Like many when they first saw Can’t Hardly Wait, Willow had no idea what a dendrophiliac was. Nor could she have fathomed how much her first name was tailor-made for that particular fetish. Not that she was setting out to develop a predilection for having sex with trees or anything… Not at first, anyway. But after seeing that movie with her then-best friend, Jessica, who kept bringing up that particular “insult” and wielding it against anyone who bothered her (as is the case when youths pick up a new word, like, say, “faggot”), something about the concept seemed to solidify in Willow’s mind.
It certainly helped strengthen her “heightened interest” in trees that she also conveniently lived in a very nature-oriented environment. The type of woodland milieu one automatically associates with fairies and nymphs mucking about whilst giggling and bare-chested. That was what Willow wished it was like, instead of being the dried-up swamp land that it essentially was. Nary a creature (whether human hybrid or not) in sight. Such was the curse of Western states once the drought had hit, ostensibly never to leave again. And if it did, it was never long enough for Mother Nature to provide enough pervasive wetness. It was phenomena like this that made ecosexuals (basically the modernized word for dendrophiliacs) all the more adamant about their sexual identity. For to lose Mother Earth to further decimation would mean not just a general wasteland for this ilk, but a sexual one as well.
Willow found herself a part of it several years after her vague attempt at college, when she was still trying to tuck away thoughts of her favorite tree in the woods by her childhood home. After what had happened—the way she was made a social pariah for the remaining two years of her high school tenure—she was obliged to suppress these thoughts. To bury them the way she had once buried a tree branch in her vag as she mounted it with abandon. Who knew writer-directors Deborah Kaplan and Harry Elfont would be so inspiring to bringing this somehow long-dormant fantasy of hers to life? But that brief, yet evocative description from Lauren Ambrose as Denise Fleming—“It’s someone who has sex with trees”—kept echoing in her mind for weeks after seeing the movie with Jessica. She even persisted in making mention of wanting to see it again to said friend until she finally snapped, “Jesus Christ, if you wanna see that goddamn movie again so bad, just go by yourself!” But Willow would be too embarrassed to do that. Going to the movies alone as a youth at that time simply wasn’t done. Only people like Paul Reubens went to the movie alone. And yeah, Willow basically wanted to go to the theater for the same reason he did. So she did her best to push aside her suddenly unlocked barrage of erotic thoughts about the natural world just beyond her backyard. Filled with trees of every imaginable variety…presumably all just waiting to be fucked.
When she thought about it, everything was about trees, somehow related back to them. Even “Man’s” origin story, still believed by some freaky deakies to have commenced with the bite of one forbidden apple from a tree. That was the most erotic story of all to Willow. The one that got her really hot in her bed at night as she lay there imagining herself as Eve. In the fantasy, she starts to take a bite out of the taboo fruit, only for the long, agile fingers of a tree branch to pluck it from her mouth and pull Eve/Willow right toward it, tossing the apple away and sticking those aforementioned “fingers” straight into her moist little slit. This was the part where her legs would start to quake uncontrollably in anticipation of the imminent orgasm.
Sometimes, the face of the grandmother in the willow tree (Willow’s namesake, she decided) from Pocahontas, who was once probably a hot slut just waiting to open her mouth on any human genitalia that passed by, would also appear in her fantasy. And she wondered if she was the only person on Earth who had ever saw Grandmother Willow as she truly was: a sexual being. Occasionally, she ran the risk of getting caught in the throes of these masturbatory delights by her mother, who seemed to have a sixth sense for interrupting pleasure. Nonetheless, she would have much preferred that interruption to ever being viewed so publicly in flagrante delicto. Right at the time when a group of Willow’s fellow classmates were passing by because they just so happened to be in the mood to try to make their own attempt at The Blair Witch Project (for yes, Willow’s newly-discovered fetish continued well into 1999) with handheld camcorders. Willow was there for their true money shot. Gyrating in ecstasy on a tree branch. They had no idea when they began their day that this was the type of film they would be making.
Willow was so naively certain that no one would venture this far out. That there was no way she could possibly be caught. But worse than being caught, she was filmed (the tape of which remains “lost” since the era when it was passed around to everyone in her high school, but it’s highly likely someone is making money off it via the internet by now). Needless to say, “dendrophiliac” was her nickname for the rest of high school, and she all at once really loathed Deborah Kaplan and Harry Elfont for bringing that moniker into mainstream consciousness where once she revered them for making it known that such a thing was even a possibility.
Although her parents were likely aware of the reason behind their daughter’s ostracism, they never asked her anything specific. Why she never went out with friends anymore, or if she had plans for the weekend. They recognized that she had become a pariah, and for them to acknowledge it would be to acknowledge many truths that were too uncomfortable for all involved.
As soon as Willow was accepted into the college of her choice in Portland, she drove up with the speed of Cruella in full-on bitch mode. Theoretically, Northern California should have been a safe space for her “particular brand,” but somehow, in the early aughts, it was the worst possible location for non-Republicans and non-meth heads. In Portland, she tapped into a new way of life, and she could forget about the stain with which she had been marked. That mark was only permanent in that high school, in that town. She was born anew as soon as she crossed the Oregon border (like so many pioneers before her). And, after only a few months, she found that going to school felt superfluous. Totally unnecessary to what she actually wanted to do. Which is why she decided to drop out without telling her parents and still collect the cash they were administering under the assumption it was all for her higher education. And, in some sense, it certainly was. Going out at night and inhabiting a sizable house far away from the campus her parents assumed she was living on didn’t come cheap (except that it actually did because it was Portland before Portlandia). But it was part of a grander plan. The plan we all have, somewhere deep down. The one where we “find our tribe.” It only took Willow about another decade to do that, with many guises attempted in order to “fit” somewhere, with somebody.
At first, she had done her best to glom onto the tribe that called themselves ecosexuals. Later, Willow realized she preferred the term “witch.” Somewhat ironic when considering that The Blair Witch Project had unwittingly been responsible for so much of her shame. But back to that stamp of former condemnation, “witch.” Now, it was simply a catch-all label for anybody who wanted to do shit in nature while being nude. At least as far as Willow was concerned. And that there were other naked coven members around her only added to her “legitimacy.” She was no longer a “freak,” she was merely “on-trend.” Also as much in terms of never seeming to be able to pay her parents back for all that money they thought for so long was going toward a degree. Yet one might say a degree in Dendrophilia is far more valuable than one in Philosophy from the University of Portland. Because, in truth, there was nothing more philosophical in every way than fucking a tree. Though maybe only the Transcendentalists would try to defend that.