It is Valuable Because it is Yours: On Firsts

New Year’s Eve, age 13

Editor’s note: This is the fourth installment in a series about losing one’s virginity, inspired by this project from Rookie magazine. Earlier authors include Jess, Kate, and Gina. It’s not explicit, but probably not for the easily scandalized.

What is the perfect way to lose your virginity? Every idea about it is soaked in a long history of men deciding womens’ lives for them. It’s perfectly respectable to make a personal choice to wait until one is in a serious romantic relationship to first have sex, but often the sanctity of that choice goes unexamined. What’s the right way to do it? And when?

I have felt like I was behind in my romantic life since I was about 11. One New Year’s Eve, when I was not much older than that, my friends and I tucked resolutions into boxes we’d decorated with puffy paint and sequins. Among other vows I made for myself at that kitchen table splayed with sparkles and craft glue, I wrote this: “This year, I will be kissed.”

It didn’t happen for me that year, or any of the next eight, and I wasn’t happy about it.  I was 21 when I finally fulfilled that wish, with a man who pressed me against an adobe wall and took my face in his hands. Whiskey was involved, but laughter was too.

Unlike all the times I’d tried to plan to kiss someone, all the parties I’d scanned eagerly, the spin-the-bottle games I avoided,  or the friends of friends I’d tried to coquettishly impress, it wasn’t difficult or fraught. After all the agonized journal entries about how awful and stunted I felt because I finished three and a half years of college before sharing a kiss, it felt like the easiest thing. Though we never dated or were even really friends, I am proud that man was the first one I kissed.

Though some might think having this story out there could hurt my job prospects or be more than a little too much information, here is why I’m writing this: Because my twelve-year-old self needs to hear this. My sixteen- and eighteen- and twenty-year-old selves need to hear this. Maybe there are some girls out there like me who need to hear this. And here it is:

There is no perfect or correct way to first experience physical intimacy. There are a lot of painful and dangerous ways, but as long as you know and can protect your own body, have no shame. If you’re sixteen or twenty-one or sixty-one when you first open your mouth against someone else’s, that experience is true and real and legitimate, because it is yours.

It doesn’t matter that the average age to first kiss or fuck is years younger than you are – you are not an average. Seventeen magazine doesn’t hold the compass to your realest life. Those girls at summer camp who make you feel inadequate, to whom you lie about how many boys you’ve kissed? They don’t hold your map. The raspy-voiced girls when you are in college, the ones who casually mention their genital piercings, they have nothing to do with your timeline. They can’t say what is right. Only you can.

I first had sex less than a month after I first kissed a person on the mouth. He wore flannel and played guitar, and we met because the man I’d kissed introduced us. On the patio of that college bar, we clinked glasses and talked about the books we both loved. I was a literature major and he taught ninth-grade English, and we both loved David Foster Wallace and Catcher in the Rye. He was visiting from New Jersey for the weekend. When he left that patio I got a text: “Not every day you meet a girl who drinks whiskey and has read Infinite Jest, so I got your number from my friend. Come out with us tomorrow?” He didn’t seem like a phony.

It wasn’t a romance, and it wasn’t a transaction. It was, for me, a decision made sober and without apology. There was mutual attraction, he was smart and took me seriously. He was leaving in two days and I never had to see him again. The next night, when I took his hand at the Sonoran hot dog stand and asked him to walk me home, it was without hesitation. The day of texting we’d done about music and literature and cosmic dissonance was all the relationship I wanted or needed from him.

He didn’t know it was my first sexual experience, and I wasn’t going to tell him. Years before I had decided a penis wasn’t the ideal instrument for breaking flesh, so he didn’t have to know. He was a weird, stiff-tongued kisser, and not as good with his hands as I expected of a guitar player. Perhaps it wasn’t what I would have called the ideal, at fifteen or seventeen. But here is what I have to tell those younger desperate selves:

One day when you are twenty-one and tremendously unkissed, it will not be the end of you. Do not lament the days you thought you were the last virgin alive. One day a man who loves books like you do will unbutton his flannel against you and you will be proud to have him between your legs. Never feel like a failure, never feel like less than a woman, because of your sexual experience.

To that fifteen-year-old self, you are not better than your friends because you think you are above sexual urges. To that seventeen-year-old self, you will still have a superlative college experience though you are a tight ball of anxiety about your experience with men. It isn’t a penis you’re searching for, in those hours when it feels like no one will ever take an interest in your lips.

