Branded by a Number

Branded by a Number

I love when adults in their thirties tell our generation that we’ve become much “looser” and “free-spirited” in terms of romance, dating, and sex. Like anyone in previous generations was any different from ours! Let’s be real, there were always many “free-spirited” women in any time period or decades. Puh-lease.

Let me narrate to you all a tale.

Way back in middle school and high school, I was such a straight-edge. I judged anyone who drank, smoked, smoked weed, did drugs, and dated “seriously.” Part of it had to do with growing up in an Asian household. The other part had to do with the fact I had to sit through gym class or art class every Monday and hear about all the same drama caused by poor decision-making under influences.

Now, no one likes a straight-edge, slut-shaming virgin. But no worries, she was sentenced to death within the first few weeks of college.

Oh college. If you think that you can find your husband without dating around and experiencing different types of relationships, you’re in for some kind of awakening. In middle school and high school, I was a work of art. Not the good kind. I didn’t understand the concept of “no” and just assumed that you say yes when someone shows interest in you. What made it worse was I wasn’t even allowed to date. Therefore, my mom broke up all those relationships. Unfortunately, her actions costed me quite a few best friends and left some very kind boys flustered, confused, and hurt. But with all due respect to those fellow troopers for being able to find the creature that was me attractive, her anti-cupid missions did me a great favor and taught me valuable lessons about love and relationships. She gave me three pointers about love and ordered me to move on and focus on what matters most: my academics, track career, and music. With all her words tucked into my mind, I graduated high school with a flourish and headed off to college in search of theee ultimate bae.

Pizza at 2am.

No I’m totally kidding… ish.

College has been a riot. I can’t even count the number of “love interests” and infatuations I had. (Some of them were wonderful guys. Just not for me.) Throughout these past few years, conversations with friends (guys and girls) and my sorority sisters were all centered around the Holy Trinity of Love: relationships, flirtationships, and I-fuck-this-guy-everyday-but-can’t-decide-if-we-actually-like-each-other-and-should-date-or-I’m-just-attached-because-I-see-him-everyday-ships. If we weren’t talking about any of those, we were crying together over fights or breakups. Then the next few weekends resulted in many sexcapades and even more drama, leading to breakdowns or getting back together with their boyfriends/fuckbois. If that wasn’t enough, we each had to deal with the small and overlapping social circles gossiping about our the private lives of everyone and their mothers. Girls be constantly slut-shaming each other, guys losing respect for girls who are comfortable with frequent casual sex, numerous incidents of sexual assault accusations, cheating scandals… The list goes on.

Yet, nothing was worse than the dreaded question in a game of Truth or Dare: “Truth: yo, what’s your body count? What’s your number? Oh, I expected much higher. That’s totally not that bad, like, at all!”

Gr8. Did I come off as a very “free-spirit” or something? *drinks*

Anyone who spent the past few years with me knows that neither love nor lust gave me a single break. From end of freshman year to three-quarters through junior year, I was in a heavily unstable on-and-off relationship. In between the last on and off period, I went from crying and having massive anxiety/panic attacks every day for three months to turning my heart off completely. In that time, I got to know a few more people than usual…in the biblical sense. As a hopeless romantic who never liked casual rendezvous, this was out of character. I had zero emotion. I didn’t feel happiness. I didn’t feel sadness. I barely got frustrated or angry. I definitely didn’t feel sympathy or empathy. I didn’t cry for three months. It took a particular series of events and friends mourning deaths of loved ones for salty pearls to make a reappearance again.

That day, I didn’t stop crying for seven hours. It was like Easter, except it was my emotions and not Jesus that resurrected. Honestly, it was relieving to come to terms with everything that had happened. I did however battle with myself for a bit, trying not to beat myself up for any consequences of my brief “free-spirited” era (fuck the guy who made that comment. Let me thrive dude. *hair toss*). Somewhere in those seven hours of crying, I remembered all the moments I helped my closest friends or even myself through rock-bottoms. All those experiences cumulated an encyclopedia’s worth of knowledge about love triangles, loyalty, emotional abuse, self-discovery, trust, and the role drugs can play in demolishing lives and relationships. I learned many things about my body, my heart, and my strength. Most importantly, I learned the three pointers my mom had told me:

  1. He* needs to be your best friend first. You can’t have a relationship without a friendship. (Really mom? Because thanks to this advice, I’ve lost about four in my dating career. *whines* Can’t I just let them become my best friend?) 
  2. He must have loyalty, integrity, and open-mindness. It’s not enough to just be honest. He can be honest and admit every fuck-up he’s committed but continue fucking up. He needs to understand his responsibilities in making things right for you, for him, for you two as a couple. (But she also said he needs to be over 6-foot tall, athletic, musical OR artistic, come from a great family, a dog lover, intelligent AF, in the same or higher income bracket, respectful, and attractive but not more attractive than me… Well then.)
  3. Never be the one to love more. Find someone you love more than life itself who will then find new ways to show that HE loves you even more than you love him. (I just…I…just..Like. What.)

If you can’t tell by now, my mom’s a riot.

Anyways, the bottom line is this: “Sleeping around,” no matter what the reason, is a personal choice. Somewhere between the sheets and partners, you discover many things about yourself, your choice in partner, and what you are looking for in life and in love. The only time you need to worry about being “free-spirited” is when you are not being completely safe and risk any possibility of pregnancy or STDs OR when you are using it to fulfill something/increase your self-esteem. It’s not healthy to depend on attention or sex with a partner(s) to validate your worth and purpose. You can only do that internally when you are at happy and at peace with yourself.

So, work on anyone you wish, as long as you work on yourself first and foremost. Unleash your freak. Be a little scandalous. Sexcapades are fun. Orgasms are healthy. And a number is simply a number. If someone thinks he/she can define you with it, just remember that you can choose the meaning behind yours, not the drunk frat star asking you the question.

Just don’t break the bed, mes chéries. 😉

*I used male terms in this article, but of course this is applicable to any gender! #LoveWins



Erica Huang
Erica Huang

Based in New York City, Erica Huang is the creator and voice behind Bouge & Rouge. This blog is a playground of her thoughts where she invites you to join her on her journey through her 20s. Erica shares her lifestyle, fashion and beauty tips, adventures, and personal thoughts with the goal of inspiring others to always persevere and be unapologetically yourself.

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