When you’re at your “ripest,” as Robert Rodriguez or Humbert Humbert might say, it’s easy to fall prey to the trap of believing you’ll never be a “grown up” or “accepted” until you lose your V-card. This is true of both girls and boys, but it is the former gender who has to pay the price of being called a slut for her choices. And it just takes a handful of times (or even one) of boning for that “epithet” to stick. Or really, a handful of rumors that can spread faster than gonorrhea. Rumors over a single instance of sexual activity–perhaps penetrative, perhaps not. Maybe even the only instance a girl engaged in the goddamn sordid act solely for the sake of “getting it over with.”
For so many, that’s what virginity loss is all about. And, as any teen movie will tell you, trying to “cultivate the perfect experience” usually results in massive disappointment or a rape at the prom. So yes, why not just let anyone who’s vaguely interested perform the task of firmly breaking that hymen (if your bike didn’t already) for you? That’s what my line of thinking was when I let Jimmy drive me home one afternoon, knowing full well that we were going to have a little “stop over” along the way. But I had already planned for that, making up some excuse that morning to my parents about how there was a tryout for some play I wanted be in. Yeah fucking right. Sure, I enjoyed reading plays, but I would never want to participate in one. Luckily, I was versed enough in The Canon to come up with a stock answer (A Streetcar Named Desire) when they inquired as to which one I would be auditioning for. I then felt paranoid the entire day that they might actually look into it with the school to see if such a performance really was slated to take place. I guess that just goes to show how hovering my parents could be. That their lack of trust in me for the most part only made me lie all the more. And “rebel” all the more, if that’s what having sex as a teenager was to be. But just look at all those Shakespeare characters with burning loins that so clearly did it. Yes, the life expectancy was much shorter back then, making time of the essence, but whatever. The point holds true.
With my “ironclad” excuse about needing to stay later after school, it bought me time to fuck around with Jimmy. You know, like literally. He drove us to a secluded part of the lake that was about a fifteen-minute drive from our high school. Neither of us needed to discuss what was going to happen—it was implied from the moment I agreed to get in the car with him, which I had never done before. But word had gotten out (by my own design) that I was “practically begging for it” and Jimmy just so happened to be the guy who showed the most initiative. Knowing that he wasn’t asking to give me “a ride” out of the kindness of his heart, I licked my lips at him, gave a wink and said, “Yeah. I’ll take a ride.” Clearly, I had been watching Easy A on repeat to achieve a certain Emma Stone quality of “quirky seduction.” I’m not sure Jimmy picked up on it.
“Somebody That I Used to Know” was playing on the radio when we started…and also when we finished. That should be an indication of how “memorable” it was apart from that highly specific song playing. And yeah, Gotye would haunt me forevermore each time I heard that fucking “hit” in a public space (‘cause obviously I wasn’t going to be playing that shit in private). It got to be so abhorrent to me that if I ever heard it blasting at a party or in a store or whatever (which it did for far too long after 2012), I would be unable to control a physical reaction to it—usually retching. That’s why I made it a point to bring ear plugs with me wherever I went. Just in case. Because you’d be surprised just how much you never really know when Gotye featuring Kimbra is going to be “bumped” on surround sound speakers.
Over the course of the next few weeks, the rumors about me amplified. First I was getting railed by James in the parking lot of an In-n-Out (poetic), next it was a gang bang in the woods. Before I knew it, all the boys were circling around me as though I was supposed to be some kind of bitch in heat. I most definitely was not, but still I let more “go on” than I should. I let boys have sex with me because it was “easier” than to not. I don’t know how to explain that other than what the statement is. It’s just that once my “bad reputation” started avalanching, I didn’t want to bother fighting it anymore. I suppose that’s how, in my “early days” of fucking, the seed of carelessness was sown. By seventeen, I was getting my first abortion and by twenty I had turned my first trick “just because.” To see what it would feel like. Sex was already so transactional to begin with that I figured I might as well, for once, actually get some cash out of it. Two hundred dollars, to be exact. It wasn’t terrible—and it made me continually scratch my head as to how Carrie Bradshaw ever got a thousand, no questions asked. I mean, I was much hotter than her. But whatever. Everything in New York centered on people getting off over paying too much for things. This was L.A. We kept it slightly more proportionate regarding financial rates. Which is what I tried to tell my roommate when she consistently expected me to cover her half of the rent. Yet what could I do? She kept promising me that once she “hit the big time,” she’d pay me back tenfold. Of course, when she actually did become famous, she forgot all about me. That’s usually how it goes in Hollywood. Except that we lived more specifically in Mid-Wilshire.
