He’s Got Spunk- ‘The Ick’

By Gary Sowder, Columnist

Sex columnist Gary Sowder is a senior visual and media arts major.

Temperatures have started to dip below the sixties. The leaves in the Common are fluttering off the trees. The pumpkin spice latte is back. It’s official: fall is here. Yet there is a much more sinister season creeping up on the horizon. A season that strikes fear into the hearts of all that call themselves “sexually liberated”. The Sword of Damocles to a certain someone who is trying to pad out their resume with a certain sex column.

That’s right, for all the catholic autumn girls—or whatever the fuck that meme is—it’s cuffing season. Landlords everywhere are turning on people’s radiators and forcing us Bostonians to crack open our windows and let the freezing air into our temperatures. As a result, people have been looking for cuddle buddies with whom to brave the cooler season. And even I am not immune.

A couple weeks ago, I was drinking and watching RuPaul’s Drag Race, as I am wont to do, and I decided to text a boy. His name was Noah. In the past year, we chatted periodically on Grindr, exchanged a couple nudes, but our plans never seemed to materialize. Tonight, that would change. After seeing his profile, I texted him “Hey,” which is code for “what are you doing?” which is, in turn, code for “Have you douched?” We talked a little, and then I found out he lived a ten-minute walk away. Plump with this new information, I invited him over. And he said yes.

He had one caveat, though: no sex. Making out was fine, but no clothes were coming off. He made good on his promise, and we spent our time tonguing and dry humping like two teens in the back of a Toyota Camry. And when we weren’t kissing, we talked. And he was perfect. We had the same taste in music, same taste in movies, and he got all of my references. Which, if you’ve read a lick of my column, you would know I love a reference. On paper, he was a prime boyfriend candidate. And in the moment, it really felt like the start of something. 

The key word there is “on paper”. After two sporadic hours of sleep, he left my apartment at 9 a.m. to go to work. The moment Noah closed my door, I felt nothing. No excitement. No childlike glee at the possibility of a new relationship. I didn’t even have the urge to text him. In fact, I was glad he left. I could finally get some sleep, and I wouldn’t have to spoon a space heater––and I say that with love. As a very moist individual myself, I empathize with the struggle of a sweaty cuddler.

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But sleep was not in the cards for me. That same morning, I had plans to get frozen yogurt with my friend Catherine. After regaling her with my dating troubles, she informed me that I had “the ick.”

Contrary to what it may sound like, “the ick” isn’t a newfangled STD. It’s that gross, nothing feeling that follows a perfectly good date. And I had it bad. Every time Noah texted me I felt exasperated, coupled with an obligation to respond. When he asked me how my day was going, I begrudgingly sent him a flurry of one-word answers. Despite him being absolutely perfect, I had no interest in pursuing anything with him. I felt as though there was something deeply, psychologically, wrong with me. Noah was perfect, he had every interest in dating me, and our connection appeared to be instant. Why wasn’t I excited? Why didn’t I care? 

Catherine and I, determined to get to the bottom of this like a two-person Scooby Gang, realized something. This wasn’t because Noah was absolutely perfect and I was some broken child of divorce. He wasn’t a factor in the equation––it was because I didn’t like myself around him. When Noah and I hung out, I was bubblier. I was cutesy. I was cuddly. I’m none of those things when I’m on my own. I’m overly intellectual. I’m an uncomfortably open book. But when I was with Noah, I only wanted to be what he needed. I was performing as his ideal boyfriend, not because of any pressure he was putting on me but from pressure I was putting on myself. A first date is, in a way, a job interview. And there is this expectation that you must put your best foot forward. Unfortunately, this places us under a personal magnifying glass, where we are forced to determine which parts of ourselves are date-appropriate, like Cher Horowitz picking out an outfit.

I decided that, on my next date, I was going to be fully, 100 percent me. Luckily, I had another date with a guy named Jackson. He was cute. He was short. He was a leftist. Everything seemed to be lining up perfectly. Y’know, on paper.

If my two-day entanglement with Noah was a slow burn to ick-ville, my date with Jackson was dead on arrival. He was boring, he didn’t know how to make conversation, and he made his indecisiveness so much of a personality trait that it took us thirty minutes to decide on a movie. As a joke, I put on High School Musical. He didn’t find it funny. We didn’t click. At all. And, as our date slogged on, I wished I had just drawn a bath and listened to a podcast. 

It was the quintessential ick-date. If any guy was going to make me never want to see him again, it would be Jackson. But, after dropping him off at the train station, I didn’t feel bad. I didn’t feel like I had failed. I felt nothing—and the good kind of nothing this time. Jackson and I had a horrible date, but not because of me. We just didn’t connect. And that wasn’t my fault. It wasn’t Jackson’s, either. 

I know this is going to sound like a pile of cliché crap—but hear me out—next time you go on a first date: be yourself. Don’t put on any airs. Don’t perform this perfect version of yourself; just be you. That isn’t me giving you permission to overshare or look a mess or not make the effort. You still have to put your best foot forward. This is me telling you that we shouldn’t feel pressured to bury things we don’t like about ourselves simply to appear dateable.

It’s easy to be what people want us to be and push the heavy lifting onto someone else. We don’t endure the seemingly endless slog of first dates just to mold ourselves to fit into someone else’s life. We don’t deserve that. We deserve someone that’s going to fit our lifestyle just the way it is. Don’t go into the dating world as a square peg trying to cram themselves into a round hole. Pun intended.

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