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To All The Plans We Made For ‘When This Is All Over’ And Are Now Desperate To Cancel

Once upon a time, the concept of leaving your house and actually doing something — anything — seemed absurd. Sure, we used to be well-versed in the art of rallying all weekend, our false lashes hanging on for dear life. But once the pandemic hit and everyone and everything shut down, we got realllll comfortable with the fact that not going anywhere was kinda… nice?

So, for over a year we’ve all just been sitting inside with our vibrators, ordering way too much food and begging our exes not to change their Netflix passwords. Other than that week or so when the world seemingly discovered Zoom and you had to go to virtual happy hours with everyone you know, plans were just a far-off, abstract idea. We agreed to anything because honestly, it wasn’t like it was actually going to happen.

Except now that more and more people are getting vaccinated, seeing friends and family once again is becoming a reality. Which is great… except for the fact that you made a lot of bullsh*t plans with a lot of bullsh*t people that you have absolutely no intention on keeping. Here’s what you agreed to, and a few ideas for getting out of this mess: 

10. Drinks With Your Coworkers

For over a year you’ve been working on your couch, but after the company-wide email went out saying everyone was expected back in the office, the invites started rolling in. Happy Hour! Team Building! Draaaaanks! Whether you like your coworkers or they’re pesky annoyances you try to forget exist after you log off at 5pm, the barrage of “let’s go out after work” invites are a given as soon as the world opens back up. Back when you replied to those requests while sitting at home with acne cream on your face, it didn’t feel like they would actually happen. But now that the time is here here, you’re realizing you might actually have to interact outside of work with these people after not physically seeing them for over 12 months.

How To Get Out Of It: You can’t really. You work together. You sh*t in the same room. You can put it off as long as possible, but eventually, you’ll have to give in and go out with them. Sure it sucks, but out of all the “plans” you made, it’s the least offensive. Just make sure to schedule it on a day you have a time restraint (“one drink because I have to help my neighbor? with her printer??”) so you can down your vodka soda and peace TF out ASAP. It’s that or quit your job, so like, the choice is yours.

9. Brunch With Your Frenemies

Did you love them pre-covid but after seeing their idiotic IG posts for the past year you’re over them, or have they always been a little sh*tty? Chances are you have a few toxic friendships that need to be scrubbed, but that didn’t stop you from making “when the pandemic is over” plans with those a-holes. Now that things are “normal,” they expect you to join them for carbs and complaining. It’s not that you hate them, it’s just that you realized life was maybe better without them?

How To Get Out Of It: Unless you’re ready to cut this group loose, they’ll eventually guilt you into brunching. Wear your biggest sunnies so they can’t see your eye rolls and chose a spot with bottomless mimosas. If you’re going to endure a few hours with the friends you low-key despise, you might as well be wasted for it.

8. Dinner With That One Annoying Couple

Whether you’re coupled up or expected to third wheel, you keep getting invites from that one couple you can’t seem to shake. Perhaps they’re college friends who turned corporate or your friend and her obnoxious boyfriend, but the duo just won’t take the hint that the idea of breaking bread with them makes you want to die. Sure, you could just keep bailing, but if there’s any part of you that wants/needs to keep that relationship afloat, you know it’s only a matter of time before they choose a pretentious restaurant and expect you to give them a bite of your entree.

How To Get Out Of It: It’s honestly kind of embarrassing that they haven’t figured out you don’t want to hang, but that’s a prime example of why they’re so frustrating to be around. Still, if they’re true friends who turned lame, a coworker you can’t ignore, or a pal you love with a partner you hate, you don’t want to totally jeopardize things. Luckily, claiming to be on a strict diet might be the key to getting out of a meal. Say you’re working with your doctor and can’t eat X, Y, and Z, so dinner is out. Promise to reconnect once your cholesterol (wink) is at a healthy level (wink, wink), and just make sure not to post your drunchie food the next time you have a fry craving.

7. Partying With Your Old High School Pals

When you were stuck in your tiny apartment with no one to talk to other than your house plants, you found yourself reconnecting with your old friends from school. Ancient pictures resurfaced, memes were sent, and after your ten-year high school reunion got canceled, you all agreed that you needed to get together ASAP. Now that ASAP is here, you realize you’d rather leave the past in the past and keep those relationships where they belong: in high school.

How To Get Out Of It: Unless you live in your hometown (my condolences), timing and scheduling are on your side here. I mean, what are the odds that all of you will agree on a weekend, book flights, and get together? Slim. So the only real option is to meet up around the holidays, but after a year of family events were canceled, your parents are officially your “get out of plans without looking like a total dick” card. Say you’d love to get together and then once you’re in town, throw your family under the bus with “my mom keeps guilting me” or “grandma forgot to tell us she was coming by for dinner.” It sucks but, you know, they’re family *humble shrug.*

6. Coffee With Your Internet Friend

Whether she’s a friend of a friend who slid into your DMs or you connected in a Facebook group and started chatting, you’ve officially landed yourself an internet pal. One thing led to another and a few casual conversations became a passing plan of meeting up IRL after Covid. Which means you agreed to go awkwardly hang out with a stranger whose messages you sometimes ignore because the idea of actually being able to leave your house someday sounded less ludicrous than going on a platonic first date with a social media rando.

How To Get Out Of It: It really sucks to be ghosted, but that’s the beauty of social media. If the person has no ties to you, stop answering/opening their messages or even go so far as to block them. There’s probably a reason you don’t actually want to meet up with them. If, however, they run in your circle or there’s the possibility of seeing them again, you might want to be a little less bitchy. Keep putting off the actual coffee date until they get the hint, or destroy their spirit and tell them you’re not that into an IRL relationship with them. The truth hurts, but at least then they’ll stop sending you TikToks you’ve already seen.

5. Shopping With An Acquaintance

Is she a friend? Sort of. Do you know her middle name? No. Do you genuinely enjoy spending time with her? Also no. But again, she’s sort of a friend and somehow you both landed on the idea of getting together to go shopping. Like, in public. Back when you agreed to the idea, the thought of perusing shelves instead of Amazon sounded so absurd, you said yes without thinking because it wasn’t like it was ever going to happen. But alas, stores are open, you’re both vaccinated, and she’s trying to schedule a time to get together. Even though you’ve never hung out with her 1-on-1 (and never really had the desire to TBH), she seems determined to spend an afternoon shuffling around stores and making forced small talk.

How To Get Out Of It: This is a tricky one. On one hand, you don’t want to go shopping with this person. On the other hand, ghosting feels like a non-option, especially if they’re friends with your other friends. Say you’re trying to save money, turn the shopping date into drinks, and drown out the awkwardness with shots and sh*t-talking. Everyone knows the pathway to a new bond is paved with bottom-shelf liquor and newfound mutual hatred.

4. Manis With Your Mother-In-Law

It’s been a long year, but one of the very few perks was getting out of those obligations with the in-laws. Unless you love the family you married into (liar), the thought of spending some extended 1-on-1 time with your MIL is probably causing you some serious angst. You’d humor her calls and texts and gushed about how you couldn’t wait to get together with her, but now that she’s vaccinated, it’s clear this wasn’t idle chitchat. She’s sending you nail design Pinterest boards, photos of cats in salon chairs, and is continuously asking your S.O. why you won’t call her back. Did you not get her seven-minute voicemail?

How To Get Out Of It: I don’t think there’s anything worse than getting your nails done with someone you don’t like chatting with. You’re just sitting there for a very extended period of time with nothing to do other than talk. You can’t bring a book or scroll social without looking like an asshole, but you’re 100% certain you’ll run out of stuff to talk about before the clippers even come out. The only way to get out of this is to say you’re not visiting the salon due to health concerns (Mold? Germs? Covid still? You decide), and would rather just paint your nails the next time you get together. Grab a few bottles of the fastest dry polish you can find and tell you S.O. to stay in the room while you give your MIL the sloppiest mani ever. She’ll feel like she’s getting that mother-daughter bonding moment and as long as you have some polish remover to get rid of the lime green mess she made on your hand, you’ll be set.

3. The Cross-Country Visit To See The Friend You Talk To Once A Year

Around the time when everyone was Zooming each other for happy hours, game nights, and *gasp* virtual bachelorette parties, you casually reconnected with an old friend who went MIA after moving away post-college. When she left for work (or was it to follow her boyfriend’s work? Wait, does she still have a boyfriend?) you both promised to keep in touch, but that quickly went to sh*t when real life got in the way. With covid, however, you had the chance to drunkenly DM, and now she’s wondering when you’re going to come see her and her new baby, whose name is escaping you at the moment.

