I've been thinking a lot lately about relationships, sex, intimacy, and love. I have finally reached a point in my life where these things are symbiotic. Where it seems as if everything I’ve been through has led me to this point, and I am happy—truly happy. I have a few friends who are talking with me about issues surrounding these topics, friends who are each different, yet each with similar emotional responses; similar to me.
When I was a girl I always expected that I would grow up and one day meet the proverbial man on the white horse and of course we would fall in love and get married and have babies. I never even questioned it! As I moved into my pre-teen years and had small crushes on boys in class that were never reciprocated, and my girlfriends began to turn on me, a little doubt began to creep in—but not much. In 6th grade I began a three-year obsession with one guy, sending him notes, flirting in class, to no avail. I had girl ‘friends’ tease me about it, trick me about it, and then one of them actually ended up dating the guy.
By the time I got to high school, I pretty much kept to myself. After a year or two, I discovered marijuana and drinking, and went on a trip to Israel during which I drank the entire time. On that trip I finally received interest from boys—real interest (or so I thought) –for the first time. And I discovered what most teenage girls and boys discover: that sex sells, sister. Finally I knew how to get attention, and unfortunately it was the only kind of attention I thought I could get.
Thus began a very long journey, a journey that sadly many women are familiar with, and for me—baffling that there are actually many women who are not. I went to college and became further immersed in drugs and alcohol, and sex was merely another escape. It was a way to get instant validation that I was ‘attractive’ (i.e. ‘worthwhile’). The drugs and alcohol were a way to feel something other than the self-loathing I was experiencing every day. It was a vicious cycle of course—the more I used substances to escape reality, the more my reality sucked and so the more I needed to escape it. The more I used sex to substantiate my value, the more devalued I felt and so the more I needed to use sex.
Sometime after I dropped out of college and after dumping the guy I traveled around the country with, I moved back to my hometown and decided that my attitude about sex was all wrong, that this was the modern age and women could be empowered by sex, not demeaned. I was flashing my ‘feminism’. I was going to have sex as much as I wanted and it wouldn’t mean anything but sex—pleasure for the sake of pleasure, with no emotional attachments. I convinced myself this was the case. The amount of drinking and drugs I was ingesting made this convincing easier to swallow, but underneath it all I felt like a fraud and worse than that—I felt worthless.
I have wondered if there was a moment somewhere when I let go of that childhood fantasy, and always assumed I had. But you know what? I did not let go of it but rather, became cynical and bitter about it. In my idealistic heart of hearts, I was still looking for my knight. I was looking so much that I tried to fit that helmet onto many guys who were unworthy of that title. I declared ‘true love!” when it was more the idea of it than the man that I loved. I lost myself so completely in my daughter’s father that I had no identity left at all—everything I was was invested in what he thought and what he told me.
Even into sobriety I chose men who were inappropriate, who were incapable of loving me the way I deserve and who were not men who deserved my love. I started to heal in many ways and I had a baby to focus on, and a whole lot of pain to break free of. In actuality it has taken me almost years of sobriety and another broken heart over a forced knight for me to get to a place where I felt ok in my own skin. A place where not only do I know who I am, but I like that person. I still have things about me that I don’t like, of course, but I can look in the mirror and know what I am seeing. I have a desire to live life rather than hide from it. When about a year ago I came to the conclusion that being alone was perhaps my lot in life, that perhaps my daughter and I would be just fine together, and then started to actually believe that—not only believe it, but feel contentment—well, that of course is when Pete and I came to our senses. As soon as I had let go of that childhood fantasy, the knight appeared.
All the pain, all the confusion and heartache, no longer needed to define who I was. It is a part of me, and lessons can be taken and hopefully passed to my daughter and the people in my life I love. This experience is yet one more I can hold onto that shows me life can be miraculous at times, even when a lot of the time it brings me to tears. This is the dichotomy that has always been in me: part of me cynical, scared, depressed, and angry at the world, and the other part hopelessly in love with it.