Pancakes...with implications
    They look delicious…but what do they mean? Photo by D’Arcy Norman on Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons.

    At the beginning of Fall Quarter, I found myself drawn into a heated debate with a few acquaintances. Apparently one of them had a roommate who had recently hooked up with a girl and, upon waking up the next morning, found that she had made him breakfast. Slightly taken aback, he ate the food and then left. He didn’t call her again.

    This led the four of us (three boys and myself) into an argument about the correct protocol for this kind of situation. What do you do when your hookup greets your sleepy, hungover face with a plate full of pancakes?

    I certainly know my own first instinct: Run. As a girl, I’m probably supposed to be deeply touched by the kindness of this gesture or something squishy and romantic like that. But too many years of lit class have taught me that there are inevitably motives and reasons behind these kinds of actions. People don’t just make breakfast for fun. These aren’t regular pancakes; these, my friends, are pancakes with implications.

    The thing is, though, not everybody sees that malice lurking beneath the tasty doughy surface. Two of the boys I was talking to were thrilled about the prospect of post-coital pancakes. They just saw it as a delicious treat, and nothing more. After consulting a wide range of unofficial sources (namely, everyone I know), I’ve determined that this laissez-faire attitude is not just a straight-guy thing; plenty of people of both genders and various sexual orientations saw no issue with the idea of a morning-after breakfast. In fact, some people would be thrilled to wake up to such a sweet gesture. There are folks out there who don’t immediately want to leave in the morning; in fact, maybe they like the other person enough to hang around for a while — and then again tomorrow. And the next day. At that point, we might be talking about relationship pancakes instead. But that’s a different issue entirely.

    Really, there’s nothing wrong with the pancakes themselves; they’re just innocent little breakfast treats. The real problem with this situation, as with (unfortunately) almost everything involving sex or relationships, is that it really doesn’t work unless you’re on the same page as your partner. If you’re looking for a relationship, then breakfast in bed is going to be quite a few points in the chef’s favor; or, if you’re the one making the breakfast, it’s probably going to send a pretty clear signal to the other person that you’re actually interested in their personality. You just have to make sure that the signals you’re sending are the ones you actually mean.

    Because let’s be honest, most casual hookups don’t happen because you’re really trying to find that special someone. You wake up, roll over and try to figure out where your pants are and whether you’ve slept through a meeting already and who the hell is that lying next to you anyways? For those of us who want our casual hookups to stay just that (casual), breakfast is a terrifying prospect. You mean we actually have to speak to this other person? In daylight? To paraphrase a great American poet, a lot of us would do anything for sex, but we won’t do that.

    It’s not that all gestures of morning kindness are unwelcome, even for those poor souls with severe phobias about clothed human interaction. Coffee? Coffee is great. Coffee is an acknowledgment that you are another human being, that you have needs and most likely one hell of a caffeine dependency by this point in your life. A hot cup of joe is nothing more than an appreciation of the fact that you’re going to have to walk home, and walking is much more successful when said walker is awake. And as a barista, I can say with confidence that it takes almost zero effort to pour some coffee into a mug and hand it to another person. But there’s something much more personal about food, whether you go out for breakfast or cook up some eggs in the kitchen. It’s the fact that they’re putting more effort into the situation than the basic amount needed for you to gather your clothes, maybe offer a goodbye kiss and walk out the door.

    There is, of course, the chance that we’re all reading way too much into this. Maybe your partner’s mama just raised them to be a good host or hostess. Maybe years of warnings to avoid strangers with candy, combined with our dependency on cynicism and impossible-to-interpret booty call text messages, have destroyed our ability to tell when someone is just trying to be nice to us. Many of us do have a tendency to automatically assume the worst in any situation, but there is always the possibility that there is nothing more malicious than chocolate chips hiding in those pancakes.

    Unfortunately for that pleasantly hopeful thought, odds are the other person didn’t just whip up a batch of tasty breakfast treats because they were bored. Most college kids I know don’t exactly love cooking, especially not in the morning (or whenever you crazy love-monkeys wake up). It takes some kind of motivation to make that happen, and it can be either sweet or scary to realize that you just might be that motivation. But even if it does raise in you the overwhelming urge to go dashing home (or at least to Norbucks, where they won’t demand any information more personal than what kind of milk you prefer), you’re almost always better off resisting that urge at least long enough to explain to the other person that you really weren’t looking for more than a fun night.

    Yeah, it sounds intimidating or maybe just callous, but think about how many awkward situations in your life could’ve been averted just by being straightforward from the beginning. Too often, it seems like we’re all stumbling around (whether drunkenly or not), falling in and out of other people’s date parties and beds without ever actually paying attention to what it is that we’re doing or saying. And God forbid we ever acknowledge our emotions about anyone, or pretend that someone means more to us than a good time and a place to sleep for the night.

    It’s certainly true that some of us have mastered the hey-it-was-fun-I’m-leaving-now-please-don’t-ever-talk-to-me-again-okay-thanks-bye hookup and are okay with it, but it’s not an excuse to treat the other person like they don’t matter at all. They may not matter to you, but they’re probably important to someone. I’m sure their mother likes them (not that you should be thinking about someone’s mom while you’re having sex with them — but that’s beside the point). The point is that it’s fine to only want a one-night stand, and it’s equally fine to want a relationship. But either way, you have to be honest about your intentions with yourself and with the other person, because if you spend too much time sending mixed messages you’re bound to wake up one morning confronted by a pile of unwanted breakfast food — or the empty space on the other side of the bed.

    We’re old enough now that we should be over games of make-believe and able to be honest about what we want from a hookup, because pretending isn’t helping anyone. If you haven’t figured that out by now, I’d say it’s about time for you to wake up and smell the … pancakes.

    Have a great rest of the year, kids. It’s been fun being the resident sexpert this quarter, but I’m off to Argentina, where it’s warm and the men aren’t all econ majors. Stay busy, and stay safe.


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