Exit Strategies for Ground War Kissing

In the week after the attacks my friends and I used the term "tragedy sex" for those newly formed or recently reconnected couples who found, or perhaps used, the terror attacks as a springboard for intense and usually brief encounters punctuated by the overriding feeling that the world could end at any moment.

But I had barely begun to promulgate this clever vernacular when I read a "terror sex" article online which was promptly picked up by a London newspaper, causing me to stew for days about my break-through concept being scooped and snatched away not just nationally but also across the water for the Brits to enjoy.

Soon my frustration about missing credit for being the first to note and name a post-tragedy phenomenon turned into a fascination of the continuing phases of post-tragedy encounters that I've observed. This need to connect physically for reassurance has lasted well through the post-attack phases and may take us through the holidays and into the new year.

An example of how I've seen the concept evolve occurred weeks following the attacks, on that Sunday we dropped the first bombs on Afghanistan. A friend was having people over for dinner, and a casual, otherwise uneventful gathering was filled with the tension of the news that we had begun the military campaign. We skipped the usual wine with dinner and unabashedly drank mixed drinks of hard liquor while anxiously watching the CNN updates on the developments of the strikes.

Our nervous tension turned into a discussion of whether "tragedy sex" would turn into "drop the bomb sex." This was basically a diversion from the chaos, and granted, I had more than a vague feeling of guilt for making light of a turn of events likely to cause civilian casualties. But as the evening wore on, the guilt was somewhat lessened by the self-serving justification that the "times are a changing" and we as Americans are a traumatized nation in unchartered territory for the long haul, coping as best we can.

After all, I declared while watching Christiane Amanpour deliver the news in war-chic attire worthy of a new clothing line, it's not all that different than the email which circulated with the re-built world trade buildings in the shape of a middle finger.

Now, weeks later, it's taken another turn with the ground war. A friend found herself last weekend in a two hour "ground war" kiss with a male friend of five years. At least, that's what she's calling it, rationalizing that in these times unexpected liaisons could probably be attributed to the raw emotions elicited by the days of stadium phobias, mall paranoia, mail scares and uncertain futures. Her kissing friend found this logic a bit bizarre, but reluctantly agreed to the characterization and slyly pointed out that the ground war could last a very long time.

To which she replied, "And Rumsfield said they may never even find bin Laden."

Such war euphemisms have cropped up in a world where dating may actually have become a less scary alternative than being alone. One has, after all, an instant exit strategy at any point in case something goes wrong in a new relationship. You can simply draw a parallel to the ever-vacillating spin on the anti-terrorists strategies, objectives, and tactics, in order to suit your own objectives.

If war-time tension settles down, for instance, and America gets back to quasi-normal, one may simply need to invoke the "it was a war-time romance" line and go about the business of returning to the safe haven of dinner with friends, complaining about the opposite sex and lack of good dating material "out there."

If, however, the campaign rages on interminably, then the exit strategy could be tied in to either of two cases: Scenario A) a sudden, emotionally charged, oft-covered war-related news event happens, thereby rendering you officially too keyed up to concentrate on both the demands of your daily life and a new relationship in such precarious times. Scenario B) the news of the daily campaign starts to get buried under the latest political scandal, then you can point out that the war has become simply part of life now, a life that normally would not involve the person whose comfort you sought while sobbing through the news night after night trying to make sense of a world gone mad.

Of course, dating exit strategies seem more manageable than those for war, especially with talk that has veered from the "we'll smoke'em out of their caves" to " it's a big world with many countries and he has lots of money."

And with a relationship, there's always the chance that it may work out and the exit strategy dilemma is replaced with a wartime it's-the-end-of-the-world-oh-what-the-hell-I'll-commit mindset. But with bin Laden, Al Queda, an evolving roster of enemies, and an upcoming wintertime ground war in Afghanistan caves, I'm personally staying tuned for the mother of all exit strategies.

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