Phases Of Love

 

There were five notable phases of my first love.

 

These phases marked the way my feelings changed for another human being. Let’s call him, Mr. First. My feelings swayed not violently but quietly. They crept up on me in the middle of the night and bit me in the fucking face.

Phase 1: I can’t get enough of you.

We were like magnets. Never not wanting to be holding hands or kissing. We fucked like wild maniacs. It was the best kind of love. The kind that felt like a frenzy, a sugar rush, a high. I felt like I had fallen down his rabbit hole and he, mine. We were so happy to have found something out of the stars. Being who I am, I knew it couldn’t last long. I like to think there’s something wrong with me, almost like an excuse for things getting dull after a while. It could have been too much too soon, like we were meant to fall apart.

Phase 2: Why am I getting sick of you?

I started becoming irritated with every little thing that he did. He could tell. He would confront me, and I would just make up excuses: a bad day, a fight with my dad, a depressive episode. I wasn’t being honest, and I wasn’t being fair. I couldn’t admit that I just wasn’t happy anymore.

 

Phase 3: Uh-Oh.

It started with a wave of constant fighting. The first breakup. The second breakup. The period of silence. The reconciliation. The “let’s make this work again.” And finally, the third breakup. The one that counts the most.

 

Phase 4: Acceptance.

The loneliest phase by far. The period of relationship remorse. I missed him. I really missed them, but I knew this was what I had to do.

 

Phase 5: Relapse.

But, I’ll get to that.

*  *  *

There are moments in life that we can’t forget, no matter how quick they were.

I had just told my first boyfriend that I no longer had feelings for him. This time I meant it. No bullshit, no sugarcoating — just the plain and simple truth. We were standing outside my apartment building, sweat dripping down my neck. I told him, “I’m just being honest. I can’t lie to you anymore.” All he said was, “I appreciate that,” before walking away. It feels quite permanent now. We haven’t spoken in almost a month.

In those few seconds, I was forced to answer a question I had asked myself when I started doubting my feelings for him: what are the consequences of falling out of love? I could give you the short answer: pure heart ache — but the short answer doesn’t do the pain justice. The consequence of falling out of love is that you’re forced to lose yourself for the sake of whoever’s heart your protecting. Let me tell you this, you aren’t protecting your own. Not at the beginning, anyways.

When we talk about relationships, no one really talks about how it feels to be the murderer of one. For a while, that’s how I felt. I knew that if I broke up with Mr. First (for real) I would be responsible for breaking someone’s heart. I wasn’t sure if I was ready to hold onto that burden. Beyond that, deep down, I knew I’d rather be alone than be with Mr. First. When we first started seeing each other, I was the one who was head over heels. I was the one who stalked him at the beach just to see if he was there. I was the one who longed for him. More importantly, I was the one who wanted it to end. And in the end, I was the one who had changed the most.

In the whole year that I was involved with Mr. First my feelings for him would change immensely for no particular reason at all. For the record, that’s the worst kind of change. The kind you can feel but can’t pinpoint for the life of you. It’s the worst because it’s coming from the heart not the brain. You’re permanently cast in a state of wonder, knowing you’ll never get that satisfactory answer you really want. All you know is the feeling that something isn’t right anymore.

It soon became clear that it was unrealistic to be stuck in Phase 1 forever. Phase 2 hit me four months into our time together.

After spending months tip-toeing around the fact that I had gone from full blown infatuation to melancholy, I told him I was questioning our relationship. He wanted to know what he had done. To me, the answer was simple; I had fallen out of love. My feelings were responsible, not him. But he couldn’t understand that. How are you supposed to tell someone that? How are you supposed to look someone that you love in the eye and tell them you don’t want to kiss them or hold their hand anymore? That the very thought of continuing to do so makes you feel like you’re cheating on yourself, cheating on your own feelings?

The truth is, after all the complication, all the fighting, all the sighs — the kissing and the hand-holding seemed like a hobby that we hadn’t touched in years. Actions that had turned into old tennis rackets or roller skates dusting in the corner of an overstuffed closet. Of course we used to be good at those things, in fact, we were the best, but somewhere between the pain and the discomfort, our old hobbies died. We were simply shadows of ourselves trying our hardest to repair what had already been permanently broken.

Phase 3 was the hardest. The first breakup wasn’t official. It was fucking messy. All the fights, all the crying, all the screaming wore me down. It wore down Mr. First, too. Through it all, I’ve learned that I’m not a bad person for wanting something different, something new. Not necessarily a new guy or a new boyfriend, but a new direction. I’d been spending so much time caught up in a relationship that I was unable to enjoy the time I had with myself. It felt unnatural, not being able to let go of something I knew was toxic. I would find myself crying in bed at night. I was stuck in a battle between myself and my love for another. Growing up, you’re told love always wins. At this point, love was winning, but I was also letting love beat me down.

