IT HAPPENED TO ME: I Haven’t Had Sex in 10 Years and I’m Only 35

After surgery to reconstruct my vagina, I pushed away any man interested in me.
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After surgery to reconstruct my vagina, I pushed away any man interested in me.
The fear that I was broken, that I was unlovable because of this very basic thing that all women are supposed to do, became too much.

The fear that I was broken, that I was unlovable because of this very basic thing that all women are supposed to do, became too much.

I’m not ugly. I have, if I do say so myself, some really nice legs. My rack isn’t bad either.

I had sex for the first time at 15. It was typical teenage fare -- sneaking a quick one up in my bedroom while my mom made dinner. I was the first one out of my friends to lose my virginity (despite all the bragging of an older friend who gave her boyfriend a blowjob and proceeded to show us how using a banana and yogurt.)

But then, something happened. When I was 22, a senior in college, I developed a painful disorder called vulvodynia. It gradually worsened to the point I could barely stand to be touched anywhere near my vagina. It hurt to sit for long periods of time or to wear tight pants. 

I found a doctor who specialized in the condition. He made me hold a mirror between my legs so he could show me the bright red circles around the vestibule, or the opening around the vagina. He told me those circles were evidence of damaged or overactive nerves.

A full exam, even with the smallest speculum they had, was out of the question. I remember him touching one of those red spots as I screamed. It felt like I had been stabbed with a knife. I looked down to see the doctor holding a Q-tip.

My boyfriend, same guy I lost my virginity to, was still around for better or worse, usually worse. He was supportive throughout painful treatments that rendered me completely abstinent and, ultimately, surgery. Then just as I was cleared to have sex again, he was gone. 

My surgeon cut away the nerve damage and reconstructed my vagina and the inner labia so that no one would ever know. But once you’ve had your lady bits sliced and diced it’s not that easy to lay out the welcome mat.

The recovery was pretty brutal. I never knew how many stitches I had down there. I had no idea at the time that the psychological scars would be worse than anything the doctor’s scalpel had done.

I took a break from dating for a few months. But slowly I came around to the idea of trying again. I liked having a boyfriend. I liked having another half.

The first guy I was seriously “in like” with seemed perfect. We snuggled by the fireplace, had some good make-out sessions. I worried that when the time did come to sleep with him, maybe it wouldn’t “work” anymore. Maybe I was broken. Then after a couple of weeks, he stopped returning my calls. I asked a mutual friend what happened. I was told the guy said it was too much work to get me to have sex with him. Ouch.

And so it went. I kept looking for that guy who I could trust and who would be gentle with me. I tried blind dates. I tried online dating. I had a huge crush on a co-worker once. We would go see movies and go out to dinner on a regular basis, but he never made a move. I was assured by mutual friends that he was a closeted gay man. He got married last year -- to a woman.

The fear that I was broken, that I was unlovable because of this very basic thing that all women are supposed to do, became too much. It grew until it was a monster in the closet. I kept dating, more to keep up appearances to my family and friends than anything, but would always break it off before I needed to worry about wearing sexytime underwear. I came to appreciate battery-operated overnight guests -- I’m not dead, after all.

This whole cock block routine did have its perks. It weeded out an amazing amount of pricks who had no real interest in me. I lived in New York City, in the heart of Manhattan, for many years and those guys get really creative about asking for sex.

One guy wanted to take me on a walking tour of Union Square to admire the architecture. Mmmkay. Then -- oh my gosh! -- we happened to be standing right in front of his apartment building, as luck would have it. And wouldn’t I like to come up and have some tea? Smooth, man. Smooth. I politely declined and suggest we go grab another drink somewhere.

He insisted he wanted to make me tea. I told him I did not like tea. He finally, having exhausted all polite options, asked me -- in a tone dripping with exasperation -- why I didn’t want to come up to his apartment. I told him I had watched enough evening news to know what happened to stupid girls who went up to random apartments for tea. So that was the end of that.

Another guy, a cop no less, called me on a Sunday night to ask me if I wanted to come over to his place and, ahem, bring my jammies. We had been on one date previously and it was a brunch date. Yeah, no. I told him I would rather go grab a drink or some coffee, to which he responded “What, do you think I’m going to rape you or something?”

Well, now I do buddy. Plus he wore high-waisted tapered jeans.

Sometimes the cock block routine hurt. I dated a guy who I really, really liked, a very good looking soccer player who almost, almost made me want to get my groove back. 

In a moment of panic I told him I didn’t want to see him anymore. He took my hand and told me that, eventually, I’d have to let someone in. That I’d have to break down the wall around me for someone. That hurt. Oh that hurt. I think about him often.

Other gynecologists have told me that my surgeon did a fabulous job, that no one would be able to tell. But exams still hurt. I can’t use tampons. I am scared. I have a great life, with friends and a wonderful family. I don’t have a house full of cats (not that there’s anything wrong with that.) I am active and social and a total extrovert.

Walking down the street, no one would know that I am broken.

One day, I hope the scars will finally heal.