Excerpt: Sugar in My Bowl: Real Women Write About Real Sex
The Loss of Virginity, Paul Gauguin, 1890-91
When I was fourteen years old, I decided it was time to lose my virginity. Precocity had always been my thing. As an only child, I spent most of my youth around adults, which made me sound sort of like one. By early adolescence I had become so accustomed to being told I was mature, it seemed obvious to me that this next benchmark had to be hit early in order to maintain my identity. I was curious about sex. But mostly, I had a reputation to uphold. (I was pretty much the only person interested in this reputation.)
The first—and only impressive—expression of my precociousness was when I insisted on learning to read in nursery school. I loved talking and words and once I could write them down I was a step closer to becoming myself. The upside of being a verbal kid is that adults often think you are bright, but children have another name for such a person: nerd. I realized, as I was going through puberty (early), the necessity of shifting my focus from doing things that would impress my parents and teachers to engaging in behavior that would strike my peers as cool. I started saying “like” constantly. I smoked pot when I was twelve. I dropped acid when I was thirteen. Losing my virginity was the next logical step.
It’s not that these things were necessarily fun. Well, the pot, actually, was great—unless you are reading this and you are twelve, in which case it was awful. But the acid was a classic bad trip, during which I thought I heard the breathing of dead people. With sex as with drugs, my interest in the entity itself was far less potent a motivator than my fervent desire to transform myself from tiny dork into Janis Joplin. It felt like my job. I needed to do things that would make people gasp. Nobody would gasp if they heard a fifteen- or sixteen-year-old had lost her virginity. The clock was ticking.