Instant gratification and the grocery-list approach to love

What’s on _your_ grocery list?

My first-ever personals ad—written for craigslist with the help of a friend—was so short.

“Fierce articulate bi-dyke with big tits seeks caring confident man who won’t bore me. We both make conscious choices about our atypical sex lives.”

Other friends laughed at me for how open-ended it was, how seemingly vague and unstructured, but I didn’t care: I got such a range of diversity from that ad, and I wound up with awesome folks who I might otherwise have overlooked if I had had a grocery list.

You know the “grocery list”: height, weight, glasses or not, what they like, how they vote. It’s pretty much everything they ask you for on OKCupid. People go this route because no one wants to waste time wading through bullshit and dick pics. (Newsflash: dick pics are unavoidable.) Not to be crude, but people want to maximize their chances for getting off.

I am reminded about my “phone subs” when I was doing phone sex, the ones who would call up and say they wanted to do whatever I wanted, but they had a check list and only paid for 7 minutes, so I had to hit all of those buttons, no matter what. “Customer is King” throughout the entire capitalist world, and because my callers had the money to plop down for that shopping list, they got what they wanted. They paid for the convenience of not having to negotiate a damn thing.

Does the shopping-list approach work when seeking out unpaid relationships? Maybe. Sometimes. Sometimes we need relationships or encounters that fit entirely into our schedule, our life, our sense of self. Maybe you are only in town for a week, so you want to cut straight to the chase. Maybe your life only supports a particular kind of relationship with a certain set of expectations. Perhaps you don’t have a car, so there’s no point getting into a relationship with someone who lives four hours away. Convenience is not a negligible consideration, in sex and/or relationships. Just be aware that if you don’t have the money, then that list is going to be harder to check off, and you might end up having to wait.

Furthermore, hooray for hard boundaries and strong desires, like no smoking, must do anal, tall men only, height-weight proportional, no-strings-attached sex only… You get to say what you want. But how do you know what you really want, and what The Man wants you to want? I’d be willing to bet that advertising works on physical preferences almost as much as it does on brand loyalty for cold cereals.

I look at the lists that people put up for personal ads, and how well they dovetail with all of these societal ideals, and I can’t help but think of the way my callers did it. They got exactly what they wanted, and all they had to bring to the table was a credit card. In the face-to-face interpersonal world, someone who just shows up wanting their own thing, without questioning their own desires and without offering anything of their own… we would call that entitled. Or someone maybe in the market for a RealGirl doll.

In this world, I’ve learned to have a WHOOOOOLE lot of flex, not just because it’s easier on my sexual psyche, but primarily because it would otherwise get in the way of randomness and fate and pure perverted luck. I’ve also learned to enjoy digging deeper into my desires and letting them air out a bit, unpacking them and examining them, seeing what exactly it is that I can bring to the feast. It’s the difference between what do I need to acquire and what do I already have.

In love as in shopping, your grocery list should be shorter than your inventory.


Here’s my inventory: thoughtful pieces about sex, love, relationships, and sometimes theatre and my personal life. Also sex advice snark and occasional reportage from the Smut Stand. If you like what I’m bringing to the feast, and you have a bit of cash, show your love and become a patron of mine on Patreon.

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