How To Get Out Of It: There’s nothing worse than being roped into an expensive trip you don’t actually want to take (looking at you, bridal showers, weddings, and baptisms), but luckily, this one is fairly easy to get out of. There’s a good chance she doesn’t actually expect you to pack a bag and take a four-hour flight to see her, but if she does, hit her with a “times are hard, sh*t is expensive.” It’s not technically a lie because last I checked, times are hard and sh*t is expensive. If that doesn’t work, offer to host her at your home instead, and hope to God she too, decides to flake.

2. Toxic Weekend Retreat With Your Estranged Family

Awww! Your aunts, uncles, and cousins were so sad you didn’t see them this year, but they get it! You’re just a liberal sheep who believes in science. Even though they all masklessly got together numerous times, you were easily able to opt out. Now that you’re vaccinated and slowly starting to post bar pics on Insta, your family is making it clear that they’re dying to see you so they can ask you probing questions, question the validity of your job, and gaslight you into oblivion. You know, like the good old days!

How To Get Out Of It: Extended family is super tricky because, on one hand, they’re family. But on the other hand, you disagree with them about everything, and you honestly don’t even know how to spell half of their names. The problem is, no matter how sh*tty sitting around a cabin with people who still call you “kiddo” sounds, you kind of have to go unless you want to get written out of the will look like a dick. The only way to get out of it is to fake a work trip or wedding and make it clear how sad you are to be missing the big reunion. Sure they’ll talk sh*t about you, but what else is new?

1. Accomplishing Those Lofty Personal Quarantine Goals

 

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Sure, you made a lot of plans with a lot of people during the pandemic, but what about the plans you made for yourself? You know, the mission to really concentrate on your health during quarantine? Or what about the novel you were going to write? Or that new job you were going to get? Weren’t you supposed to have abs by now? You made a lot of promises to yourself and now that the excessive amount of “you time” is coming to an end, it’s clear: You didn’t accomplish sh*t.

How To Get Out Of It: Letting yourself down is the worst, but if you think about it really hard, did you actually think anything was going to change? I mean, after doing that ab video one time, did you ever try it again? And you went on LinkedIn once, but quickly left after seeing all the thirsty DMs from old men wanting to ~connect.~ Sure, you bought a lot of cute note pads to write in, but did inspiration ever strike? Nope. And while everyone else might not understand, at least you can cut yourself some slack for flaking.

Images: Autri Taheri / Unsplash; Giphy (9); betches / Instagram

Muting People Saved My Mental Health

For me, it all started with Myspace’s Top 8. In case you’re not in your mid to late twenties (b*tch), this was something we cave people were subjected to back in the early 2000s. On your Myspace page where you posted songs by the Black Eyed Peas and wrote your boyfriend’s name with a whole bunch of “<333333″s, you also ranked your favorite people on the platform. In order. For everyone else to see.

Now, your Top 8 wasn’t to be taken lightly. It was the space reserved for your BFF, your S.O., the popular girl you were trying to befriend, and your sibling who bullied you into putting them as number four. Got in a fight? Your frenemy got demoted or removed from the coveted section. Holding hands with someone new? They quickly got a spot on the leaderboard. It was the first big way to say “here’s who I like, here’s how popular I am, here’s how I’m judging others”, and we lapped that sh*t up.

When the Top 8 first started, it didn’t make me feel bad, exactly — it was more like a game. Find ways to level up, get on other peoples’ boards, gain virtual popularity. It wasn’t until my first serious boyfriend moved “Anna” (a random girl from one of his classes) in front of me that social media made me feel like a failure for the first (and definitely not the last) time in my life.

Myspace’s Top 8 was how I found out Tyler (name hasn’t been changed — hi, Tyler) was cheating on me (again, for the first, but not the last time). It led me on my first ever stalking spree, where I stared at photos of Anna, comments from Anna, likes by Anna all night, trying to figure out what she had that I didn’t (besides boobs). Trying to figure out why he wanted her when I was already in love with him. That night led me on a decade-plus long cycle of “feel inadequate, stalk, feel more inadequate, stalk.” It’s some sick, masochistic sh*t, and while I’d love to say that’s all changed in the 10 (okay, 12) years since I sat on my twin bed, crying to P!nk… uh, no such luck.

Social media has absolutely obliterated my self-confidence, my happiness, and my mental health. And it’s probably done some serious damage to yours as well.

Now, it’s pretty much common knowledge that social media is basically the devil. It’s addictive. It’s dividing. It leads to depression, anxiety, and unrealistic perceptions of beauty. It gives you sh*tty posture. But, in case you didn’t watch The Social Dilemma on Netflix like everyone else (which was probably suggested to you by a friend on, yup, social media), here’s the deal. From the National Center for Health Research:

“25% of 18-25-year-olds report having some form of mental illness. Depression is particularly increasing among girls. Some researchers have suggested that this increase in mental illness is, at least in part, connected to the rise of social media use among adolescents and young adults.”

Wait, there’s more. From Child Mind Institute:

“Teenage and young adult users who spend the most time on Instagram, Facebook, and other platforms were shown to have a substantially (from 13 to 66%) higher rate of reported depression than those who spent the least time … A 2017 study of over half a million eighth through 12th graders found that the suicide rate for girls increased by 65%.”

Last one for good measure, from McLean Hospital (affiliated with Harvard Medical School):

“In recent years, plastic surgeons have seen an uptick in requests from patients who want to look like their filtered Snapchat and Instagram photos.”

So yeah, social media is super bad, which is something you — just like I — probably already knew. But, much like tequila or texting exes, that hasn’t stopped any of us from continuing to pose, post, and peruse. And while once upon a time we had to log onto a computer and search for people to investigate, algorithms are now so smart, they decide who we stalk, when we scroll, and how long to keep us engaged.

It wasn’t until my wedding in 2018 that I actually realized how bad Instagram made me feel. After waltzing down the aisle, I quickly found myself jealous of engaged friends — total hater sh*t, I know. But after spending so long planning my own event, the post-wedding blues hit hard, and I hated seeing other people post their ring selfies and bachelorette photos. I was sad, I was uninspired, and I was jealous. So on a whim, I muted every single one of my engaged friends. Every. Single. One of them.

I didn’t want to unfollow or block them, because frankly, that felt too b*tchy, and besides, it’s not like I didn’t like them anymore. I just didn’t like seeing them so blissfully happy. I felt empty after spending months DIYing and pinning and being the center of attention. It wasn’t exactly rational, but their posts made me feel bad and instead of just continuing to feel bad, I decided to stop seeing their posts altogether. And just like that, my love of muting became a way of life.

After the engaged people came the girl in my friend group everyone else loved but I couldn’t stand. Then competitors in my field who always seem to be outpacing me. Then the really hot people. Then some of my best friends whose posts just kinda… annoyed me. I used to think muting someone was the ultimate “f*ck you,” but now I look at it as a means of self-preservation. I’m literally under no obligation to look at someone’s over-filtered picture. And just because I muted someone, it doesn’t mean I hate them IRL (unless, of course, I do). It just means their posts — at least at the moment — make me feel bad. So why not just stop looking at the thing that makes you feel like trash?

Nowadays I mute freely and without thought. Sometimes it’ll be just for a brief period of time and then eventually I’ll go back and unmute, and other times friends are muted for the long haul. It doesn’t really matter, because the worst case is I forget and I never unmute someone. And like, not to quote Kourtney or anything but, “there’s people that are dying” — not liking someone’s weight loss picture isn’t the end of the world. Ultimately, social media made me feel fat and lazy and untalented and jealous. Now, I’ve whittled down my timeline so it makes me feel, well, not good, but at least a little less horrible.

While it’s not a cure-all — muting is an avoidance tactic, and you need to do internal work to figure out why what you’re seeing makes you feel inadequate — it’s definitely a way to not only make social media more enjoyable, but take back a little control over what you view. It’s not a great idea to just stopping looking at things that make you feel uncomfortable altogether. It’s important to see differing political views and perspectives to form rounded opinions. But social media doesn’t have to be a way of life and if looking at your sorority sister’s abs a month after giving birth makes you feel sad, then bon f*cking voyage. Mute away.

Granted, deleting your social media accounts would probably make you feel the best and free you from the toxic cycle, buuuuuut if completely nixing your handles feels off-brand, editing your timeline is the next best thing. The next time you look at someone’s post and feel that pang of inadequacy, instead of spiraling down into a vat of self-pity, just mute them! Before long you’ll probably find that your self-confidence has risen and your screen time report is slightly less embarrassing. Win-win.

Images: Kate Torline/Unsplash; Giphy (3)

Is Premarital Pregnancy Trendy?

When I was a teenager and started hooking up with my first “totally wrong for me” boyfriend, the thing I was most afraid of was getting pregnant. I never messed around without condoms, and even then, I’d make him pull out every time just to be extra careful. It wasn’t due to the fact that my parents said they’d disown me if I got knocked up—I’m pretty sure we only had one awkward conversation about it in the car, and I’ve mostly blocked out the memory due to the sheer humiliation of it all. No, it was the way they talked about relatives who accidentally got pregnant or how my mom looked disappointed yet resigned when I asked to go on birth control at 17.

