Galentines

My first kiss was at 15. He was my first boyfriend, but the relationship lasted a month. He “couldn’t do it anymore,” for reasons that are still unclear.

The first time I made out was at 17. I met him at a Zox concert and we kissed in the rain. I saw him once more before that relationship ended — I skipped work, my mother found out, and I was grounded “forever.” In reality, forever lasted a few weeks, but I broke it off anyway; he didn’t have a car, his boarding school was an hour away, and my pragmatic side didn’t see a happy future.

The first real relationship I had came after high school graduation, after we had both chosen where to go to college. We fell in love quickly, but he moved 300 miles away, and we saw each other roughly every three weeks for two and a half years. We were finally in the same city, but he took that for granted, and I broke both our hearts by leaving him.

The first boyfriend I saw regularly came into my life at 20, and we became official shortly after I turned 21. He was emotionally abusive, and I clung to him long after we were officially broken up, letting him use me for sex at his convenience, carrying on a secret half relationship for six months after I finally decided to leave.

Then I let my husband, and all of that came to an end.

—-

Today is “Galentine’s Day,” an unofficial yet-to-be-Hallmarked holiday meant to be spent with the women you love most in life. It also marks the third anniversary of beginning my relationship with my husband, so I won’t be drinking wine tonight with my friends at Solera, or pouring myself a glass at home and Skyping the “friend fam” from my breakfast bar. And, in a way, that’s sad.

I’ve spent most of my life either single or close enough to it, and the people who loved me, each and every day, were a ragtag crew of women, some now married, some dating, some engaged, and some single.

And I wish, especially for the single ones, that I could spend tomorrow with them.

—-

I was never good at being alone. I hated being around couples, save one. They never made me feel like a third wheel to their bicycle; instead, we all rode our own side by side.

Apart from them, though, relationships made me miserable. I so wanted to be loved by a guy that seeing it in front of me was deeply sad. But I always had My Girls.

The girls whose houses I would sleep over so often that their mothers would start to parent me as much as their own child. The girl who would hug me when I cried over these mini-relationship breakups, convinced I would never love again. The girls who would take my drunken phone calls and laugh at my slurring “I love you”s. The girls who would listen to me rattle off my host of bad decisions, and tell me that I was going to be fine. The girls who would split packs of cigarettes with me in high school because we were ‘so badass.’ The girls who planned out my weekends freshman year of college, because I was friendless, and miserable, and didn’t know what to do with my free time. The girls who would call me during American Idol to critique the performances. The girls who always encouraged me to keep writing, who always told me how talented I was, and to never give up. The girls who would pick me up when I fell — sometimes literally — and bring me down when I was off my rocker.

This is for all of those girls, who have been there long before any boy came along, and far before my husband. The ones who I called when I got engaged, who flew to Las Vegas on their last pennies for my wedding, who rapped at my reception (and then collapsed from dehydration — yes, this really happened). The ones who listened to me go through my lowest lows of mental illness, and always promised to be there for me.

And I knew they meant it, because they always have been.

This is for you, My Girls.

Sports Bras To Work

When I was a young A-cup, I did everything I could to enhance my bust. I bought low-cut shirts and incredibly padded push-up bras. All of my clothes were fitted — read: tight. Jeans may as well have been painted on. I bought a button up that could only be buttoned to below my bust, like an added bustier. I was trying so hard to attract attention, that I didn’t think much about what I liked, what I wanted to wear.

This ceased for a time after I ‘landed’ my first boyfriend, my first love syndrome. For two and a half years, I took a break from trying so damn hard. I went so far as to make a uniform of hoodies and jeans, of my strangest ‘man repeller’ outfits, of tanktops and shorts, and IDon’tGiveAFuck.

Until that relationship ended.

It was my decision, and much to do with sex — namely, that he didn’t seem to want to have any. I had my own place, but he shared an on-campus apartment with four roommates. That was where we stayed: in a two-bedroom place with a literal roommate, and a guy who slept on the couch. Every time I showered there, I’d walk out of the bathroom with a towel around my body and a towel on my head almost directly into the living where two or more guys would be lounging around, watching TV or playing Halo 3. I learned to bring my change of clothes into the bathroom with me to avoid running into The Roommate just as I was about to undress. It was less than ideal, but we never chose to spend more time at my place — or rather, he didn’t want to.

The last day we were together, I was changing clothes to go for a run, and he kept his eyes fixed firmly on his monitor instead of the body of his soon-to-be ex girlfriend, who he would never have sex with again.

And so the cycle started again, but with a twist: I still rocked the sweatshirts and jeans to class, but come party time my inner slut was given time to shine.

I gave her free reign under the liberation of alcohol. I had my one and only one-night-stand while wearing a short white velvet dress and angel wings after about five large screwdrivers. I played a good deal of beer pong and followed some guy around a party — to be fair, I didn’t realize this is what I was doing. In retrospect, it must have been completely obvious, but he did make out with me on a few occasions, so it must have been more cute than obnoxious. I wore a lot of sheer white shirts with black bras underneath. I wore a lot of short shorts. I reinstated my push-up bras.

