I’m 18 years old and attracted to older guys, so I tried Tinder. I met a lot of guys really fast. We talked and did stuff but didn’t have sex. After I was intimate with one guy, and it wasn’t very good, I realized I did it because I wanted attention and someone to talk to. I deleted Tinder, but guys I met still text me. They seem nice but don’t reach out until 9:30 p.m. and usually invite me to come to their apartments, which I’ve done but don’t feel comfortable with now. I’m writing you because you don’t judge.
A confession: I do judge others, just like everyone else does. The mind judges automatically, so it’s what we do with our judgment that matters. I like to examine mine. Sometimes my judgment is a projection that reveals more about me than the person, situation or institution it’s pointed at. Other times, my judgment is residue from the type of “all or nothing” thinking encouraged in many education systems and religions. If I call a person “toxic,” for example, I’m putting them in the “hell” box. “All or nothing” thinking appears to simplify problems by categorizing everything as “heaven or hell,” “love or fear,” or “good or bad.” I stand strongly against harm, including genocide, racism, sexism, child abuse, etc., while trying to focus my life on the middle path. It’s a process that invites me into continual self-study. By excavating the motivation behind my thoughts, choices and actions, I develop a more emotionally intimate relationship with myself. Just as you are doing.
Congratulations for awakening to behaviors that did not have your best interest at heart. Be proud of yourself for deleting the app so you wouldn’t be tempted to sabotage yourself. Feel gratitude for understanding the app wasn’t the real issue—loneliness was. Practice noticing and savoring daily moments of joy. Reconnect with what heals: nature, exercise, sleep, creativity and stillness. Take time to establish real friendships. Be gentle with yourself as you learn new ways to be you in the world.
Healing requires honesty about sex. “Did stuff” is usually a euphemism for foreplay or oral sex, including giving blow jobs, getting fingered or just getting naked and fondling each other. Too blunt? I don’t think so. If we can’t name what we’re doing, we bury ourselves in denial. That feeds shame and embarrassment. And, just for the record, it’s illogical to believe that a person is “technically a virgin” because she or he has engaged in sex acts but has not had intercourse. But that mindset does explain why national surveys show teens and youth claiming premarital virginity. It’s wordplay intended to disguise foreplay. And sex.
Speaking of wordplay: Back in the 1960s, adults uncomfortable with saying “sex” or “intercourse” began calling sex “intimacy” and “making love.” Don’t let their discomfort confuse you. You’ve realized that seeking emotional intimacy via sexual intimacy with others is not good for you. Disconnect from men who text you at night to come to their apartment to have sex. Block their numbers. No, it’s not being mean. It’s giving yourself the gift of a fresh start.