Contributor Ellie Burrows of New York’s brand new MNDFL Meditation is breaking down a common trend she’s witnessing among girlfriends – the impulse to make excuses for behavior they’re not sure they should have to explain at all. If you’re single or are regularly hashing out all those first date details with friends who are, you’re sure to relate to everything Ellie has to say…
I recently had two separate meals with two of my friends, during which they both shared stories from a recent dating experience: each woman met up with a man for a first date, and after a little back and forth, each went home with him on the first night. But there was something eerily similar about the stories.
Two different coasts.
Two different friends.
Two different dates.
Somewhere en route from the bar to the respective dude’s apartment, both my girlfriends uttered the same expression:
“Honestly, I don’t usually do this.”
This month, I’m offering a breakdown of why we need to break up with this expression. But before we go any further, let’s pause. I would like to gently remind you of the definition of “usually.”
Usually: under normal conditions, generally.
Now, to be fair, who knows what “normal” really is anymore, but I think we can all agree that typical conditions of a good date might include enjoying oneself to a point where one would choose to spend more time with her date in a more private environment. Seems natural enough, yes?
And sure, it is possible that these two women were simply sharing a data point and don’t regularly go home with their dates. If this was the case, then we can assume that they’re going on more bad dates than good. But upon further reflection, we can also see that this sentence isn’t merely a date statistic. It’s actually rather loaded.
See, this wasn’t the first time I heard this expression used in this particular context. If I could gather together all the modern and seemingly sexually-liberated women I know who have sung this refrain, I could form a rather large ensemble called “The Decorous Damsels.” However, immediately after forming this group, my first order of business would be to change the name of their group and teach them some very different tunes.
So below are some singles for singles, a tiny collection of substitute songs to belt out in the heat of the my-place-or-your-place moment.
“Sorry, I’m not sorry”
There’s something about “honestly, I don’t usually do this” that has a glaringly obvious apologetic subtext. Inherent in that statement is a need to justify, defend and/or rationalize a very natural inclination. I get it. Most of us are afraid of being judged. It’s a natural fear – kind of like going home with someone after a good date is a natural desire.
But, are we really apologizing for wanting to spend more time with someone? Are we apologizing for our innate desire to go home with a lover, continue an exciting conversation and possibly touch one another’s parts? And for that matter, who said going home with someone means you must touch parts? More importantly, for the sake of my argument, who said that going home with someone implies that you have touched a billion other parts, too? (The latter of which is most certainly none of your date’s business.)
I’d like us to part ways with the unfair judgment that the “I don’t usually do this” expression panders to: If a woman goes home with someone on a first date then she’s [insert: easy/promiscuous/slutty/loose]. There. I said it.
Listen up. There is nothing shameful about a woman wanting to spend more time with someone in an effort to get to know him or her better through intimate conversation or body exploration. However, if we can’t help ourselves and are in the mood to be apologetic, let’s try the following.
“Sorry, I’m not sorry that I’m a woman who has desires and wants to act upon them.”
“Sorry, I’m not sorry that I’m feeling you and want to keep feeling whatever this is.”
“Sorry, I’m not sorry that I don’t want this date to end.”
“There’s no time like the present”
Speaking of moments, it’s best to stay in whatever current moment you’re in since that’s the only moment you really have.
When we struggle to stay present, more often then not, we’re stressing out about a hypothetical future (a.k.a. the unknown) and all the things that may or may not happen in it. We spend a lot of our emotional resources speculating how to secure future happiness and safety (“I’ll be happy when” syndrome) for our future selves. We are so focused on making decisions that will guarantee seemingly elusive ideals that we often miss the very real beauty of the moment we’re in.
Again, I’m not sure why their previous dating behavior is actually relevant to someone that they had each known only a few short hours. And like I said above, it’s really no one else’s business. What is relevant though, is the recognition that my friends were in a new moment, with new people experiencing new sensations, namely: excitement, novelty, arousal and a bit of stranger danger. Classic first date stuff.
By staying present and connecting to our feelings and desires as part and parcel of the dating experience, rather than judging our own behavior, we can invite more pleasure into the mix, sexual or otherwise. Think about it: Neither the past nor the future is where pleasure truly exists. Pleasure only knows the present. It’s a dish best served piping hot. The memory of a super sexy make-out sesh or an incredible conversation hardly compares to the sensation of a super sexy make-out sesh or an incredible conversation when it’s actually occurring.
So, there is surely no time like the present, because the present is the most pleasurable place there is. Remember that.
“HONESTY IS THE BEST POLICY.” (JUST NOT “HONESTLY”)
The etymology of honestly is kind of compelling. The word recently wiggled its way into cultural slang and its meaning has been re-appropriated. It often functions more as “sorry to be the bearer of bad news” rather than “here’s the truth.” For example, “Honestly, honey, gel manicures are the worst for your nails, “ or “Honestly, I’m not sure those jeans are a good idea.” I think we can all agree there is something almost trite about it.
If my friends were truly being honest, they might have said something like:
“I feel anxious about going home with you. I’m really enjoying our time together but I’m judging myself and I am worried you are going to judge me, too.”
“I feel anxious about going home with you because I think you’re supposed to chase me more and I’m supposed to be more chaste.”
“I feel anxious about going home with you. I want to keep talking, but the bar is closing and I’m worried that you think this means I am ready to have sex with you.”
“I feel anxious about going home with you because it makes me feel out of control.”
Anxiety. This was the common thread between my friends. Humans can experience anxiety when we feel unsafe or threatened. Evolutionarily speaking, we’re designed to feel this way so we can stay alive. Thank you, adrenals.
I get it. My friends wanted to create safety in a potentially risky (albeit exhilarating) situation. But I’d like you to consider that this sentence did more harm than good in terms of helping them get in touch with their real feelings around the act of being intimate or in someone else’s private space.
Instead, “I don’t usually do this” is a sentence that is said to create an illusion of safety, to make them feel like they had a handle on the situation even though they were actually experiencing the act of letting go. Letting go is all about surrender and surrender is a hard thing to choose when we live in a culture that celebrates #winning.
Whether we’re letting go of thoughts, patterns, behavior, judgments or, especially, humans, it is tough stuff. Letting go means embracing the unknown, embracing nothingness. Letting go leaves us to ourselves, and with the opportunity to feel a special kind of ecstatic aloneness that gently reminds us that there is, in fact, so very little we can actually control.
Now, we have three tracks worthy of the repeat and shuffle buttons. So it’s time to drop the album. But, first let’s remember to change that name.
Bye, “Decorous Damsels.” Hello, “Free Femmes.” You rock.