Through a couple decades with Page, part 2: 23

I wonder if it’s a coincidence that two of my favorite songs are titled “23:” one by Jimmy Eat World and the other by Blonde Redhead. They’re quite different not just in musical genre, but the lyrics touch on similar themes. Or, there are thematic similarities based on how I’ve listened to each song.

The Jimmy Eat World plucks on my nostalgia strings every time I listen to it. There’s a push and pull between a desire for things to stay the same, a ffear of loss and the desire to move forward and grow, hesitation vs. taking control over one’s own life and decisions.

Jimmy Eat World “23”

The Blonde Redhead song is more ethereal, opaque. 23 seconds is a brief moment, but everything can change in that moment. You can either lose everything or change your life. Yet no matter what you do, the world will keep moving, with or without you.

Blonde Redhead “23”

So what do either of these songs have to do with this entry other than the matching number? The years before 23 were chaotic and hedonistic. The years after were when I did a lot of growing up. Like in the songs, I had internal conflict about the growth and change occurring, but I can identify 23 as the fulcrum where the scales started to shift.

I made up for lost time regarding my sexual education in college. To get over the Swimmer breaking up with me without so much as a goodbye, I lost my virginity as soon as I was on the pill, out of spite. I had discovered online dating, met a guy who had his own place, which was nice because I absolutely hated my roommate freshman year. However, I didn’t even like him that much. He eventually figured this out and broke up with me. Looking back, I have no idea why I was so upset when he broke up with me via AOL Instant Messenger while I was home for Christmas break.

I had to go backwards a bit to provide context for twenty-three year old me. My ideas about sex were mostly about power dynamics, seduction. I made Freshman year boyfriend forget his own name and address with a blowjob. I wanted to think I held any sort of power over the guys I had slept with then, but I was only kidding myself, especially since I had a lot of less-than stellar sex then plus one particularly toxic entanglement I don’t feel like getting into right now.

So, there was twenty-three year old me, stagnating in an almost criminally low paying job that I hated and still living near campus despite having graduated the year before. On a whim, I decided to pack up and move across the country to a place where no one knew me just to take some semblance of control over my life, to make a decision that I would be responsible for. I had managed to save up enough money to get through three months if I couldn’t find a job. But so help me, I would make it work. I would write novels and get published and become a proper city girl with love affairs with all sorts of interesting people.

I fell into a coterie of other “ex-pat” writers and we hung out at our favorite collectively-owned coffee shop either chatting, or trying to get some work done. At a “salon” hosted by a friend of one of my group, people read aloud, performed music, and in one case, live-painted a giant canvas. You were as likely to find absinthe as PBR. I had some rather stimulating conversations with gentlemen that eventually led to dates, though oddly not to sex.

One thing I remember about that year was when I had first introduced myself to the writing group. I said I was 23, but I was an “old 23.” Well, 33-year-old me wants to go back in time and smack some sense into that pretentious little idiot. The group, for the most part, had an unspoken agreement that none of us would ever get involved with each other to not ruin the dynamic… which promptly got blown away by two of us moving in together after the third date and then getting married a couple months later. I often ate dinner with them and felt like the third wheel.

As for my own entanglements, there was a rather sweet would-be filmmaker that worked in a video rental store, a psych student pretender-to-the-throne that liked to dominate me and kicked me out of bed whenever he had an early workout the next morning, and a series of very terrible first dates. At that time, my belief that sex was a drive as natural and uncomplicated as eating and breathing was at odds with my desire for validation and romance.

Due to this, I had an identity crisis. In college, I was practically tripping over dick. Now, out in the “real world,” I would be lucky if I got a second date. I was flummoxed. I should have been at the height of my powers. I felt like I was at the height of my hotness too with my long hair, noir-ish wardrobe, and hipster sensibilities, but once again, 23-year-old me was a goddamn idiot.

That wannabe dominant, well, that was another area in which i was an idiot. I should have just left it as a couple nights of rather excellent fucking and then parting ways. But no. I caught feelings, even though we had specifically agreed that this wouldn’t be a thing. The things he told me to do got steadily more degrading and yet I would do them no matter how uncomfortable I was with it. Maybe it was because I had such a hard time finding suitable sex partners. Maybe I secretly liked and felt like I deserved the degradation considering my self-loathing has been a trusty companion since I was a teenager. Or, maybe, like I said earlier, I was a goddamn idiot.

Plus, I eventually found myself more or less back where I started, working jobs I hated, but at least I was making a couple more bucks an hour this time. My writing was going absolutely nowhere and time was starting to bleed together in that way where everything feels the same because you’re doing the same goddamn thing every day.

