Girl Talk: If You’re Going To Date All Your Friends, You Have To Save Certain Things For Marriage

“A city of a million men, and you only bone out-of staters,” is my friend Meredith’s favorite thing to say to me. She’s not wrong – in a year of living in New York, my dance card has mainly been filled by non-locals. But until this year, my biggest relationship mistake wasn’t a faulty location search – it was hooking up over the years with more than one guy within my group of friends. And while hooking up with multiple friends in the same group may get you laid regularly by pre-vetted non-strangers, you know what it doesn’t get you? Married.

When a friend mentioned to me that at a recent wedding, all people could talk about was how many of the groomsmen the bride had hooked up with throughout college, I knew I had to start compensating for the fact that I had gotten up close and personal with more than one band of brothers.

Boning only out-of-staters is a good strategy, but it’s not nearly as convenient as continuing to date and hookup with the people I already know and spend time with. So my ostensibly foolproof method for continuing to do as I do, without ruining the potential that one of them might just be the guy to put a ring on it someday, is this : save certain things for marriage.

When I was in my early-20s, the trade-off for not playing naked Twister with a third-degree connection in hopes of one day potentially marrying him or his friends was not the type of long-term planning and foresight I possessed. A lot of this boils down to the perils of finding someone to date to begin with. When you enter a new circle of friends, the window to figure out if there’s someone within the group who’s a viable option to date is tiny: wait too long, and you’re likely to get friend-zoned. Choose too quickly and you run the risk of hooking up with a guy named Mooch instead of holding out for the cute lawyer friend you’ve only heard of in stories so far, who lives a state away, visits frequently and could be tempted to move for the right woman.

It’s important to note here, I make notably poor first choices when it comes to humans I spend time with. If I were Stephanie Tanner, Gia would be the prototype for every first friend I make – it takes me a while to figure out the winner in the bunch, which is often why I’ll end up hooking up in triplicate. But let’s be honest – even knowing what’s at stake, it’s far more fun to get laid in the present than do the cost-benefit analysis of whether your group will stay close when one of you moves out of your shared shithole apartment complex in the years to come.

Obviously, the best option is obviously just not hooking up with more than one person in the same group, but I’ve now had the same few groups of friends for six to eight years, and I can’t be held responsible for some of the men maturing (and thus becoming more desirable!) at different rates. And if you can’t time machine the tonsil hockey away, I’d like to believe the next best thing is the joy of telling someone that while you may have once banged their fraternity brother, they truly are the only person you’ve ever used handcuffs with.

It’s also helped immensely that despite the big talk I throw around about my life while writing on the Internet, I’m fairly less experienced than my betrothed counterparts when penile push comes to vaginal shove. The upside to perpetual singledom, in this instance, is that it’s a lot more awkward to ask a one-night stand if he wants to try that thing you saw that one time in that one magazine, and thus, “saving this for marriage” is not that far out of the realm of possibility.

And the upside to this tactic is that it’s not even limited to bedroom romps! There are vacations I am holding out on taking, because they’d be better to Instagram with a jealousy-inducing heart eyes emoji. There are hidden gem restaurants I only take platonic friends to, songs I don’t overplay on Spotify, just in case they might become “our thing” one day, you know, when I settle down with the right friend of a friend of a friend. Having never been asked to a school dance growing up, I had even somehow held onto the absurdly romantic notion that my first slow dance with a man ever would also be the first dance at our wedding. That I lost my slow dance virginity at a wedding reception last summer to a guy who I would only end up dating for a couple months – a guy who, you guessed it, is part of another group of friends I’m close to – remains one of the great sadnesses of my life.

Rationally, I’m aware that this strategy may not be my best yet. My love of drunk makeouts and poor choices may have lessened over the years, but it’s also significantly less satisfying after the age of 25 to try to sell someone on the idea that dry humping is back in a big way. For one, the milestones I’ve since held out for marriage have become a moving target the older I get. If I can be talked into giving up my slow dancing virginity, I can also be talked into buying handcuffs without an engagement ring in sight: after all, how am I supposed to lock down a husband, if not by demonstrating how open I am to spontaneity and potential shoulder dislocation?!

I also find myself having to up the ante a tiny bit on each subsequent in-network hookup. Even if I know I likely won’t marry someone I’m currently seeing, I don’t want him comparing notes with his buddies just to have them all concur, “Yeah, she really does seem to love collapsing in exhaustion five minutes in, complaining about a charley horse.” So fine, I will now wilt 12 minutes through instead. Keeping up this ruse is fucking exhausting.

Ultimately, the goal is to find a man who isn’t bothered by my past hookups – which are not as far and wide as they may seem (a party line I have been practicing for years, please ignore my panicked falsetto if you ever hear me say this out loud). Or, you know, date outside of my friend circles.

But I work and socialize in fairly insular communities – Hollywood, media, one large Indian group that comprises of every first-generation Indian ever born in California – and I’ve yet to meet someone new who didn’t turn out to be a second degree connection at the least. I could decamp to the world of online dating, but the lack of being able to send 100 “Wait, did he say anything about me?” texts to friends is a real deal breaker. Until then, I will continue ill-advisedly trying to find love at an accelerated pace through Facebook’s “People You May Know” feature.

And that’s why I’m saving anal for marriage.