Why Casual Hookups Take More Emotional Energy Than Relationships

by Alexia LaFata

It's 1 pm on a Thursday. I'm one of maybe 10 people in the sandwich line at the dining hall, and I see that guy.

We've hooked up a few times. It was casual, even though there's probably nothing actually "casual" about letting a near-stranger get all up in your naked, vulnerable body in the middle of the night -- but I'm digressing. As far as definitions go, it was casual.

Is there a proper way to greet him? "Hey!" feels too forced. "How are you?" feels odd. "The last time I saw you, we had no clothes on!" is the only thing I really want to say.

Perhaps it's because I have no filter, but also perhaps it's because saying anything else feels like I'm trying to avoid what happened, which is that we randomly exchanged bodily fluids and never spoke again.

Why pretend your relation to this guy is anything other than what it is? You can probably fight through the awkward feelings that will arise out of a contrived conversation, but why exhaust yourself like that? You can probably have a pleasant surface-level chit-chat, but who wants to panic about the unpleasant silences that will inevitably pepper it? And who wants to feel insecure wondering if this guy is even thinking about any of these things at all? Not me.

Those who live in more populated places are lucky, since the chances of you running into your own "that guy" are probably slim. Then again, if we've learned anything from Carrie Bradshaw in the first season of "Sex & the City," it's that even the most bustling of cities are tiny, and that running into Mr. Big multiple times in the same week is kind of normal and expected.

The world is much smaller than you think. "His bed" definitely won't be the last place you see your random hookup. It could be at the coffee shop, at the gym, or even via a Facebook friend request.

Then, you have to worry about how you should interact with him, which adds an unnecessarily uncomfortable layer to the already anxiety-inducing social world in which we all must operate. Why make life harder?

Casual hookups are so draining on your emotional resources. They're supposed to have no boundaries (because they're "casual"), but then weird unspoken boundaries pop up that you're just supposed to know. A whole new social code emerges once you've hooked up. And if you don't know the code, you look stupid.

Let's say you hooked up with a guy you weren't particularly into, yet he was very into you. If you see him at a party and he tries to talk or initiate another hookup, what do you do? Obviously, you can reject his advances, but if you're a half-decent person, you'll probably feel bad turning someone down who has feelings for you, even if, to you, the hookup didn't mean anything.

This could go the other way, too. If, at that same party, you see a guy whom you hooked up with who ended up not being into you, you have to ignore him and act like you're fine -- all to avoid seeming too crazy, too emotional, or any of the other ridiculous stereotypes that plague women.

"Communication, just normal talking, is considered clingy and too intimate, so nothing important is ever discussed," a friend of mine recently lamented about the aftermath of casual hookups. "You just spend every second overanalyzing because no one will ever be able to validate your thoughts."

It's true. Was the hookup a one-time thing, or will you hook up again next weekend? What happens if one of you develops feelings for the other? We're only human, so it's normal for feelings and the curiosity of "something more" to arise out of sexual activity. Can nothing happen at all because this is supposed to be "casual"? Who defines whether or not this was casual anyway?

Oh, and you better not text him to ask about any of this, either, because you can't communicate outside of a weekend night. If you do, you're clingy. You're crazy. You're breaking the code.

I don't have the energy to think about any of this. Casual hookups offer no closure in any sense of the word, and nobody ever knows how to behave.

Well, just because sex was involved doesn't mean we have to stop treating each other like regular people.

The act of hooking up itself is so intimate that I'm surprised how frequently we do it with people we don't fully trust. We grant people access to our bare selves, literally, and we give them free rein to roam our most private, personal parts. Fluids are exchanged. Orifices are filled. In the heat of the moment, secrets are disclosed and real intimacy is cultivated.

I'm not saying that having random sex is wrong, but I am saying that engaging in casual hookups means you must accept the extraneous sh*t that comes with being at your most vulnerable, for a fleeting evening, with another person who may end up sucking.

I mean, even though you've talked and laughed and sweated in sheets together, you don't really know this person, so how would you know what he or she is actually like? You wouldn't.

Despite all of this, though, everybody knows somebody who would rather have tons of casual sex than get into a relationship of any kind, ever. It's like wanting a relationship or any semblance of exclusivity automatically makes you some kind of uptight Stepford. Relationships are exhausting. Relationships are limiting. Relationships are too much work. Blah, blah, blah.

Honestly, I'd rather have a relationship over a series of awkward, fumbly, how-do-we-proceed-now casual hookups. Relationships are not these exhausting second day jobs that everyone makes them out to be. With relationships, you don't have to worry about any of the stupidity that you worry about with casual hookups. There's no worrying about whether or not your feelings are returned, no worrying about whether or not you can communicate your thoughts. Feelings are returned, and you can communicate anything.

Also, the sex is better, 100 percent of the time. That's the beauty of trust, comfort and openness.

Playing games might seem fun in the moment, but they'll only leave you feeling sad later. I'd rather be sure that when I text something flirty to the guy I like, he won't ignore me and leave me feeling oddly embarrassed. I'd rather know that he'll respond positively, and maybe invite me over to watch a movie and eat pizza.

I'd rather not pretend to take a really long time figuring out what kind of sandwich I want in the dining hall to avoid making eye contact. I just want to order my sandwich, pay for it and move on with my day without faking my way through a conversation that really just involves me wondering if you like me or if I even like you or if we're going to f*ck again this weekend or if you remember that oddly-shaped birth mark on my butt... and if you do, can you please forget about it?

Is this so much to ask?