Ever since Andrea expressed her change of heart about privacy, and Mad commented that her daughter may be more mortified by what she says about herself than what she says about her daughter, I've been thinking about some of my old flashback fridays. On the one hand, there probably aren't (m)any appropriate occasions for discussing one's sexual history with one's children - certainly not the details - but I do remember asking my mom, and feeling a little let down that she was a virgin when she married my dad. My friend's mom was much cooler: not only did she smoke (and let us smoke around her) but she had had love affairs before she married my friend's dad.
Officially, I was a late bloomer. I didn't have my first date and first kiss (on different days) until I was 17 and almost all of my friends had already lost their virginity. I didn't actually lose my virginity until I was 19, an old hag by any standards, as far as I was concerned. But still my mom made moralizing noises about anything she caught wind of, and I didn't much care for that disapproval.
When I was in high school, right around that time of my first love (the first date, first kiss guy), we listened to a lot of Leonard Cohen. I've probably written this before but my friend and her boyfriend had built a cabin in the woods, complete with dugout beer cellar, hammock, and battery-operated stereo. It was great, and we spent a lot of time drinking, talking, and listening to Leonard Cohen, among others, there. I had his Best Of tape, with So Long Maryanne (it so happened that one of our friends was named Maryanne and the night before she moved out west we sang it loudly, badly, and repeatedly), Suzanne, Sisters of Mercy (which I found faintly shocking at the time), Famous Blue Raincoat, and Chelsea Hotel No. 2, which everyone said was about Janis Joplin, so I always picture Janis and Leonard on an unmade bed high above the city some short time before she died when I hear it. We all fancied ourselves poets, and Leonard had the perfect mix of poetry, melancholy, and blatant sex for us.
In my early twenties, I became a one-woman political movement. I wanted to prove that the teen magazine view of female sexuality was all wrong, that women could have sex without love, could do it without wounds. I may have had a wound I was trying to heal, but if anything I blame the magazines for that wound.
Through high school I pored over teen magazines. Apart from my friends' boyfriends, they were my only way to learn about boys so I sopped up the advice columns and the quizzes and the feature articles about how to please your guy. I read all about how if a guy really loves you he won't pressure you for sex, that any guy who pushes for sex is an asshole, that all guys want sex with anyone, any time, anywhere, and all girls need time to be comfortable and firmly in love before sex is an option. I really hate that stereotype, that guys only want sex and women only want love. So I set out to prove it wrong, at least to myself.
Now that I'm on the other side of that experiment, I feel like my silence is a weapon. Like all us married women whisper behind our hands or comment on my blog that yes we had casual sex too but shhh... we don't want to admit anything other than this staid, settled, married front. And I really don't think that's helpful to our daughters. Sometimes I catch myself feeling like that experiment was a mistake, another misguided hiccup of youth, like the time I got into a car driven by a drunk driver who pulled from the 26-er of whiskey riding down the highway in the middle of the blizzard. But was it really? Or did I learn important things about myself?
At the bloggy weekend, the same one Bon left early to see Mr. Cohen himself, I asked around the room, how will you discuss your sexual history with your kids. I think that's the one thing I want to do differently from my mom. In some ways I'm proud of my brazenness, proud of not letting my Amazon-ness prevent me from discovering my sexuality, proud of the work I've done to enjoy and accept my body. Mad wondered if in fact I'd had any good experiences, because my Flashback Fridays are mostly ... shit I can't remember the word she used but it was quite apt... something along the lines of damaging or troubled. This tells me I still have stories to tell, even if I find it difficult or embarrassing. I have the good stories to tell still, and yes there were some.
At this point, I think I have to send you over to Bon and Sage for their discussion of Leonard Cohen's songs and his portrayal of female sexuality, if you haven't read them already. They're that good, and much more articulate than I could ever be.
This afternoon, I decided to listen to him again, for old time's sake, and I picked Chelsea Hotel No. 2 first. As I listened to it, and then commented at Sage's place, I realized he had influenced my own sexuality. I think I was trying to become the woman at the Chelsea Hotel No. 2, from the "I never once heard you say, I need you, I don't need you, I need you, I don't need you And all of that jiving around" to the "clenching your fist for the ones like us, Who are oppressed by the figures of beauty, You fixed yourself, you said, "well never mind, We are ugly but we have the music" to the "I don't mean to suggest that i loved you the best, I can't keep track of each fallen robin. I remember you well in the chelsea hotel, That's all, i don't even think of you that often."