My moment of undiluted clarity came when I realized it was too hard to be with someone who I felt like I was always pretending with. That takes a toll on you, pretending to feel the same way for the sake of saving a heart. I didn’t want to lose feelings for Mr. First. It would have been so much easier if I hadn’t. It was too late though. I had let my love for him morph into a version of affection where I was too scared to hurt him. I put that fear above all of my other emotions. 

We were both tired and broken. He was trying to fix it. I was trying to end it. We all have our own methods when it comes to dealing with love. At the end of the day, it’s hard to admit that no matter how close we get to the skin of another, we will never fully understand everything they feel. Maybe that was our problem. We had gotten so close to each other, but we refused to recognize what the other really needed. As I watched Mr. First walk down my street, I realized we shared some of the best memories of my life. I loved him and will always love him. I only hope he feels that way, too.

Phase 4, acceptance feels uncomfortable at first. I knew it was over but there was still that longing to send a text or call him. I found that everything I saw somehow reminded me of him. I was forced to recognize that I was now alone, but that’s okay because the memories we share with the ones we love help get us through that loneliness. Whether it’s the people that make us smile or the people that make us cry, they both make us a little stronger. Mr. First made me smile and made me cry. In a way, he was a part of making me into me, so I’d like to thank him for that.

*  *  *

Now that I’ve made peace — or at least I’m trying to — with what happened, the final part of breaking up has found me: Phase 5. Relapse comes when you start finding yourself craving love again, as if love hasn’t already broken you down enough. Maybe that song is right; we really are addicted to love. The drug-like, pulsating, sex-dazed, intoxicating type of love. Now it’s different because you don’t have that person you let go of anymore. You’re on your own again. All you have is a few glances from strangers on the street. The promise of something that tastes a little different than the drink you had before. Hopefully this time, it isn’t as bitter, maybe it’s sweet. 

It’s kind of funny; we go through all of these stupid phases of love just to get hooked again, and trust me, you will.

 

The Sisterhood Of Sluts

 

Last week, I hooked up with a stranger for the very first time. He was an Ivy League hotshot with a French background. I definitely wanted to see his baguette, if you know what I mean. I met him through Instagram, and yes — I slid into his DMs. We decided to hang out in person with mutual intention to hook-up. When we met, we talked for thirty minutes and then… we had sex. It wasn’t until after I had gotten home that a fearful question began to sneak into my head: Am I a slut?

I was stunned. The whole experience was exciting, totally entertaining, and really fun. Why did something that felt so silly and random have to be hexed with this negative connotation? Was I entering the Sisterhood of Sluts? The sorority that I had never rushed but was shoved into anyway by the countless years of demoralizing sexually active women. The truth is I don’t feel gross or dirty for sleeping with some random guy. So what does slut even mean and why does being a slut have to be a bad thing? Guys get praised all the time for sleeping with random girls. Yet, I don’t see anyone giving me a high-five — and not to brag, but I’m really good at high-fiving.

This double standard shit is hard to escape from, even intrinsically. Before having sex with Baguette Boy, I said to myself, “Don’t worry, don’t worry. I’m not a slut.”  What the fuck! I sort of betrayed myself with that exclamation (realizing it only afterwards when I was lying in bed alone). Bottom line: I felt deep down that I had to justify my sexual behavior and he didn’t. Even though I still don’t know how many sexual partners he’s had, somewhere inside of me, I felt like I had to prove to him that I was not a “used-up woman.” I felt like I had to prove my purity, which technically, by this socially constructed standard, I had lost long ago. And why is that? What made me the one who had to assure him I was clean enough to touch, to fuck? And what will happen the next time I sleep with someone new? Will that feeling come again? And again?

In all honesty this whole thing is rather confusing.

Society seems obsessed with defining women’s sexuality for them, and has come up with this negative concept of sex that almost feels like a scare tactic. Isn’t that what the word does? It makes women feel derogatory for enjoying something so basic. Why should tiny glitches in my life, tiny moments spent with other humans, short intervals of random sex come to define me as an individual? I know I’m more than how many guys I’ve slept with; whether that’s one or fifty. Screw the world for making me think I’m no more than a number. The truth is, sex with my Baguette Boy won’t be on my mind in five months, let alone five years. If sex is the most natural thing humans do, then isn’t it unnatural for us to categorize each other by how much we do it? Couldn’t we do the same with how much we eat or drink? Isn’t it all in our biology? Yes. Yes, it fucking is.

