Was it casual sex or more?

Hi Meredith,

I'm in my early 20s and newly single. My last relationship was long-term, and while the breakup itself wasn't bad, I've spent the last few months focusing on myself and having fun with friends. Aside from flirting with guys at bars and going on a few dates, I really wasn't interested in reentering the dating pool. I didn't even find myself pursuing hookups because I just wanted to get used to being on my own. I think now is the perfect time to focus on myself, particularly my career. That being said, I have missed the physical benefits of being in a relationship.

So, I reconnected with an ex over the holidays. We dated for about a year when we were younger (teens), and then made out drunk at parties on and off for a few more years, but it had been several years since we had spoken to or seen each other. Anyway, I met up with that guy one night. We both made it clear we wanted to hook up before we met up, which was fine with (and hot for) me. Because of that, I was expecting quick, transactional sex. I thought the whole situation would take less than an hour. That would have been perfectly nice, especially considering the place I am in my life right now.

That was not what happened, though. When we met up, we drove around and talked for a few hours before we hooked up, which was fun. He's always been very kind and respectful, so I wasn't too surprised about that. The eventual sex itself, though, felt very intimate to me and much less "we both just want to do this and get out of here" than I was expecting. He stuck around after and initiated cuddling and talking more, and we had a nice hug and kiss goodbye. I left in a great mood because the night had really surpassed my low expectations, and even if I never see him again, I'll always have the great memory. It was also a nice, gentle way to reenter the hookup scene with someone I was comfortable with but hadn't had sex with before. I'll also add that I've had enough sex to know the difference between what I was expecting and what actually happened.

As I start having sex with more people, though, particularly people I don't know, I'm wondering if you think what happened with this guy is some people's version of casual sex. I didn't leave feeling emotional or caught up in wanting to see him again, but I was surprised by what we we both seemed to be feeling in the moment. I was looking forward to my first experience with meaningless sex, but clearly, since I'm writing to you, it ended up having some meaning! If something feels intense and kind of intimate (and, in the case of someone you already know, is bookended by emotionally vulnerable conversation), can it still be casual for one or both people? Is it completely different with every person/every hookup? I guess from TV, I thought casual sex, at least for the first time with someone, was usually pretty brief with not a lot of eye contact/kissing/hanging out after etc., but now I'm questioning that assumption and would love some more experienced opinions! Maybe this just wasn't casual, I just don't know.

– Casual Question


Casual experiences don't have to be meaningless, cold, or transactional. They certainly don't have to be about speed. I’ve heard about one-time sexual experiences that were emotionally unforgettable. I've also heard about plenty of sex in long-term relationships that could be described as thoughtless and empty. All experiences are going to be different, and many of them will surprise you.

In this particular case, you didn't choose some random partner from an app or bar. You got together with someone you've known since you were a teenager, someone you've been attracted to for years. Why wouldn't the night involve catching up and kindness? The two of you were happy to reconnect because you like each other.

That brings me to my next point; I have to wonder why you're asking this question to begin with. Do you find yourself thinking about this person now? Did the intimacy confuse you? If you start to feel unsure about what "casual" can mean, refer to paragraph one. It can be wonderful and important – but that doesn't mean you want or need more of it. And in the future, know that you don't have to assign meaning to an experience before you have it. You can walk into all of it saying, "Who knows?"

– Meredith

Readers? Can you talk about your casual-yet-meaningful experiences? Or events that only took an hour?