I give away my goodies

Dear Meredith,

Let's skip to the chase, shall we? I kind-of-recently got out of a relationship with someone I had been seeing on and off for a period of years. He moved, I dated someone else, he moved back, we got back together, and I cheated on each guy with a few different people (I know -- deplorable). Anyways, with all our ingrained bad habits, my starting school again, and general unhappiness with the relationship, I ended it. So now, here I am, a single lady for the first time since I was 17.

My problem is: I don't know how to not sleep around. I'm so used to "hanging out" with a guy at a bar for the night, going back to his place, and then taking off the next morning that I don't know how to function normally with guys anymore. (But what is "normal" really?) My friends warn me that I need to stop "giving away the goodies" because ... because guys won't respect me? Call me back? I don't even know. I'm not sleeping with every date because I'm trying to make an impression or make them think of me in any particular way: I do it because I've usually been drinking and I want to. Does that make me a bro? So sue me.

I think my question boiled down is this: In a dating culture that emphasizes "meet-ups" instead of old-fashioned, out-to-dinner-walk-her-to-the-door dates, how am I supposed to not give away the goodies? (Short if signing up for eHarmony, that is.) When did we depart from romance and end up with hook-up relationships that predominantly initiate and revolve around Gchat? Stop me if I sound like Carrie Bradshaw here, but when I do finally figure out I like a guy that I've been bar hopping with, how do I suddenly declare that I want to be wined and dined? Maybe I've got it all backwards.

– Giving Away the Goodies, Boston

I'm glad you made the Carrie Bradshaw comparison, GATG. There's something about that last paragraph that makes me think of Carrie at a laptop. Of course, Carrie never really questioned her own promiscuity. Because she was on TV.

But you're not. And my answer to your big question is: Yes, you have it backwards.

If you want to sleep around, that's fine. I'm totally cool with that. Just be safe. And by safe I mean STD-safe, but also safe from harm -- as in, don't go to some guy's house if you can't say for sure that he's not an ax murderer. And don't go anywhere unless you've told a friend where you are.

But, if you do want to meet a guy who sticks around for more than a night or two, cut down on the alcohol, put on the brakes, and let these relationships play out over the course of more than just a night. You're allowed to bar hop and have a drink with someone to get to know them, but there's no reason to rush the other stuff. I'm not saying that guys won't respect you if they've already "sampled the goodies" -- I've never believed that to be true -- but the goodies exchange is obviously confusing you. It's difficult to figure out if there's potential with a guy if you've already had an awkward morning-after experience with him.

The issue here really does seem to be alcohol, not the dating culture. Without too much bar fun, you'll probably want to return your own home and sleep in your own comfy bed, dreaming of the goodies to come.

Readers? Is she ready to date? Is this about alcohol or the dating culture? Is there anything wrong with having fun until she's ready to get serious? Is her last relationship relevant? How can she tell a guy that she wants to have a traditional date after a night at a bar? Share your goodies. Contribute some Song of the Day ideas.

– Meredith