First, I’d like to address that this double standard is a clearly defined differently depending on the gender that’s having the (too much) sex in question. But I’d also like to address that this issue, at its core, is about our overarching need to categorize people. We think if we can categorize people as “sluts” and “non-sluts” that there’s a “better” side. Not to say there isn’t value in drawing a personal line for yourself, but it seems that that line is being drawn for women rather than by women. 

So how do we contend with this idea of female promiscuity? It’s been so ingrained in our heads that this is a negative thing, that it becomes almost impossible to ignore. Hard to push away the thought that you’ve “done something wrong as a woman.” It’s hard to ignore that you’ve, “let society down.” And what’s all this guilt and shaming for? For twenty minutes of your life that a dick was inside of you? Is that what your whole self-worth is going to come down to?

Yes, sex is important in a lot of different ways, but the amount of sex we have is not who we are. Why would anyone want to be defined by who they’re sleeping with in a given week?

Nonetheless, women are constantly defined by their sexuality. 

I wish I knew how to make this problem go away. I wish I could show you the male equivalent of slut in the dictionary. (There isn’t one by the way. Manwhore doesn’t count because whore is still defined as a promiscuous woman. Fuckboy doesn’t count because it’s not in the dictionary — yet.) I wish I could say there are no consequences for having as much as sex as you want as a woman. But sadly, in today’s world, people are likely to talk about you differently, look at you differently, and treat you differently.

I think all I can do to help is just be honest. Maybe, if I can show you that it’s okay to do whatever the fuck you want sexually, you won’t feel so alone out there. The reality is that women like sex and want to have sex. If it’s impossible to shed ourselves of the slut title, let’s choose to own it. Let’s make those judgmental bastards cry! Instead of being unknowingly inducted through whispers and shit-talk, I cordially invite you to the Sisterhood of Sluts: a new sorority.

If you want to join great, and if you don’t — that’s great too. Don’t let someone else push you to join. Open the door yourself, if that’s what you choose to do.

 

What Does It Mean To Be Alone?

 

I live in a city with 8.5 million people.

That’s 8.5 million faces, 8.5 million smiles, and 8.5 million hearts. Yet, I still ask myself why I feel like I’m invisible. I don’t mean invisible in that emo high school way, more like I’m a red herring. I’m going the wrong way, swimming in the wrong direction; why should I care if they notice or not? At least I’m fucking swimming.

I’m only 18, but I’ve come to recognize that one of the hardest adulthood battles is that against solitude. Of course, I have my family and friends who I couldn’t live without, but this battle regards romantic love; it’s against being alone. I’ve come to realize that our lives, more are less, are defined by the periods we spend in and out of love. Yes, life is much more than those two simple periods, but in a way, isn’t our humanity defined by the people we choose to be around and even more so by the people we choose to love?

I’ve recently entered my first out of love period. I graduated high school, moved across the country from the palm trees of South Florida to the high rises of New York. I start college in the fall, and I can count the amount of people I know here on one hand. As much as life’s new developments fascinate and scare me, I can’t help but think about how I just broke up with my first boyfriend.

As I work my way through the anxiety of a new home, new friends, and a new life — I realize I’m doing it all on my own. There are no kisses to make things better, no hand to hold, no sex. I’ve lost the individual who was the very first person that represented love to me. And I can’t even say that I lost him, because I chose to be alone. I could feel something ethereal telling me the relationship was over — and as it turns out, it was. 

I’ve been in my first out of love moment for over a month now. I’ve started writing again, which is something I’m genuinely proud of. I’m getting a tattoo, something I’m slightly terrified of. More importantly, I’m getting genuinely appreciative of being alone again. I grew up ferociously independent, so when I found my first love it felt nice having someone else to tell me things were going to be okay. I got used to that, as anybody would, and I was afraid to let that feeling go. As scared as I was after we broke up, I was ready. I was ready to get back to being who I was when I was alone: a little too loud, boy crazy, and fucking alive.

Now that I’m single it feels like I’ve made some grand return. I was off vacationing for a while, gone from my own skin and body, but now I’m back to being a little too loud, boy crazy, and fucking alive. Not to say I wasn’t those things while I was in love, but I have to admit they feel a little more true now. I don’t have to share any part of myself with someone else. I get to hold onto all of me. Maybe that’s a little selfish… but I damn well deserve it.

