Dealing with the past
Not too long ago I lived in a one-bedroom apartment with my brother in Honolulu. Looking out my window I saw anything from police brutality to openly advertised meth dealers. I also saw the island’s largest concentration of prostitutes.
For people who didn’t have cable, our windows always beat the TV as the de facto source of entertainment.
Once during a late night writing stint, I remember looking out a window and seeing a car pull over to drop off a prostitute we creatively dubbed “pigtails.”
As the car pulled up to the curb and dropped her off, the light at the intersection turned red, forcing both the driver, and Pigtails, to wait at the intersection. The result was two people doing their best to ignore each other and get away, but forced to be within feet of each other for longer than they wanted.
It’s never fun if your past has a few blemishes. There are plenty of things people are both proud and ashamed of, especially in the realm of dating and sex. But are these moments just ours? Is it up to us to divulge our past to a significant other if it comes up? What would we be afraid of?
And no, I’m not talking solely about prostitutes, but more the allegory of a past that you are less than proud of.
I’m going to go out on a limb and say there’s probably a good chance that in the spectrum of our dating tenure, college is when we take the greatest liberties.
Say you’re the kind of guy who’s dated well into the double digits. You’ve toed aside some condoms on a frat house floor in your day. You meet a girl and she asks about your history. How do you respond?
“I never tell, man,” said Jerry Shuyler, a senior economics major. “And you can quote me on that.”
When I ask him why he keeps it to himself, he shrugged and said, “I don’t know. People have friends.”
On the flip side, while Shuyler worries his partner might have a problem, he doesn’t care if a girl he’d been dating had a larger number than he did.
“Why’s it matter?” Shuyler said. “It’s the past. People only care because they’re insecure.”
Michelle Roll, a sophomore majoring in integrative physiology major said she feels the main issue isn’t one of character, but of health.
“I wouldn’t care what happened in the past,” Roll said. “My only real concern is if there’s a worry of STDs. But as long as they got tested and they’re clean. No, it wouldn’t bother me at all.”
Not everyone worries just about the health risks.
“Health is definitely an issue, sure,” said Jenna Jacobs, a freshman MCD biology major. “And while I wouldn’t personally care how many (people) my boyfriend’s been with, I could see why some people might. It might show that the boy you’re dating isn’t the greatest in a relationship.”
“Conceptually, it wouldn’t be a big deal. But intellectually, emotionally — I mean who’s to say?” said senior Eric Reckman, a history and environmental studies major. “I mean we’ve all seen ‘Chasing Amy,’ right?”
Reckman said it is not only health that matters, but why a person makes certain choices.
“What were their reasons for making those choices?” Reckman said. “If the relationship is sound, then nothing changed about that person just because you know something about their past. Issues like this wouldn’t be a big thing unless there were already problems with trust.”
Reckman said barring a rocky relationship, problems over one’s past are driven from an insecure partner.
“Personal insecurities about not meeting expectations.” Reckman said. “People have a desire to feel special. It’s hard to feel special when you’re one of 35.”
Looking out that window in Honolulu, while my brother watched the scene on the street, I was busy brooding and groveling at an angry girlfriend.
Almost inevitably, our past came up in conversation that very day. While I wasn’t forthcoming with details, my brother was. He told my girlfriend about the girl I’d dated prior, who said she was a student at the University of Hawaii. The girl was actually a corporate call girl. When my girlfriend found this out, it took not two days before I was newly single and she felt that this somehow reflected poorly on me.
My prior relationship ended not because of her past — I could have cared less. I simply didn’t understand the need for her to lie to me and this called into question every aspect of our relationship.
In the end, college is a difficult place to navigate this subject. We’re experimental. We’re having “adult” relationships. And yet we still have some guys and girls who hold out hope for some magically preserved inexperienced newcomer. One who’s “never done this before.”
Adults don’t seem to have this problem as often. The solution’s simple, one I realized staring at my soon-to-be-ex. The past can be important, but what matters is the present. As we all should know, your partner wouldn’t be there with you if they weren’t happy.
So don’t be so insecure. Be thankful for the road and the experiences that brought them to know what they like, and that it’s you.
If you’re looking for an undisturbed, naive virgin on this campus of ours, chances are your standards will leave you single.
Contact Campus Press Staff Writer Ben Prince at email@example.com