When it was over, it wasn’t really pleasure I felt. It wasn’t love or ecstasy, and it wasn’t pain or regret.  What it felt like was relief, a great unspooling of so many expectations I had of myself, all wound so tightly around a knot of nervousness and shame. It felt like release.

Inviting that man to walk me home and into sexual experience was perhaps not the perfect way to lose my virginity. But it was this: Authentic. Free. Mine.

A Welcome, a Sorry, a Thank You, & a Hope

We’re back. Because this isn’t okay.

Hello there, dear readers. Sorry I disappeared there for a while. This post was originally called “What’s the Difference Between an Excuse and an Explanation?” but 300 words later, I realized it doesn’t matter. I’m back now, I think. I missed you. What we had going on was cool. I hope it can be cool again.

Part of the reason I wanted to start this blog is because I love magazines, and I don’t feel like magazines do a great job of fostering good, vibrant conversations with women as active participants. Obviously there are women’s magazines, and I read and love those, but it’s pretty hard to deny that magazines whose editorial bent is distinctly gendered don’t approach women as thoughtful, interested people anywhere beyond the nail polish aisle. Magazines that do deal with topics other than how you should pay attention to politics to meet men, like The Atlantic or Outside or Wired, aren’t explicitly for men, but feel like they are because they aren’t adorned with the cultural alerts coded into society to be “for women,” like pastel colors and flowers.

It’s almost like we never grew out of the kid-book dilemma: Girls will read a book with a knight on the cover, but boys won’t read a book with a girl, bows, or puppies on the cover. There isn’t anything inherently about horses or ballet that have anything to do with being a woman, nor is there any homogenous experience of being a woman to which to assign that cultural indicator anyway. If the current cultural idea of femininity is breaking down, that’s a good thing.

One of the things I was doing while I was not posting here was moving in with my parents after graduating college, and to say this is an adjustment would be to say that the Titanic sinking was kind of a bummer. My mom tells me every day that there just aren’t any “real men” out there anymore. Any American could guess what she means: A muscular male who drives a truck, owns a gun, and can fix or build anything, including a barbecue on which to sear his ribeyes and roast the the championship hopes of his rival sports teams. She’s not alone: The Atlantic, a magazine one would hope would be above these spats, has claimed on its cover that love and dating as we know it is breaking down, once with the bold headline “The End of Men.” (Both articles were from and for straight, white women of some economic privilege and did not examine those tensions.) Dating is hard, that’s true. But that’s not because expression of gender is less distinctly polar than it once was.

I hope we can keep writing, and that you keep reading, because the work of evolving this culture can’t be left to publishers of magazines. We do this work in the wild hope that you’ll read it and enjoy it, or at least think about it. What made me come back to this place through the shame of inconsistency and the edging realization that I never won’t be busy is this: The conversations we have here are important.

I want to live in a world where not one girl makes decisions for her life based on who will call her a slut or a prude. A world where “real man” has no definition. Where not one person worries that how she looks or loves  isn’t “normal.” Where having sex for the first time isn’t a loss. Where these hopes aren’t bold.

Join me, won’t you?

What Goes Through My Mind When I See A Guy Across A Bar

Isn't this FUN?

God, what am I doing here? Is it really Friday? What it is about Fridays that makes the crowd so much less cool than Thursdays? Where did all these old people come from? Why do guys I like always talk to old ladies? Why are these drinks so expensive? Do bartenders think that when I say “whiskey sour” I’m only doing it for the cherry? What if I am only doing it for the cherry?

Does it denote some kind of perma-girlishness that even when I choose an adult beverage, it has ingredients in common with Shirley Temples? God, whatever happened to Shirley Temples? Weren’t those things delicious? Wasn’t there supposedly a version of those that had alcohol in it, what kind of alcohol was that? Can I order one of those? Remember that one time my cousins and I thought they served us high-octane Shirley Temples when we were like ten, and then we acted drunk, and then it turned out it was just a whole lot of grenadine?

Hey, is that guy cute? Why is he wearing that weird shirt? Why do guys think a plaid shirt is the appropriate attire for every event from a first date to a summer funeral? How come guys have it so easy, and women have to spend millions of dollars and millions of minutes on hair, makeup, clothes, shoes, accessories, and scent? Why do they even have menswear sections? Why do they keep printing a million more tacky geometric patterns on ties, is it just so guys can feel like they have some entitlement to complaining about clothes, too?