As I wade through my time alone I find myself thinking about the need humans feel for connection. Maybe the problem is that we’re terrified of being alone. To some extent, I get it. There’s comfort in knowing you have someone to sleep with every night, but there’s also comfort in knowing who you are when you close your eyes. We should be taught that it doesn’t matter who you attract, who wants to fuck you, or even who loves you if you aren’t able to understand and love yourself. Being alone gives you that opportunity to genuinely appreciate what makes you who you are. Having moments where you become the main reason you wake up each morning is truly precious.

By accepting periods your of aloneness, you don’t run the risk of giving yourself up to find a person to spend the rest of your life with. When you find them, you’ll already know who you are. You’ll be able to cherish those moments you had to yourself, because being in love with yourself is crucial to loving another.

We can either accept or reject the periods of our lives where we don’t have someone to be in love with. Whatever your choice, try harder to relish your being alone sometimes. As much as I love love — the time I spend out of it is the time I can truly focus on being and becoming me. There’s no distractions, no fights, no sacrifice. When we’re alone, we get to do whatever the fuck we want. 

I hope you accept your time, cultivate the love you have for yourself, and make that the best love story there ever was.

 

 

 

Prude Or Slut?

“Quinn, you’re being such a slut!” my best friend Emma exclaimed.

There I was, twelve-year-old Quinn, exchanging saliva with a boy named Michael, when Emma ferociously pulled me out of the basement bathroom. I was confused, unaware of what I had done to be called a slut. “You hooked up with someone else like a week ago, and not to mention you kissed Jeremy tonight too. People are going to talk about you and say that you are easy.” I still didn’t understand what was so wrong with wanting to kiss more than one boy. It was fun and made me feel like a beautiful 17 year-old I had seen in some movie. Still, I apologized. Maybe she was just being a jealous prude since she hadn’t had her first kiss yet, I thought. That night Emma told everyone in the house what she thought of me. A tear dropped down my face. In that moment, I made a promise to myself. If I was going to be called a slut, I’d be the best goddamn slut there ever was.


Five years later, I had become that seventeen-year-old girl I’d dreamt about. I was lying down in my friend Alexis’s teal bedroom. “She is such a slut!” Alexis said, as she flipped through her Instagram. The word “slut” had graduated from meaning a girl who frequently made out with boys to a girl who frequently had sex with them. Whenever we called a girl we didn’t like a slut, a whore, or a hoe, it was implied that they let just about any boy slip their hands into their panties. We called every other girl we didn’t like a prude, an abstinent freak, or a virgin.

If they were a prude, we thought they were too plain to get any boy to touch them at all. These were the types of girls I did not want to be. Yet, I found myself calling girls these names to distance myself from my own sexual reality. Although I’d been called a slut, I hadn’t exactly reached 12 year-old Quinn’s sexual expectations. In truth, I’d never done anything I thought was particularly slutty. On the other hand, I knew what the boys at school thought of me when they saw me carrying my textbooks in hand, glasses on, and hair tied hastily up. They saw a prudish virgin who wouldn’t dare spread her legs unless I was to be given an A+ on the assignment.

Deep down, I just wanted to be desirable. Young girls are brought up in a culture where the most important thing for a woman to be is pretty and seductive. This is where it gets murky. There is a fine line in our society’s eyes between being sexually attractive and being slutty. It becomes our job to find a balanced medium. This journey becomes less about us and more about trying to please the rest of the world. We grow up learning that boys want sex. So how do we appeal to them? We try to be sexy. We also grow up learning that purity is important. So we try to be pure. But how the fuck are we supposed to find a common ground?
                                                             
On a Saturday in 2017, I lost my virginity to a 21 year-old named Adam. I liked that he was older than me, that he was reserved, and that he had some mystery about him. I was the one who initiated the “relationship,” not him. He started paying more attention to me after we drunkenly kissed and I vomited in front of him—specifically, into a blender. Apparently, guys like you better after they see you puke your guts out.

After a couple weeks of flirting via iMessage, we made plans for another Saturday. I knew that I wanted to have sex with him on that partly cloudy afternoon. He was a nice guy and, more importantly, experienced. I did not want to have sex with someone who didn’t know what they were doing. The thought of a boy asking me “if that was the right hole” made me want to gag. I wanted him to know where my pussy was and how to put his dick into it.

A lot of my eagerness had to do with being horny. My sexual awakening began in 2008, when I watched Robert Pattinson portray an angelic vampire. I had my first lip-to-lip contact at eight and my first French kiss at twelve. It wasn’t until the summer before eighth grade that I began masturbating. I thought it was weird that I was so frequently self-gratifying, especially because I thought it was something only boys did. In a way, that made me like it more; I was able to get myself off just like any other guy. After my masturbation Olympics, I started to think about sex all the time. I wanted sex to be a regular thing in my life, just like brushing my teeth or eating Cheetos. I wasn’t looking for love. I was looking for sexual satisfaction.

