My virginity and a break-up

Over Christmas break in 1986, I was laying on my bedroom floor, listening to New Order’s “Shellshock,” and sobbing. Heaving melodramatic sobs. The kind that prompted my sister Jeanne to yell “Stop being so dramatic!” I felt my sobs were warranted as my boyfriend Daniel had just informed me that he was in love with someone else. I was bereft of all hope for future love in my life.

Dan had come into my life about a year earlier, at a Mount Saint Mary dance. I went to the one public high school in Nashua, NH but there were two private parochial high schools, Mount Saint Mary for girls and Bishop Guertin for boys. They held monthly dances and opened them to the public kids. When I was in middle school, my father made up a fight song for the Mount and marched around the house, swinging his arms and singing it at the top of his lungs. He desperately wanted me at an all-girls school. We could have never afforded a private education but looking back, I see that he wanted more for me than I had imagined. In the least, he believed that attending the Mount might have slowed my inevitable trajectory toward equating self-worth with how many boys wanted to kiss me.

I’d seen Dan once or twice before, at my friend Lisa’s house when her older brother threw parties. I recall her saying, “Don’t bother. He’s a senior and he’s got a girlfriend.” This information did not deter me. I fell in love with Dan before ever talking to him. He looked like a mix between Bono and Simon LeBon and Sting. Basically hot all over. At the time, I was finishing ninth grade, about to start high school, and a virgin. The tainted kind. I’d done ‘everything but’ on a dare with a neighborhood boy and couldn’t wait to have sex, preferably with Mr. Hot All Over. I wore tight cropped shirts and supremely short shorts and used Jolen creme bleach to be Debbie Harry blonde.

The night we finally connected, I’d smoked too much pot at the adjoining park earlier in the evening, so was spending the last minutes of the dance in the girls’ bathroom, still riding waves of paranoia. What was actually in that bag of shake we smoked? Maybe it was laced with something. I think the cops are going to find me and test my THC level. Wow, I could really use an ice cream sundae. Lisa came in to tell me that she and her brother were leaving, and did I need a ride? I’m not sure what bravery pushed me out of that stall but I power walked across the gym floor, fists moving a hip-to-nip fashion, eyes darting across the landscape of awkward teenagers. When I spotted Dan, his smile caught me off guard so I paused, mid-walk, and felt the clammy sweat I’d been holding in my hands. He walked toward me, while I stayed paralyzed, and asked me to dance. I unclenched and we held each other as closely as teenagers can while being hawk-eyed by chaperones through the last (and best) two minutes of “Stairway to Heaven.”

We spent that entire summer making out. Everywhere. Dan had a little gold Toyota Tercel and we would drive from my house to the church a block away, park in the lot, and rub against each other until the windows fogged and our skin burned. Eventually, though, Dan went off to college and we attempted a long-distance love affair. With no sex. I knew I had to up my game to compete with those girls in college. I believe I referred to them as skanks at the time. So, while he was home for a long weekend in October and his parents were away, we had a party and I lost my virginity. Up until it was over, I thought we were having the most romantic evening. Dan and I were laying on the old, brown plaid, scratchy couch in the Ayotte’s living room, watching MTV broadcast the Police’s Synchronicity concert. A box of Bartles & Jaymes wine cooler sat on the end table, along with a pack of cigarettes and a pack of Hubba Bubba. Our other friends had gone upstairs to explore empty bedrooms, so we had the place to ourselves. When it became clear we were going to have sex, ie the dry humping became too painful and was boring a hole in Dan’s pants, there was no conversation around protection against pregnancy or STDs because I assumed we were both virgins. Yet another painfully naive moment in my existence. Along with the actual sex, which hurt like hell but I convinced myself it was supposed to feel that way. The pleasure with the pain. Turns out Dan was enormously well-endowed, which I only know now that I’ve had a very fair share of partners. When it was over, I began removing a small leather strip I’d had tied around my wrist. It was a ‘virgin bracelet’ that a few of my girlfriends and I were wearing. When we popped our cherry, we were to remove the string ceremoniously and breathe a sigh of relief. But Dan wasn’t having it. He tied it back on my wrist and told me not to tell anyone, because he was 18 and I was 15. Damn those barbaric age of consent laws. He was, and I believe is still, one of the kindest hearted people I’d ever met.

We spent the next few months seeing each in his dorm room an hour away or when he was home for a weekend. And we were madly in love. I have old phone bills with hours of long distance minutes and letters saying I love you to prove it. I trusted him. He called me Pookie, for god’s sake. And held my hand in public. And told me he missed me. But apparently, he was also sharing these feel-goods, in person, with a girl at school named Wendy.

