Unchecked boxes

Sex on Tuesday

photo of columnist cassandra branch

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It’s nighttime — my partner and I are kissing, slipping out of reality and into one another. I feel the softness of her lips, the warmth of her skin and I think to myself: finally. For the first time in weeks, my head isn’t consumed by thoughts of homework or my shift the next day. Desperately, I dig my fingers into those thighs I love so very much and feel myself, for the first time in a while, letting go. The sweetness of the moment coils itself around me, and I feel enveloped by my desires after weeks of ignoring them. Oh my God, yes. All of a sudden, out of the thin and sensual air, it strikes me — 

“Shit!” I say, “Oh shit, I forgot to submit my Milton paper!” 

Pulling herself from between my legs, my partner looks up at me confused in the darkness. 

I continue, “My paper, it’s due tonight. I completely forgot. I’m so sorry.” 

Yet again, I tear myself from the warm sheets of our bed and head to my desk to complete an assignment.  

Week eleven in the semester and this is pretty much the status quo. I’ve been working Friday through Monday, on top of attending classes every day that I’m not at work. Since May, this has been my life, a constant onslaught of school, extracurriculars and a job that all leave me exhausted. Most days, there are things that don’t get done, dishes that don’t get cleaned, texts that go unanswered and assignments that sit waiting to be completed until the night before they’re due. This is the backdrop of my life, as I sit down to write a weekly column about sex. The truth is, since moving to Berkeley, I’ve had very little of it. Despite my best efforts, there seem to be a thousand other commitments that constantly need more attention than any carnal desire my own body might possess. 

Moments of release and embrace have gotten fewer and farther between as the weeks go on. What once began as a relationship consumed by sex has now become overwrought with the responsibilities of adulthood. Whereas we once had all the time in the world, during a pandemic that seemed as if it would never end, these days I am begrudgingly pulled outside far more often than I would like, leaving very little time for much else. 

As a transfer student, I am torn between school and work, and as a partner, I am torn between those and my girl. While for many college students sex is a pathway to self-discovery, for me (and many transfers like me) it’s low on the list of priorities. This is not to say I don’t have it at all, or that I don’t enjoy it immensely, only to say that it’s far less frequent than it used to be. 

It isn’t necessarily that sex is the most important part of a long-term relationship, but it’s certainly a way to find connection in a world teeming with distractions. The busier I get, the more I find myself disconnected from my home, my relationship and myself. I prioritize the immediate demands of my life and leave the less immediate calls by the wayside. It’s become near impossible to find time to just exist in my own skin. As my partner and I drown in work, connecting has been a difficult endeavor. 

Part of me cannot help but wonder if this is what getting older is: a constant sacrifice of a personal life in pursuit of accomplishments. As I enter into the years of my life where my career and academic success are at the forefront of my mind, sex feels more like a frivolity than ever. Only when every other box is checked am I able to slip out of the role of student, worker or writer, and into the role of lover. 

Often, I felt like a failure and worried that my relationship was suffering as a result of the numerous other commitments I had taken on. I tried to remember that this is natural and that by devoting myself to my life outside of our apartment I was laying the groundwork for a prosperous future for us both. But when the sun goes down, I could not help but feel the guilt nipping at my ankles. 

Last week, I decided that things needed to change. All it took was three weeks without sex (and more than a few missed assignments) to show me that something had to give. At the rate that I was going, nothing (including my relationship) was sustainable. Through teary eyes, I texted my boss that I needed to put in my two weeks. Almost instantly, a weight lifted from my shoulders and I felt my breath return to my body. 

Slowly, I’m learning that getting older isn’t about taking on more than you can chew, it’s about choosing the most important meals. Now that my plate is cleared (at least on the weekends) I’m able to savor every bite of both school and my girl, and gloriously return to bed. 

Cassandra Branch writes the Tuesday column on sex. Contact the opinion desk at [email protected] or follow us on Twitter @dailycalopinion.