Sex is a funny thing. It’s a conversation without words, a dance to music that is only playing in you, your mind and body. There is so much tied to it: romance, self-esteem, reputations, possible diseases and pregnancy, sexual frustrations, trust, and a chance to escape your life and live in that moment. But life is funny too; life catches up to you.
My first time was not what I thought it would be. I thought I would put more thought into it, for starters. I thought it’d be about love, about trust, about commitment and security and the relationship I had with the other person. But nah, it was with some guy I didn’t really care about, who didn’t really care about me, and it was on some squeaky futon and I ended up being on top. It wasn’t painful, physically or emotionally; it was just sex, which was what I wanted. See, before that I had been in my first real, serious relationship with a guy I loved who loved me. I thought that Charles and I would be together for years, he thought we’d someday get married. That was the relationship I was supposed to lose my virginity in, according to all the books and movies. So I wanted to do it, I trusted him, I loved him, I was a horny teenager. All signs pointed towards yes, except him: he said no. He didn’t want to have sex, he didn’t want to hold my hand or kiss me or put a label on our relationship. So I said fine. And then I picked the first cute guy that came along and let him do the job. And even though that sounds terrible, I don’t regret it. Sex the first time is awkward and bad no matter who it is with, where it happens, or why it happens. At least that’s what me, and every other woman I’ve talked to think.
When I really had that “first time” was four months later, in the arms of a man I loved who loved me. He taught me what sex really is, why some people call it “making love”. (Personally, that phrase makes me gag, but I’ll use it anyway this time.) He made me feel special, beautiful, strong but vulnerable in the best sense, and I had never felt closer to another human being than I did to him. It wasn’t just sex with him, it was letting our souls connect when words wouldn’t suffice.
But not all my sex experiences have been good. Luckily, I haven’t had any extreme bad times, but when it’s bad, it’s bad. Sex involves so many complex emotions, especially for women, and once they catch up with you, there’s nothing you can do but ride them out. The first time I had a bad experience it was with the same person I was with in the above paragraph. It wasn’t necessarily about him, because he obviously treated me with respect and love. It was about me, it was about all of my experiences with sex before.
So why all the talk about sex? I had a discussion with my girlfriend a few nights ago about how sex can make you upset. We’ve both had this experience with each other, although it wasn’t necessarily about each other. Whenever I became upset, she didn’t really understand why, although she suspected that part of it was realizing I was in love with her (she totally called that one). Whenever she became upset, I suspected she was going through something similar in her head as I did a month or so before. It’s a flood of feelings about yourself and your attachment to the other person that completely overwhelms you; an immobilizing wave of emotions you can hardly understand and never knew existed. It’s a moment where all you want is the other person to hold you and tell you it’s going to be okay, even if that’s bullshit. Most guys do not really understand this, and some women don’t either. I’m not saying this happens to everyone, but it’s a lot more common in women than we may realize. And it’s different for every person—which is a big part of why it can be so scary.
Let me explain it a little more, and go back to the story of my first bad experience with emotions during sex. So me and then-boyfriend were getting all steamy, both totally into it. And then the actual sex part started happening. And it was great, there was nothing wrong with the position, or what he was doing or what I was doing. Nothing wrong with the relationship, nothing wrong with how I felt about him or how he felt about me. But it was my mind; my mind was all wrong. One moment I was there with him and the next it was like I was outside of myself, watching all of it happen to me. I was suddenly so detached from my body and the situation and I felt small…I was empty. I felt so removed and alone and just so completely sad. And I tried to push these feelings away, I tried to grit my teeth, go back to feeling pleasure and happiness and breathless with ecstasy…but no dice. Instead I got quiet, and just let it keep happening even though all I wanted was for it to stop.
Experience Number Two: It was a different guy, almost a year later. It was the first time we had slept together, and it was highly anticipated by us both. Everything else we had done had been totally hot, and so expectations were high….too high. It was all around a bad time. I had never set any sort of standards about the male anatomy before, but this was the experience that taught me the awful lesson of size mattering (so you’d better be good at other things if you know you’re not going to be good at the main event–I say this not to be an asshole, because no one can control the size of their dick, but to relay that this guy I was with was not good at any of the other stuff, either). Anyway, but apart the issues of anatomy, as soon as it started happening I felt wrong. Sick. I felt used, like a piece of meat for him feel up for the night, and toss away the next morning. I had no warmness in my heart for him, and only bitter hate for myself. I wanted so badly for this sex to just be sex, for it to be fun and meaningless like it was supposed to be for people my age in college. But instead it was me who felt meaningless, worthless, empty. Once again, I said nothing about how I felt, or how I wanted it to be over. I let him decide when he was done with me.
