There comes a time in every New York City woman’s life when she needs an air conditioner installed. Most of us could do this ourselves, and some of us do. I’m not a physically small woman, and a unit big enough to cool a bedroom is unwieldy, but not impossible for me to lift and position in a window without pitching it onto an unsuspecting pedestrian’s head. When I moved into my current apartment, though, I didn’t do it myself—that would have been a waste of a perfect good excuse to have sex.
The transition from knowing someone and being out in public with them, to wanting to have sex with them and moving the interaction into your apartment, should be simple and straightforward; but it, like everything else in millennial romantic life, has failed to get any easier, even as it has changed. After all, if you meet someone on Tinder and choose to hang out with them based on their appearance and a brief back-and-forth via text message, you’d think this interaction is as pretense-free as it gets. You’d think!
In reality, most people’s weird feelings and fears of rejection still set in around the time they realize they’re having fun, and then they start worrying about looking over-eager or too bluntly aggressive. That makes it hard for many people to say, “Hey, would you like to go back to my apartment?” when such an inquiry is actually polite and responsible. But maybe, just maybe, if you can find some excuse to cajole or entice a potential lover (or even an existing lover—I’ve dated people who couldn’t just spit out some civilized version of “We done here? Sex time?” after many dates) into your home without explicitly mentioning the sex-having, it will commence at the appropriate time anyway.
This conundrum is the provenance of the oft-joked about “Netflix and chill,” and for those of us who were of legal age well before the advent of convenient streaming services, it also inspired the phrase’s predecessors: “Do you want to watch a movie?” or “Want to have another drink at my place?” No one ever watched the movie, though, and no one ever finished that drink. Everyone knew what was up and the subtext was barely “sub” at all, but some last vestige of puritanical sex shame, which is often still felt, and that keeps many people from simply being more straightforward.
Those popular excuses are far from the only ones used, though, which is where my long-ago AC install comes into the story. When friends asked why I was still sweating it out in late June, I told them I had a plan: a guy I had known for a couple years and who had skirted around the issue of us hanging out for months, testing my interest, was going to do it for me. He just didn’t know it yet. Not only would it be a reason for us to hang out and for him to come to my apartment, but it would be an opportunity for him to bolster his sex-initiating confidence by performing a manly duty, for which I could then demonstrate my appreciation by letting him go down on me. The plan worked flawlessly; not only did I get my AC installed, but I acquired a new hookup partner. Even if it hadn’t worked, I’d still have left the encounter with a newly climate-controlled bedroom. Sometimes, pretenses are great.
When I asked around among friends, they all immediately had a handful of sex excuse stories to share. One took a tact similar to mine and asked a man with whom she had been on several dates to come over to check out a problem with her bike chain, pleading ignorance to simple mechanics. In a separate incident, she fell and cut her knee at a party and a man swooped in to play Florence Nightingale—back at his apartment, naturally. Another friend first slept with a guy in our social circle when he volunteered to help her clean up after everyone else had left a dinner party. This genre of sex excuse is particularly effective; not only does it provide for intimate physical proximity, but it allows the invitee to feel useful, appreciated or cared for, which are always nice ways to feel before getting naked in a relative stranger’s presence.
Of course, some sex excuses are entirely cursory. A man I dated earlier this year asked me if I wanted to come to his apartment to meet his dog; it was 1am and we were both totally wasted, and I’m sure the last thing his sleeping pit bull wanted was a visit from a shitfaced stranger, even if the pup handled it in stride. But my friend Chloe’s story may be the king of them all: a man she was really into asked if she wanted to come over and look at his coffee table book full of crime scene photos. She said yes, even if she recounts the anecdote these days with a thousand-yard stare. Chloe wanted to have sex, after all, and, in dating, the ends certainly can justify the means.
Illustration by Alice Rutherford