Anyway, high school was starting to feel further and further away, along with those days when I was branded a whore. In Los Angeles, it was called: just another night. The small-town mentality felt so distant from me with enough years between me and it. That is, until I lost my job abruptly at a moment in time when I hadn’t prepared myself for it—meaning, I had just recently tapped into all my savings to buy a new car. Which at least I could now live out of if necessary. But the big issue was my loss of health insurance, which seemed to come at a time when I needed it most. For it was just a week later that the result of a pap smear I arbitrarily decided to have thrown in with a physical came back. It had been five years since my last one, and yes, it had to be admitted that I had only grown more promiscuous rather than reining in that “quality” as my twenties progressed. Most girls, they say, have to get it out of their system. “Ho life,” that is. But for me it was simply a way of being that I didn’t foresee myself “getting over” anytime soon. These were the dicks that served, even if only for a few minutes, to briefly fill the void inside of me. To stop up the literal hole so that maybe the metaphorical one could be as well. But now I was paying a price. The test that came back showed the dreaded HPV 16 and HPV 18 strains. Although the doctor said it could take ten or even twenty years for HPV to turn into cancer, I knew that amount of time had lapsed. Maybe it was latent during the last test and had been getting a nice jump start all this time. Whatever the case and whoever the original source, I knew what my sentence was. Death by cervical cancer. Sure, it wasn’t “common,” but that was just the placation they told you to keep you from losing your shit. From going full-on Shirley MacLaine in Terms of Endearment, even though she wasn’t the one dying of cancer.
I wouldn’t bother going to that length of such wasted passion. No, instead I was going to surrender to inevitable death—my punishment for “promiscuity” coming back to haunt me right at the source—by continuing as I always had. Except now I would go back to my hometown to wait out the impending date with the Reaper. I wondered…if I offered to fuck him, would he let me off the hook? I mean, that guy in The Seventh Seal only ever tried to play chess with Death, but maybe all Death really wanted was for someone to suck him off. Something to consider when we finally met. I didn’t tell my parents about why I was really back, other than I needed a place to “recalibrate” while I figured out my next career move. Maybe eventually I would have to inform them of my condition, but not now. Not for a while.
I wanted to get to work right away. I wanted to start becoming “the other woman” for all the high school boys who were now married to the very same girls they had been dating back then. Such a lack of originality. Such a lack of trying. To me, it only proved that “love” was merely a matter of proximity and convenience.
As I drove down the street to meet Jimmy at a motel (he was the quickest to respond to my announcement about being back in town), I saw a girl walking down the road. She couldn’t have been older than sixteen (two years ahead of my own age of “deflowerment”). She was wearing an oversized black sweatshirt with the words, “Virginity Rocks” emblazoned across the front. I laughed to myself. I had to admit, it took some fucking ovaries to wear something like that—even in a place as conservative therefore “religious” as this.
But the smile disappeared from my face as I watched her vanish from my sight in the rearview mirror. It took me a long time to realize that there should have been a girl who wore a Virginity Rocks sweatshirt without any fear when I was in high school. And maybe I should have been that girl. I thought about her for many months after that sighting; she had infected my consciousness as thoroughly as HPV had infected my vag. It was as though she made me see how maybe never having sex at all is the best thing a woman can do for herself. It’s always more trouble than it’s worth in ways both physical and emotional…I thought as I let Jimmy rail me yet again in this roach motel. Because why not? My purity is long gone.