I’ve been avoiding writing this because it’s far easier to focus on the grand and the melodramatic than to write about what’s really eating me, what’s always eating me, what’s been eating me for as long as human memory can fathom human life (human memory, according to current research, begins around age 3).
I suppose I should begin here, with the present. Standing on the bathmat naked checking the mirror above the sink to make sure my breasts measure out a “perfect handful”; this is the vocabulary I learned from a romance novel at age 9 to gauge both weight and beauty and I’ve been using it to monitor both in myself ever since, eating or not eating according to that metric. This was also the auspicious age at which I hit puberty.
This book didn’t teach me anything about sex. That vocabulary I already knew because he taught it to me, taught me to ask for it as if my parroted consent had any meaning.
Back to the present. Waiting for the water pressure to equalize in the shower before I bother to step into it. Focusing on what’s important, what matters, what’s eating me, what I can control. Not what was. Every month or so I stand here on the black bath mat and trim my pubic hair down to about a quarter inch in a monkish sort of ritual that has no origin in memory or reason.
I grew it for the first time not long after that romance novel taught me what I should look like. I love it and sometimes I hate it, too, because before it grew I only had to worry about one man when mom wasn’t around.
He used to tell me he loved the way I looked, his little girl, loved my hair straight and blonde. So I stopped wearing dresses and color. Days-old eyeliner, ratted curls dyed violet, kissing as many girls as I could. I never once smiled in his presence. I made myself as ugly as I could manage.
The water in the shower’s run cold. I have two recurring intrusive thoughts. They’ve been skipping through my head since I was 7: “I should kill myself” and “I should shave my head”.
I’ve been this way for as long as I can remember, this cloistered, knowledgeable, quiet thing lining the sofa at parties, legs crossed daring the brave to just try– and fail. Girls I knew would marvel at my self-control but I never had the heart to tell them it wasn’t self-control, it was fear. That there was a reason those few lucky souls could never stop thinking about my teeth and hands and mouth after. Why I never spoke to them again. Why I never once touched my friends.
Present. It’s really fucking hard to stay present. My hair’s drying and I need to hang out my laundry before it does because the order of these things matters.
My vocabulary is wider now and it still fails to describe my sexuality. Freud would say I’m repressed and after punching him in the throat I might concede the point a little. Because nowadays I’m not certain I’m entirely asexual. I’m probably-definitely not 100% lesbian because what’s the point of limiting the emotional connections you make with others when you’ll probably never fuck them and gender is a lie?
But most importantly, the thing I’ve never told anyone except for how now in writing this I have: Because I want. Oh god how I want. I don’t even have words for what I want there’s just this unending sensation of dissatisfaction and a need to get my hands on another person and feel something. This must be some deeper thing than touch starvation and the oxytocin addiction that keeps us alive I can’t hardly breathe sometimes for the wanting. “Lust” is too small. Want, wanting, wanted– there are too few permutations to get at what I’m trying to say or maybe it’s just that toothsome feeling isn’t meant to be put into words.
My hair’s been dry for hours and I still need to brush it. Braid it. There’s a new style I’ve been meaning to try. I’ve accomplished nothing today other than this.
tl;dr: I’m afraid that I’m a monster who doesn’t understand what consent is. Does someone want something because they want it or because I’ve told them to? How the fuck am I supposed to know the difference? Do I want to know the answer?