The Hook Up: 12-14-2011

I’m 23 and I’ve been out for a little over three years. I’ve had two serious relationships, both of them long distance. My first girlfriend, I was head over heels. Everything was new and I fought with every family member to prove this was the real deal. I was so sure we’d be together forever and nothing could stop us.

Well nothing, that is, except for her. Things unraveled so quickly and I still, to this day, didn’t understand how it happened. I’ve done all the basics of getting over your ex and nine months later here comes girl number two. She was everything I needed girl number one to be and I really do love her; I just don’t think I love her as much as I loved my ex, but I figured it’d just take time.

A year and a half later, I am at the end of my second relationship and I can’t get over how badly I’ve hurt girl number two. During our whole relationship, I was this Jekyll and Hyde personality not ever really knowing why. I chalked it up to the distance; it was an east coast west coast type of deal. Every time I tried to make it up to her, I’d drop the ball three days later. I really did want to make her happy. She always went above and beyond for me. I’m not trying to make myself the victim. I don’t know what I’m really asking, maybe how do I fix how badly I’ve hurt girl number two and if I can’t, how can I cope with how badly I’ve hurt her?

Anna says: Well, it’s sort of hard for me to advise you on this girl number two character, since I don’t know what you did that “hurt her so badly.” It’s either so unspeakably bad that you felt typing it out would perhaps put you at risk for serving time in prison or, more likely I’m guessing, you simply weren’t right for each other, you were strained by a long-distance relationship, and therefore didn’t always put forth your best self when she was around.

I could be wrong, of course. If you did do something reprehensible that you’re having a hard time articulating, something that demands making amends, then by all means, make amends. But do it soon, and then move on. Did you steal her money? Did you bang her sister? Did you lock her in a closet and make her watch 72 consecutive hours of Teletubbies?

My guess is you didn’t do any of these things. My guess is that you’re bemoaning a relationship that couldn’t feasibly go anywhere (due to distance or lingering feelings about girl number one or any number of reasons relationships don’t work out), but one you felt that, had you just tried a little harder, could’ve been long-lasting. Even if you had been the best girlfriend in the world, it wouldn’t have guaranteed that you would survive as a couple, nor would it prevent one or both of you from getting hurt. Let me reiterate this because I think it might be the root of what’s eating at you. Relationships are hurtful – even if we try out damnedest not to make them so, it’s impossible to walk away unscathed. You need to let go of any thoughts that tell you otherwise. Your past does not define your present.

Buck up, kiddo. We all make mistakes in relationships. We’re all privately tormented by things we have said or didn’t say to those we love. Many of these things come glaringly to light when that relationship is ending. But it does little good to keep beating yourself up over what you can’t change. That’s the thing about guilt. You have to learn from it. But you also have to survive it. You can reflect on your behavior, of course. You can see the flaws in yourself and how you might better do things differently when girl number three comes along. But you can’t stew in negativity permanently. You can’t let the good qualities of yourself erode. Your letter indicates that you’re dangerously close to becoming a personification of a sh—y country song, maybe by Billy Ray Cyrus. Don’t let that happen!

You have to forgive yourself first before you hope to learn something from the experience. Forgive with your heart though, not your mind, which tends to obsess and overanalyze. As Leornard Cohen said, “There’s a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”

So, I slept with a straight girl. Is she straight? She identifies as straight. What happened is we hung out Friday night, and I left her place early Saturday morning promising to wash her pajamas (she was complaining about laundry). I got a message from her on Facebook Saturday night, then I wrote back with something like, “I washed your pjs, thanks for being so hospitable.” She responded with “It was my pleasure. When am I going to get those pajamas back?” I’m giving them back to her Wednesday night. Am I just giving her the pajamas or am I going to have sex again? In other words, is it possible to have a casual relationship with a supposed straight girl?

Anna says: It’s possible, but not the most promising hook up scenario you could ask for. Not that I’m saying you shouldn’t go for it. By all means, do it. Do her. Do the Dew. She clearly has some interest in you, in that she responded favorably to your message, and wants to see you again, even if it’s under the guise of getting her pajamas back, which let’s be honest, is pretty flimsy. No one desperately needs their pajamas back. No one Western Unions pajamas to loved ones in the middle of the night, you know?

So, odds are in your favor that she might be down for a repeat of your weekend. How can you tell if she likes you though? Everyone seems to have a theory. According to this Psychology Today article, the answer lies in whether they laugh at your jokes. “Ever wondered if someone you’re attracted to likes you or not? There’s an easy way to find out… try to make them laugh. If the laughter comes easy, the answer is likely yes. If it doesn’t, the answer is likely no.”

For the record, I think that’s ridiculous. Not quite as ridiculous as the men’s magazine dictum that says girls who play with their hair a lot want to bone you, but the logic is about as sound. Then there’s the method that claims the secret is how much eye contact someone makes with you, i.e. the more the better. I have a theory too. It’s pretty wild, but it has a 100% foolproof response rate. It is this: if you want to know whether someone likes you or not, freaking ask them already. You’re not casting spells or deciphering hieroglyphics here. You have a simple goal. Communicate that directly and honestly and see how she responds. If she’s receptive, great. If not, then you will have wasted very little time agonizing over it. Voila. Magicsauce!

As to her identity, technically, no, she’s not straight, but you can’t argue with how someone perceives herself. Or rather, you can, but it won’t change their opinion, so it’s kind of a moot point. Focus less on the label and more on being honest.

Good luck, friend. I wish you many more nights of sullied pajamas. That came out wrong.

Hailing from the rough-and-tumble deserts of southern Arizona, where one doesn’t have to bother with such trivialities as “coats” or “daylight savings time,” Anna Pulley is a freelance writer living in San Francisco. Find her at annapulley.com and on Twitter @annapulley. Send her your Hook Up questions at askthehookup@gmail.com.

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