Not too long ago, I asked a former hookup how many people he'd slept with.
"I don't really keep track of that," he said, to my surprise. We’d become close friends, so I felt comfortable enough to pester him for an answer.
He began counting with his fingers, whispering names under his breath. I watched in awe as he struggled to come up with a number. Each time he felt like he had an answer, a new name would pop into his head.
Was he bragging, or did he not care? Earlier that week, he’d lectured me on how he struggled to separate his emotional side from his sexual one. So why was it so easy for him to forget the memory of his former partners all of a sudden?
Amidst his effort, I pulled up a carefully-hidden note on my phone entitled “Body Count” with a rainbow emoji on either side. I invited him to huddle up next to me, almost as if I was about to read him a children's book—except it was a highly curated list of everyone I’d ever had sex with.
"Number 9, huh?" he asked as he dug his elbow into my arm.
"Fuck off," I replied between giggles.
He peeped, astonished, at my R-rated spreadsheet of sorts. I couldn't believe he'd never seen anything like it. I blamed the list on my generation's need to document a significant part of our everyday lives. I couldn’t understand—why didn't he want to keep digital documentation of his sex life?
He brought up the argument that keeping a list was shallow, an argument I was quick to counter. I hadn’t made my list to parade it around or dish about the people on it. The idea came to me after I left my longest relationship three years ago. I realized I was starting to forget the men who came before my ex-boyfriend, and I feared it would happen again.
"So what's the point of the Zodiac signs then?" he added. "No Geminis or Leos?"
"My future spouse is bound to be either," I replied jokingly.
Compared to some of my friends', my list is quite simple. Mine isn't adorned with acronyms or color codes that reference what base my partners and I got to. My list only features the names of those I've had sex with, as well as their zodiac sign.
Astrology has never been my forte, and I don't care to know the habits of other signs besides my own—Aries trait, I guess. But this small gesture, which started as a joke, has allowed me to achieve an even more personal relationship with each of my partners. Not in an astral way, but in a rather friendly way instead: sending "Happy birthday!" texts.
These messages create a feeling of endearment and overall acknowledgment. So much so that I get yearly lunches or drinks with one of the Libras, and one of the Aries never fails to text me a song or picture that reminds him of me.
Like my friend, sex has always been an emotionally-charged act for me. I admit I probably couldn’t be in a committed relationship with half of the people on my list, but I could easily spend an entire afternoon with each of them. In fact, I tend to remain friends with almost everybody I've slept with—not to have sex readily available to me, but because I genuinely care for them. Keeping track of them allows me to maintain a connection with them, which is something I cherish since they’ve all had an impact on me in one way or another.
I've met plenty of people who'd give anything to forget a particular person in their lives. I've never related to that mindset, but I think I know where they're coming from. Some of the people on my list have hurt me tremendously. The most recent addition was blocked on Instagram and Twitter last week to mend my heartbreak. Still, his name will remain there until someone hacks into my iCloud and deletes it. I've been in fights and I've cried with plenty of people on my list, but we've always managed to work through our issues.
Is this unhealthy? From a psychiatrist's perspective, possibly. I understand that cutting ties with people is advisable under certain circumstances. Three of the names on my list are no longer a part of my life due to irreconcilable differences. I've learned to shy away from focusing on the events that led to our separation. But in the end, the list allows me to reflect on the good moments I shared with them.
Besides its highly sentimental value, my list serves other uses. If, for some reason, I woke up and experienced any symptoms of an STI, I would know exactly who to contact. I've yet to use my list for this purpose, but it keeps my mind at ease knowing I'm equipped with the right resources.
I know that I'm bound to grow out of many of these friendships—it's only normal. But I'm happy knowing I'll still be able to laugh or reminisce about the effect they had on me for an hour or a few years. In the meantime, I'll keep sending and receiving "Happy birthday!", "I'm in your city," and "This reminded me of you" texts.
Illustration by Yoo Young Chun.