Now that Billy Idol is spinning on all of our brain turntables, (you’re welcome) I will bring you today’s PoeWar writing prompt. “Write an interview with yourself. Do it in the style of an appropriate (or inappropriate) publication such as Time, People, Rolling Stone, Politico, Cosmopolitan, Seventeen or Maxim.” You saw that, right? The post told me to be inappropriate, and I am never one to turn down an opportunity to be inappropriate. To make this interview less confusing to read, the version of me asking the questions will be known as Oprah, and the version answering the questions will be known as Laney. Let us begin.
Oprah: Laney, thank you for being here today.
Laney: Thank you for having me, Oprah, you have a lovely home!
Oprah: Thanks, do you want it?
Laney: Why yes. Yes I do.*
*Don’t ask too many questions in these situations, just go with it.
Oprah: Then it’s yours. I was going to level it and build a Starbucks, but I’d rather you have it.
Oprah: Enough property acquisition chit chat, let’s get down to business. Since the prompt has encouraged us to be inappropriate, let’s just dive into the inappropriate topic of virginity, specifically the losing thereof. You briefly touched on this topic in an earlier post on this blog.
Laney: Yes, let’s talk about that, but please let’s not call it inappropriate. See, I was raised around some strict religious fanatics who taught me that sexuality should neither be discussed nor acknowledged without a generous helping of shame, and that hell’s waiting room was full of people who had sex before they were married. As I entered and left puberty these values held less and less relevance to the reality in which I lived. I had a lot of damaged roots to untangle from that belief system before I could even start figuring out how I actually felt about sex, or hell, or the tenuous relation between the two. So for the sake of detaching the shame from sex, let’s talk about sex without adjectives.
Oprah: That is fair, and also a good point. Why do you think so many people traditionally attach so much shame to sex?
Laney: There are a lot of contributing factors, I think, and most of them seem to be fear based. My biggest influence was organized religion’s fantastic misinterpretations and misapplications of the Bible. Generally speaking, there are also fear based government policies against different types of sexuality, failures of public school sex-ed programs to relate to kids without fear, and subliminal feelings of inadequacy induced by air-brushed magazine covers, romantic comedies, and almost everyone on television. It feels like we have forgotten how to be real. Humans are sexual creatures, and denying that is denying part of ourselves. Yes, humans have done some very shameful embarrassing things, but applying shame to what we are on a very basic level seems to cause way more damage than anything else.
Oprah: So let’s talk about how your early fear- or denial-based sexual development led you to losing your virginity. How old were you? 18?
Laney: I was 26, Oprah, and thank you for backhandedly pointing that out. I refuse to accept any shame, though, for being as old and inexperienced as I was. In my teens, when many pubescents are exploring their chemically driven urges with each other, I was simply fighting to survive. The hormones were wreaking havoc on my diabetes and literally trying to kill me. Nowhere in my consciousness was I able to explore dating/relationships/sexuality in any functional ways. Incidentally, a large part of my survival strategy involved me faking my way through new or uncomfortable situations. I was in theater in high school, so I knew how to portray confidence where really there was none. I learned just how many metaphorical doors can open for you if you simply act like you know what you’re doing. That’s how I kept people from messing with me in the high school halls and after school, that’s how I got every job I’ve ever had, and that’s how I learned most things I know about the world. Attitude is everything.
I approached dating and relationships the same way, thinking that if I acted like someone who had dated before, and someone who wasn’t completely terrified of male attention, I would be okay. This worked for a lot of first dates but not much more than that. Turns out things can’t go very far between two people when one of them can’t actually back up anything they say. A peculiar phenomenon, that one. Even when I made it to a second date I floundered for lack of any information to draw on for what the hell I was supposed to do next. This was way beyond insecurity, this was black hole panic. I kept wishing that someone would just spell it out for me- what was this was supposed to look like, was I having fun, did he just want to get in my pants and if so how did I know that, and what the hell was I supposed to do with my hands? I was running on empty. I barely had enough social experience to function, much less relationship experience to let someone get close to me. It didn’t help that I am naturally terrible at flirting, often requiring witnesses to pull me aside and tell me when someone is flirting with me. My years of faking confidence had replaced important lessons I should have been learning along the way about discovering myself and what I want.
Oprah: You seem to have a pretty clear summary of your past self. Have you spent a lot of time reflecting on it, or is it just the 20/20 hindsight vision?
