On First Love and First Loss

Editor’s note: This post is part of a series about losing your virginity. This series was inspired by this Rookie Mag post. We hope it offers a glimpse at the experience of losing your virginity and all the complexities that come along with that. These pieces have hints of the explicit and are not for the easily offended.

I could write a post for you all about what it was like to lose my virginity, at 16, to the then-boy (though I thought man) I was sure I’d spend the rest of my life with.

I could tell you the details I remember. They are few, but stark: The green underwear I was wearing, which had an embroidered goldfish on the front. The bedroom, its captain’s bed, its navy sheets, its elaborate videogame setup and custom-built computer – trappings of a smart and spoiled boy.

But I don’t think I can write that post for you. I think that first, I have to tell you it’s hard when the person you want to eviscerate on the glowing screen in front of you has grown into a person you love and respect, a person you once wanted to hurt more than you had ever wanted anything in your short life, and whom you now want to protect and show charity and, hardest of all, forgiveness. It’s also hard when you know he’s reading this (hello, friend) and will wince with recognition at the above description of the fish underpants, which he once loved. You remember.

I have to also tell you that it’s complicated when that person you now, bafflingly and almost magically, want to protect, broke your heart into so many pieces you’re still finding them, in the wash, ground into the pulp you sweep from your floor, several homes removed, in the essays you try to write about love and sex and forgiveness. He shattered you, and most of the reason you don’t remember that momentous (or, in your hazy recollection, decidedly lackluster) occasion is that you’ve blocked huge swaths of your life with him out.

I want to tell you that I remember our first kiss better than I remember typing the above paragraph. We were in seventh grade, and our blossoming love had thus far been played out over AOL Instant Messenger, where we sent each other frantic and hot-handed messages of desire, punctuated with emoticons (so many emoticons) and the bad spelling that tries but fails to mask good, true, gut-wrenching feeling: “Luv ya.” He rode his red BMX bike to my house. I met him around the corner, wearing a navy tank top spangled with rhinestones and bell-bottomed blue jeans. He had on a yellow baseball cap which, my God, I can picture so clearly it aches. We talked, shyly. He gave me some gum. He said he had to go home. Someone leaned forward – was it me? – and we kissed, like people who knew what they were doing, from a place of great want and great maturity and great feeling. It was possibly the best first kiss in the history of great, doomed love. It was epic. He rode his bike home without touching the handlebars, arms held above his head in triumph, whooping. I know because he told me. This, you guys, was young love, but it was big love.

I want to tell you that, considering how young I was when I “Lost It,” as the kids (used to) say, we talked about it a lot, and we moved slow. Remember, we began our hot and heavy journey in the seventh grade, and this was not a slow burn. The wait was excruciating, but in the meantime, we did, as the kids also say, “other stuff.” We were good at other stuff. We lived for other stuff. I know I’ll regret writing this the second I’m a parent and have to imagine the hormones coursing through my own 13-year-old progeny, but really, 13 is the best age for other stuff. Remember how BIG everything felt at 13? Remember how raw all your nerves were, how sensitive every receptor, how the world began and ended several times a day, how great and big and wide and gaping and real you felt all the time? Now, imagine that as a physical sensation, as new and unbelievable pleasure. Yeah, it ruled.

I want to say that considering all the incredibly vivid memories I have of that kiss, of that other stuff, it’s weird how little I recall of that first time. I remember feeling brave, and weird, and vulnerable, and opened up, and safe, and beloved, and weird again. I remember not telling anyone for months because slut shaming has been alive and well at least since I was 16 and it was not something my friends were participating in yet, and then I remember the first person I told was my Orthodox, Hasidic Jewish best friend who was not even allowed to touch people of the opposite sex, but she was so ridiculously cool about it, for which I thank her and love her to this day. I remember other times, and I remember feeling more and more physically rejected as our relationship deteriorated. I remember being called fat. I remember going to sleep alone on a trip to Paris, and crying and crying at the vast distance between us in the tiny bed in the tiny hostel with a view to the glittering Eiffel Tower. I remember when I knew it was someone else, and I remember vividly, sickeningly, the first time I pictured them together, the little sigh he always let out as he vanished into a kiss, the sparkle of his very very green eyes.

What I want to tell you about today, here, now, you and also You, is not about first sex but about first love. I want to tell you how it brands you, how it scorches, how it, the good kind and the bad kind, which are one and the same, stays with you for the rest of your life. I want to tell you love is vast and important and impossible, and I want to tell you I have felt that, I have been eaten alive by that, and I have survived it. I want to tell you to kiss deeply and fuck passionately and say I love you through your tears and roar and roll your eyes and gnash your teeth with love, whether first or tenth or last, because it is powerful and necessary and dangerous and fucking PURE. I want to tell you that losing my virginity to the man who would break my heart is something that hurts every day, but something I will never regret.

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