Disclaimer: I am fully aware that I have created and cultivated a persona that has often isolated rather than freed me. Now that I am much more in control over my mental faculties than I have been in years, I am attempting to show the entirety of myself as a human being rather than just the shields I’ve used to keep everyone at a distance. This essay examines that armor and where it’s gotten me thus far.
In the years since I graduated college (during which I was in a long-term, open relationship), I have noticed a disturbing pattern: I seem to have become the girl dudes hook up with — and are “fascinated” by — directly before they enter into a serious relationship. I cannot downplay my role in this phenomenon, though, because to do so would be to completely disregard how my approach to sexual/romantic connections has totally fucking backfired on me.
For most of my life, I have been a decidedly insecure, miserable human being. My utter lack of experience with the opposite sex growing up transformed into a compulsion to “make up for lost time” and simultaneously prove my worth — specifically in terms of attractiveness and desirability (See: “Late-Blooming Girls and the Fatal Lure of the Male Model”). During college, I consistently pursued other options of the male persuasion separate from my relationship, stemming from a need to both compete with my boyfriend (note: if you think there’s a “winner” in a non-monogamous partnership, you’re probably not cut out for it) and to ensure that I was appealing to more than just one boy.
And so I dabbled… and straddled.
But it wasn’t until about two years ago — when Maidenfed was birthed from a concoction of ennui, curiosity, and imagination — that the disheartening trend of being perceived as a sexual, seemingly inanimate novelty really kicked off.
Maidenfed became a perfect — or so it seemed at the time — solution to my utter confusion about how to present myself to males. First, it served as a built-in elimination process; if a dude had an issue with whatever it was that I was doing as this incarnation, then I probably didn’t want to waste my time on him anyway. Also, because I have always been prone to neurotically comparing myself to others (particularly women), I figured that Maidenfed was a surefire way to make it instantly clear to everyone just how interesting and worthwhile I am. And by immediately shoving this persona in to a potential romantic candidate’s face, I felt that I was avoiding that cumbersome, often tedious getting-to-know-you process.
As such, I tended to hook up with dudes straightaway, and then sometimes a relationship would develop after that initial bedroom romp. But I consistently led with sex. Maybe because it was easy, maybe because I actually have a higher-than-average sex drive, maybe because my father didn’t pay enough attention to me growing up. Maybe all of the above.
At some point, I started to notice that I would often get eschewed a few weeks or months into this dalliance with a text informing me that the boy in question had “started seeing someone.” My first thought would be, “am I not someone? Were you not seeing me?” Then I would scroll through our text history — noting that the majority of the exchanges were nudes and sexts — and my heart would sink. The inner, self-punishing monologue would commence: “Did I really do this again? I actually liked this one, too…”
I recently hooked up with a boy who I had first met in 2014 — an event of which I had no recollection. (Sorry, Adam.) His reminiscence about the encounter rattled me. Essentially, I had strutted in to the Brooklyn bar armed with a list of fucking bizarre and invasive questions that I proceeded to interrogate him with. Then, when we went back to my apartment afterwards, I abruptly asked if he was going to make out with me, which prompted him to book it the hell out of there. He told me that the encounter had a “profound effect” on him, and had caused him to completely rethink what it was that he was looking for, because it “definitely wasn’t that.”
Hearing this tale from my past mainly just made me laugh, but it was also a disconcerting reminder that — regardless of the perhaps somewhat unjustified perceptions of boys I’ve been intimate with — I am the singular, overworked parent of my own fate. This all began because I wanted to transform myself in to something not fully human, so that when I got rejected or cheated on or admonished or abused, it wouldn’t affect me like it would a true flesh-and-blood organism. But despite the efforts I made to encase myself in a protective, seductive exoskeleton in order to avoid heartbreak, I unwittingly opened the gates to a whole new battalion of inadequacies and renunciations.
After the Sociopath Ex-Boyfriend Shitstorm of 2015, I re-entered this primitive armor — which I had abandoned during our relationship, allowing my most vulnerable parts to be preyed upon — and molded it into its most complete manifestation of itself. The previously missing pieces were filled (somewhat haphazardly) by relentless drug use until the whole masterpiece came crashing the fuck down.
Six months sober, I go back and forth on this. I definitely still romanticize the concept of making myself into a character less easily demolished than my human version, but I’m also realizing the impossibility of successfully transmuting into an untouchable, pedestal-topping alien queen. Finally accepting reality and my fragile place within it has been — and will undoubtedly continue to be — the most challenging aspect of early sobriety.
All I know is that a simple object cannot change as much as I have, so I must be something more.