Laney: A little of both, probably. But when your psychological/physical/emotional/sexual issues are as tangled together as mine were, you can’t get them straightened out until you start to understand the systems that caused them to muddle together in the first place.
Oprah: That was said beautifully. I wish I had thought of it first. Let’s not forget that we are still waiting for you to tell us how you lost your virginity. I have to say, from the way you’re describing it, it’s not looking hopeful for your love life.
Laney: As much as I’m loving these little jabs from you, I am getting to that part of the story. I made my way through my early 20s dating life with much trepidation, but I was determined to figure this system out. The more time went by, though, the more imposing this virginity thing became to me. I was realizing that no one I knew was interested in waiting until marriage to have sex, and that I wasn’t even interested in waiting. I still see it as a terribly inefficient plan. But my 26 year old self who didn’t know anything about sex wasn’t in a close enough relationship to share this with anyone. Convinced that virginity was not as big of a deal as I had been led to believe, my slightly mangled sexual identity and I decided I need to put our acting skills to work again. We would become someone interested in casual sex so we could get this virginity shit over with and start learning something.
I was living in a new apartment complex with my Boston terrier and I had just gotten a promotion at work. I could relax my surviving muscles just a little bit more. One day I was outside in the courtyard playing fetch with the terrier, when a handsome stranger walked up the sidewalk. The terrier started following him up the stairs to his apartment, suddenly acting like she had known him all her life. I was horrified at her manners and I called for her to come back. She looked over her shoulder at me, but kept walking with him as if she was saying, “I pick this one. Try him.” He noticed my dog forcing herself into his life and bent down to play with her. We began talking and soon discovered that we lived next door to each other. We started talking more and spending time together and arguing about music together, which led to one particularly heated argument about the meaning of a certain Foo Fighters song that I still can’t listen to, which led to him cutting me off in mid sentence by kissing me intensely as his pet chihuahua peed on the shoe I was still wearing.
First kiss, check. That one’s now off the table. Well the kiss led to other things, which led to him asking me into his bedroom, which led to me panicking and going home without saying anything. The next day there was a knock on my front door. When I answered it, he didn’t say anything, just grabbed me and kissed me again. And that led to the part of the movie they cut out for the television audience. Then it was over. I was in pain, I felt like I was going to throw up, and I needed to shower immediately. He was beside me on the bed looking happy and I shoved him, saying “Fuck you!” and went home. I showered and thought about how I had finally gotten that over with. After all the anxiety and fear and misapplied symbolism…and then, oh shit, the feelings started happening. I felt I had just betrayed myself in the worst way. The goddamn feelings overtook me for a while, and I had to muddle through them the best I could.
My neighbor surprised me by still wanting to hang out with me after that. I did but I didn’t know why. I didn’t know what I was supposed to do or say now. Were we together? Did he feel anything? What did he think that was about? Oh, right, I was acting like a casual sex haver. I hung out with him until the feelings ran their course and I realized that I felt nothing for him. That was fine because he was also seeing 2 other girls he never mentioned. Eventually I was able to regain my self-respect and cut him out of my life for a few months before dumping all of the self-respect out on a different neighbor I slept with on a whim. He never talked to me after that, which was just as well. It’s not something I’m proud of, and the only technical skills I gained from either experience were about furious, 45 second long intercourse. Not helpful, but hey, at least I wasn’t a virgin. That was behind me, and I could go forward in my life with my lessons learned and one less big blurry cloud following me around.
Oprah: I’m pretty sure the first time for most people is terrible. Or at the very least it is awkward and confusing, especially if you’re female.
Laney: Wow, that sounded like support. I appreciate that, Oprah, thanks. And I agree. The first time doing anything is awkward, and more so if clothing is removed.
Oprah: You seem like a happy, well adjusted woman now. I hope that means that you have been able to replace the so-called blurry cloud sexual experience with positive ones?
Laney: Oh yes, and I’m actually quite fond of positive sexual experiences. You know, this is the third time I’ve written about my first experience, but the first time I’ve written it knowing an audience will read it.
Oprah: Well I’m sure they will enjoy reading about it. It might cause them to think about losing their own experiences. Maybe they would even feel compelled to share their experiences with you, or at least find some validation like you have, that having sex for the first time is what it is. It isn’t good or bad, it’s just a first attempt at something that gets better with practice.
Laney: So we’re saying that everyone should go practice having sex right now? I don’t want to picture any of that. I’ll just tell readers that if they want to talk about their first time, I will listen.
Oprah: Sounds good. Now, do you want my people to help you move your stuff into my house?