Experience Three: Different guy, a month later. This guy and I had come close to having sex so many different times, but he had never pressured me. I really was starting to like him, despite my reservations to keep things casual and not get attached. Once again, I wanted it all to mean nothing but harmless fun. Anyway, it was a Thursday night at a party. We both were a little drunk, we both knew it was going to happen. And it was great, actually. It was great sex and he was very sweet afterwords, holding me as he fell asleep. But I stayed awake, staring at the wall. As soon as the feelings of pleasure had faded, the same contempt for myself appeared. There was so much name calling in my head, “whore” “slut” “naive” “stupid” “reckless” “dirty”. I lied there, wishing those labels were not true, but feeling the pressure of them weigh on me nonetheless. My self-esteem was at a new low, I had been downgraded from a piece of meat to a shadow of a person who once had control over her life. I felt sorry for the guy sleeping next to me, because he was wasting his time fucking someone so unworthy of love or affection.
Empty is the one word I can use to sum up my experiences. Do I blame any of these people I’ve slept with for my experiences with them? No. I realize that all of these feelings I’ve had come from myself, because of myself. My self-esteem and emptiness are so tied up in my depression and I don’t expect any person to change that but me. Any all of these experiences have happened in different times, when I felt differently about myself than I do now. One thing I can say about my experience with my girlfriend about a month ago was that I felt overwhelmed with the realization that I loved her, would someday lose her, and that I was still seeing and loving my then-boyfriend Fred at the time. It was a mess of complicated feelings, but not once in that experience did I feel worthless or used.
I guess this is all to say that sex brings up a lot of emotions that we are not always prepared for, and that’s okay. It doesn’t make you weak for being vulnerable with your body and your mind around someone else, it doesn’t make you bad at sex or a bad partner to whoever you are with. It’s okay to be upset, to claim ownership over your body and what happens to it. It’s okay to get scared because you just let someone become close to you, closer than anyone has ever been before. I’m not saying that my experiences are the same as anyone else’s, but I’m sharing them because if someone out there has felt that way, I want them to know they don’t have to apologize for it. You are allowed to take up space and feel your feelings and ask someone to hold you if you need to be held. You are not a burden. You are worthy of love.
Sex can be simple, easy and painless like my first time. It can also be beautiful, vulnerable, and full of love. Those are the two experiences with sex that the world expects us to have, but that’s not always realistic. As much as we may like to tell ourselves that sex is just a moment in time, it brings out the best and worst of our feelings about ourselves. Handling those feelings is difficult, but for me it was those tough experiences that taught me not only a lot about myself, but also the person I was/am with.
In a way, it was the other person holding me after moments like those that made me feel closer to them, closer than sex I’ve ever had.
It’s that time of year again! The holiday season has come around, and with it the five or so relatives you hear saying, “I’m really going to cut back this year so I can look good for the Christmas party.” Getting together with family means eating, but also trying to impress your relatives and hunt for comments like, “You look so nice! Have you lost weight?” And so the holiday round of, “Oh god, I need to hit the gym more” hits you over the head.
It’s not that I’m really trying to impress anyone this year, or even that I think I ate too much at Thanksgiving. It’s the Christmas shopping that is starting to get to me. Picking out clothes for someone else to give to me is great for a number of reasons, but this year it’s starting to drag. I see all of these really cute dresses, begging me to spend more money than I should, and think, “Well maybe….” and then I’m stopped in my tracks. I can’t buy this dress. Why would I ever think I could actually wear something like that? My body looks NOTHING like that model’s, and my hair could never pull off something so glamorous. It’s too tight, it would show my muffin top and my back fat (which, who knew that could even be a problem?), and my legs are not that long. My boobs could never squeeze into that, my stomach would show up like a giant neon sign, I have no waist whatsoever, and my arms will never be that toned. So what do I do? I tell myself I must find a more flattering style. Only you know what’s in style? Bodycon dresses, shift dresses, backless, strapless, cut-outs and short short short. Nothing for me. So instead I opt for a modest sweater and sigh at what could have been.
I used to be skinny. Not skinny, skinny, but skinny enough. I’ve always had a bit on cushion on my stomach, but it would hide under sort-of loose shirts and would stay sucked in whenever I’d wear anything else. I was able to wear size four or six, and I felt like I was passing in the golden crowd of girls who could always find their size and wear trendy things. But then I went to college, and suddenly I kept gaining more and more weight. My boobs added on a whole other cup size, my hips started to show, and suddenly I was kind of curvy. While I was sort of concerned, I was also okay with this. It was nice to feel like I looked more grown-up than I did before, like I could actually push out a baby if I wanted to or something. But then fat showed up in the weird places, like my sides and back, not to mention under that strange place in your armpits that emerges between your bra and arm when your arms are at your side. (Here’s the visual aid: http://www.colormebrave.com/2014/04/get-rid-armpit-fat.html ) And then I couldn’t wear some of my
clothes because they didn’t fit or look good anymore. Shopping started to become less fun, because I had to find everything in a size or two up, and even then, it usually looked too big in some places and too small in others. While I knew before that the fashion world was unkind to anyone who didn’t fit into their mold, I had never realized how sad and difficult it made finding clothes.