Wait, is that guy cute? His half-smile and that casual way he leans on the bar is hot, right? Or does he know I’m looking at him, thinking he looks like a taller Diego Luna, but with muscles? God, did I just use the word hot? Isn’t that word the worst? How can it simultaneously degrade and build up a girl? It kind of implies the person is dumb, right? What’s a better word? Would that guy, the one who just ran his hand from his neck to his scalp through that windy barley field of hair, rather I called him handsome, or is that too old-fashioned?

Is he handsome? What if the way I perceive beauty is based on something totally horrible, like what advertisers in magazines tell me I should find attractive? I mean, who really wants to date a guy who spends enough time at the gym and only eats kale so he has a six pack? Wouldn’t he be really boring to talk to? So why do women all hold guys to that insane standard? Isn’t that just like the insane standard women are held to, that they have to have a waist the width of the ball in whatever sport their boyfriend prefers to pretend to play on his Xbox? What have you done to us, Posh Spice?!

Why doesn’t he want to talk to me? I’ve been staring at him through my eyelashes for half an hour, why hasn’t he come over here? Should I go over there? Should I buy him a drink? Should I ask him to buy me a drink? Why is it so much better if a guy buys a girl a drink than the other way around? Why are women in an active role always more pathetic than men doing exactly the same thing? Why do I have to wait around for him to ask me out?

Should I ask him out? What if I don’t want to ask him out, what if I want him to ask me out? What does that say about me as a woman? Am I so shaped by culture that I can’t be an active participant in my own history? Why hasn’t he come over here and talked to me? Am I not pretty enough? Can he tell from there that I’m not a fun girl, that I’m kind of a mess right now, that I’d really like an actual boyfriend who is nice to me for more than one day in a row? Is that what’s keeping him over there? Does he look at me and think, “Why would I talk to the broad with the crazy eyes when I can lean in close to this hot chick who was resourceful enough to take the bandage dress trend literally”?

God, isn’t this place the worst? Can we please get out of here?

(Lowbrow allusion to this.)

Don’t Buy Me a Drink: Girls and the Guys Who Buy Them Stuff

I'm good. Thanks though, T Pain!

We all know I’m kind of a feminist, even though I’m as reluctant to admit that as I am to admit that I kind of love ABC’s latest well-produced skim-latte froth of rhinestone twangin’ television, GCB. So it’s hardly a surprise that Kat and I have had an ongoing discussion about a classic topic of feminist whinging for about a month now: the eternal conundrum of men buying you stuff.

The discussion pivots on two particular conversations. The first occurred when I mentioned that I’d met a guy I was, in the parlance of our times, hollerin’ at. “Make sure you get him to buy you dinner first!” Kat warned. The second occurred when I mentioned I was looking forward to getting drunk that night, because it was a day ending in y. “What you need to do is get guys to buy you drinks,” Kat said. I know Kat means well, and she was only trying to help me have fun and drink cheap. But in the pursuit of making girls and guys treat each other with a little less awfulness, I’m curious about the effect of these default assumptions.

Our first conversation negotiated the assumption that a guy should buy a girl dinner before trying to get her out of her sparkly tissue of a dress. Kat probably meant that a girl should get to know a guy better — by eating a meal with him, perhaps — before taking him home with her.  The idea that a dude should plonk down some cash before leaning in and puckering up is hardly uncommon. It’s present in the second situation that triggered our debate: implying that I should use a man’s generosity to chase a buzz when I can very well buy my own drinks reinforces the assumption that guys should buy pretty girls things, basically for no reason.

By implying a guy should buy you dinner before going in for a kiss frames a really backward kind of transaction in regards to women and their ability to want sex and choose it rationally. You are never obligated to sleep with anyone in any situation you don’t clearly, distinctly want. And okay, maybe a guy is trying to get you to like him by being nice and buying you a drink. But by subscribing to the idea that he is obligated to buy you something before you can be expected to kiss him back is kind of like him thinking he shouldn’t have to marry you unless you have a dowry of silver spoons and blanket chests to bring with you into the marriage.

That's nice of you, but I can buy my own drinks.

The problem here is not magnanimous guys who buy a round for the table, or non-sexual or non-romantic relationships. Buying drinks for each other is awesome! But a woman should be able to want sex, say it, and get it without the man buying her anything — or her friends telling her she’s easy because she didn’t get a $12 salad in addition to the main course (if you know what I mean). If you are interested in the guy, you shouldn’t manipulate him into buying you things just because it’s in your arsenal of feminine whiles. If you aren’t interested in a guy and you let him buy you a drink, you are reinforcing the idea that women are conniving, unkind, and only want sex if it’s about something else.

