Female, 18, Memphis, Tennessee
When look back to my freshman year of college, I tend to think of it as my “bell jar” period. It was the loneliest time of my entire life, and the period in which I felt the most disconnected from myself and from everything around me. More depressed than I had ever felt during my angsty high school years, and more alone than I had ever felt while hiding my closet bisexuality from my close-knit group of girlfriends. I’d felt ready to lose my virginity for most of high school, but had only managed to do “everything but” by the time I drove across the country to start college.
I expected college to be wildly liberating – new people, new hook ups, freedom from parents and a chance to forge a whole new identity. I was bored of my hometown, a suburb of a liberal mid-Atlantic city, and took my friends for granted. I wanted to dive into everything new. What I did not expect was the crushing loneliness of being the only girl in my hallway who had no desire to join a sorority. To realize that being out and bi might not be so easy at a school where much of the student body was from the Bible Belt. To have difficulty making real friends, and become aware of the fact that this was due to having had most of the same ones at home since first grade, and that I missed them desperately. I needed a companion.
I met him within a week of freshman orientation. He was a senior and a cross-country runner, and we had an immediate and incredibly intense mutual attraction. After several rounds of rum shots and hookah smoking, we made out on his desk chair. My desire to be with him was so strong that it scared me. I lost my virginity to him before we had ‘officially’ decided that we were in a relationship, about three weeks after we’d begun seeing each other. I had decided on the time and the place, a Friday in his on-campus apartment after a cross-country party. I still remember the underwear and bra that I had carefully decided on in my dorm room – blue silky boy shorts with white lace from Victoria’s Secret, and a red racer-back bra that clasped in the front.
After several cups of vodka mixed with Gatorade, and after the party had thinned out, we did the deed on top of his lofted bed in his cramped bedroom, which was decorated with posters of Steve Prefontaine and maps of the Middle East, where he had just returned from studying abroad. It was uncomfortable physically, but also very tender and sweet. I still tend to lose any sense of time when I have sex, but I would guess that he was on top of me for about ten minutes. He was concerned about hurting me and gave me lots of little kisses. I felt amused afterwards when I realized that he’d never removed his socks. He cradled me in his arms that night and I knew I was falling in love with him.
About a year after ending our 18 month relationship, I was finally able to admit to myself what I never wanted to in the course of our relationship and tumultuous breakup: that he was abusive. The physical abuse didn’t start until I began the two-month process of breaking up with him, but the emotional abuse had started almost immediately. I knew early on that he wasn’t “the one,” but in a sick way I also didn’t want to be with anyone else. I felt that I needed him. Sometimes I thought I deserved it. I couldn’t be alone.
Sometimes I still can’t reconcile the loss of my virginity. It’s a very sweet, loving memory, but hard to separate from all of the other aspects of our relationship – the misogyny, being constantly put down in private and public, the fact that he never really “got” or appreciated me, the jealousy, being forced into his car when he was drunk, the time he broke into my room, the threats, and the complete loss of a sense of self.
I haven’t talked to him in years, but I know that he now has a daughter. This, more than anything else, just makes me sincerely hope that he’s changed. A lot. I know I have.
Image via Flickr