From Something Wrong with Her: A Hybrid Memoir
Yes, I was one, all through college. A virgin in too many ways. A virgin whose first kiss had been milestone enough that subsequent occasions for kisses still triggered uneasiness, but not nearly as much trepidation as caused by the virginity itself. Not — as some have assumed — anxiety fostered by relentless itchy lust. If that were the case, then prospective situations would not have resulted in the resistant rigidity with which advances were met.
If I were to enumerate my angst, the bullet points would be:
- How was it done? And how would I know how to do it (when the moment came)?
- What if I didn’t know what to do and was really bad at it?
- What if it hurt/what if I don’t like it?
- I’m supposed to like it, I’m supposed to crave it, but all I do is resist and avoid it, what’s wrong with me?
In terms of importance, they shuffled. Sometimes #1 was the most vital, sometimes one of the others. But most often it was #4.
& Not Losing It
I began keeping journals during my last two years of college when I took fiction-writing workshop. (Semesters I didn’t take the workshop, no journal exists.) I also have a handful of earlier “story” manuscripts — compulsively scribbled out during classes I routinely attended but did not have the wherewithal to pay attention. At one point these MSS got damp, dried out with permanent ripples, and now are brittle as 19th century proclamations. Immature narratives, mostly in first person, spelling the grief of my isolation after leaving some friends behind in high school — namely boys I’d allowed to squeeze my breasts or kiss me in preparation for their first dates. Not long after their dates had developed into girlfriends, the girls had requested that the boys not be friends with me anymore. Their docile compliance was difficult to condemn, but easy to let myself be wounded by.
Yet in my journals and story drafts, it seems nowhere did I record my unenthusiastic response to three young men who, between 1976 and 1978, shared my company on a single date.
The first was fall of 1976: A fellow trombone player, a chemistry major, a boy a year younger than me who’d been assigned to the marching band squad of which I was the leader, asked me to accompany him to an academic fraternity dinner/dance. This would naturally negate the conclusion that my playing the trombone made the male trombone-players view me as not enough of a girl to have dating interest in me. I was, however, not enough of a girl to appreciate a dress-up, corsage-wearing occasion where couples actually had their pictures taken. I felt repulsed by the way this boy became a solicitous, polite, car-door-opening drone, leaving the joking, irreverent shirtless college-freshman-in-cutoffs I’d known out on the football field, replacing himself with a suit-wearing Ken doll. Unfair, and not at all his fault. This was a role he had been conditioned to (more…)
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