The other reason why I was so committed to having sex had to do with my battle against my sexual definitions. I wanted control over my sexuality, just like I wanted control over everything else in my life. The night before meeting up with Adam, I tried to break my own hymen with my fingers, in case I decided against telling him I was a virgin. That night was also accompanied by Google searches. If you don’t tell him: he’ll figure it out once he sees the blood, he’ll never trust you again, he’ll think you’re immature for lying. Despite these warnings, I still didn’t want Adam to own any part of me. I didn’t even want to give him the title of “Quinn’s Hymen Breaker.” I had been taught by my health teachers that the state of my hymen would provide a clear answer to men about my sexual history, but this biological theory really means jack shit. The absence or presence of a hymen, really, is no bigger an indication of a woman’s sexual activity than the words prude and slut are.

This was my secret mission: to not be a virgin anymore. Personally, having sex and being called a slut seemed like a way better deal than having no sex and being seen as a prude. Sex had to be a part of my equation, and that didn’t seem unfathomable to me because girls want sex just as much as guys do. I was not born to be sexual prey. I was born like everybody else—with sexual organs and the innate biological desire to fornicate. I was not “the doorway to the devil, a creature whose burning sexual desires needed to be carefully husbanded for everyone’s safety,” (Tertullian, Christian author, 150-240 CE). I was just a harmless teenager who wanted to bang.

I got to his house around two in the afternoon. I wanted to know if it’d be weird for us to have sex while his younger brother and dad were still home. I wanted to know if he thought we were going to fuck or if a blowjob would suffice. Our arms laid loosely on top of each other, and I felt his warm skin burning against me. I knew I had to say it: “I’ve never had sex before but I want to have sex with you.” I don’t think he expected to hear that. He had somewhere to be soon, so he suggested that we could just fool around. I told him time didn’t bother me, that I was ready to have sex anyway. With my blessing, he swore off his inhibitions and said the whole ordeal (being the sex) just had to be quick.

The skin tore as he slipped into me. It killed for a solid ten seconds until it started feeling like the best thing ever—better than food, or vodka, or happiness, or weed, or Benadryl. This was the bliss I had been craving! Screw the horror stories I had read online, sex for the first time was awesome. He never asked me if it hurt or if I was okay, but I didnt care. I didn’t think it was his job to make me happy—I could make myself happy. When we had finished or, more accurately, when he had finished, I put my underwear on as I complimented him with the widest smile on my face, “That was amazing.” And it really was. I wouldn’t have lied. I examined the bed—no blood, no visible pain. The blood was something I’d been worrying about, like he’d make me buy him new sheets if I stained his. I was so satisfied.

I left that night no longer bearing the virgin title and no longer holding the stigma of prude. So what did that make me? A slut? Adam and I weren’t dating, he wasn’t my boyfriend or some guy I was in love with. I just had sex with him. He just was. The simplicity of it all was what drew me in. I didn’t try and pretend to be one thing or another. I told him the truth, and there was nothing wrong with it. It bothers me now how nervous I was, like the truth would have been an aversion.

I don’t regret any of it like I have so often heard I would. TV shows geared towards teens with pretty girls crying because they wish they had waited. Middle school sex-ed telling me that you should be in love with your first. The Biblical teaching that premarital sex is sin and sin ushers in guilt. But I didn’t want to confess to anything except that I had succeeded. I had finally gotten what I wanted. I had finally gotten sex.

As women, we’re forced to spend most of our lives trying to find a balance between being sexually pure yet sexually appealing. We must be innocent yet mischievous, alluring but tame, willing yet pure. I thought sex was going to be the ultimate answer for me, as if having another body pressed up against mine would make me feel like I was really there. Looking back at it now, having sex really changed nothing. I’m not any more of a woman than I was before. I’m not any more of a slut despite no longer being a virgin; and despite contrary opinion, I really didn’t lose anything but a simple title.

People may think I’m a slut for sleeping with a guy I wasn’t committed to. People may look at me and think I have no intention of ever letting a dick in. I look back and think about how a girl like Emma made me cry with a single word. I think about all the times I’ve heard the word slut or prude being thrown around like they’re nothing. I think about all the times I’ve called someone else those words, too. Words like that are a tarnish to our skin. No matter how hard we try, we’ll never really be clean. But maybe the healing comes through accepting the things we cannot control, accepting that people will see us the way they want to see us. It’s about knowing that a word like prude or slut really doesn’t make you anything else than what you already are—you.