Even as I got older, went to college, and started getting my sh*t together, the implication was there: don’t get pregnant before you’re married. The reason, of course, was that my life would be over. Destroyed. I’d be a ~ruined woman.~ So, I used condoms, pulled out, and went on birth control that destroyed my libido and made me not want to have sex in the first place, all in an effort to avoid the dreaded pregnancy out of wedlock.

I put a lot of work into not getting pregnant, but now, as a married, professional (lol) woman in my late twenties who spends an ungodly amount of time scrolling through Instagram, I’m starting to wonder if that was the right choice. As my biological clock starts to tick, it makes sense why some women would decide to get pregnant despite not being married. Unless you’ve somehow managed to avoid all media for the past couple of years, there’s a good chance you’ve been privy to celeb pregnancy announcements. Kylie Jenner, Khloé Kardashian, Mindy Kaling, Emma Roberts, and Gigi Hadid are just a handful of the mommas out there who had a baby (or babies, in Mindy’s case) sans spouse. Granted, they are superstars who have money and the ability to hire people to help them. But it’s not just people who can make bank from one #SponCon who are bucking the “first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby with the baby carriage” norm. It’s regular people as well.

Despite the outdated taboo, a few friends of mine got pregnant and had babies before getting married, and at first, I didn’t think much of it. But then, I saw more and more women my age posting stunning bump pictures without a partner (or at least, without a ring) and dressing their babies up and casually chatting about shared custody or their happy unmarried family unit. When I saw my 10th announcement within a few months, I pulled a Carrie and couldn’t help but wonder: Is getting pregnant sans marriage… trendy?

As someone who went the “socially accepted/expected” path (college, marriage, house, maybe babies in the future), I can’t speak to the hows and whys of the influx of single moms, but it’s definitely not just an Instagram coincidence. Before the 1960s, premarital pregnancy was pretty f*cking rare, according to 2017 data from the United States Congress Joint Economic Committee. Back then, about 5.3% of births were to single ladies. Since then, however, births to unmarried women started climbing. In 2008, 40% of births were to unwed moms, and today only about 9% of those are followed up with a good old fashion shotgun wedding, as opposed to 43% back in the early ’60s.

So, the big question is: Why are millennials choosing to have children outside of marriage?

Basically? We don’t view marriage the same way our parents and grandparents did. “Previous generations viewed marriage as the first step of adulthood. Many millennials, however, look at marriage as one of the last milestones you get to after you are financially stable,” relationship therapist and coach Jaime Bronstein explains to Betches. “Since many millennials aren’t gaining that financial security at the peak of their child-bearing years, they feel like they should just have a baby regardless of their relationship status while they can.”

Baily, a 27-year-old mom of a 1-year-old, agrees. “In my grandma’s generation, you just did not get divorced. It was against the church. In my mom’s generation, everyone’s divorced,” she explains. “This generation isn’t bothering. I never grew up wanting to get married. I was never that girl. I don’t look at wedding dresses or rings online. I just wanted to be a mom one day.

Despite not being married (although she is in a serious relationship with her baby’s father), Baily’s decision to get pregnant wasn’t totally accidental. “I’d be lying if I said alcohol wasn’t involved,” she admits, “But I had very knowingly canceled my birth control subscription to eventually try. It just happened a lot faster than I thought.” Since she’s with a man eight years her senior who, she says, “was on an ‘I wanna be a dad kick,'” having a baby just made sense. 

Sarah, a 29-year-old regional sales manager, is currently 33 weeks along in her pregnancy and in a serious, committed relationship with her baby’s father. The mom-to-be agrees with Baily, saying, “I think as a society we are becoming less traditional as a whole. Part of the shift from tradition is making the decision to have a baby regardless of marital status.”

When it comes to her relationship, Sarah says, “My pregnancy has only strengthened our relationship. It’s been such a joy to watch him settle into fatherhood.” She adds, “It’s funny how things that once felt so major (like a wedding) seem so insignificant once you’re expecting a child together.”

For Adriane, a flight attendant with a 3-year-old son, it was the legal freedom that came with being unwed—as well as the chance to see how her S.O. handled the changes—that made her feel like it was the right decision. “You get to find out how your partner deals with stress and big life changes. Like a trial period,” she laughs.

“You can always cancel if you don’t like it,” Samantha, an unmarried mom of two, agrees. “You see everything about a person before you decide to spend your whole life with someone. I think that cuts down on your chance of divorce. If things don’t work out, it’s a lot easier to break up than to divorce, and that will be easier on your kids.”

And while the moms I talked to (all of whom have some level of post-secondary education) are in agreement that they made the right choice in having their children, being unmarried can add a level of uncertainty.

It’s easier to leave when you aren’t married, and that has been a worry of mine at times,” says mom of two, Jenn. “A new baby is tough. Especially postpartum when my hormones are crazy, and I’m a mess crying all the time… There is a lot of gross stuff that goes on during pregnancy and after you have the baby which your partner is going to see. It definitely made me nervous that maybe he wouldn’t find me attractive or sexy again after seeing my body change so much and seeing me in such a vulnerable position.”

Luckily for Jenn, her partner is proving to be as doting—if not more so—than the husbands of her friends, which is something Baily noticed as well. “Men can be very irritating, and I’m a big ‘I’ll just do it myself’-er. I luckily still have a lot of support,” she explains. “My boyfriend is great, and he’s such a great dad too. But I see my single friends managing just fine without a man.”

Baily and Samantha both feel the societal shift will continue to grow as women see close single friends and “everyday women” rear children without a spouse. Add in the fact that single influential celebrities are also having babies and the whole trend gains speed. 

“Celebrities have a large influence on the minds of impressionable individuals. Naturally, you compare yourself to those in the public eye and wonder if their reality can be your reality,” explains relationship expert Spicy Mari. As the female empowerment movement continues to push forward (about damn time, amiright?), there’s a good chance unwed pregnancy will continue to become more popular.

As women become more financially stable, they feel as though they don’t need to be married to gain the financial benefits they once needed that came along with marriage,” adds Bronstein.

Ultimately, every relationship is different. For some, a legally binding commitment will make them feel ready to have a child. While 60% of pregnancies still happen post-wedding, a growing amount of people just don’t need that sort of declaration. Whether you’re married or not, things like judgment from older generations and sticky logistics should the relationship not work out are factors to consider, but will probably come either way.

Anne*, a recently divorced mom of a 1-year-old, advises anyone thinking about getting pregnant, “to ask themselves: ‘Can I co-parent with this person if we don’t work out?’ and ‘Am I willing to see less of my child if we do end up co-parenting?'” She adds, “Obviously, that can happen if you get married. But married couples are more likely to work things out than couples who don’t have that commitment.” 

Ultimately, deciding you want to get pregnant in 2021 isn’t necessarily contingent upon being married, so you have to decide what’s best for you and your child. “Think about your personal pros and cons. Think about the meaning and purpose behind both,” advises Bronstein. “Everyone needs to do what is best for them.” There’s no wrong answer here, as long as you’re emotionally, physically, and financially ready to care for a child.

“A commitment is a commitment, and a baby is a HUGE commitment. Nothing says ‘you’re mine forever’ like literally creating a life together,” says Baily. “Don’t let government papers, a wedding dress, or bitchy bridesmaids dictate how old your kids will be when you’re 40 on a cruise ship drinking margs, and they’re all off to college already.” We’ll cheers our mocktails to that. 

*Name has been changed.

Images: Camylla Battani / Unsplash; Giphy (5)

11 Not-As-Mainstream Kinks You Could Be Into & How To Try Them Out

There comes a time in every person’s life when they suddenly realize their sexual preferences have changed. Just like music or food or Instagram filters, what you like in the bedroom (or the shower… or the floor…) can change over time. While it’s easy to sit back and select the same vibrator setting or run through the same positions with your S.O., there’s a chance you’ve come to the realization that what you once loved has gotten a little stale.

If you’re looking for new ways to get off, there’s a decent chance a kink is out there just waiting to award you with “I haven’t been this turned on since I was in high school and skipped gym class with my BF” level arousal. Before diving in, however, it’s important to note there’s a difference between a kink and a fetish. A kink is basically a sexual interest. It’s something that turns you on, but you don’t need it to get turned on. A fetish, however, is a sexual fixation, and it is imperative to arousal. To put it simply: All fetishes are kinks, but all kinks aren’t fetishes. And as long as you practice safely and consensually, there’s nothing wrong with either. 