So, I did the natural thing: I got drunk and applied to grad school, jumping across the country yet again. That period was more or less a complete drought. It was as if my acceptance letter to grad school came with a vow of celibacy. Prior to that, I had gotten back together with the filmmaker and we thought we would try to make it work long distance. What an idiot I was to think that we could.

So now, I was alone in a city that didn’t know me, that I didn’t know and felt that I would never love. The path toward my warming towards the city, re-creating and reaffirming my identity, learning how to be ok alone and not need external validation eventually led to…

Thirty-three year old me


A couple of decades with Page, part 1

Lately I’ve been seeing a lot of posts doing the “10 years ago photo challenge.” While I could easily find pictures of myself from ten years ago, I figured I would try something different. Plus, I value my privacy. It makes it so much easier to put out sincere candor if no one knows who I really am.

I’ve seen a writing prompt that was a variant of this involving telling the younger or older version of yourself things from that particular age’s perspective. I do enough talking to myself as it is, so let’s do something different.

The following will be from the perspective of me at 13, 23, and 33 respectively, describing my physical appearance and thoughts about sex at the time.

Warning: it gets a bit weird and it was uncomfortable to write. So if you’re uncomfortable about a thirteen year old kid coming to grips with sexuality, you might want to leave.

row of red lockers with combination locks
I can’t tell you how many times I would forget my combination or turn too fast and miss the last number. I also can’t tell you how many times I slipped notes in lockers folded into all sorts of odd shapes.

Thirteen-year-old me

Awkward. That would be my one-word description of me at 13.

I was starting to get to the point where I would stop growing any taller, so my parents preparing for that contingency by buying me clothing three sizes too big became all the more conspicuous that I wasn’t one of the rich kids that could get a new wardrobe at the beginning of every school year. I also had enormous, round owl eyeglasses, which I didn’t mind because it meant that my parents finally believed me when I said that I couldn’t read the chalkboard and I would stop getting headaches from trying to squint hard enough to make out the letters and take notes. I was not a good looking kid.

My mother also cut my hair, which is to say, just trimmed it at the end so it would remain long and braidable down my back. It was the first time I asked if I could get a “grown-up” haircut, which proved to be a complete disaster. I wasn’t sure what to tell the hairdresser other than I wanted it short. The result was a rather terrible chin-length bob that made my round face look even rounder and I could no longer hide the occasional pimple under it. This could have been avoided if I just knew what I wanted and communicated that clearly.

This tendency haunted me for years. Even now, I still have trouble sometimes expressing that I’m either not ok with something or that I would like something to be a certain way instead.

Which leads me to sex. Yes. Thirteen-year-old, honor rolling, spelling bee runner-upping, concert band playing me had sexual thoughts and urges. Surprisingly, it wasn’t over the usual boy bands or heartthrob actors. Most of these thoughts involved a tenor sax player that I had a bit of a friendship with the year prior and he had given me his phone number in one of the coded notes we handed to each other to try to break. We apparently had cryptography ambitions back then. But sadly, I figured out what the code was too late; the school year ended and a summer passed and he completely forgot me.

The fantasy I remember the most, if I remember anything else from that time, involved handcuffs. I don’t know where I had seen it, but it was some show where two people get handcuffed together and they always had a bickering, “will they, or won’t they?” dynamic prior to that. So, early teen me saw that and thus started a fascination with restraints. I would imagine him and me handcuffed together at the wrist, the chain looped in a space in the headboard, pinning us to a bed.

File:Man Cuffed to Bedrail.jpg Wikimedia commons
Not quite what I imagined, but this image is working for me.
Picture via Wikimedia Commons

The strangest part of that was that I still didn’t know what a penis looked like (and wouldn’t until I was sixteen years old giving my first awkward handjob, but I’m skipping ahead) and I thought that sex involved the penis rubbing between the thighs. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with intercrural sex or frottage, but I didn’t know anything about basic penetrative sex, let alone either of those things. Thanks a lot, woefully-inadequate public school sex education. That made me an idiot about sex, but also resulted in a significant number of teen pregnancies when I got to high school.

I still didn’t know what a penis looked like (and wouldn’t until I was sixteen years old giving my first awkward handjob, but I’m skipping ahead) and I thought that sex involved the penis rubbing between the thighs. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with intercrural sex or frottage, but I didn’t know anything about basic penetrative sex, let alone either of those things. Thanks a lot, woefully-inadequate public school sex education. That made me an idiot about sex, but also resulted in a significant number of teen pregnancies when I got to high school.

So, looking back, my fantasies mostly involved heavy making out, but with handcuffs involved. I had no understanding at all of any of these things, but I knew that I wanted them. I had learned about desire, longing, doing things that would make me feel good. I’m pretty sure I discovered masturbation at around fourteen or fifteen.