My self-esteem went down, naturally. And it’s been a struggle to regain it ever since. It doesn’t help to be constantly surrounded by a culture that praises thinness, or people who go along with it. It doesn’t help that my roommate is thin and beautiful (as with the rest of our friends), that my motivation to work out (or time to do it) has shrunk exponentially, or that I’m constantly reminded by adults that “The habits you make now will either help or hinder you later in life”. It does help, however, to have a boyfriend who loves me and my body, just how it is, and to have supportive friends and family.
I hate diets. I hate those little comments relatives make about your weight, because my body isn’t a decoration to be altered or shared in discussion. I want to look like me, but I also want to be healthy, and what’s really unhealthy is my attitude about this weight I’ve gained. I don’t know what to do, because I don’t have all this extra time to work out and I hate salads. (A LOT). Plus I don’t have tons of money to spend on healthy alternatives to cheap meals.
It’s a vicious cycle of hating your body, desperately wanting to change it, and wishing you could just find some peace with it. And unfortunately, most women are stuck in this cycle for a long, long time.
All I want for Christmas is to stop wishing I was thinner and to stop comparing myself to other people. I want to start appreciating my body more and start taking care of it more, and most of all I want to do it in a killer dress that knocks the socks off my boyfriend.
One of my biggest anxiety traps is when I begin to compare my social life to everyone else’s. That’s when the doubts and the insecurity fill me up–after all, if I’m not having as much fun as most people or am being hit on as much as most girls are or even have as many friends as most people it must be because I’m too shy, not pretty or skinny enough, not interesting… And I will admit, that’s pathetic. I know I am better than that bullshit. I had my insecure years through middle school and my doubts whenever guys have treated my unfairly; I need to stop thinking that what is right for other people is necessarily right for me. But…that doesn’t take the sting of occasional loneliness away. Well…actually I wouldn’t call it loneliness, just a lack of comfort that I had with friends from home. You know that comfort you have around old friends where silence is okay sometimes and there’s never any pressure to be more or less than what you are? That’s it. That’s the sting I’m talking about.
I did however, make one big step onto the social scene yesterday. I went to my first college frat party! And before you get the impression that I got rip-roaring drunk, let me tell you that I did not. I did drink a little bit though, and I did actually have fun without being drunk. My new friend that I went to high school with (see last post), let’s call her Caitlin, had a great time cracking up about what the completely trashed girls we went with were saying. And I don’t mean that in a cruel way, just in a goofy way. They were very open about what they wanted (to have sex) and very affectionate (“you’re SO NICE!”), and if was just sort of funny to hear them go on about things (“I am not a drunk…I mean, I party every night and everything, but I am not a drunk, I pinky promise.”). And it was fun to dance and see what a real frat house looked like. The frat guys were ridiculous, though. Most of them were completely wasted, and took things like minor eye-contact as an invitation to come over and introduce themselves and their sleazy, crooked smiles. So some stuff like that was pretty stereotypical. There was chugging, there was grinding on the dance floor, there were guys in togas, the ol’ same things you’d expect from a university frat. Girls were dressed as angels from heaven and satan from hell, but then there were others in cocktail dresses, jean shorts, and T-shirts. The floors were always sticky and wet from spilled alcohol, empty cans and cups were scattered about. But like I said, not bad time. It was interesting to witness all of it and think, “So people actually live like this…”.
It made me miss my boyfriend, though. Sure, there were tons of cute guys, but that only made me think of how much I wanted MY cute guy. And around him I never feel insecure about if I have a pimple on my nose or am not wearing the cutest outfit, I know he doesn’t just see someone to sleep with, but someone to BE with. I only have 6 more days until I see him, though, so I’m trying to stay positive. Not having him around isn’t as easy as having him at my side all the time…that’s were some of this insecurity comes in. Around him I feel great, but not having that confidence boost constantly is going to take some getting used to. As bad as it sounds, convincing me to like me takes more work than convincing anyone else. Somehow my boyfriend knows how to convince me, though. And if it wasn’t enough to miss him for him, now I also miss who I am when I’m around him.
But after a day of sleeping in and watching three Harry Potter movies with Caitlin, being the sort of girl who is only satisfied by going out every night doesn’t sound too appealing, anyway.