By: Jenny Foughner 

Eskimos supposedly have hundreds of words for ‘snow’ (and although .5 minutes of internet research tells me that the linguists/Inuitphiles among you will argue this factoid, I’m going to go ahead and err on the side of ‘popular misconception’ for the sake of making my point). Allegedly, this is because snow is central to Eskimo life, which makes sense to my delicate brain; if you think about something all day, every day, then you’re probably going to need to make up an iglooload of words to describe it. Americans, on the other hand, have a great many words for ‘games’ and ‘playing,’ which suggests that we’re childish and lazy young-at-heart and fun-loving; we also have a startling number of words and phrases for anything that resembles sex, including many that describe the elusive-yet-occasionally-alluring having of no-strings-attached relations. ‘Hook up’; ‘booty call’; ‘hit-n-quit’; ‘ram and scram’; ‘fun buddy’; ‘f*** buddy’; the list goes on (and oh, is it a fun one). I attribute this not to how enjoyable it is to come up with moderately clever rhymes, but instead to the recent ubiquity of the NSA relationship amidst the more traditional romantic entanglements enjoyed by our parents and grandparents.

The no-strings-attached relationship can be fraught with peril because relationships usually include emotions, and emotions can very quickly become tangled, knotty yarn balls that are nearly impossible to unravel. However, it is possible to facilitate a commitment-free situation without hurting anyone’s feelings… as long as you’re willing to follow a few simple guidelines. If you’re in the mood for some action-without-consequence, then these tips should go a long way in helping you avoid sticky situations down the road.

State your intentions from the start.

While you needn’t cheapen your pillow talk with monologues on the subject of your romantic disinterest, it’s important to be up-front with your funbuddy about your feelings (or, rather, lack thereof) as soon as you’re sure that your interactions won’t be progressing beyond the hookup stage. These conversations can seem difficult and unappealing, but I have yet to meet a woman who faults a man for being honest, straightforward and respectful, regardless of whether or not she agrees with what he has to say. You might even be surprised to find that your partner feels exactly the same way you do, which is to say, nothing at all.

As long as you make it clear that you aren’t interested in anything remotely resembling a relationship (that’s the honest part; the respectful part is waiting to have this conversation while clothed), the responsibility lies with your partner to decide what she wants. This means you’re off the hook for any future accusations of emotional wrong-doing. If she doesn’t want to continue, then all you have to worry about is finding another willing participant, not disentangling yourself from a web of frustrated resentment.

 

Avoid anything that can be described as ‘tender’.

Part of the problem with NSA relationships is that they mimic real relationships (physically) while being devoid of the important stuff (emotionally). As discussed above, one way to avoid this confusion is to be forthright about your intentions from the start. Another is to steer clear of any activity that signals potential interest beyond simple physical gratification, including cuddling, eye-gazing, forehead-kissing, hand-holding, and all of the rest of the trappings of doe-eyed love. These behaviors may feel natural in the moment, but they blur the line between NSA and SYB (sticky yarn ball), thus making them ill-advised; if all you really want is a booty call, then all you should have is a booty call. Nowhere in the booty call handbook is it stipulated that one must fake emotion in return for regular rolls in the hay.

I’m aware that I might be a chromosomal traitor for writing this, but the best way to avoid these missteps is not to stay the night. Sleeping together is one thing. Waking up together is quite another. As long as the parameters of your relationship have been established as purely physical, then there’s no danger of anyone’s bed feeling unduly cold should you opt to exit after the fact.

Similarly:

Keep your dating life separate from your hookup life.

Doing ‘couple-y’ things with your hit-n-quit is like wearing ill-fitting pants because they’re the first thing you pick up off your floor; it might seem okay at first, but it will eventually become uncomfortable and restrictive. You might reach a point where you feel compelled to date your hookup buddy because (a) you need someone to take to work functions, (b) you want to hang out earlier than midnight, but you feel like a jerk asking her to come over and get naked before it’s dark outside, and/or (c) you’re bored and can’t think of anything else to do. In these and other similar situations, you must remember that your booty call is not a girlfriend surrogate. If you really need a plus one, don’t make it the girl who’s in your sex-only zone, because there’s no way to know if she’ll want to return there after experiencing what it’s like to leave.

Of course, if you suddenly discover that you have real feelings for your booty buddy, then by all means, make romantic gestures and ask her out on proper dates and so on and so forth. (Also know that you’re one of a small handful of guys who can start with the doing and end with the dating. It doesn’t happen very often.) But be wary that you don’t end up being the one getting your feelings hurt; just because you’ve had a change of heart doesn’t mean she has.

Get out if she isn’t getting it.

Everyone is capable of tricking themselves into believing they’re okay with relationships (NSA or otherwise) that don’t give them what they truly want. Most relationships – and especially those that are based in the physical rather than the emotional – reach a point where one partner wants more than the other is capable of providing, which can make things especially difficult if you’re trying to keep something free of emotional entanglement. It’s possible that you and your casual fling will remain casual and content, but the odds aren’t great; eventually, one of you is going to want more. If it’s you, then see above. But if it’s her, and you begin to notice that she’s pushing things in the direction of serious, then your booty call is no longer just a booty call. At this point, it’s best to call the whole thing off, because dragging things out will only lead to eventual disappointment, and, in a worst-case scenario, unfortunate heartbreak.

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