And I was into it, even stayed in this frame of mind and dress after I snagged first a quasi-boyfriend, and then made it official after about six months. Even then, I made sure to keep the eyes on me. If they stayed there, if it was clear that I could fuck almost any guy at almost any time, this new boyfriend would see and stay. It helped that I was out of his league — which I don’t say to be mean; at the time, I cherished our relationship, co-dependent and emotionally abusive thing that it was — but (without vanity), he got kind of lucky.

That was probably an unconscious choice. Pick someone inexperienced, slightly odd looking, and emotionally broken, and he should stick like Velcro. Which he did, until rrrrrrip! — my obsession with being wanted, being cherish, being needed by a man led to me chasing one on a two week trip home.

He was an artist with thick hair, a mustache, and a collarbone tattoo. At that time in my life, that was Kryptonite. The first time I saw him tagged in a Facebook picture with my friend Jameson, I thought he was attractive. Some months later, I friended him, and fell in love with his drawings. The first night we met, we went swimming in a lake at night in our underwear. When I jumped off the wooden dock and into the lake, the clasp on the front of my bra broke irrevocably and I wore his clothes home.

It was a disaster waiting to happen.

But what a sweet disaster it was. Yes, I got drunk and kissed him in a tent in my side yard. Yes, we continued to make out throughout the night, sleeping only a few precious hours on the ground. Yes, he told me he wanted to sleep with me more than anything. But we held hands on a midnight walk to Dunkin Donuts; I was barefoot, and he offered me his shoes. While the other two sleep-over guys snored next to him, I traced the lines of his tattoo (Be strong, I love you) which he had gotten while his father was dying, or just after. It was romantic and ethereal, fantastic in the true sense of the word:

— “imaginative or fanciful; remote from reality”

When I had left my boyfriend in New York, I was having a panic attack in our parking lot. I needed him to come to me, put his arms around me and kiss the side of my head as he used to, until the shaking stopped. Instead, I wheezed and cried and couldn’t catch my breath, but he told me be quiet, the neighbors will hear!

Technically, we broke up.

I was indecisive about telling him while laughing with my girlfriends over tomato soup, our hangover cure, but I couldn’t stop myself from giving him what he was owed — the truth. That, however, wasn’t the problem. He didn’t care that I had kissed another guy or why I had done it. He forgave me instantly, or so he said; I believe he merely didn’t want to lose me, his little trophy girl.

And technically, we broke up, technically he lost me, but we continued to sleep together on and off for a year. I cheated on two boyfriends with him, one who became my husband.

There’s a term for that I believe: slut.

A slut is “a woman who has many casual sexual partners.” A slut is “a woman with low standards of cleanliness.” A slut is “an immoral or dissolute woman; a prostitute.” A slut is “an individual who is considered to have loose sexual morals or who is sexually promiscuous.” A slut is “a woman of a low or loose character; a bold or impudent girl; a hussy, jade.”

I had three casual sexual partners in the course of six months, sometimes overlapping them, always looping back to them. I certainly preferred dry shampoo to a shower, but that was because my bathroom was freezing. I cheated — an immoral, dissolute act that went against everything I had ever believed. I was loose with my sexual morality. I felt low in my character.

But I would never say I was a slut.

I was 23 and confused. I did things that were against my morals, that were wrong by most standards, but I was trying my best to be happy, and didn’t know how. I never aimed to hurt anyone — in fact, I lied and concealed truths so as to minimize pain felt by anyone but myself. If there was any mistake I made, it was following the advice of a twice-broken heart — believe me, they’re unreliable.

It wasn’t until I abandoned all that, though, that I put away the clothes I used to put myself on sexual display. That came when I left my mistakes, my tumult of perplexity, in the past and committed fully to the man who is now my husband. I went through everything I owned and everything that reminded me of that girl I once was went into trash bags — not because the clothes didn’t flatter me, or that I didn’t feel confident in them, but that they made me physically uncomfortable. Perhaps that was the anxiety diagnosis talking, but I believe not because I haven’t worn those clothes or anything like them since.

Instead, I embraced menswear (I’m wearing a sweater of my husband’s now). I embraced basics. I embraced clothes that made me feel confident, cool, and effortlessly woman-like without feeling like a bikini babe posing beside a car.

Now, I put together outfits that feel like myself instead of a highlighter for my body. My pants may still be tight, but that’s my choice. I may wear scoopnecks that hint at cleavage, but I chose them because they make me feel good. I wear heels because I love being six feet tall and thin and strutting around like I’m a contestant on ANTM. And sometimes, I wear sportsbras to work, because I want a long slim line instead of accenting my breasts. That’s me.

I’m also the girl who sexts her husband from the office, who takes masturbation breaks, who watches and enjoys porn, and who has slept with five men — who will only ever sleep with five men.

If what I wear now or what I wore at 23 makes me a slut, fine. If my enjoyment of sex, the partners I’ve had, and when I had them makes me a slut, I’ll take it. Because I’ve had a few casual sex partners. I’ve cheated multiple times. I’m certainly bold and impudent, and think showering is a waste of valuable morning time. So call me a slut, and I’ll take that scarlet S and craft an amazing outfit out of it.

