Column: Post hook-up etiquette: the art of calling cards

The concept of the calling card is a strange and mysterious thing. A calling card, for the sadly uninformed, can be either one of the ultimate hook-up strategies or the worst mistakes of your recent sexual history.

Here’s what you do—hook up with someone and leave behind, consciously or not, something that is clearly yours. This can be a necklace, scarf or maybe even (if you’re bold) underwear. Later in the day, one of you will realize that this item is not where it’s supposed to be and will be forced to contact the other. This, of course, forces the hook-up pair to, once again, meet discreetly so as to retrieve said item, presumably leading once again to canoodling in a fashion similar to the night before.

Some people use this as an actual strategy to ensure resumed intimate contact. Others are just forgetful. Consider myself in the latter category. For me, the morning after a hook-up is already a generally awkward experience—especially if I’ve managed to do something (or someone) I didn’t want or plan to.

My solution, or at least the only one I’ve come up with when sleep-deprived and still somewhat intoxicated, is to leave as quickly and smoothly as possible. My favorite line usually goes something like, “Uh, so, well, that was fun … um, call me if you want? Or I can call, like, you? See you around? … BYE!!!” You can use it—it’s worked wonders for me thus far.

Leaving with haste and the aforementioned suave demeanor, I’ll walk home, replaying the evening’s events and avoiding contact while pretending like it’s no big deal that I’m still wearing my Fetish costume. Most of the time I’ll just end up waiting for my former intimate partner to contact me and then feign surprise—“Oh wow, yeah, I completely forgot I even own that! I’m so sorry. Can I get it from you in the dining hall tonight?” Notice the awkward? Not only do I pretend like my life is so fabulously busy that I didn’t even notice I’d left the necklace my great-grandmother left to me, but I pick a public place in which to exchange the goods so as to avoid any ambiguously intimate situations.

I’m continually impressed with those who have perfected the art of calling cards, but also weirded out. For those who consciously use this as a strategy, is it manipulative or just assertive? Do we really need to work covertly in order to ensure future intimacy, or can we not just openly communicate our desires to each other?

At a place as socially awkward as Grinnell, maybe we just can’t manage to use our words well enough to express what we’re really thinking.

Of course, there is nothing inherently wrong with using a language other than our words to show continued interest, but when does the breakdown in communication lead to misinformation and, perhaps, even creepy stalking?

Despite my own experiences with the calling card and general awkward post-sexual encounters, I’m a big fan of actual verbal communication. It’s common knowledge that fully expressing our feelings and thoughts, especially about intimacy with those we wish to further explore, can easily lead to the demise of a budding possibility. In fact, almost every time I’ve tried the honesty card, any potential has gone up in smoke. Nonetheless, I persist with this path, convinced that without the ability to be open and honest, there is little with which to be content. Because of this, I’ve learned a lot about what I want and expect from myself and from others.

I’m not on the righteous path, and I still screw up plenty of times. Still, maintaining frankness has made me much more self-aware and cognizant of my wants and desires, what I need and what upsets me.

I’m hesitant to sound prescriptive, and it is certainly not my intent to create a massive spree of breakups and abandonment on campus. But maybe it’s time to tell your partner you don’t like it when they screw you with their socks on. Or try and take it to the next level with that person you keep eyeing in the dining hall.

Leaving behind a memento for the evening’s lover can be exciting and sexy, but maybe it shouldn’t be the only form of communication. I’d suggest using your words—you might be pleasantly surprised, if only with yourself.