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I don't know if it was a local specialty, but growing up, the girls in my school were obsessed with queefing. Instead of jumping rope at recess, the girls were standing in a ring, legs apart, knees bent, like warriors preparing for battle, releasing a cacophony of vagina farts.
Queefs were all the rage. I, however, hadn't mastered the skill. The girls who could do the vagina farts were like the Japanese mountain monkeys that get to sit in the geothermal hot springs all winter. If you couldn't do it, you were left out in the snow until you had learned your lesson, or graduated. I had tried but failed many times to accomplish even a single queef. Some girls had the technique down to a T, so much so that they could apply roll-on lip gloss with one hand and fist pump the air with the other while letting out multiple farts.
It was worrying. I was not one of the popular girls, and if I couldn't even do a queef properly, what chances had I to ever impress a boy? Did I even have a functioning hole down there?
I was 15, and life, as I knew it, was hell.
My mom explained sex to me while watching From Here to Eternity on a day off school.
"That's what a man does to a woman if he loves her very, very, very much," she said, as Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr lay kissing on the beach. "One day, you'll find a man like that."
I searched for my own Burt Lancaster and string quartet until I discovered Top Gun and started hoping for moonlight and flowing curtains instead of kisses and crashing waves. That became the standard by which I hoped to lose my virginity.
A 17, the boy I was seeing on and off was disarmingly cute and loved Morrissey even more than I did. He was in a band. Locally famous. I couldn't wait to have the love scene from Top Gun played out in real life. At least get rid of my virginity. We weren't exactly dating — more like sporadically getting drunk together and making out — but I was clearly in love. I took what I could get. The momentum with The Boy soon fizzled out, but I was hell-bent on getting the job done, once and for all.
"Let's go swimming," I suggested after a drunken night at the town square. We both knew that this was code for sex and headed to the river on the edge of town. I don't think either of us was particularly excited, but it was a fair solution to my problems.
We passed some friends of his on the way there.
"Where are you guys off to? Scratch an itch?" one of the boys asked. I sensed nightswimming wasn't an original idea.
The riverbank was littered with discarded cigarette packs and empty bottles of cheap Chardonnay. The sun never sets at that time of the year in the northern hemisphere, and daybreak was hiding just around the corner.
"You go in first and check for sharks," I said.
I was at the end of my period and had both a pad and a tampon in place, just in case. This had to be removed quickly and invisibly. With his back to me, I quickly removed my undies and folded them to hide the dry pad. As he walked into the water, I tucked away the tampon string.
"Don't you just love the sky this time of the year?" I asked in an attempt to distract him while I pulled out the tampon.
I embraced him to get my hand out of his view and threw the tampon as far as I could. I had a record for throwing a sand-filled ball just 10 meters in PE. The tampon had no weight, which didn't make it favorable to airborne travel. Another principle of physics that I had overlooked in this non-romantic setting was that tampons float. I managed to obscure his view by frenetically making out with his face. I held his head in a firm grip and steered it in the opposite direction as the floating tampon steadily closed the distance between us, all the while kicking the water to make it change direction.
I let out a sigh of despair. The Boy read it as a sign of arousal and tried to penetrate me in the water. I wrapped my legs around his waist, like I had seen in The Blue Lagoon, and inadvertently yanked him under the surface. I don't know the success rate of penetrating a virgin in a cold river, but I reckon it's pretty low. After some sorry attempts, we made our way to the riverbank and continued the prodding there, breastplate to chest plate. I wasn't familiar with sexual positions, so I lay there waiting for it to be over.
Daylight threatened, and I could hear the voices of dog walkers and people walking home from parties. I hoped that we were out of sight but knew we weren't. I dug my heels into the ground and tried to wiggle my behind further down the sand in hopes of engulfment.
"Raise your legs a bit," The Boy said in an attempt to complete what we were there to do.
I raised my legs high, happy to help. Supporting my upper body with my arms, I inadvertently performed a halasana, what is known in yoga as "the plow." I felt air being sucked inside me by the sheer effort.
Well, if air can penetrate me...
When I released my legs, lowering them to a more sustainable level, a thunderous volume of air escaped me.
I couldn't believe it!
