Wifey, Ho or Tonight?

"From the minute a man meets a woman, he puts her into one of three categories: wifey, ho or tonight. There's not much she can do to switch categories, for better or for worse," said the crowd warmer at The Queen Latifah Show. All of the women in the audience who had read The Rules and practiced them to varying degrees of success looked up from their smartphones to contemplate the notion that maybe we should let go of our regrets.

"Even if she sleeps with him on the first night?" one lady asked.

"If he sees her as wifey, he'll be thrilled he got her into bed," he said on behalf of all men.

It was just one man speaking for the masses, but it was a statement I wished I'd heard sooner. If his words were to be believed, in the many years I spent contemplating how to transition from ho to wifey, or worse, from tonight to ho, I should have been learning Portuguese, or how to cook, or at least memorizing all the lyrics to "We Didn't Start the Fire" instead of engaging in the futility of trying to jump castes.

I must confess, I'm rarely on the hunt for Mr. Tonight (except for at weddings where single people are treated like lepers, humiliated and excluded until we're forced to copulate with whoever is around regardless of age, looks or political affiliation). As The New York Times likes to point out every few months, many women are left unsatisfied by the hookup culture.

Sexual fulfillment aside, there are plenty of reasons why a random hookup can be appealing; an exciting story to tell at brunch; hopes of moving on from someone else; a chance to show off a new pair of underwear. Whatever the case may be, the problem often arises the morning after in the intimacy of shared nudity in unfamiliar sheets. When last night's buzz wears off and we get to talking, I realize that Mr. Tonight is actually kind of smart, does cutesy things for his friends' bachelor parties, enjoys reading Gail Collins' op-ed pieces in The New York Times, and I wonder, "Did I actually stumble into Mr. Right on the way to the bar?"

I'm high on intimacy. Riding the subway swooning, eyeliner caked to the corner of my eyes, I count down the minutes until he calls. Three days pass, and it's clear that he won't call. I send a text, alluding to one of the topics of our morning conversation, and it goes unanswered. I can delete his number, but I can't erase the fact that his failure to call has chipped away at my fragile self-confidence.

But what if I'd known that there was nothing I could have done better? For whatever reason, he had deemed me "tonight." I hadn't failed a test or been unable to connect with him. Maybe I'd looked too much like his mother or not enough like her; for whatever reason, he had never explored the possibility of me as his wifey. And while I'd walked away feeling rejected, a dark shadow cast upon a magical night, he had gotten what he'd wanted out of the exchange. What I wish I could have told my 27-year-old self was to delay gratification if I was sure that I would be dissatisfied with anything less than tomorrow.