“Communication is key,” says SKYN sex and intimacy expert, Gigi Engle. “An understanding and empathetic partner isn’t going to shame you for liking something out of the box.” So, if you’re looking for ways to kick things up a notch, here are some kinks you might actually like that don’t necessarily involve fuzzy handcuffs or leaving the house. Before trying out anything new, however, make sure all parties involved are in full agreement and take things slow. Sometimes half the fun is the anticipation of what’s to come next, after all…

1. Katoptronophilia

Although the name sounds extreme, the actual act isn’t as much. Katoptronophilia is a fetish for having sex or engaging in sexual activity in front of a mirror. Not to be all American Psycho, but there’s a reason mirrors on the ceiling are a thing: watching yourself get it on—whether alone or with someone (or someones) else—is majorly hot.

How To Test It Out: Position yourself in front of a full-length mirror or bathroom sink with your fave vibrator. Pay attention to your eyes, your expression, and your breathing. If you find yourself titillated, there’s a chance you’d love including a partner. Try out different positions, pay attention to different body parts, and play with your look before gracing your reflective stage. Luckily for you, mirrors are plentiful, and finding another reason to stare at yourself in them when your makeup looks good is definitely a win-win.

2. Exhibitionism

If putting on a show for yourself feels hot, there’s a chance putting on a show for others will feel even hotter, and exhibitionism is just that. Basically, it’s “sexual arousal at the idea or reality of being seen naked or engaged in sexual activities by others,” clinical sexologist Sarah Melancon, told Cosmopolitan. While non-consensual exhibitionism (think flashers) is illegal, consensual exhibitionism is fun for people who love being the center of attention.

How To Test It Out: Going to a sex club is pretty much an exhibitionist’s dream, but that could be hard to pull off if you’re in the middle of a pandemic or if you don’t feel like driving somewhere to have sex. Instead, something as simple as sending a scandy pic to your partner or dancing for them could give you a rush of endorphins. If you want to raise the bar, you could consider having sex in front of a secluded window (just make sure it isn’t facing someone’s house or a street/pathway), attending a virtual sex party (like a Zoom meeting but instead of talking to your boss, you get off in front of strangers) or even camming or posting on a site like Only Fans.

3. Voyeurism

Being the center of attention is one thing, but watching others is a whole other. Lots of people have hints of voyeurism lurking inside of them, and leaning into it safely and consensually can be the perfect way to experience something new. Since it’s the act of being sexually aroused by watching someone else have sex or engage in sexual activity, this is a pretty easy one to try at home. If you’ve ever found yourself aroused by porn or even a steamy sex scene in a movie, voyeurism could be something to look into.

How To Test It Out: Luckily for all of us voyeurs out there, this is a pretty easy itch to scratch. The porn industry is huge and half the fun is exploring. Go down rabbit holes and check out different categories. If you want to feel more involved, sites like Chaturbate have real people camming and taking requests, or you could always hit up a sex club (whether virtual or IRL) to watch others get it on.

4. Sploshing

No, the name doesn’t sound super appetizing, but the act certainly can be. In the simplest sense, sploshing falls under the umbrella fetish term “WAM” (wet and messy) which is the act of incorporating food into your sex life. It involves getting aroused by looking at or playing with large quantities of (usually messy) food. If you’ve ever been turned on by the idea of licking chocolate sauce off someone’s abs or getting covered in whipped cream, it could be a kink to explore.

How To Test It Out: You’ve seen movies (and that scene in Gossip Girl where Nate and Serena have sex in a fridge). Feeding each other strawberries is pretty much the epitome of romance, so sploshing is just taking it up a notch. Cover each other in chocolate or cream or sushi or sprinkles or hook up in a kiddie pool of Jell-O… just “be sure to have a cleanup plan in place,” notes Engle. And although some people like doing the messing, others like to have food smeared on them, so play around with what’s fun. Concentrate on textures, smells, and how the food feels on your skin. The best part? Eating during is highly encouraged.

5. Foot Fetish/Kink

It wouldn’t be a fetish/kink roundup without foot fetishes. In short, it’s just an attraction to feet or arousal caused by feet, and it’s actually one of the most common kinks. Since the feet have tons of nerve endings, they feel ahhh-mazing when touched and are also majorly symbolic (this is why lots of couples use feet washing in wedding ceremonies). Still, there’s a chance you haven’t explored the world of foot-induced arousal yet. The plus side is even if you learn it’s not your thing, there’s a chance you’ll have a pleasurable time finding out.

How To Test It Out: One of the easiest ways to see if feet set off your arousal is through massage. Grab some oil and massage it onto your feet (or ask your partner to, if they’re down), concentrating on the arch, in between the toes, and the heel. If you want to dive in deep, things like sucking on toes or massaging genitals with (clean) feet are some other ways to play. There are also a plethora of foot fetish videos out there from foot jobs (think handjobs, but with feet) to just looking at pretty toes, so dig your heels in and explore.

6. Hand Fetish/Kink

As it turns out, body part fetishes are fairly common. And while your mind might initially jump to foot fetishes, hand fetishes are also an important one to note. Basically, a hand fetish or kink is being attracted to hands, whether it’s the whole hand, the fingers, interacting with hands, or watching someone’s hands in action.

How To Test It Out: Just like with an attraction to feet, an attraction to hands can be stimulated pretty much the same way. From hand massages to pictures to online videos, you’re in luck because almost everyone around you has a hand or two to look at. If you’re trying out the kink solo, consider giving yourself a sensual manicure (think candles and oils) or perusing YouTube for some videos to get your juices flowing.

7. Sensation Play

Odds are you already engage in some sensation play, but learning more about the different types and testing them out is a great way to clear the cobwebs out from your libido. The umbrella term refers to a wide variety of activities, all involving different sensations. Things like temperature play (running an ice cube across bare skin), sensory deprivation (utilizing a blindfold or gag), impact play (think whips and clamps), and even things like tickling and biting all fall in this category. It’s basically a sexual activity that creates arousal in response to withholding, giving, or receiving different types of sensory stimuli,

How To Test It Out: In addition to using ice cubes and blindfolds as mentioned above, feather ticklers, scalp massagers, and even ben wa balls (yup, like you read about in Fifty Shades), are other ways to experience sensual sensations. Many people practice this as foreplay or during sex, so whether or not you’re engaging with a partner, play around with different props and at different times during your session.

8. Wax Play

Yes, candles are awesome for setting the mood and wasting your paycheck on, but they’re also key to a pretty big kink. Wax play involves pouring hot wax on someone (or getting hot wax poured on you). Oftentimes, the wax is dripped on sensitive areas such as genitals, nipples, or the belly. Also, there are candles that turn into massage oil, which means you can have your wax play and a massage too. While this can fall under the “sensation play” umbrella, the fact that it gives you the chance to go on a candle shopping spree is reason enough for it to get its own highlight.

How To Test It Out: Testing out wax play is pretty straight forward. You’ll want to make sure to get candles made for skin (which usually burn less hot) and to be extra careful since, you know, a real flame is involved. When playing, mess around with drip speeds and areas of the body to see what feels best. “I recommend having the receiving partner wear a simple blindfold,” suggests Engle. “It ups the anticipation and sensation.”

9. Cuckolding

For some, seeing your partner with someone else is a nightmare, but for others, it’s a major turn-on. A cuckolding kink or fetish is the act of being turned on by watching your partner get it on with someone else. Although the term is masculine (and usually refers to a male watching his partner with another male), women can be into the kink as well. In fact, a “cuckquean” is a woman who gets off by watching her partner with someone else. Oftentimes the cuckold or cuckquean is just a bystander, but they can be consensually mocked during play.

Even though it all seems a bit advanced, here’s an easy way to figure out if it’s something you’re interested in: Does the thought of consensually watching your partner interact sexually with someone else sound kinda hot? If so, you might get something out of cuckolding—just make sure to take things slow and use LOTS of communication.

How To Test It Out: Since this is a pretty extreme kink that can bring up a lot of feelings of jealousy, you’ll want to talk about your feelings through every step and always be on the same page. “Don’t jump into bringing someone into the room—start with fantasy,” suggests Engle. “You can watch cuckolding porn together or maybe talk dirty, centering the talk around another person being there. Again, fantasy can eclipse reality in some cases, and it’s very important to be absolutely sure everyone is comfortable and on board with this before trying it IRL.”

10. Erotic Humiliation

Oftentimes erotic humiliation goes hand in hand with cuckolding since it’s pretty much exactly as it sounds: Being consensually humiliated during sex or sexual activity. This can range wildly from calling your partner names to a consensually “forced” cuckold situation. A good example is the scene in Sex and the City when that guy calls Charlotte a “f*cking b*tch, f*cking whore.” If the idea of being called names in bed sounds hot, consensual humiliation might be up your alley.

How To Test It Out: A good place to start if you want to try erotic humiliation is with your words, like a more hard core version of dirty talk. Chat with your partner about words, phrases, or topics you think you’d enjoy being used in a taunting manner and ones that are off-limits. If something’s said that you don’t like, speak up ASAP and take some time to evaluate how you feel after a session, advises Engle: “Communication is lubrication.”

