the future

In the Future, You Can Make Out Anywhere

Illustration: by Luci Pina

Last summer, the park was a minefield. All spring, I’d taken walks, alone, ruminating on how alone I was, but knowing pretty much everyone else was, too. Until, suddenly, I noticed everyone was really not alone. It was summer. The benches were occupied by two people sitting at either end who, over the course of an hour, would become two people sitting in the middle. I strolled across the lawn, past people sprawling on blankets with wine and Bluetooth speakers, legs intertwined, fingers intertwined, and sometimes, for the brazen, bodies intertwined. It was sort of torturous, sort of arousing. It felt truly bawdy, like at any point a PG-13 orgy might break out. It was an assault on my own horn.

One day in late June, I sat observing a first date, like a true creep. The daters were responsible; they sat on either ends of the blanket, with special-occasion fabric masks on. They lifted them only to sip their beers or, upon request, to repeat a joke that had been muffled. They didn’t touch until they couldn’t not touch anymore, and began kissing through their masks. I don’t mean like “haha fun little novelty kiss,” but a full-on making out. I can’t be sure, because I wasn’t their third, but it seemed like they were pressing their tongues together — French-kissing through the fabric. At some point, it got too weird, and I had to stop watching. I did wonder if they had walked around with telltale dark drool circles on their cloth masks for a while.

I fully respected this couple. They were a study in determination; you know, tongues find a way and all that. It wasn’t safe to do all this inside — I will leave the question of whether we should have done it outside to other people — so like teenagers with hovering parents, people were committed to acts of PDA anywhere they could out of sheer necessity.

Of course, the winter itself and the winter spike in COVID cases put an end to this in New York. If the cold didn’t ruin an outdoor PDA run, the persistent rats certainly did. Winter has been a sexless time for many — and if you’re part of the “not all,” congrats to you. Others have been spending a lot of time having sex with just one person: themselves. I’m no scientist, but I believe these experiences will heavily influence two aspects of our post-pandemic future, whenever that may arrive. The first: People are desperate to get the hell out of the house and be among stranger flesh again. And the second: People will be more in tune with their sexual desires. I’ve had both casual and fact-finding conversations with people, in group chats, on dating apps, who have been purposeful about this extended period of solo sex, who have used it as a way to get to know themselves better. They’ve been considering exactly how they want sex as soon as they can bone another person or persons. (Frankly, a more worthwhile use of extra time and energy than, say, making loaf after loaf of fucking sourdough bread.)

We’ve been locked away thinking about sex, becoming hyperaware of all the ways we would like to have it. In late January, I began having fever dreams about what life could be again. I envisioned scenes of being at crowded bars and tripping over bodies, seeing couples make out in booths. I imagined walking down the street right when the winter started to give way to the horny season, and not even feeling bothered by people holding hands or using each other as lounge chairs in the park. I’d welcome afternoons at Tilden, surrounded by couples rubbing each other’s sandy butts. It creates a sexual energy that feels, for lack of a better word, contagious.

Last summer’s walks in the park were just the beginning, and this summer, the PDA boom will be welcome and unstoppable. If last year was about PDA for sheer necessity, the next wave will tap into the sheer pleasures: It’s fun to commit the act, but it’s also fun and infectious to witness. It’s like a group make-out party in your mom’s basement. How can you resist making out when someone nearby starts making out?

By the time we’re let out of the house, I predict we’ll all be voyeurs and exhibitionists, and it will create a crackling, orgiastic summer energy like this city hasn’t seen in a long time, if ever. It will be like a scene in a period-romance novel, where everyone is, like, stumbling out of taverns and humping in alleyways or at the very least enjoying a public cuddle puddle. And there will be no whispers of, “Yuck! Take it inside!” We’ll pass by and give a little joyful nod, wondering if we could be next.

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In the Future, You Can Make Out Anywhere