This is the part where I feel it’s necessary to emphasize that anyone who justifies getting involved with a minor by saying that “she seemed/acted older than her age,” is a scummy predator. Just because I had those thoughts at an early age, it didn’t mean that it would have been ok for me to act on those impulses and especially not ok for someone older than me to coax me into acting on that.

Thirteen was also the year I first got my period. I tried to hide it from my parents. Mom only found out because I had started to get horrific, doubled over in pain, cramps and I figured getting a painkiller of some sort would be worth the embarrassment. That was when I developed an on again, off again relationship with a hot water bottle and as much ibuprofen as my body could take without my stomach hurting, thus defeating the purpose of me taking it for cramps. I experienced no reprieve from this monthly nightmare until I went on the birth control pill in college.

Which segues us to twenty-three year old me, but that will have to wait until next entry.


Fireworks on the Fourth, Or: the Golf Course Story

You never forget your first time, so they say. My first penis-in-vagina, “going all the way” experience was actually kind of forgettable. However, the following story was the first sexual encounter I considered worth remembering forever, worth writing down.

Summer, the senior year of high school. Fourth of July. My boyfriend and I did everything short of the cliche of losing our virginities to each other on prom night. I wasn’t about to make the mistake other girls in my school had made in risking getting knocked up before I could get the hell out of this town and go to college. Needless to say, this was at the tail end of my judgy, prudish phase.

Our courtship was something straight out of a cheesy teen rom-com. I was the weird girl that wrote sad poetry. He was the guy on varsity sports teams. We didn’t start getting serious until swim season. So for privacy’s sake, I’ll just refer to him as “The Swimmer.” Side note: there are fewer things more boring than going to a swim meet. The chlorine smell always gave me a headache and I wasn’t exactly friends with the other team girlfriends. The novelty of seeing him dripping wet in speedos wore off surprisingly quickly.

Anyway, against all odds, we somehow started dating. We somehow survived high school and were both going to college, albeit different schools, but we would cross that bridge when we got there. Spoiler alert: he dumped me before Fall semester orientation.

So, Fourth of July, we were at the country club where his family had a membership. Yeah, he was one of those guys. To make it even more of a teenage rom-com cliche, the Swimmer was the preppy rich kid and I was the feisty, misfit girl from the other side of the tracks. We were doomed from the start. He never understood why I felt weird asking the staff to get me drinks or why I generally didn’t like hanging out with him at the pool even though it was ridiculously hot outside. I could practically feel all eyes on me as the odd one out and I hated it. Still, like hell he would be caught at the public pool, so into the lion’s den I went.

The sun had just about gone down and we were scouting for a more private place on the golf course to watch the private firework show. I had a fair share of Arnold Palmers and BBQ earlier that day. There was something unspoken about our agreement to find a place away from the other spectators.

I can’t help but compare that Fourth of July to the one prior. One of the guys I worked with at a restaurant was back in town that summer and we spent much of it loitering in various places. On the Fourth, we were had snuck into some event at the lake to get closer to the fireworks. We ended up getting kicked out by some boy scout who saw that we didn’t have wristbands on. While we were sitting on the hood of an abandoned car, I had wondered if there was anything between us. That’s a completely different story, though.

The Swimmer spread out a picnic blanket beneath a willow tree on a hill as the first few pops went off. We probably had the best view compared to everyone else that just milled about on the deck back at the club. However, it was an unspoken understanding that we weren’t just interested in watching the fireworks, as pretty as they were.

Illuminated by the occasional neon flashes, he took some items out of his bag. Among them was a pair of gold-colored nylon cords with tassels. These were the accoutrements we had to pay extra for at graduation, to show off we were in the National Honors Society and how much better we were than everyone else or some elitist bullshit like that. Yet he had brought them with him here. Why?

The Swimmer knelt next to the fancy ropes with his back to me and his hands held behind his back. When I didn’t do what he apparently wanted me to do, he impatiently waved his hands and pointed at the ropes. I was an idiot. Here he was, giving me a gift I had always wanted. I had confessed my curiosities to him and to my surprise, he didn’t run for the hills. Instead, he indulged me in what would become a lifetime proclivity long after we broke up.

“Take off your shirt.” I said, trying to sound as authoritative as possible.

He grabbed the bottom hem of his shirt and pulled it over his head. I stopped him before it completely came off.

“No, leave it over your face. It’s more fun if you don’t get to see what I’m about to do.” I said.

Before he could protest, I kissed him through the cloth. It made me think of this painting that was on the cover of one of our literature textbooks. I later found out that the painting was titled “The Lovers II” and was painted by Rene “This isn’t a pipe, it’s just a picture of a pipe” Magritte. It’s of two people kissing with cloth veiling their heads. Not only could the viewer not see them, but they could not see each other. There was an unsettling quality to it that I liked, that turned me on, even though I wouldn’t understand why until later.