11. Orgasm Control (Edging)

Orgasm control or edging is one of those sex tips you’ve probably heard of but didn’t understand the fuss. It’s all about, well, controlling an orgasm. “Edging is one of my favorite sex hacks of all time,” admits Kenneth Play, an international sex educator and hacker. “When you get the body almost to the place of no return, it will awaken your spidey senses to feel more pleasurable sensations.”

This ranges from your partner telling you (or vice versa) when you can and can’t orgasm (or utilizing restraints to keep from being able to control movement and thus an orgasm) to edging, which is where you’re brought to the brink of orgasm but right before the big climax, the stimuli is removed. After a brief cooldown, the cycle starts again. This is great for those looking to last longer or just want more of those explosive orgasms you’ve read about in erotic novels.

How To Test It Out: All you need to experience edging is a partner, a hand or your favorite vibrator, and some uninterrupted alone time. Once you get close to orgasm, stop, cool down, then start again. Repeat this process until you can’t stand it anymore and get ready to have your world rocked again and again and again.

“While it’s important to communicate your needs, wants, and desires, even if they seem strange to you at first, it’s equally important to listen and respect your partner’s requests without judgment,” Taylor Sparks, erotic educator and founder of Organic Loven, tells Betches. “There’s a common saying in the kink community: ‘Don’t yuck on other people’s yum.’ Just because it is not something you would enjoy doesn’t mean you get to pass judgment because they wish to explore it in a safe space with you.” While that doesn’t mean you have to try everything your partner wants (consent goes both ways), it does mean you need to be respectful.

What it all comes down to is that this is supposed to be fun. “Embrace the awkward. You’re a newbie!” says Play. “This is not the time to put extra pressure on yourself. How good you are at the start of something does not dictate how good you can be at something.” Whether you’re smearing icing on your partner’s body or have some good old-fashioned missionary, as long as you have safe, consensual fun and snag a few orgasms on the way, it doesn’t really matter how you get there. 

Images: Artem Labunsky / Unsplash; Giphy (4)

New Study Shows Hinting That You Want To Get Engaged Is Normal AF

As the short work week winds down and spiked eggnog for breakfast takes over, there’s one thing on the minds of not-yet-engaged gals: “Will this be the holiday season that I finally get a ring?” Even though the pandemic is putting weddings on the backburner, engagements are not slowing down just because we’re stuck at home. If you’re finding yourself getting more and more desperate with your not-so-subtle “I want to get engaged” hinting tactics, you’re not alone. According to a recent study conducted by, well, us and WeddingWire, lots of people are giving their partner little nudges that they want that ring.

We teamed up with WeddingWire to conduct the #DropAHint Study to see if we were the only ones who’ve been hinting about being ready for a proposal since like, the first date. Over 500 women aged 18-29 from around the U.S. revealed how they’ve been letting their S.O.s know they’re ready for the next step. “We’ve seen that many of our audience members aren’t shy when it comes to letting their partners know exactly what type of rings they want and when they want to get engaged,” said Aleen Kuperman-Dreksler, CEO and co-founder of Betches.

So, behold: Literal proof you’re not insane for changing your S.O.’s screensaver to a picture of the engagement ring you want. Or at least, you’re not like, more insane than the rest of us.

Hint Like Your Engagement Depends On It

Basically, the #DropAHint Study looked at how directly (or indirectly) couples share their proposal and/or engagement ring preferences with their partners, and it’s eye-opening, to say the least. Of the couples surveyed who have already gotten engaged or married, 35% said they discussed the proposal in advance. From TikTok wish lists to Pinterest boards to casually mentioning ring preferences and even repeating the words “engagement rings” into their partner’s phones for ads, these hint methods are getting majorly clever.

As for how often people are hinting, in a recent Betches Brides poll over 60% said they plan to drop hints weekly to monthly. In total, about 0ne-third expect to drop more than 15 hints before they’re actually proposed to, which means gone are the days of silently suffering for years while your lazy S.O. takes his or her sweet-ass time.

Talking About The Proposal Is Normal

While hinting you want to get engaged is one thing, outright saying it is another. And according to our study, it’s actually super common (not to mention mature. Healthy communication and coming to a mutual decision that you both want to get married? Yes, please). Out of the people who envision themselves getting engaged within the next few years, 72% said they’ve already discussed it with their partner and 39% have even chatted about what their future wedding might look like.

When it comes to the actual proposal, 14% say that know exactly how and where they want it to take place, so if you have every detail planned in your mind, don’t feel absurd. Just make sure to talk to your partner and/or adjust your expectations so you’re not disappointed if it doesn’t go down exactly how you dreamed.

Talking About The Ring Is *Also* Normal

 

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Going hand in hand with an engagement is the ring, and the majority (over 70%) want some bling included in the proposal. Of those, 25% know exactly what they want their ring to look like and 20% have already hinted at their preferences (and 21% say they plan to hint before their S.O. gets down on one knee). And while there are a lot of components to an engagement ring, the most popular to hint at are style and setting (55%), cut (51%), size/carat (48%), and color (39%). Additionally, 38% have dropped hints about what they don’t want. Taking it a step further, 25% have decided to have open, honest conversations about what they want in a ring and have outright told their S.O.s as well as shown them pictures.

The Holidays = Engagement Season

If you’re trying to figure out when, exactly, you might get engaged (if you’re not part of the group that already has it all planned out, that is), it looks like “engagement season” is shifting. In fact, according to the wedding pros, there’s a chance you might find a ring wrapped under the tree or presented to you in celebration of the New Year.

“Although some may think spring or summer are the most popular times for engagements, according to the 2020 WeddingWire Newlywed Report, seven out of ten of the most popular days to propose are in December, with Christmas Day, Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day ranked as the three most popular,” Jeffra Trumpower, senior creative director at WeddingWire told Business Wire. Whether it’s all the engagement ring ads that run during the holidays or just that fact that you’ve been stuck together for nine months and have been hinting endlessly, there will definitely be a proposal surge at the end of 2020 and the start of 2021.

TL;DR: Hinting Is Not A Bad Thing

The point is, waiting around for the person you’re dating to decide whether or not you should get married is, frankly, absurd. This is 2020, and while the world is basically one giant dumpster fire, that doesn’t mean your relationship has to be. If you think you’re ready to get married, that’s a decision you and your partner can make together. It’s fair for you to talk to your S.O. about wanting to make things official. In fact, it’s worked for at least 35% of responders. They talked about proposal preferences prior to getting engaged and now they’re all happily in love with rings on their fingers.

When it comes to your relationship, your engagement, and your marriage, the only thing that matters is it works for you as a couple. Whether that means you quietly wait for a proposal, hint like your life depends on it, collaboratively talk about it, or bypass the whole engagement and elope on the spot, as long as it feels authentic to your relationship, it’s the right move. Now, bring on the holiday proposals and filtered ring shots, because it’s beginning to look a lot like engagement season.

Images: Zelle Duda / Unsplash; Giphy (3)

Weddings Aren’t Going Back To Normal In 2021—Here Are The Trends To Expect

By now, we all know COVID-19 just like, majorly sucks. And while everyone was all “2020 is the worst,” things aren’t going to magically improve as soon as the new year hits. Distributing a safe vaccine will take a while, and experts agree: Unfortunately, 2021 weddings aren’t going to look like the weddings of the past. In fact, according to lead wedding pros, it’s time to reframe your mindset.

“Change is never easy, especially when it comes to altering one’s visions for a big milestone like a wedding. The idea of ‘normal’ weddings pre-COVID is unfortunately not what we will be seeing at weddings in the near future, but that doesn’t mean that they will be any less special—they’ll just be different,” Editor in Chief of The Knot, Kristen Maxwell Cooper, tells Betches. 

While that’s just about the worst news ever, there is a glimmer of hope: The projected 2021 wedding trends are actually things past brides will be jealous of. Here’s how the top wedding experts suggest making your 2021 wedding the talk of group texts, but not in a “does she not realize there’s a pandemic” kind of way. 

1. Welcome Boxes & Send-Off Kits

Image: Liz BanfieldLovestruck Events 

It looks like welcome bags are a thing of the past, especially now that there are more essentials needed for guests attending weddings. “We anticipate seeing couples lean into fun and functional items that guests can use throughout the evening, like customized, beautiful face masks and personalized hand sanitizer that tie into the couple’s overall aesthetic and theme for the evening,” Jeffra Trumpower, senior creative director at WeddingWire, tells Betches. “With health and safety being top of mind, we also suggest couples take the presentation of favors into consideration and package them individually for each guest rather than have them in a communal basket.”

In addition to health essentials, adding personal touches to the boxes is a great way to make guests feel included. Think things like symbolic snacks, small games, and (of course), alcohol. Have the boxes waiting for guests in their hotel rooms or at their reception seats as a reward for not bailing on your wedding. Shade intended.