I had tried so hard, years earlier, to compete with the girls and their queefs, and now was the time my body decided to release one?
The Boy was too involved to even notice. Much like someone trying to unlock the front door with a wet newspaper he prodded and pushed toward what seemed like the nether regions of a Barbie. Any trace of dignity had long since gone. He gave up and lay down beside me. I don't know if it was the complete lack of sexual tension that ruined everything, my bony, freezing, blue-white body, or the alcohol consumption, but at that point I didn't care. I wanted to find my clothes, get dressed and be on my way.
We walked back to our bikes in silence, and made our farewells. I was moving away in a few weeks and he knew it.
"Take care of yourself, girl," he said, as my heart sank to my freezing feet. It was too soon.
I got on my bike, pleased that I could cross sex off of my list of things to achieve to become a successful human being, even if I wasn't sure that I had technically had sex.
I stopped by the side of the road to pee and came to the conclusion that no one would ever know. It wasn't Top Gun or even From Here to Eternity, but it was mission accomplished. Kind of? Close enough.
For me, it had been about losing my virginity, and for him, it was probably break-up sex. It was clear to me that we weren't going to hook up again, and in that moment, squatting by the side of the road, still a little drunk, I was fine with it. I was pretty sure we were going to stay friends for the rest of our lives. In fact, I was banking on it. Like people who shared major life experiences or survived traumas like war, shipwrecks, genocide and kidnappings. They kept the eternal bond alive by checking in with each other now and again to see that everything was OK.
I've always had a talent for languages, so I was a little surprised to be so slow to catch on when it came to understanding people. I hadn't known that when The Boy said, "Take care of yourself girl," with wet hair that kept falling down his forehead, he meant, "Take care of yourself because I'll never see you again, this is IT."
I had thought that it meant, "Take care of yourself until I'll speak to you in a couple of days, or even tomorrow, to check up on you and make plans to hang out as friends."
Apart from his life-size cardboard cut-outs of Morrissey, he was as close to a normal and functioning human being as I'd ever met.
I wasn't concerned with getting pregnant as a result of not having used a condom with The Boy. I did feel strange, though. A quick visit to the OBGYN established that I had genital crabs. The hateful little creatures were building communities in my lady garden while I tried my best not to reach down and rip their heads off in public.
I wanted The Boy back.
I was convinced that if we just focused better, like a team, every day could feel fresh, and not like Sunday mornings when the fun was all over. I was willing to sink lower to live the dream, despite the crabs. Going back for affection that wasn't available to me was something I was used to.
I put on "Let's Stay Together" by Al Green in the background and hoped we could just erase everything and start over. This had to be a possibility. I had a few drinks and called him.
"What d'you want?"
"How can you expect me to know what I want? I want to be in a good place, and I want you to take me there. I know you can because I love you. You need to fix me. I want to feel like the first time I met you," I said, a tangle of unhinged emotions.
The drinking helped me speak but not necessarily find the right words.
"You're the one who is moving away," he said.
"I can stay! Let's get back together?"
I never mentioned the crabs. I didn't want to put a downer on the conversation.
"I don't think we were ever really together," he said.
I said nothing.
"If it helps you get over me, I can tell you that I slept with someone else," he added.
No shit. That must be where the crabs came from then.
I hated the idea of being crabby seconds. I would have thought that someone who was that obsessed with his penis would take care of it better. It all seemed so complicated. I wanted love to be as straightforward as a pop song. Like "La La Love You" by the Pixies.
It took me two bottles of anti-crab lotion to get rid of the remnants of the encounter and two (six) years to get over him. In the end, the memory got mixed with constructed scenes created by loose fragments that I had no idea if they were real or not. After a while, I didn't even know what had happened. Maybe I had just created a memory of something, someone, that didn't exist. But in my mind, I made him perfect and I clung to that thought. If only that relationship had worked out, then I would have been whole by now. Willingly confusing emotional hunger with love became a way to keep myself in my misery.
Do we ever fully get over someone? Maybe not. What we can do is try to figure out what is projection and what are actual real feelings. I did in the end, and I'm happy about that. But I'm even happier that queefs never made it big outside of the schoolyard.