But I won’t put myself on display anymore for the attention of men, plural. If I’m on display, it’s for two people: myself, and my husband. That’s all I care about.

And if the rest makes me a slut? Fantastic.

I’ll be your little slut.

I Had Never

I don’t like to write about Him. I shouldn’t capitalize that pronoun. He’s not that powerful. But he is.

I had never punched someone until I punched him.

We were in a fight, and I don’t even remember what about. The problem is that I can’t remember the first time — there were so many. But I needed something from him, some validation of hearing me, or having any feelings besides frustration, besides stop talking get away from me I’m tired this is exhausting you’re exhausting, and I followed him and yelled and cried and begged and — snapped.

I started hitting him over and over, trying to find some point of vulnerability because I wanted to hurt him, or to wake him up out of this zombie stupor of indifference and — what? He would see me? He would start to care about the girl gone crazy, feeling frustrated that she couldn’t hit hard enough?

Don’t feel sympathy for me. It wasn’t a mistake because that’s something you do once. Afterward, no matter how reflexive the action feels, it is a choice, and I continued to choose to want to hurt him and to act upon it. It doesn’t matter that he was emotionally abusive, or that my parents had each hit me once, but hit each other countless times, or that I never managed to hurt him. There is no excuse.

I had never cheated until I cheated on him — and then with him.

It was against my nature, my morality, the kernel of heat in my belly and breastbone that knows when I’ve done wrong — the first time, I didn’t feel it. I drank enough to give me the bravery to be bad, and kissed another guy in the afternoon in my mother’s side yard. Later, I held his hand, and traced his collarbone tattoo, and wanted badly,badly to have sex with him, but we were in a tent with two other people — that’s the only reason why. He put his hand down my pants, and we later had phone sex, long after I had left my boyfriend because he didn’t care that I had cheated, he just wanted to move on, as if something irrevocable hadn’t happened.

It’s like losing your virginity — once it’s done, it’s easier to do again.

When I started dating the next boyfriend after him, I actively seduced him because he didn’t seem to care that I was happy with someone else. He went on a date, and something snapped. I met him for lunch and made the subtle choices I knew he would like, and that he knew that I had made purposefully. I refused to take no for an answer, and preyed upon the fact that I was far too good looking for him, and we had sex between some bushes and an office building next to the highway, and I convinced myself this was a good decision for another six months of cheating, always cheating, and lying, and telling myself this made me interesting.

I don’t feel sorry for cheating on him, but I for cheating with him — one instance of cheating with him — I do. I didn’t care if I did bad things behind his back, unless he found out and I didn’t have a better option at the time. I was selfish and so lost and only 23.

Then again, I was 23. I wasn’t 15 or 17, or whatever age some people say that cheating means nothing because at some point the slate is wiped clean and you start over. I don’t believe in that. You wipe your own slate, and I dirtied mine for a long time, feeling like a goddamned graffiti artist, but I was spray painting junk over my entire life.

I never hurt myself until him.

It started with pinching my arms and legs, to make myself not feel numb — but numbness is the absence of feeling — I wanted to feel. Being around him was like inhaling second hand smoke and then one day getting cancer that eats up your entire body. Like Where the Wild Things Are: I’ll eat you whole I love you so, but I was the wild thing and I ate myself.

The last time was using the corkscrew of a wine bottle opener to open up my wrist, scratching slowly over the course of days, planning to tell someone that my cat had ‘gotten me laugh-laugh‘ if they saw, until the thin red line became liquid and my now-husband came and took it out of my hands, sucked the poison out, took the pain away.

I never wanted to do it until I wanted to so badly that I couldn’t not do it and then I hated myself for it. I hated him for it more because I never felt so small and insignificant, like stepping on an ant, even a line of ants, which happens all the time — no one sheds tears for the ants, and there were no tears when I first picked up a screw that fell out of my apartment wall — nothing but quiet intention as I learned in concentration over my wrist.

I was never emotionally abused before he emotionally abused me.

I see so clearly: an apartment parking lot at twilight, and my arms are wrapped around my belly, trying to hold myself in as he backed away from me while I begged him to come and hold me — I was coming apart.

I see his eyes, cocky controlling eyes, knowing he could make me dance like a puppet on strings with elaborate eyelashes and a painted on smile. Rosy circles for cheeks. I was only in control when it came to sex, and eventually he stopped caring about that because he knew he held more of the cards — my desperation was showing, like stuffing coming out of my puppet’s stuffed wounds, and he grabbed it, held it, and dragged me around by it — I thought I had a choice.

That’s the shit of it — it’s a slow burn. Slowly, you are shrunken down into a pocket-sized thing and then you wonder why you’re picked up, flung around, bruised, and left out in the rain.

It sounds like I’m hung up on him — I’m not.

I’m a vengeful person, and I still want to hurt him like he’s hurt me, then rub the salt of my marriage in his sick-fuck wounds.

Because of him, I became the worst version of myself — even though it was totally and completely because of me.