May 14, 2012
This was one that I held on to for a while. It stemmed from a book my mother gave me, one of many “your body/sex” books that she encouraged me to read and to talk about (I read them, but when she asked to talk to me about them I would just stick my fingers in my ears and yell “LA LA LA LA LA” until she rolled her eyes and gave up.) There was one page in the book that said: “When a man and a woman want to have a baby, they have sex. They hug and kiss because it feels good.” There was a pencil drawing of a man and a women sort of cuddling in a bed on the following page, and then it jumped right to the part where the baby is born.
This quick jump, accompanied by the clinical picture, led me to believe that it worked like this: couples decide to have a baby, book a hospital room, spend a night there to have the sex, and then return in nine months to have the baby. And never have sex again.
When a friend destroyed this misconception by telling me that her parents had sex all the time and mine probably did, too, I was VERY angry at her. I shut her up and managed to assume she was a liar for a few more years, but eventually I had to admit to myself that she was probably, dammit, right. SEX EWW. I secretly planned to be a virgin until at least 40, and was very proud of this.
This is a nice thought, right? And it’s just said to kids SO MUCH. “What do you want to be when you grow up? You can be anything you want to be.” Personally, I took this to mean that I could just pick various careers and blend them together and then be the best in the world. I was going to be the world’s first soccer player/actress. As in, I would be on the US Women’s National Soccer Team, while also starring in many Broadway musicals and winning numerous Tony awards. I figured I would do Broadway in the summer and winter, when soccer was not in session.
It was a given, of course, that I would be famous. I didn’t actually consider that I might NOT be famous. I even looked around at all of the adults I knew and thought, aw, it’s too bad they never got to be famous, like I will be.
Okay, this wasn’t actually a misconception because it wasn’t a conception at all. I just don’t remember even being aware of my body as an entity. It was just me, I was just moving through the world. I wasn’t aware at all that my torso was, truly, ridiculously short in comparison to the length of my legs, or that my stomach was maybe a bit wiggly. I didn’t look at my arms and wonder if they were puffy because of water retention and if I should consider cutting back on sodium (something that I’ve mostly accepted I’m just never gonna do. Salt is awesome).
I was lucky to make it longer than a lot of people, I think, before my body solidified into this thing that I was ALWAYS aware of, no matter what else I was doing. For a while there I just was just living, body not included as a concern. That was definitely one of the sweetest parts of being a child.
When I thought about age as a kid, I pictured a giant ladder-like structure, color-coded. Twenty was orange, and it was also where the ladder turned to the right, ascending into the sky. In other words, twenty was it: Adulthood. The people in my life who were twenty seemed as good as my parents, adult-wise, to me. My dad used to joke that, “You can date when you’re twenty and not before!”, and I would be like “DAAAD!” (it was a classic good time). I just assumed that at twenty I would be a fully-formed, complete person.
When I did, in fact, turn twenty, I celebrated in my college-sophomore dorm room by eating an entire cornbread cake that my roommate had gotten specially made for me, while lamenting my lack of a boyfriend. Twenty was a year in which I was DESPERATELY single, like, Single with a capitol S, getting-drunk-and-crying-and-leaving-the-party-early-every-weekend Single.
I was still wearing a lot of low-cut shirts and entertaining the idea of a double minor in sociology and theater (because that extra minor would definitely help me out later?). I had no idea what I wanted, let alone how to get it. I was nothing like the twenty-year-old my ten-year-old self had imagined.
There were a lot of things I didn’t understand as a kid, but I had some essential stuff down that it’s easy to lose along the way. I had boundless, blind ambition, total physical comfort, ZERO understanding of sex (although a strangely intuitive sense that it might suck — I don’t mean to say that it sucks except that it sucks SOMETIMES), and an unrealistic sense of how easily I’d slide to the right and just BE an adult. Now that I’m hurling myself forward on the color-coded age ladder, I’m working to regain that blind ambition and body comfort while fully knowing who I am and what the hell is going on around me. I’m sure my ten-year-old self would be devastated if she knew.
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