"3 sum?" Yup, that was an actual, horribly misspelled text I received one Saturday night from Josh*, my reliable booty call of nearly eight years.
He texted me (presumably) after he saw the Instagram post of me and my bestie. She and I were crushing darts at my favorite sports bar—a place where the guy-to-girl ratio was conveniently always in my favor—and if I hadn't been so glued to my phone trying to convince Josh that me, just me, would come over later, maybe I could've met someone great.
But before you say anything, I knew I deserved more than what Josh could give me. I wanted to find a guy who would offer to buy me drinks somewhere, in public, before midnight, instead of sending me a "cum over" text at 2:00 a.m. (yes, the "cum" was intentionally spelled incorrect).
But the truth is, I was too scared to meet someone new because I was laser-focused on one thing: My number.
Yes, that number—the thing you maybe have tucked away in your iPhone's Notes tab, or if you're anything like me, keep hidden away in your high school diary. It's how many people you've had sex with. I was so insecure about what my number said about me and who I was that I didn't want to hook up with any more people in fear of adding to it.
Considering Josh had already been marked into my diary eight years prior, it was easier to keep sleeping with him than it was to add another person to my list—a sad realization I had as I sat in my ride with vodka pouring out of my pores the mornings after our sleepover.
Josh wasn't the only toxic guy who I repeatedly hooked up with to keep my number at bay. There was also my club-promoting "boyfriend" who once "fell asleep" on me when I came over and left me stranded outside his apartment. Then, there was Chad* who called me a "used car" when I told him my sexual history, and wouldn't talk or touch me for weeks on end.
When I really think about it, I can't nail down the moment in my life when I was told that my number matters. Maybe it was bad sex ed? I mean, let's consider the phrases we use to talk about sex, like, "Losing Our Virginity" and a "Walk of Shame." These words make sex sound like something women should be ashamed of doing when we’re not in a committed relationship with someone.
It wasn't until just recently that I realized not only does my number not matter in the slightest, but what's so much worse than adding to it is continuing to hook up with toxic people who don't respect you.
I came to this epiphany talking candidly to my boyfriend one night. I told him: "I've honestly stopped counting," and he pulled me in, hugged me a little tighter, and said: "I don't care about any of that. You're here now and that's all that matters." (But FWIW: Please note that you don't have to disclose your number to anyone, not even your S.O.)
I mean, let's think about it: Even if your number was astronomically high, why, in the f*ck does that matter? It doesn't change who you are. It doesn't describe you. I mean, hell, you wouldn't go see a doctor who has only operated on four patients, right?
As long as you're practicing safe sex, having a good time, and gaining plenty of Os, why is there still so much shame in 2019 associated with a made-up construct of what your number should or shouldn't be? Because, newsflash: There's really no right number, anyway. To whomever you choose to tell (or not to tell), there's no definitive "right" number that everyone will agree with, anyway. And to be quite honest, it's absurd that we feel the need to even count the times when we've engaged in something that physically and mentally benefits us, and makes us feel really, really effing good.
So if you're anything like me, and find yourself hooking up with the same toxic people over and over again because it's "easy," please learn from my mistakes. The number of people I have or haven't had sex with doesn't define me unless I let it (and it doesn't define you, either). Stop answering that fuckboi's "sup" texts, and lose the tally marks for good.
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.