Vaguely? Yeah, so, uhm... want to get together for some lunch after the polysci lecture?" This can't really be serious. Again, ladies - don't waste your time on a guy whose appeal rises as the bottle empties. You have to sober up sometime. Besides, a guy whose self-control can't keep him on his own two feet (or on the road) for the trip back home is going to reveal that little character flaw in a lot of other areas too.

And guys, too much to drink will seriously hurt your game. You don't want to be known as the freshman who couldn't get it up.

This is the second time the author mentions freshmen having sex. Again, not that it's shocking or anything, but seriously, what's wrong with being known as the freshman who isn't sleeping around? For that matter, is there anything wrong with not having one's prowess known at all? College should be about classes every once in a while. Nor do I see any sort of health in this catty dishing about other people's personal issues. The first part of this column said, in effect, "protect your good name." This part of it helpfully adds, "because nobody else will." This is more than a point in favor of sobriety; it's also a good reason to keep zipped.

Hooking up in bathrooms is never OK. If you wouldn't want to touch it, don't have sex on it. However, if your roommates are home and you need to get it on, the shower is a suitable alternative.

One is tempted to regard the whole column as parody at this point. Is this supposed to encourage us to have sex? First step - have no self-control as who else is around; second step - have no ability to stop once one is started; third step - go to a shower, where heck-all knows what else has gone on before one's arrival, and go to it there. Presumably, the shower is a far more public domain in a dorm or apartment than is the room itself, which at least has a lock on the door. In my freshman dorm, the bathrooms and showers for the whole floor were the same room; further, one wing was guys and one wing was girls, which meant that it would be 9000 times harder to make a clean getaway, no matter how much body wash one used. (But by all means, protect your reputation with a ribbon on the door that everyone knows the meaning of, including everyone else on the floor.)

Guys, don't text a girl you hooked up with a month later for round two. Chances are she's moved on to bigger and better and isn't interested in you anymore. Regardless of your intentions, call back within two weeks. After that, she's moving on.

If everyone followed all the rest of the advice, this isn't really going to make a difference, is it? Guys will also have moved on, to the next young woman who's reading the column.

If it's red and itchy, go to the doctor. Student Health Service has seen worse and it's never OK to leave something untreated. I know its uncomfortable, but you don't want to sit on the bench too long; get tested and get your head back in the game. Plus, they have free condoms.

At least this is slightly good advice. Never leave a health problem untreated. But here I think the author fails to notice an obvious contradiction - she knows this is uncomfortable but is giving advice that is guaranteed to land the reader in many future uncomfortable situations; and as she's said above, she doesn't want to be the one to help the reader through it.

Oh, and free condoms! Rather than, say, condoms that one must purchase oneself, thus taking ownership of what one will be using them for.

College is a great time to try new things.

A subject you've never read before? New foods? Yoga?

Ask your girl to bring over a copy of Cosmopolitan. There's always a list of 100 things you've never tried or even thought existed.

Or that you missed when it ran two years ago.

If you're feeling really adventurous, pick up the Karma Sutra and learn about ancient civilizations.

One would be better served in reading a history book. (One hopes that the kids won't get a similar taste for cannibalism, human sacrifice, ritual drug use, or other hallmarks of ancient civilizations; I know the hour is late on some of this as well.)

Girls, I know it's been a while since high school cheerleading, but I promise your flexibility will return.

And if you were just on the flag squad, tough. Sex is for pretty people!

With all this new learning, don't forget about studying! Give yourself goals and reward yourself for doing well. Guys, don't get discouraged. Every girl has different needs. If something tried and true lets you down, pay more attention in anatomy or discover it for yourself... you will be rewarded for your findings.

Lest anyone else miss that Blinding Flash of the Obvious, let's go ahead and spell it out: swapping partners every few weeks is an impediment to gaining skill, not a help. One is starting over every time - and not from zero, either, but from less than zero, because they have to unlearn the habits that were good for a previous beau in order to please the new beau.

How many people who are "lousy in bed" could have saved themselves endless trouble by waiting until they got married? Sure, they would have been awkward and ignorant; but they also would have only one learning curve. They would have been awkward and ignorant in a secure place, committed to the other, and committed to by the other, with a whole lifetime to learn and enjoy, in full freedom and peace. (If Cosmo is such fun, how about twenty years' worth of issues?) Best of all, they can show the same charity to their best beloved, and neither would have to worry about competing against the memories of sex with other people. They get full enjoyment of each other without wasting their mind and heart on comparisons and cold judgments. Again - that is the true reward for one's findings, and again, it is given not to the indulgent but to the chaste.

The fisking was, alas, grouchier than the column. That's inherent, I suppose, in criticism as compared to offering a sound positive alternative.

* As an example of what I mentioned at the beginning - Torre said this in the bygone days when he managed the Atlanta Braves; back when there was big-league baseball in Montreal and neither that nor NHL hockey in the entire state of Florida. Reagan wasn't even president YET. And where's my prune juice and tapioca, consarnit?

** If it came with the reciprocal Freedom Not to Hassle Others it would have more to recommend it. But instead it's paired with the Freedom to Hassle as We See Fit: it demands the right to lecture instead of converse, making the other person a target rather a participant in an exchange of ideas. As a result it makes people rude and ignorant, trampling other people while shutting off any possible attempt to learn from their reply. What if they have new or overlooked information? What if they notice a flaw in your thinking? If it's really that important to be right, then maybe that flaw is something one would like to correct.

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