I pulled back from the kiss and he whimpered slightly. I went behind him to finish the job, wrapping the ropes around his wrists, trying to remember what the most suitable knot would be in this situation. Then again, the ropes were a formality, just a physical reminder that he was meant to be restrained, to not do anything unless I told him to.

I trembled, savoring the image of him on his knees, bound and blindfolded, completely helpless. So, this was power. Considering how powerless I generally felt as an angsty teenager, I quite rather liked it and could get used to making this a regular thing.

I started off slowly, just the barest of touches with my fingertips at random moments in random places. The longer this went on, the more he would arch into my touch, craving more. I followed that with kisses and the occasional rake of my nails against his skin. The boom and crackling of the fireworks made for a nice cover for his moans, otherwise I would have worried someone could hear him all the way back at the clubhouse. Occasionally, I would feel for his cock through his shorts, standing at attention, more than ready for action. I had half a mind to suck him off right then and there, but both of us would have to be patient. He was restrained. I needed to show restraint.

A wicked idea came to me and I stood up, sliding my panties down my legs from beneath my sundress. The Swimmer called out to me as if in fear that I had left him half naked with a hard-on on the golf course. I soothed his fear with a kiss and then held the panties against his covered face. He smelled them. Once he realized what they were, it was like in crime movies, when they would give the dog a scrap of cloth with the fugitive’s scent on it and the dog would just go nuts, pulling at the leash like mad. He lunged forward, nearly knocking me over.

“Down boy,” I scolded.

He stopped abruptly. I recollected myself and sat with my legs spread on the blanket. I snatched the makeshift t-shirt blindfold off of his face.

“Down boy,” I nodded down at my spread legs and raised dress.

When I say that The Swimmer ate pussy like a man possessed, that is a vast understatement. His mouth was on me before I could say anything else. This was going to be particularly challenging without the use of his hands, with long fingers that would have been well-suited for a musical instrument. Yet I knew that he would rise to the occasion.

I sighed as I felt the bristle of his stubble against the inside of my thigh, his tongue against my clit. Looking back, we were both highly inexperienced. Future partners I had knew the art of balancing teasing denial and payoff. Yet at the same time, I don’t think that mere rosy nostalgia is what makes me remember this encounter fondly.

The background noise and flash of the fireworks along with the sensation of this handsome young man servicing me like his life depended on it made for an interesting Fourth of July. My hips moved upward of their own accord, my thighs clamped around his head, riding his face as I came.

As they say, turnabout is fair play, and I wanted to reward him for being such a good boy. I sat up, gestured for him to come up and kiss me. He slipped his hands out of the nylon ropes quite easily, considering I hadn’t known a lot about knotwork back then. I could feel the length of his hard cock pressing against me. I was so wet from him going down on me that it would have taken nothing at all for him to slip in, but we both weren’t ready for that just yet, so we just enjoyed kissing and touching each other as the fireworks were starting to wind down.

I rolled him onto his back and started kissing down. The Swimmer’s cock was so hard that I had difficulty taking it in my mouth. Much to both of our delight, I had gotten my braces removed earlier that year, so I didn’t have to forego what would become one of my favorite activities due to a mouth with enough metal in it to open a hardware store. When I say that it became one of my favorite activities, it wasn’t so much the taste or sensation of the cock sliding in my mouth, down my throat that I enjoyed. I enjoyed the sounds I could get a guy to make, the pained writhing and moaning that came from him. I enjoyed that I could render a guy helpless with such little effort.

Of course, since I was still new at this whole thing, it took me a few tries to get him all the way in my mouth. That didn’t matter though, since he had been raring to go all night and my teasing and ordering him around had just barely restrained his desire. I felt his fingers combing through my hair, pulling it, then pushing my head down, but gently as if to guide me. It didn’t take long for him to come, but that was ok. The fireworks were over and it was time to go home for the night. When he came, it was more than I expected, both in force and volume. Unlike future encounters when I wouldn’t spill so much as a drop, I was caught by surprise and let half of it leak out of my mouth back onto his cock.

I still smile thinking about how he would have to explain where the stain on his shorts came from when he got home. It was definitely worth me getting grounded for a week for not checking in with my parents and coming home after the agreed-upon time. Not quite sure it was worth the mosquito bites though. As usual, I got eaten alive and he barely had a mark on him, other than the bite mark I had left on his shoulder.

Yet that is not the last thing I wish to remember from that. I prefer closing this memory dive with the image of The Swimmer and I, walking hand-in-hand slowly back to the country clubhouse, the smell of firework smoke still lingering in the air amid the fresh grass scent of the golf course.