Think back to the summer after graduating high school, when college was still a dream chock-full of non-stop partying and minimal school work, when we blissfully believed we would meet somebody new and exciting and have loads of hot and wild sex every week, if not night. Little did we know.
Instead we landed in the harsh reality of a small school where everyone is somehow interconnected, and meeting someone new and exciting is virtually impossible. Friends hook up with friends, friends of friends, and exes of friends. Even the hottie you've never seen before turns out to have 12 Facebook friends in common with you. The gossip mill starts running, and suddenly you know he was dumped for being bad in bed, or that she's hooked up with two of your friends already. Mystery is thrown to the wind.
Admittedly, mystery can be a very dangerous thing. The allure of the unknown tricks us into getting involved with people—from hook-ups to dating to long-term and serious—we know very little about, often with messy results. On the other hand, mystery wields an irreplaceable power of sexual and romantic anticipation. Thoughts of how much he or she likes you or whether or not you'll finally hook up run rampant.
The lack of mystery at Columbia eliminates any chance of such anticipation, and worse, it induces awkward situations with nearly everyone you hook up with. It's impossible not to feel weird at a party where nearly half the people there have hooked up with each other at one point or another. You might try to pretend you all don't know about it, but the fact is you do, and it's just awkward. And what do you do when you're in a situation with two people you've hooked up with, and all three of you are good friends, but the two don't know you've hooked up with both of them? A friend of mine just caved and left when he saw his ex and his current girlfriend together at the 'Stend. One of the only times I've been left speechless was when two exes of mine–neither of whom knew each other–each asked me whether or not I planned to talk about former hookups in my column. Whoops.
When we're not busy negotiating awkward situations with our own exes, we're busy negotiating similar situations with friends who've hooked-up with the same people we have. I hate to say it, but for us girls, this often verges on cat fights. A former friend of mine broke off our friendship because I got involved with a guy she used to like. Another friend of mine flipped out when her fling's ex found out about the fling, even though the ex was totally fine with it.
Guys are slightly less bitchy, but they are not free from awkward encounters with each other either. As one buddy of mine pointed out, it never feels good seeing a girl you've been with hanging out with another guy, let alone one of your friends.
I've listened to one too many of my friends berate this lack of novelty and excitement, and have experienced one too many awkward situations myself. I've begun to wonder: can we beat the system? Can we do away with the unwanted overlap and bring back the mystery?
Considering the size and lifestyle of the Columbia student population, I'm not so sure. Granted, we don't have it as bad as the 500-student population of Macalester College. Nevertheless, even those people who seem the most random are somehow connected with someone you know. And as my best guy friend once commented, it's difficult not to hook up with your friends. If you don't do the random hook-up-at-the-bar thing, you're hard-pressed to meet anyone you could get to know well enough to hook up with unless it's through a mutual friend.
With all this inevitable incest-style hookup behavior in our midst, there is little we can do to recapture the missing mystery. What we can do, however, is change our attitude about it. Instead of dismissing a potential love interest because you heard he or she just got out of a serious relationship and is an emotional mess, give that person a chance and find out for yourself. Instead of ignoring the way you feel about a friend hooking up with the same person you did, tell them how you feel about it—whether you're OK with it or furious about it.
I won't for a second pretend that we'll stop gossiping about each other. I love to talk about all things sex-related just as much, if not more than the next person. But if we accept people for who they are in the present while interacting with us, instead of judging them from what we've been told, we may begin to see a change. Mystery might be a lost cause, but our sex lives don't have to be.