It's not sex and the city -- it's sex and your city, your bedroom, your dorm room, or anywhere else two people get it on. Or maybe it isn't sex at all. Maybe it's kissing, making out, or getting to third base. One thing's for sure: It's not a one-night stand, it's not dating, and it's not jamming your foot into a teeny glass slipper in the hopes that you'll one day marry a Prince Charming who can support you in the princess lifestyle to which you hope to become accustomed.
It's "hooking up," the vague phrase used to describe what happens between two people who don't necessarily have any foreseeable future or even a hint of commitment. Hooking up is a bunch of things (or it isn't, depending on whom you ask). What we do know is that it has become the most accepted term for our generation's extracurricular activities. We remember first hearing it when we were in high school, but since then it's cast its commitment-phobic net onto college and beyond.
Yes, the rules have changed. Way back in the day, when Brazilian bikini waxes were reserved for strippers and Brazilians, and mobile phones could easily double as free weights, the term "hooking up" didn't even exist. Instead, a girl often found herself asking: "When do you think he'll call?"; "It's been three dates, should I sleep with him?"; or "Should I take him home to meet my parents?" Today we're more likely to hear: "When do you think he'll call -- before or after last call?"; "We've hooked up three times, shouldn't he ask me out?"; or "Is it still considered the walk of shame if I take a taxi home?"
If you're unfamiliar with the term "hooking up," maybe this typical scenario will help:
- Girl A sort of knows Boy B (maybe they were in the same Psych 101 class, have mutual friends, or perhaps they've even slept together before).
- Girl A goes out to the bar with her friends, and Boy B goes out to the bar with his friends.
- Girl A stands in one corner of the bar, downs cosmopolitans, screams the words to "Like a Prayer" at the top of her lungs, and pretends to ignore Boy B.
- Boy B stands in another corner of the bar and chugs beers with his friends.
- When Girl A finally gets enough courage (i.e., is drunk enough), she approaches Boy B and says, "Hey, what's going on?"
- When Boy B finally realizes that Girl A is the best he's going to do tonight, he answers, "Nothin'."
- The two proceed to make out at the bar and then go back to his place and "hook up."
Confused about whether Girl A and Boy B slept together, merely cuddled on the couch, or did some major rewiring of Boy B's home entertainment system? You are not alone. Ambiguity is key to hooking up. We've heard it defined as everything from making out to full-on sex, but for most people it's somewhere in between a peck on the lips and some grinding with your hips.
Or, as one of our male friends articulately put it, "It's not hooking up unless I blow my load."
And, while according to Amazon.com (as of the writing of this book), there are 22,395 books about sex, 1,985 books about dating, and 25,652 books about tricking some poor schmuck into marrying you, the only book we could find about hooking up taught us how to effectively design steam systems.
It seems we are part of the dawn of a new era. Dating as we know it has gone the way of dinosaurs, eight-track players, and stirrup pants. Extinct. Vanished. Kaput. Left in its place stand two mighty opponents. In one corner, wearing matching sweats and snuggled together watching Friday-night prime-time TV, we have the "Serious Couple." In the other corner, clad in his-and-hers Seven jeans and armed with open bar tabs, we have the "Hookup." By the looks of things, hooking up is the new heavyweight champion.
So even though hooking up is a national phenomenon whose popularity rivals the height of slap-bracelet fervor, the "it" phrase of single people everywhere has been left unexamined. That's where we come in: We're young, we've lived through the dawn of the hookup, and we've witnessed its reign everywhere from the sex-crazed campus of Syracuse University to the bars and clubs of New York City. We've endured endless dinners with our girlfriends where we dissected, analyzed, and discussed their (and our) current hookups. We've sat through countless morning-after brunches listening to the details of the previous night's hookups while trying not to lose our appetite. And we've heard "So, last night we hooked up..." so many times that we're now left wondering if that meant they had sex, swapped spit, or just watched the Food Network for a few hours while holding hands.
After months of investigation and years of observation, we've uncovered that while, like snowflakes, no two hookups are identical, there are enough recurring stories to identify fourteen types of these encounters with the opposite sex. But before we get to the good stuff, we had to ask how hooking up became the phenomenon that it is today. No one knows where the term came from, but our best guess is that it evolved from the more casual meaning of "getting together as friends." Here's a helpful time line (it's short, for all you readers with attention deficit issues) of the historical milestones that probably helped squeeze the life out of traditional dating.