The assumption goes that girls can only want sex if it will make a guy date them, or if it will make a guy tell them they are pretty, or if it will make a guy buy them shit. One of the most important tasks of feminism is to challenge the idea that sex for women is always about something other than sex. It’s a pervasive assumption — one that is, stated frankly, demeaning and backward and wrong. A man does not need to buy you a drink before you can want him. In addition to making sex a capitalist transaction, it also robs a woman of her ability to want sex without everyone thinking she really wants love/validation/a free salad.

What is Going ON?

Hey friends!

Sorry I didn’t post a lot of stuff last week. I was indulging in my new obsession, applying for post-grad jobs. This is a terrible, unsatisfying obsession, so I decided to leave the blizzard of cover letters for long enough to come back and hang out with you all. I can never decide if I like blogs that addresses readers directly, but I like the way it makes it feel like the people who write on this site aren’t so pompous that they can’t break the 4th wall and let you know what’s going on.

Though I’ve often noted that blogging is two parts best laid plans and one part apologizing for flaking on those plans, we should be back to regular posting from here. I’m looking forward to new writers, and also — as always! — looking for new writers. If you want to join the conversation on crushes or are just really mad that Chuck and Blair aren’t together (why!?) and need to vent about it, shoot me an email.

We also need to thank Girl Next Floor for the Liebster Blog Award she gave us on her blog Softer City! She calls us her “favorite multi-author blog of the moment.” Thanks, and thanks for reading! Check her out, as well as the other blogs upon whom she bestowed the honor. We’ll be sure to pass it along!

We were going to do a formal launch-type situation on here, but as I can’t even keep it together enough to tweet regularly, for now we’ll just proceed as we have. Because it’s been awesome. Thanks everyone for reading, writing, and not getting super mad at me when I fail to post things for an entire week even though our writers are presenting really good work. Now I’ll stop whining and get that good work out there for reading, discussion, and comments. (Thanks, commenters!)

Slackadaisically yours,

Anna

P.S. Isn’t that poster cool? You can buy it on Etsy here.

 

What’s My Dealbreaker? Having Dealbreakers

Dealbreaker.

What’s your type? Whether you want every man you date to look like Han Solo or are a Chewbacca fetishist, we all have ideals of what we’d like in a person we date. Everyone from Carrie Bradshaw to Ron Swanson makes preliminary romantic decisions based on surface-level, often unchangeable factors about a potential partner. “I’m a simple man,” Swanson gravels in his maple baritone. “I like pretty, dark-haired women and breakfast food.”

As we were discussing in the comments of Laura’s post about being a tall lady, almost everyone has cursory aesthetic demands on one’s imaginary perfect man (or woman). In the same way that Ron Swanson likes brunettes, Laura wants to meet a guy who’s taller than her. Heather made a good point about this:

I guess I think “preferring” a type of guy in general is problematic, although I know that everyone is attracted to certain characteristics in spite of themselves (give me a beard or give me singlehood). Seeking a man out expressly because he’s short or tall seems, as you said, either Victorian or deliberately contrarian, so to me it makes more sense to find someone you’re otherwise attracted to and compatible with and maybe worry a little less whether you’re taller than he is.

Heather’s right that it would be kinder to our potential mates to not have a pre-composed set of attributes we impose on them. Yet countless conversations over cocktails, in magazines, and between texts with your girlfriends allow us to dismiss a guy (in this case) because he’s “not my type.” Why is it socially accepted to ignore someone because of a previous outline into which he doesn’t precisely fit?

Ron Swanson says to a guitar teacher in whom he’s interested, “For what it’s worth, you’d make an incredible brunette.” This isn’t exactly a compliment – he’s telling this woman he merely spots across a room that she is only worthy of his affections if she changes her appearance to suit his personal preference. She’s blonde, so she can’t expect him to be interested—he’s a brunette man.

Of course, women do this just as casually: It’s a “dealbreaker” if a guy isn’t tall enough/doesn’t have an accent/doesn’t have green eyes/carries a Velcro wallet. Why is it an accepted cultural phenomenon to dismiss based on a surface-level attribute?

We don’t really ignore people we’re attracted to because of these cursory judgments. Types, dealbreakers, and stated requirements are all excuses to explain why we’re not attracted to someone. Sexual attraction is hardly that simplistic, and in making dating a less brutal game than it already is, we might benefit from not legitimizing the idea that a guy can’t like you because of your hair color. As Heather also notes:

I think for many men, masculinity is as fraught as femininity is for us (the thinking ones, anyway) so imposing these standards of tallness-as-attractiveness and worse, tallness-as-virility-and-suitable-matehood, seems like something worth attempting to avoid.