She was short and mousey, and had a pseudo-punk short haircut. I’d met her a few times when I visited and didn’t think much of her. She was just a girl at my boyfriend’s college and like I mentioned, I was naive. She seemed boring and I was… well, I wasn’t cool per se, but at least I wasn’t like everyone else. My new fashion sense was more like a cross between Molly Ringwald’s in Pretty in Pink and Madonna in Desperately Seeking Susan. I began wearing my father’s old trench coat (or his Army reserves jacket when he wasn’t home to yell at me for taking it,) white t-shirts with the neck cut out, a mini-skirt of some sort, a set of black nylons that I had ever so carefully nicked a thousand times so they would run just so. And knock-off Doc Maarten boots. And black lipstick, of course. My friends, come to think of it, looked just like me, save for an occasional mohawk or bleached blond tail. We were so busy drowning our teenage sorrows with the likes of Morrissey that we didn’t care what anyone thought. That was the point, of course, not caring what anyone thinks. Don’t care, hard. But truth was, I cared desperately. I wanted to be Siouxsie from the Banshees, Suzanne from the Bangles, and Suzanne as in Vega. I wanted to be a hot chick rock star as a teenager, but I was too busy wondering how to keep a boyfriend to actually open my mouth, sing a few notes, and be heard.

The night of the breakup, my best friend Sheelu came over, picked me up off the bedroom floor, dragged me to Rockit Records, and smoked Marlboro Lights with me until we were nauseous. Sheelu was the skate-Betty, Ska-Indian version of me – ripped jeans, big t-shirts, leather and chain bracelets, and a mouth on her that would make my sailor Uncle take pause. Though I’d had my heartbroken and couldn’t see how I’d ever (EVER) love again, Sheelu told me every truth and lie I needed to hear in that moment. That we were young, that we had enough time, that there was more love in the world, and jokingly, that Dan was just one boy in a sea of men that would be my life one day.

 

My run-in with the SF Police

I was scared. I’d never had the police at my door before. Ten seconds earlier, I couldn’t have predicted that I’d be standing in my towel, hair dripping wet on the floor, defending myself to a couple of police officers.

Jackson had been having a tough time falling asleep and was up late that night. We hadn’t lived in our apartment long, maybe a couple of months, so he was about three years old. He was generally a great sleeper and I put him down without incident. That night he was sobbing, while I was exhausted and desperately in need of a shower, so I told him he could sleep in my bed. I finally calmed him down and told him I was going to take a shower, and that he needed to go to sleep, pronto. I normally showered while he was sleeping but it was a damp November night, I’d had another crappy day at work, and I couldn’t wait any longer. I gave him a kiss on his tangled head of curly blond hair and said goodnight.

I had just turned off the water, when the doorbell rang. I popped my head out the bathroom door and said “Just a minute!” while I put a towel around me. I was about to pull on some sweatpants when he doorbell rang again, along with a knocking. I peered through the peep hole to see two policemen, so I opened the door. There’s nothing quite like seeing San Francisco Police Department’s finest on your doorstep. How quickly my brain worked, thinking of all the terrible news they could be delivering. My stomach started churning before a word was spoken.

“We’re here to check on a disturbance that was reported anonymously.”

I told them I had no idea what they were talking about, that I’d just gotten out of the shower.

“Do you have any children in the house?”

“Yes, my son. But he’s sleeping.”

My bedroom was right off the front entrance and the door was open. Jackson was sitting up in bed, staring at the men with guns holstered to their hips. One of the policemen turned on his flashlight and shone it into the dark room, onto Jackson’s red, tear stained face.

“Are you alright in there?”

I told them he was fine, that he’d just had a hard time going to sleep. They told me that a neighbor was concerned for his safety, as he’d been “screaming and crying for 20 minutes.” Twenty minutes? I hadn’t taken a twenty minute shower for at least three years, so that was bullshit. Maybe I’d lost track of time in the shower, daydreaming. Although I was impressed at how quickly the police could show up, if needed.

“Has there been any hitting going on tonight?” He asked in a conversational, almost friendly tone. It was as if he wanted to appear as someone I’d be at ease with, and admit to hitting my son. I hadn’t, and was suddenly terrified at the notion they thought I had. Once he laid out the allegations, the pit in my stomach grew to encompass my intestines and I immediately needed to use the bathroom. They were looking at me as if I’d abused my child. Jackson was too little to say anything convincing without also crying because at that point, I believe he was more afraid of the two policemen at our door.

I realized that my breath had quickened and I could feel my heart pounding in my throat. I held my towel’s knot tighter to appear that I had my composure about me, while inside my tightening stomach and twisting bowels were doing battle. I’d watched too many crime shows on television and knew that real panic in this moment wouldn’t serve me. I calmly and quietly asked, “Is there anything else?” They said something about “better to be safe than sorry” and started walking to their car.

I closed the door, barely making it to the bathroom in time. I sat on the toilet longer than I needed to, crying quietly, while Jackson stood on the other side of the door doing the same.