2. Tented Spaces

Images: SMS Photography; Trenholm Photo

Couples have to face the reality that indoor venues miiiiiight not be the best move for the foreseeable future, so one of the most romantic and adaptable solutions is utilizing tents. Open-air but still covered, experts agree tented ceremonies and receptions will basically become the new must-have. “Couples are leaning into nature and fresh air in ways they did not in the past,” planner and designer Jove Meyer told The Knot. “In 2021 and moving forward, outdoor weddings will be on-trend as they’re also safer for guests and vendors. Tented weddings are the new ballroom.” Extra bonus: With lighting, drapery, twinkly lights, and maybe even some fog if you’re feeling that dramatic vibe, tented events are easily some of the most stunning to attend, and that was a fact even prior to COVID.

3. Elevated Virtual Components

 

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The fact that the term “virtual wedding” is a thing is something no one would have predicted a few years ago, but in the time of coronavirus, virtual components are pretty much the bread and butter of modern weddings. Pre-pandemic, couples were leaning more into tech-based elements such as online invitations and RSVPs, as well as decked-out websites and purchased domain names. Now, things are even more extreme. As for how to make your Zoom wedding a little more celebratory and a little less like another meeting people have to attend, both pros suggest leaning on your vendors to come up with ideas. A few of their faves, however, are to send guests a cocktail recipe or mixing kit for celebratory toasts everyone can do together or a dessert they can munch on throughout the celebration. Additionally, consider adding some ways to allow virtual guests to interact with each other, like an online cocktail hour. 

“Add a virtual waiting room or lounge for guests to mingle prior to the start of the festivities or ask guests to stay on at the end to share well wishes for you to listen to after the celebrations,” suggests Maxwell Cooper. “With a video conferencing platform, couples can also task some guests to participate in readings during the ceremony or to offer toasts at the start of the reception.”  No, it’s probably not what you dreamed about when you were little, but it’s an easy way to make those who can’t attend feel included (and will guarantee you more gifts).

4. Tiny Toasts

With smaller guest lists filled with your ultimate VIPs, there’s more time and capability to allow for more wedding day toasts. While speeches are usually just reserved for the maid of honor to cry and the best man to make some awkward comments about the groom’s dating history, the wedding pros at The Knot predict that “tiny toasts” will be a thing. Which is basically just more people talking. If you plan to implement this at your event, consider getting toast requests ahead of time and/or capping them at a time limit you feel comfortable with to avoid potential droners who just wanted an excuse to hold a mic. 

5. Single-Tier & Mini Cakes

Images: Erin Hannum; Jenny Fu

Since the idea of everyone crowding around a cake, breathing their gross germs all over it while the couple awkwardly feels forced to shove bite-sized pieces into each others’ mouths was kinda gross even before corona times, experts expect this tradition to change slightly in 2021. While the faux cake fight might still be a thing, serving guests from one giant pastry probably won’t be. Instead, expect to see mini cakes which will be served to guests just as cake slices would be, brought directly out from the kitchen. These cakes can range from ornate with multiple tiers or more minimalist and single-tiered depending on the budget. Either way, one thing’s clear: Mini cakes are not only hella cute, but it looks like they’re the new trend that’s here to stay. 

6. Bold Decor

Image: Irina Ventresca Photography

With fewer guests in attendance, the pros are expecting couples to go even bigger by way of details and utilizing things like exaggerated floral arrangements, lighting displays, and even in the outfits themselves. “Big, bold decor and fashion choices will be front and center for couples and their guests in 2021 weddings,” explains Trumpower. After scratching off 3/4 of your guest list, there’s a good chance you’ll have room in your budget for something absurd you would have had to pass on before, like a custom neon sign, ice sculpture, or horse-drawn carriage. While it might not be the best use of the money you saved on having a smaller wedding, the fact that the photos will make everyone jealous is totally worth it.

7. Mismatched Seating & Living Room Vibes

Image: Koby Brown

Considering more and more couples will be scaling back their events, having a wedding at their/their parents’ homes is not only less stressful, but it perfectly leans into new trends. Mismatched seating and ~living room style~ aesthetics are becoming all the rage for 2021 weddings, so things like couches, lounge furniture, pillows, and throw blankets are expected to be mainstays for future celebrations. This style not only looks bomb in photos but makes the event feel even more intimate and romantic. Plus, if you picture a boho wedding (real talk: who isn’t picturing a boho wedding in 2021?), there’s a good chance you already had this look saved in some random Pinterest board, so win-win.

8. Unique Venues & Activities

 

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With smaller guest counts, couples are now able to get more creative with not only the venues they choose, but also the course of the event. Expect more weekend-style retreat weddings, where the ceremony takes place outside a large cabin and the celebration includes things like a welcome event, pre-wedding s’mores around a fire, and maybe even a day-after group hike. If that sounds like your own personal hell, the options are pretty much limitless since microweddings are much more adaptable. “Couples are having, in particular, ceremonies at unique places that traditionally could not host a larger crowd or event. Take advantage of the smaller guest list and consider scenic and beautiful locations that were out of the question for 100 guests, but are now perfect for your party of 10.” Which means a mini castle tucked away in an isolated town is now totally fair game.

9. Cocktail Hour for One

Passed apps, buffet-style dining, and station meals are less likely to be seen due to safety advisories, and in their place, plated meals and seated cocktail bites are expected to become the norm. While part of me doesn’t like the idea because there’s no way my individual charcuterie board will have enough cheese for my liking, at least people won’t be silently judging you as you head to the hummus table for the fourth time. Plus, just like mini cakes, mini cocktail bites will most likely be super cute and perfectly plated for a photo op.

In addition to limiting the trips to a buffet, eliminating milling around at the bar is another important factor for a Covid wedding. In place of lines at bars, couples will likely opt for things like “grab and go” stations where cans of wine, beer, and White Claw will be waiting, or have servers bring drinks to the tables much like a restaurant (just hopefully without the bill at the end).

10. Restaurant Vibes & Performances

Image: Eve Rox Photography 

Another win for changes made during Covid weddings, the days of having a set number of people at a table and pairing together random folks to fill seats is officially over (praise be). Experts agree weddings are going to start looking less like a sloppy nightclub with a strange mix of attendees to more of a performance event—which will b e a good thing if grandparents are no longer subjected to the vocal stylings of Lil Jon & The East Side Boyz in their rendition of “Get Low.” Pairing friends, couples, and people who live together in bistro-style seating and hiring alternative entertainment like comedians, singers, or dancers instead of having a packed and not-so-safe dancefloor is going to be much more popular.

11. Nostalgic Elements

Image: Dezirae Webster of Dez’s Golden Moments

With more and more weddings taking place in family homes and peoples’ backyards, it makes sense couples would ditch the stuffy elements and lean into their own personal histories (which is much better, IMO). From showcasing memorabilia or pictures from their childhoods to ditching tiered cakes in favor of childhood treats, there are a lot of ways you can make nostalgia work for your wedding. “A fun spin we’ve seen couples put on dessert is to give a nod to nostalgic treats, like mini elevated homemade Pop-Tarts in a seasonal flavor or a fun—again, elevated—spin on personal Dunkaroos,” notes Trumpower. Nostalgic elements are only going to gain popularity, so now’s the time to burn your most embarrassing baby photos before your wedding planner gets his or her hands on them.

12. Bright Colors & Fierce Florals

 

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The days of seeing wedding party after wedding party in pale pinks and neutrals are coming to an end, and in its place, bold colors are going to be front and center for upcoming nuptials. “We’re seeing a general 1960s and 1970s nod to mod aesthetics from event decor all the way to attire. Couples are moving away from neutral color palettes, and we’re loving the ‘60s-inspired hues like chartreuse and peach and ‘90s rainbow-inspired color schemes,” explains Trumpower. In addition to colorful events, both pros agree florals are going to become even bigger for weddings (if that’s possible?), as their colors, scents, and overall “wow” factor will help fill out spaces and make any venue feel extra special.

13. Weekday & Brunch Weddings

With lots of 2020 couples choosing to reschedule their weddings to 2021, there’s 1000% going to be an uptick in weekday and Sunday weddings. While you might initially think “f*ck that,” there are some pros to opting for a weekday as opposed to a weekend. First of all, it’s way cheaper to have an event on a Monday than it is to have it on a Saturday. Secondly, while your A-list peeps will probably take off work to attend regardless, the B-list people probably RSVP “no,” which is what you hoped would happen in the first place.

