The reason I could never live in Philadelphia, which I consider to be one of the greatest cities in America, nay, the world, is because Philly Tinder is populated with men from my high school. None of these men wronged me, (except the guy who body-shamed me for peeing on the roof of a bar several Christmases ago), and I’m friendly with most, but the idea of hooking up in a house with parents present or making out with a guy who “as a prank” punted a ball into my face in seventh grade turns me off.
Yet over the holidays, when everyone is horny and listless, the normal rules governing civil society don’t apply, and things happen. In fact, the allure of the hometown hookup grows even more powerful, despite these logistical and emotional hang-ups. When sealing the deal with the once-chiseled, always-abhorrent bro who religiously farted in pre-calculus, you get to exist in this glistening, almost-imaginary space where whatever you have with whoever you have it is fleeting, self-contained and, often, hilarious. You’re making love and a story, one that people—by which we mean exclusively friends from home—will want to hear.
Over the holidays, activities normally considered “sad” are not—like drinking Natty Light in a basement with the guy who spearheaded your school’s pantsing epidemic. You find yourself committed to demonstrating to the peripheral characters of your youth how hot/accomplished/grown-up you are. The environment is so low-stakes it’s arousing. There’s nothing else going on! May as well bone the boy you pined after for eight years (because he, too, had a Beck shirt), and even though he’s “fiscally conservative” now, you’ve just grown more awesome, and you want him to go tell his little friends. They, in turn, will spread the word that you are Cool and that even though you skipped after-prom to eat meatballs in bed, you Can Hang.
A new survey from Trojan Condoms found that 60 percent of 1,000 single people (aged 18 to 24) are likely to have casual sex over the holidays, and they’re initiating in all sorts of ways: 78 percent are sliding into DMs, 66 percent are sharking at house parties, 55 percent are cruising at the bar or club and 50 percent are turning to an app. Per the study, the top three most thrilling things about hometown hookups are: “a) No strings attached, b) Doing it in secret, c) Reuniting with an old fling.”
Though these hometown trysts tend to be lackluster from a purely technical perspective (don’t make me get into it), this matter little when you consider points a, b, and c, shown above. Surprisingly not accounted for in Trojan’s survey is another motivating factor: proving some weird point. One woman I spoke with explained that last Thanksgiving, even though “most of my childhood hometown crushes are engaged,” she hooked up with an elementary school classmate she ran into at a bar. It wasn’t great. “It turned out he was a Trump supporter,” she said. “By that point I was stuck in his house downtown and couldn't go back home at 3 AM since I told my parents I was with my other friend… who was also sleeping over at his house, with a drummer she'd brought home from the bar. For me it was like an official announcement to all those ‘cool kids’ of my youth that, yes, I'm cool now, too.”
Another person I spoke with said he, too, felt he had something to prove by way of getting it in over the holidays. “I started working out and lost a lot of weight after high school, so pretty much every time I went home in college I would hook up with someone I had been friends with in high school but who hadn't been interested,” he told me. “Ninth-grade me would have been very relieved.”
Yet the more people I spoke with, the more it became clear that many people who are currently in a serious relationship can trace the beginning of their love story to a sloppy late-December hook-up with someone they’d almost forgotten about. And others tell me that, years later, they’re still dating the person they reconnected with over the holidays. Meanwhile I can’t even get a text back. From my mom. Who loves to text ordinarily.
Still others say they hook up with the same people every time they go home for the holidays, but don’t talk otherwise. I think that’s kind of cute.
“I actually saw him on Bumble and took the plunge of messaging him something embarrassing like, ‘Hey, it's been a few years,’” one woman told me. “I usually hook up with him when I'm in town, but we never talk unless we're in geographic proximity.” Another woman had a similar experience, though instead of meeting him on an app, she met him through nature’s app, which is when “someone in our group was texting one of the guys he was with and they all came to the bar we were at.”