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The Best Dating Advice a 26-Year-Old Wishes She Knew Sooner

4 Min Read
The Best Dating Advice a 26-Year-Old Wishes She Knew Sooner

BTBz is dedicated to talking about sexual health and self-discovery — and our community’s voices are critical in these conversations. Welcome to the BTBz Column: a weekly reflection by our community members about their own sexual identities. Want to contribute anonymously? Get in touch.

Age: 26, Sex: Female, Location: New York City

What was your gender and sexual identity journey like?

I think it’s been very heteronormative but also open-minded. I haven’t had the desire to explore a different sexuality or sexual partner but it’s nice to know it’s an option that doesn’t come with taboos, as it once would have. That’s probably a factor of living in New York where you can be and explore anything you want and people are less likely to care.


How do you feel about sex on the first date?

If the chemistry is there, 100% yes! There’s no shame in that sex game if you both feel so drawn to each other. But if I feel any bit of hesitation, I think it’s better to hold off. I do not believe that having sex on the first date is going to steer the outcome of the relationship, or that someone is going to change their mind about how they feel about you because you did or didn’t hook up with them. If a person looks down upon you for having sex “too quickly,” that’s probably not a person who views sex as an equal experience between two people. Red flag!


What do you remember from your high school sex ed class?

“Sex ed” was a one- or two-week portion of our PE class, and it wasn’t mandatory. I remember learning was about conception — i.e., sperm meets egg, and nine months later, you have a human — as well as the strict anatomy of sex organs. We also learned about birth control methods, what a period is, and how to put a condom on a banana, but definitely no discussion of pleasure or hormonal fluctuations or other useful things.


How could your sex ed experience have been better? 

Learning about pleasure! Looking at different vulvas and male genitalia, in all shapes and sizes, as well as learning what areas are more sensitive than others would have been so helpful. I wish I had also learned how hormones affect sexual desire and the body in general. When it comes to periods, it would’ve been great for girls AND guys to understand how the menstrual cycle affects women and their bodies, moods, and behaviors. 


What does sex positivity mean to you?

I think it just means celebrating humans being sexual beings! We should acknowledge our sexual desires and needs as opposed to treating it as a hush-hush, taboo topic that no one is allowed to talk about.


You had a first date that didn’t go anywhere: Would you prefer to receive a text letting you down, or would you rather be ghosted?

I think it depends on the vibe. If they were really giving me signs that they were into me, and both of us felt like it was going well but then they realized they weren’t interested, I’d probably want a text. But I think it’s easy to tell when a date isn’t “sparking” — if that’s the case, I’m fine being ghosted.


What’s your current relationship status? How do you feel about it?

I feel so free and exhilarated being single right now. I love being able to focus on myself, my friends, and my personal and career goals without factoring in a partner. I love that my time is my own. I love the freedom of being spontaneous. I feel like I’ve found such wonderful companionship in friends and I feel very whole at the moment. Boys are a very fun activity, but I feel no desire to have a steady partner right now. 


What do you look for in a partner?

Someone who inspires me! Someone who has their own passions and hobbies; loves banter; is social, intelligent, interesting conversationalist; communicative; confident; thoughtful, caring, and loving.


What is your best breakup advice?

I think to make it about yourself and speak in “I” statements as much as you can, unless the person is REALLY pushing for reasons on what they could have done better or improve for future relationships. I would still tread very carefully, though — it’s never your responsibility to make a person mold to your preferences, even if they convince you they want to.


What’s one thing you wish you knew about dating or relationships when you first started?

To me, dating and relationships are learning opportunities to explore likes and dislikes, and hone in on the ideal qualities I’m looking for in a partner — ultimately, too narrow down the dating pool in an effective way. Dating is how to find out if you and a partner have shared interests and values — and if you don’t, that’s okay. The goal is not to make them like you, the goal is to figure out if you like them


It’s easier to do that if you focus on yourself first. Cultivate your hobbies, interests, friendships, etc. I don’t believe a partner should ever “fill a void” or “complete you.” A partner is a wonderful complement to your life, and (ideally) you should be equally fulfilled and inspired by one another.


Having a scarcity mindset towards dating can make you feel compelled to be satisfied with whoever picked you, but the idea of partners being scarce is such a fallacy. Know your worth, know what you like/dislike, know what you deserve, and pick accordingly!