If we continue to consider “dealbreakers” as a valid explanation for not going out with someone, we continue a shallow, often unfair consideration of the people we might end up really liking. More fair than listing voice, cologne, or hair length in explaining why we do or don’t like someone, perhaps we should accept that people aren’t the sum of their dealbreakers, having a type is wildly limiting, and sometimes you just don’t want to go out with someone.

It’s not because she’s blonde, and you shouldn’t expect her to become brunette before she expects you to give her a chance.

I Hate Her. Wait, Who is She?: Jealousy, Hatred, and His New Girlfriend

Trang Pak and Sun Jin Dinh, case in point. Coach Carr is not even remotely cute.

It was a banner Wednesday night for me last week. In what led to a late-night spot of weakness wherein which I bought cookie dough, cookie mix, and two kinds of cookies, I learned that an old crush was dating someone who, you know, isn’t me. I told my friends about this and their near-universal reaction was, “She is terrible. He’ll get over her. You’re way, way better.” My friends are the best.

I admit this is what I wanted to hear. I was feeling petty and vulnerable, and I was validated more deeply than I cared to look at by my friends’ assertions of my superiority. That moment in the cookie aisle, my friends knew to text me “You are smarter and prettier” and not “Aww, cute! Good for him!” But why did deriding some girl that I don’t even know palliate me more than being happy that someone in the world has found a connection?

This was not the first time I’ve jumped to insulting another lady. I was taking a magazine quiz a few months ago and there was a question about what you would do if you saw a girl at the bar talking to a guy you thought was cute. I think the answers allowed you to a) Throw your hair around b) Go up and talk to him or c) Do the bend and snap. “Oh no, that’s not what we’d do,” I said to the friend who was giving me the quiz. “We’d make fun of her hideous leggings, take a shot, and go dance with all our girlfriends.” She laughed, so I can’t be the only girl validated by deriding other women.

As a thinking person, I realize that calling people fat isn’t going to make me any skinnier. I guess the fleeting solace gained by insulting one’s competition can be explained by biological imperative. “We are animals,” Barbara Kingsolver wrote in her fantastic book Animal Dreams. “We live our lives around disguised animal thoughts,” says the narrator, a science teacher. I am validated by snarking on another girl because it convinces me that she won’t win the eternal struggle for the superior DNA of a smart, handsome male—or something.

Without getting too philosophical, I’m not purely science. There’s a biological imperative to getting pregnant as a teenager, and I ignored that one just fine. Not to be a pedant, but hating a girl who by any unbiased account is probably a lovely human being accomplishes nothing—not for me, and not for her. I don’t think the ladies always have to stick together, and you can’t come into my Kumbaya circle unless you’ve been invited in writing. But turning my jealousy into irrational, uninformed hatred is doing nothing but giving me scowl lines. (Nor would spelunking her Internet presence for infinite reasons to hate her accomplish anything—not that I haven’t done it before.)

So what’s a better reaction to finding out a guy you’ve liked for a super long time is dating a girl who is super not you? Next time it happens (and let’s be real, there’s always a next time that happens), try to train your thoughts towards the brighter side of finding out the guy you’ve had your eye on only has eyes for someone who dramatically isn’t you.

If those two have found love, I can be happy for them. Realistically, them being together doesn’t make me any less likely to find happiness. By giving myself a few cookies to think about it, I could actually become more hopeful about love by learning this news. I don’t have to love her, but I don’t accomplish anything by hating her. The lessons here are this: You never stop learning from Mean Girls. And that girl—whoever she is—doesn’t warrant my hatred.

But she still can’t come to our Kumbaya circle.

Happy Book Birthday to The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour!

I don’t usually like book trailers, but check out this one for The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour. I’m really into it:

I’ve been excited to read this book since I found her Hold Still at a used bookstore. Hold Still is a tender, straight, and gentle but also funny and vibrant account of how a girl deals with the suicide of her best friend. Nina LaCour is extra awesome because she’s a vocal advocate for gay and lesbian rights and healthy consideration of sexuality for teens, and is a frequent collaborator with her wife, rad photographer Kristyn Stroble.

I loved Hold Still, but I’m very excited to read The Disenchantments, which at least on the surface sounds less, uh, difficult. (In a good way!) You can also enter to win a free copy of The Disenchantments on Nova Ren Suma’s blog through Monday, or order it from your local independent bookseller.

