A lot of things come with growing up, moving out and starting fresh. For me, it was only 6 months ago that I was walking into my school common room every morning, passing the same familiar faces I had been seeing for 6 years. My best friends waited for me at the locker bays, my study buddies saved me a seat in the best study room, and by the drink taps my slightly wilder friends would fill me in on their epic weekends while we waited for the bell. All the while I was able to keep a relatively close eye on the boy that I had hooked up with last Friday – and by hook-up, I mean that awkward dance floor style kiss that is watched by all of your friends who were so expertly smooth in setting up the whole thing.
For the most part, that’s where the love story ended – you resume your life, perhaps you see them at the toaster when you heat up your leftovers, they might ask you if you finished your homework, or if the test was hard. Inevitably you both move on to the next cute boy or girl, exhausting the finite amount of young teenage love to be found within the 200 or so kids in your year level.
So, over the last two or so months that I have lived on my own here at the ANU – specifically at Lodge, which is in itself a maze of eligible and not so eligible contenders for my heart – I have endeavoured to pinpoint what exactly it is that is different about dating, sex, “tuning”, flirting, hook-ups, crushes and all that fun stuff at Uni, compared to the now seemingly less complicated days of high school. There are two main things that I’ve noticed…
For starters, the saying “there are lots more fish in the sea” is more true here than anywhere else. One could literally see their future husband walking through Union Court one day, and then literally NEVER see them again. Where did they go? What did they do with their lives? It fascinates me the way in which small communities, like galaxies in the universe, form so quickly here, and make locating your future soul mate so much harder. Take the gorgeous, strong yet silent blonde haired boy in my Torts Tutorial for instance: try as I might to make conversation with him, the days are ticking by and I am yet to ask for his number. Sure, I’ve added him on Facebook, but what good does that really do when I’m adding every second person I meet on Facebook? I can’t very well say 2 months after Torts is over, “Hey, would you like to catch up for coffee?” because it is very likely by that time that he will have forgotten me, and that I too will have moved on to the next star in my own small galaxy. That is a sad truth.
The next thing I’ve noticed is the new sense of empowerment and liberation I feel here. Before moving to the ANU, I had had a relatively classic dating experience, that consisted of well, very little actual dates. When I first started seeing boys as more than just a pile of germs, in about Year 9, the extent of my boy/girl interactions started and ended with a classic party hook-up. His friend would have told my friend that I was a 10/10 about a week earlier, we would have started snapchatting of course, getting the unrealised sexual tension flowing, before sneaking off into the bushes to the wild applause of our friends. Actually having sex with one of these said boys only came into my mind in Year 11, after falling into the arms of a boy who would be my boyfriend up until around one month ago.
Since then, however, my “body count” has gone from 1 to 3. While I am not against a consensual pick-up at Moose on a Thursday night, my first new romance included a bit more of just that – romance. This was probably due to the fact it was an older boy with an actual job, who had more that the $150 that I had in my account to take me out for drinks first, and then for dinner. He was invited into the privacy of my room, one thing lead to another, and all of a sudden I find myself with a box of condoms in my hand and the question on my mind – am I ready for this?
I know, just as anyone mature enough to cook their own dinner and do their own washing does, that sex in this place can mean a lot of different things, and all of them are different to what it meant in high school – at least for me anyway. My attitude towards sex has suddenly shifted from, “what will they think?” (“they” being his and my group of friends who would undoubtedly find out and grill me on the experience the next day) to: “what do I think?” and “what does he think?”. I can’t speak for everyone here, and I’m not trying to, but I think for most people it is gone with the days when both parties were virgins and don’t know the difference between good and bad sex. Gone are the days where we, or at least I, feel embarrassed of my body and of my right to be pleased. A year and a half relationship taught me a lot, one thing being that I enjoy good sex, and being here and newly single, I have the right to choose: who I allow to be with me in such an intimate way, who I want to know about it in the morning, and who I remove from my life if they refuse to recognise that right.
So when I asked myself if I was ready, I don’t think I was asking if I was purely ready for the act, but rather for the fact that with that act, I was officially entering the new world of sex and dating, a new phase of my life that has me feeling slightly like a bewildered Carrie Bradshaw (though with less fabulous hair). My answer to both of those questions was yes, but they came with a few promises to myself; first, to try my best not to fake it; second, to never look at the new men with the same eyes as I would the old ones who have hurt me; and third, leaving Moose with a different guy every Thursday will probably never be a good idea for me; fourth, to continue to love my body no matter what any boy may say about it; and finally, fifth, to try to make it to my 9am lecture on a Friday morning.