As for how to pull off a non-weekend wedding, a mid-week dinner party-esque celebration or a Sunday brunch reception are a few of Trumpower’s favorite ways to do a wedding on less traditional days. While it might seem like a hassle, with a little extra planning (something 2020 couples are more than used to, unfortunately), the events will be just as great as weekend ones. “Those who are planning a weekday wedding shouldn’t be afraid to play around with the format of their events as the typical format (rehearsal dinner followed by the ceremony and reception the next day) may not work during the week,” notes Maxwell Cooper. “We recommend couples work with their wedding planner or venue coordinator to figure out the format that works best for them. The same goes with timing; if guests attending the weekday wedding will have work the next day or will have to travel long distances following the celebrations, having the festivities carry on late into the evening may cause some to head out early. By scheduling the celebrations a few hours earlier, they may be able to avoid this.”

At the end of the day, couples will need to be flexible when planning their 2021 weddings. Both pros suggest couples grieve their original plans but try not to be resistant to the way weddings look nowadays—the changes aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. But as Maxwell Cooper says: “These new visions, complete with hyper-personalized details, wow-worthy decor, unique entertainment, AND health protocols will keep loved ones safe and will generate excitement.”

While these changes might not be what you initially envisioned, it’s the whole “getting married” thing that matters. And besides, this just means everyone’s gonna have some majorly lit baby showers down the road which is something I, personally, could not be more excited about.

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Images: Victoria Priessnitz / Unsplash; Liz BanfieldLovestruck Events; MS Photography; Trenholm Photo; Erin Hannum; Jenny Fu; Irina Ventresca Photography; Koby Brown; Eve Rox Photography; Dezirae Webster of Dez’s Golden Moments; Giphy (3)

Don’t Be Mad At Guests For Not Attending Your Wedding

How about them 2020 weddings, huh? Thanks to the Virus That Must Not Be Named, celebrations of all kinds look different this year. With state regulations and new reports coming out each day about hotspots and sick celebs, it’s clear COVID is not only here to stay, but it’s here to f*ck with your big day for a long time as well. Because for couples getting married during a global pandemic, pre-wedding stress is at an all-time high.

Not only do engaged folks have to budget for things like gloves, makes, and hand sanitizer, but chances are they’ve had to postpone their events (multiple times, in some cases) and the end results don’t look anything like the celebration we all dreamed off since watching Bride Wars when we were in middle school. There are a lot of aspects that majorly suck, but one of the biggest is the fact that some of your closest friends or family might not get to be there on the big day.

Whether they’re high risk, morally opposed to big gatherings during a pandemic, or can’t risk catching anything due to work or their general love of being alive and not ill, odds are there will be a few VIPs who have to change their RSVPs from “hell yessss” to “uh, actually. No.” As someone who’s recently faced a lot of “you’re the worst” backlash after RSVPing “no” to every wedding in 2020 (with plenty advance notice, mind you—I’m not going texting the bride the day before saying I can’t make it), here’s how to deal when your guests decide that your big day just isn’t worth it rn.

Remember: There’s A Literal Pandemic Happening

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change the dates are the new save the dates. and sometimes they get sent out with hilarious photos like this one from #coronabride @ashleylaurenz

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Not to state to obvious here, but like, the whole coronavirus thing is still a big deal. As bars, restaurants, and sex clubs open back up, you have to remember: It’s not because we’re any safer. It’s because places need to make money. Your friends who are diligent about avoiding crowds, keeping their distance, and staying home when possible aren’t being dramatic. They just like, you know, want to stay alive and want to keep their friends and family alive and healthy. While it might seem like a personal affront for them not to risk their safety to watch you marry some guy you drunkenly met at a college bar, it’s not. It’s a literal matter of not wanting to catch or spread a potentially deadly disease. Keep that in mind before giving them the cold shoulder after they give you the news.

Keep Your Cool

Yes, your guests choosing not to go to your wedding is upsetting. But the thing is, they’re not wrong here. Having an event—any event of any size—is a risk right now. Your guests wanting to stay home aren’t in the wrong here. While people always have the option to RSVP “no” to weddings, the whole virus excuse is a really good one—and the fact that they’re courteous enough to (hopefully) politely tell you they can’t attend without lecturing you about safety practices is a win. Remember: They could send you pages of data about why having a wedding rn is risky, so consider yourself spared.

So, instead of bitching out your friends who don’t feel comfortable attending, trying to remain calm. Tell them you’re bummed but understand (assuming you understand, of course) and take some time to mourn. It’s a really hard time to be getting married, but creating strife in your relationships won’t make things any easier. Be kind and compassionate and chances are they’ll still send you a gift.

Offer Virtual Options

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& log off whenever you want. @disco_infern0

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I know Zoom weddings seem sooooooo summer 2020, but not only are they still a thing, but they’re a great option for guests who don’t feel comfortable celebrating in person. Make sure to set up virtual links so anyone who doesn’t feel great about being in crowds can still be a part of the big day. No, it’s not ideal, but as someone whose maid of honor couldn’t be at her wedding pre-COVID due to pregnancy complications, the event can still be just as special. Make cardboard cutouts of your non-attending VIPs. Set up multiple Skype stations that guests can access so they can see different parts of the party. FaceTime any besties who can’t make it as you’re getting ready.  This way you can still feel the love, and your guests can feel included from home.

Keep Your Priorities Straight

I know I’ve said this before, but if you’ve scrolled through Instagram, chances are you’ve seen people living their lives like a virus isn’t still running rampant through America. Yes, weddings are about dresses and flowers and attention, but mostly they’re supposed to be about marrying the person you love. Well, that and getting a KitchenAid mixer, of course. The point is, it sucks that this once-in-a-lifetime event is happening during a pandemic, but you still get to get married (something generations of people in interracial or same-sex relationships didn’t have the option of doing), you still have friends (unless you’re a total monster to everyone who says they can’t attend), and you’ll still get to rock that overpriced diamond band. If you can make it out of this with your relationships intact and your romantic bond strong, you’ll be able to get through anything.

Plan An Event Post-COVID

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not sorry. 🤷‍♀️ @nicolepellegrin0

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It won’t be the same as having the giant wedding you originally planned, but let’s be real: The world is going to look different after this. No one is used to going into an office anymore and we haven’t worn real pants in forever so like, yeah. That ship has sailed. With so many couples having to downsize their weddings, vow renewals or post-wedding parties are 100% going to be a thing in a year or two (just like how babymoons became something to do). If you shun everyone who didn’t come to your covid wedding now, you won’t have nearly the guest list you’d like when there’s a vaccine and you can have another party.

The point is: Yes, this sucks, but your friends aren’t bad people for not coming to your wedding rn. Don’t be a d*ck and hopefully, we can all go back to grinding on the dance floor to “Get Low” while our grandparents watch in horror someday soon.

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Image: Analise Benevides on Unsplash; betchesbrides / Instagram

A Professional Dominatrix Explains Everything You’ve Ever Wondered About BDSM

For me (and pretty much every other vanilla girl out there), it started with Fifty Shades. As soon as Ana tripped over the threshold of Christian’s office, the world was captivated by Mr. Grey and the world of Bondage, Discipline, Sadism, and Masochism (BDSM). Of course, it quickly became clear that their arrangement wasn’t a good representation of this lifestyle—in fact, it’s totally problematic. Still, as the coronavirus pandemic stripped me of happy hours and overpriced dinners, I dug out the dusty trilogy to revisit its scandalous world. This time, however, I found myself more interested in what the series got wrong, as opposed to the shoddy dialogue and unrealistic fact that Ana has a mind-bending orgasm while losing her virginity.

So, after a lot of wine-induced Googling, I found Mistress Rogue, a professional dominatrix (“dom” for short) whose brain I could pick regarding the series, her work, and what it means to be a part of the lifestyle. When I asked her about Christian Grey, her response summed up the entire community’s thoughts: “Oh, my God. Can you put that? That’s my quote,” she tells Betches. “It’s absolutely not accurate.”

While Fifty Shades might have completely missed the mark about what it means to be a dom (something most of us knew and ignorantly ignored), it turns out that the truth about the BDSM lifestyle is even more fascinating than the fiction. I asked Mistress Rogue all the questions you’ve had about BDSM so you don’t have to go down a Google rabbit hole.

What Does A Professional Dom Do?

According to Merriam Webster, a dominatrix is “a woman who physically or psychologically dominates her partner in a sadomasochistic encounter,” which is pretty much exactly what the job entails. While the profession isn’t only limited to women (men can be doms too), the gist of it is these pros are paid or agree to control someone, whether it’s for a short session or for a lifetime. Sometimes the control is mental, sometimes it’s physical, and yeah, sometimes it’s sexual. Sessions can involve anything from chains and whips to diapers and dog kennels, and sometimes, they don’t take place in person but revolve around money or diet control (where the dom says what you can or can’t buy, eat, or do).