Do you like book trailers? Do they encourage you to seek out a new release, or do you (like me) get turned off by the cheesy graphics and melodramatic acting?

Who Should Star in the Movie Version of The Fault in Our Stars?

If you haven’t read The Fault in Our Stars, a new novel by John Green, you’re missing out — on saying “aww” six million times, falling in love, and feeling damn lucky your cells haven’t turned savage on your insides. It’s a book about teenagers with cancer. While that may not sound like the most uplifting beach read to slip in your tote, it’s an ambitious and affecting piece.*

Enough people like it that it’s been #1 on the New York Times Bestseller list since it came out over a month ago, and the film rights have been optioned by Fox 2000. In honor of the movie news, Anna and Jenna got together  to cast the film for them (you’re welcome, Fox!). There aren’t any explicit spoilers, but please you don’t read further if you’re worried about that.

Hollywood has needed new casting directors since it chose an actress in supple, beaming health for Katniss from The Hunger Games, who is supposed to be from a starving, sooty slum. Stephan Lee of Entertainment Weekly’s Shelf Life blog suggested Shailene Woodley for Hazel Grace Lancaster, the narrator, but this would be a similar mistake. Hazel is sick. She wouldn’t look sixteen going on twenty-five going on Playboy. Here are a few actresses are both talented and real-looking enough to take on what would be a hell of a role:

Hazel Grace Lancaster

Elizabeth Olsen

Dakota Fanning

Tavi Gevinson

Tavi’s a fashion blogger, not an actress, but what can’t that girl do? She also have the distinct advantage of being close to Hazel in age. I may just have put her on her because her look and her smart-teenager sassiness remind me of Hazel.

The real dreamboat of the book is, of course, The Boy, Augustus Waters. By swoon-worthy description:

“Long and leanly muscular, he dwarfed the molded plastic elementary school chair he was sitting in. Mahogany hair, straight and short. He looked my age, maybe a year older, and he sat with his tailbone against the edge of the chair, his posture aggressively poor, one hand half in a pocket of dark jeans…Look, let me just say it: He was hot.”

This hottie would also have to have some great acting chops, as you’d agree if you’d finished the book. Our picks: Continue reading

The sexiest thing a woman can wear

I have a complicated relationship with magazines. I say I hate how Cosmopolitan articles focus more on male satisfaction than female gratification, but my friends point out that I still read every issue, so how much could I hate it? This is similar to my complicated relationship with Starbucks Pumpkin Spice lattes: I know they’re evil, but I just don’t quit.

In my constant diet of  Seventeen up through Cosmopolitan, Glamour, Marie Claire, and InStyle, there are a few pervasive claims I’ve noticed in these glossies. One of these is the idea that shampoo you can use on yourself and also on a horse is a positive. Another is the claim that confidence is the sexiest trait, act, or item of clothing a woman can wear.

I’ve heard my entire conscious life that a confident woman is sexier than a Victoria’s Secret model. The idea of what is sexy obviously varies, but the cultural ideal of what is sexy – even the version that includes “smart” along with “thin” and “attractive” – doesn’t exactly make for confident people. I’d like it to be true that a girl who knew how awesome she is would be asked out before a girl who looked like a Victoria’s Secret model, but that requires more airbrushing of the truth than your average VS catalog.

Because confidence has been elevated like this, trying to seem confident has become more important in the minds of would-be sexy ladies than the pursuit of actually being confident. Instead of pursuing the kind of confidence that involves owning up to cellulite, dealing with jealousy of others’ success, or admitting you struggle with believing the value of your voice, we pretend to be confident because we think it will make us sexier. I know I’ve spent nights pretending I loved myself because I thought it would make me seem more intriguing or alluring.

But unlike other factors that make you sexy, confidence isn’t like new bustier. Confidence is a complicated cocktail of age, experience, and intention – one that doesn’t always get you noticed from across the bar. A short list of things in your closet quicker than confidence are high heels, push-up bras, and leather. They’re also more likely to get you noticed sexually.

Like the fact that chocolate has calories, the fact that the people who are most at peace with themselves aren’t the sexiest, most-pursued people is a deeply lamentable fact. Claiming they are only further jumbles the already-twisted path towards confidence. Here’s some real advice the magazines ought to feature: don’t use the same shampoo on yourself that you use on your horse, and don’t try to be confident because you think it will make you sexy. Trying to be sexy and trying to be confident are both worthwhile at their respective times, but let’s not pretend that one leads to the other.