A Short Time Line of Recent Events That Paved the Way to a Hookup Nation
1956: Elvis swivels his hips on national television and makes the squares all hot and bothered. Teenagers know better: Maybe it's time to toss away the Donna Reed pearls and get a little wild.
1960: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approves the birth control pill -- finally, an alternative to the tried-and-true rhythm method.
1969: Woodstock brings thousands of hippies to upstate New York for peace, tree-smoking, and, of course, free love. Some things never change (except maybe the peace thing).
1971: Oberlin College in Ohio, the nation's first coeducational college, also becomes one of the first schools to permit coed dorms, allowing for easier access to booty.
1977: Studio 54 opens its doors, quickly becoming a haven for public grinding among the rich and fabulous (which was nothing compared to your office holiday party, but still, it was scandalous).
1981: MTV first hits the airwaves. Not a big deal at first, but it eventually gives the nation glimpses of a gyrating Madonna, kinky Prince, and, um, very naughty George Michael (and let's not forget The Real World), turning the temperature way up on American pop culture.
1983: Motorola markets the first portable cellular phone for consumers (weighing in at twenty-eight ounces). This little breakthrough opened up the possibility for the first mobile booty calls.
1985: AOL launches, paving the way for cyber-hookups and the ever-popular human-contact eliminator, the instant messenger. By 1994 over one million people were members, and by 2002 everyone was somehow involved in an Internet sex scandal.
1990: Salt-N-Pepa releases the pivotal album Blacks' Magic, which contains the safe-sex anthem "Let's Talk About Sex."
1993: The Reality Female Condom gets the go-ahead from the FDA and before long manages to gross out an entire nation.
1998: President Bill Clinton gets caught in a very compromising position with his intern. When he's forced to go public with his extracurricular activities, we get a taste of the first-ever instance of selective storytelling at the White House.
2001: Smirnoff Ice first shows up in bars across the country (not the first premium malt beverage, but much less pathetic than Zima). Finally, even the wusses could get drunk and lower their standards.
2003 AND BEYOND: Recent popular song titles: "Dirrty" and "Magic Stick." Enough said.
In addition to the chronology of it all, we also identified the more general "Big Four" societal symptoms -- we like to think of them as enablers -- that help explain this growing trend of choosing McBooty over happily ever after. Here is the incriminating evidence (drumroll, please):
In between climbing the corporate ladder; bonding with your girlfriends; going to the gym; reading this month's book club pick; staying abreast of the hottest TV shows, movies, and diets; and deciding whether or not to cut bangs; there is little time to devote to having an actual boyfriend. They need to be trained, fed, walked, and played with constantly. Just think how well you took care of your lucky bamboo plant -- it didn't look so lucky when you forgot to water it and it shriveled up into what looked like a Slim Jim, right?
This is an uncertain world, where feelings are hurt, hearts are broken, and otherwise savvy chicks are duped into thinking some loser boy really likes them. So eventually you realize (like an Oprah "AHA! moment") that a relationship isn't the easiest thing to obtain, but swearing off boys isn't a viable option either. The result of this epiphany: You refuse to put yourself out there. Instead, you just put out. It may sound slutty, but when you remove the emotional from the physical, you end up making out with a cute boy without the whole "Where is this going?" agony.
Let's Talk About Text, Baby
Ask yourself this: "How did people hook up without cell phones?" As far as we're concerned, that question is up there with "What happened to Jimmy Hoffa's body?" or "Is Tupac really dead?" Unless you were actually there to experience it firsthand, pre-cell phone hooking up remains an unsolvable mystery that is tainted by outlandish theories. The bottom line is that if we didn't have these instant forms of communication (like text messages and IM), hooking up would be dating because you'd actually have to put more than just minimal effort into making something happen.
In case you didn't get the memo, here's the communication breakdown:
- Text messaging is the new phone call.
- IM is the new face-to-face conversation.
- Caller ID is the new *69.
WARNING: Even though cell phones are a surefire path to hooking up, they are not foolproof, because his caller ID will pretty much give you away every time. Just remember this motto: Straight to voice mail, you're in luck; if it rings even once, you're totally fucked.