Mistress Rogue, who has been been a professional, full-time dominatrix for three years, spent over 10 years learning about the lifestyle and immersing herself in the world of BDSM. She trained under Mistress Mercy, who is the Headmistress for the Miami-based Goddess Girls (a group with whom Rogue still collaborates), and she’s the founder and Head Mistress of The Dom House, a company home to multiple male and female doms (as well as a few apprentices and submissives). Now, she has a fully loaded dungeon in St. Petersburg, Florida where she caters to a wide variety of male, female, and nonbinary clients.

Why Do People Practice BDSM?

There are lots of reasons people incorporate dominance and submission into their lives, the biggest of which is the endorphin rush. While it might seem like BDSM is all about physical acts, it’s actually very psychological. The goal of a session is for the sub to reach “subspace”, which is a euphoric, meditative state. On the flip side, doms (including Mistress Rogue) experience the converse and aim to reach “domspace”.

While you might think, Well, I’ll just get a whip and tell my boyfriend to go to town, that’s actually not what it’s about. Not only can it be hard to figure out what exactly you like, but it can be even trickier to learn your limits, especially in the space of your relationship. This is where the pros come in. Almost like a form of therapy, “submission is about letting go,” Rogue says. “You don’t have to be in control. It’s a very healing act and some people just need it.”

What Are The Most Common BDSM Fetishes?

“Spanking,” she says. “Everyone wants to get spanked and everyone wants to get blindfolded and gagged and paddled.” It makes sense. Long before Christian and Ana visited the Red Room of Pain, spanking and hair pulling were among the more common practices seen even in vanilla sex. Chances are, Mistress Rogue probably has more whip choices beyond the joke one you got for your birthday.

Another popular demand she gets revolves around foot fetishes. Though it’s an arousal point she didn’t quite understand when she started out, she’s now a big fan. “Foot fetishes are very much about true submission. You walk all over things all day long, and then you get someone to worship at your feet beneath you. It’s the true core of submission.”

As for what she won’t do? “Roman showers,” she admits, after a pregnant pause. This act is a very extreme fetish where the dom vomits on the sub. “It’s just because it’s painful for me,” Rogue says. “I don’t like vomiting.” Luckily, there are plenty of types of play she does like to partake in, like rigger, suspension, heavy impact, and strap worship. She also loves any situation that involves wearing her latex catsuit (pro tip: use lube when putting on latex. Her suggestion is ID Millennium).

What Happens At A Professional Dom Session?

Images: Austin Zeli

Prior to visiting a professional, you’ll most likely fill out an intake form that outlines everything you do and don’t want to do (and are and aren’t okay with). When it comes time to actually have your session, you’ll be told how to address the dom, what to do upon entering, and any notes involving your appearance (no matter what, please shower!). Normally, there will first be a meet-and-greet component where you’ll once again go over what’s going to happen and review the usage of safe words. “Sometimes, advanced sessions have no safe words, but that’s something they consent to,” Rogue says. First-timers will absolutely use stop and go words, the most common of which is the standard traffic light system (green is go, yellow is slow down, and red is stop immediately).

Then comes the “performance”, as Rogue calls it. Part of the dom’s duty is to create the experience, which she takes a lot of pride in planning. Basically, Rogue sets up different time blocks of what they’ll do, and sometimes includes breaks depending on how intense each unique session is. “It’s not like you finish in ten minutes and leave,” she says. Once the performance is over, one of the most crucial components of BDSM takes place: the aftercare. “It’s like when you watch a movie, and as you leave the theater you talk about it. What you liked, what you didn’t like, what you want to experience next,” she explains. This is hugely important for emotional wellbeing—not only in BDSM, but in all sexual acts. 

“Imagine in a vanilla world, you have sex with your partner and you want to cuddle after, but they just get up and leave without saying a word. If you don’t know how to navigate it properly, you can feel used and broken,” she says. This is why consent and communication are the backbones of BDSM play. In addition to cuddling, chatting, or hugging, Rogue will also give her subs water and clean them up, because sometimes there are fluids like tears, sweat, or blood (consensual bleeding, of course) and this cleansing afterward is crucial to the bond.  

Here’s What Everyone Gets Wrong About Sex Work

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It’s important to note that professional dominatrixes don’t have intercourse with their paying subs. Rogue says that some guys go into the session assuming she’s offering intercourse, an idea she quickly shuts down. “Yes, I am providing a service, but this is on my terms. It’s not about what they want; it’s about what I want. Professional dominatrixes do not have sex with clients. Ever. Period.” That being said, it’s still considered sex work.I was surprised to learn that during the first year,” she says. “I was like: ‘No, I don’t have sex with them.’ But it’s still sex work and there’s nothing wrong with that.” There’s a lot of discussion surrounding sex workers’ rights in the mainstream media right now, and a push to decriminalize sex work, which is exciting to see, especially for Rogue, since it’s not just the legality of the work, but the stigma surrounding it that sex workers are grappling with. One of the biggest misconceptions Rogue personally takes offense to is the notion that it’s easy to be a dominatrix or sex worker in general. 

“I work a lot on what I do. Preparing for sessions. Planning sessions. Buying equipment for specific sessions. Keeping my overall image. There’s so much that goes into this. No one wakes up and the next morning can be like, ‘Oh, I’m a dominatrix. Come to my dungeon.’ That does not exist.” As for what the general public gets wrong about dominatrixes, it’s that they “hurt and abuse” people.

Everybody in the BDSM lifestyle asks for consent for everything,” she says. And when she says everything, she means it. Even before engaging in socially acceptable touching like hugging or shaking hands, she always gets verbal or written consent. “It’s very easy to get a bad reputation in the community, so you have to be careful,” Rogue admits. In general, however, “the public doesn’t understand that there are so many ways to make other people feel incredible without the sex part.”

How Is Dom Work Different During Coronavirus?

Because their work is all about interacting with people on an intimate level, it makes sense that the pandemic could cause some challenges for sex workers. “At the very beginning, when everything shut down and people were quarantined, everyone was staying home,” she says. “We had this emergency situation where I wasn’t seeing anybody because I was, you know, freaking out—and understandably so. And a lot of the time, I see people I’ve never seen before. They book online and it’s just a stranger.”

Once restrictions started to ease up a bit after a month or two, Rogue started seeing an influx of visitors again. “They had no jobs, were stuck at home, and completely desperate for some thrill.” So when the demand started coming back, how was she able to take on subs amidst coronavirus? “Even without the pandemic, I utilize a lot of safety measures. Before and after I see someone, we sanitize everything. I use gloves, I use masks, and I even keep my distance. You don’t actually need to touch someone personally with your hands to be able to deliver domination.” Think canes and riding crops, people!

When the pandemic started hitting harder, however, Rogue had to shift to a new model as business severely slowed (and stayed) down. That’s when she transitioned to virtual work. “While OnlyFans is really popular for vanilla and regular sex work, my OnlyFans is a little different. I have it set up for submissive or slave BDSM people who want to serve online. They have the opportunity to see what I’m doing or see me play with others. There are a lot of ways this can be done.”

Since she started offering more online options, she’s seen an overwhelming amount of demand from people who want to participate in BDSM sessions from the comfort of their homes—something she finds incredibly rewarding. She views her OnlyFans as a virtual dungeon, and she has subs complete tasks just like a regular session. “I can tell them what to do, they can get custom videos, request content, tip, or just talk to me,” she says. “Since it’s all online, anything goes.”

Okay, I Want To Incorporate BDSM Into My Life

Images: Jason Perrone; Austin Zeli

Whether you’ve always been interested in it or were titillated by Fifty Shades, there’s a good chance you’ll find something rewarding in a BDSM experience. As for how to incorporate it into your lifestyle, Rogue highly suggests seeing a professional, whether or not you’re in a relationship. “Some pros see couples and will coach and teach you,” she says, which will help you navigate not only the physical components but the mental as well. “Some of it is dangerous and that’s why people go to a professional,” she continues. “We know what we’re doing and can keep you safe.”

If you’re ready to dive in, it’s important to do your research and find someone who knows what they’re doing. “There are fake doms out there, usually men, who are looking to take advantage of women,” she notes. But how, exactly, do you find someone who’s not skeezy? “A dom with a good reputation will have at least some social media set up,” Rogue says. “Avoid sketchy ads, look for a good website, and consider how they talk to you. If they don’t want to negotiate in terms of the things you want to do, run.” Before visiting—and especially if you’re going alone—be sure to share your location with someone as an extra precaution. When going in, make sure they have a safe place, and if something feels off, don’t move forward. BDSM is all about speaking your limits, and finding your pro is no exception. 

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what you look like or what you do for a living. “All I care about is your behavior, your manners, and your ability to follow instructions,” Rogue says“A lot of people are scared of seeing a dominatrix, but we can be nice. And for anyone who’s very interested but is scared of committing, remember: I will not hurt you if you don’t want me to.” But chances are by the end of your session, you’ll be begging for more…

Images: Jason Perrone; Austin Zeli