the race to love
I met D when i was 14. We kissed in a pool for the first time and everyone around us cheered. I’ve loved the taste of chlorine ever since. That night was how it should have been, naive and dreamy, too-wet kisses on the grass. damp bathing suits on summer skin.
But it was seldom I could be that carefree, a “see you at the party!” kind of girl. Let’s call it strict parents, “because i said so,” fear masked in stern faces.
This was not how it was supposed to go.
While my friends were spending afternoons doing homework and exploring the uncharted, i was behind a computer screen, using words to try and type normal into my love life.
relationship number one became a disjointed, stop-and-start robot romance. there was nothing organic about it, so few chances for fumbling fingers on bra hooks or newly-licensed drives. i simply wasn’t allowed.
But there was video chat, and AIM, and texting. and in every urgent tap of the enter button, I wove an illusion of organic progression instead of admitting how scared i was of falling behind.
Words were a weapon against my disappointment and confusion, i sped up the time lapse of limitation with dramatic flourishes of love, declarations and curating closeness without skin on skin. but my words have always run the risk of feigning certainty instead of curiosity.
So when, miraculously, i was permitted to go to D’s house one winter afternoon, i made a laundry list of love’s proof of permit:
Condoms, a push up bra, and a brave face.
It was not very good. I had a cold, he had a cast, the condom was condemning, and we weren’t ready. And then his mom came home 5 minutes in. I was devastated. Cue panic. this was a dire setback. this wasn’t anything like what i’d read or watched, and it wasn’t enough to last us til the next time, and he could find another girl who could come over whenever she wanted, and it didn’t even matter that i wasn’t sure that i liked it because, more importantly, the grand plan was dashed and i didn’t have a backup.
I promptly decided i no longer loved D. he made me sick to my stomach. i wanted out, wanted fresh, a new grand plan because he was a lousy sidekick.
You know those little toy cars, the remote-controlled kind? how unless you steer them down a clear path, they’ll bash into the wall over and over again? That was the next year of my life. Bash, bash, bash. Sex, sex, sex. None of it good. i was spinning with uncertainty. when was I going to get this right? When could prove normal? Why wasn’t this thing working for me?
When I was raped my cerebral mind locked my heart in a drawer and threw sex in the trash.
this was NOT a part of the plan, Haley. I had lost my agenda entirely.
The HPV was a blessing in disguise. 16 and I had already ruined my body, I thought. this was so the opposite of my plan I could not recognize myself in the mirror. I was disgusted with myself and certain no one could ever love me, and if love was the point what was life without it? So I stopped having sex for three years. from 16-19, I took it off the table. What a relief.
What I wish i could go back and tell myself that the reason people say it’s better to wait is because sex and trust are tea and honey. that the exploration of another person’s body takes time, glorious time, and can’t be pressed into the back of a car or hurried in the laundry room next to the party. That needed wooing, whispering, no pressure, no expectation. communication, privacy, and the gift of time.
The history of our body is a sacred study. what shows up in my book reads vastly different than yours.
The history of me lies in an adolescent experience un-had. one that I crave and so deserve.
my best partners have let me dip my toes into an organic I never got to taste.
What we see and hear in the media, listen to in the locker room, list on our tinder profiles, limit to gender and body parts, gulp shame in the face of religion, and perpetuate because it feels comfortable -
it only does your body a disservice.
Begin your study.
Bring your DNA into the bedroom.