Alcohol, the Not-So-Secret Ingredient in a Hookup
We all know the basics about drinking: It can make you lose your inhibitions, your money, and your standards. So it's no surprise that brews and bubbly are huge players in the hookup game. Here are some other reasons why "drunken" and "hookup" are often uttered together in the same sentence:
- Because grande skim extra foam cappuccinos rarely put people in the mood to get it on
- Because it's kind of awkward to suddenly start making out with a friend of a friend of a friend unless you've been drinking
- Because juicy hookup stories rarely begin with, "So I was completely sober and..."
- Because otherwise you might care that the guy you're making out with has a lisp
- Because how else can you explain the eighteen missed calls on his cell phone from 1:32 A.M. to 2:46 A.M.?
- Because booze makes him hotter, taller, and smarter
- Because there's a reason they don't call it "sad hour"
- Because a kiss is just a kiss, but a drunken kiss is entertainment for all of your friends
Based on the impact that the above four factors have had on opposite-sex interaction, it seems to us that dating has evolved from an ancient mating dance into a down-and-dirty booty shake. We call it Relationship Darwinism: Only the strong survive, and in this case, the strong heartily hook up.
Now that you're armed with the facts, we present you with The Hookup Handbook. We hope you will find it delicious, informative, and hilarious. After all, this isn't about following a set of rules to find a husband, cutting carbs to whittle down your waist, or donning a tiara and proclaiming that you're the reigning princess of your studio apartment. This is about what single girls are doing right now. And right now, we'd like you to buy us another round.
What's Your Hookup Style?
We know you needed a Kaplan class to get you through the SATs, but fear not: There are no wrong answers here.
1. I hook up:
a. every once in a while. Who doesn't?
b. my DVD player to my TV.
c. only on days that end in "y."
2. I wear thongs:
a. on my feet.
b. when I don't want visible panty lines.
c. when I'm lucky enough to find them on
the floor the next morning.
3. My longest relationship lasted for:
a. six months.
b. six years.
c. six beers.
4. True or false: Drink till he's cute.
5. If variety is the spice of life, then my romantic life is:
b. white rice.
c. wasabi smeared onto a paper cut.
6. True or false: Manolo Blahniks.
7. The morning after a wild night on the town, I wake up:
a. with my pjs on, alone in my own bed.
b. with a massive hangover.
c. with a massively well-hung man.
b. Can't live with them, can't live without them.
c. need to take a number if they want to get
into my bedroom.
9. The song title that best describes my social life is:
a. "Let's Get Drunk and Screw," Jimmy Buffett
b. "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun," Cyndi Lauper
c. "All By Myself," Celine Dion
10. True or False: Happy hour.
11. Complete the following analogy: Me : Monogamy
a. J.Lo : Marriage
b. Britney Spears : Virginity
1. A: 2; B: 1; C: 3
2. A: 1; B: 2; C: 3
3. A: 1; B: 2; C: 3
4. True: 3; false: 1
5. A: 2; B: 1; C: 3
6. True: 3; false: 1
7. A: 1; B: 2; C: 3
8. A: 1; B: 2; C: 3
9. A: 3; B: 2; C: 1
10. True: 3; false: 1
11. A:1; B: 3
If you scored:
11 to 15 Bootyphobic: The Once-in-a-Blue-Moon Hookup Artist
You do hook up -- as often as February has twenty-nine days or solar eclipses darken the midday sky. In order to irrigate your romantic desert, you need to break your standing date with the remote control and live a little! You're young, you're single, and you're fabulous. A little make-out session here and there never hurt anyone.
16 to 25 Bootylicious: The Healthy Hookup
You are a healthy, normal girl. You kick back, relax, have fun, and every once in a while, hook up. Don't change a thing. You'll do fine.
26 to 33 Bootymonster: The Hookup-a-holic
Stop in the name of love...and STDs...and liver damage. We could go on and on, but we are writing this under a deadline. You are a science project gone crazy -- a hormone-driven, alcohol-fueled queen of random sexual encounters. Part of us wants you to stop, but the other part wants you to keep doing what you're doing. Obviously, you have a lot of friends who are enjoying the free entertainment you provide. And who are we to deprive them of that?
Text copyright © 2005 by Andrea Lavinthal and Jessica Rozler
Illustrations copyright © 2005 by Cindy Luu
A Single Girl's Guide to Living It Up
The Hookup Handbook
A Single Girl's Guide to Living It Up
In The Hookup Handbook, Andrea Lavinthal and Jessica Rozler have braved the hookup trenches to bring you the essential guide to the new, nondating game -- from the players and locations to the long walk of shame home.