Learning to be an Adult

I think probably, that when anybody loses their virginity, there are inevitably some moments of reflection.  Questioning ourselves, questioning life, our loss of innocence, and realizing there is no do-over.  Whether you do this silently by yourself, confide in a trusted friend, call your parent, or even consciously recognize you are in fact questioning “it” and the implications that “it” might have on your life…I think we all probably think about “it”.

For me, I had a lot of emotions to process – and no one really to confide in.  I certainly didn’t have the kind of relationship with my parents to talk about a sexual experience.  I didn’t have any friends that I could relate to.  Sure, I knew some of my friends had sex – but we didn’t talk about it.  We weren’t prudes, we were just more “private”.  It was 1989, before the internet and social media.  Before cell phones and text messaging.  Long distance phone calls were rare and short, and you waited until evening when the rates were lower.  I felt alone, left to figure this out on my own.  Add to this, I was unquestionably different than every other woman I knew because I didn’t really have a vaginal canal – and just who could I talk to about what had happened and if it was normal and what else could I expect?  I had to forge this trail on my own.  No teenage magazine could have prepared ME for this experience.

I don’t remember much of my trip to Florida really…except for the anxiety – the overall emotional turmoil – and just trying to figure out the “what now” in my life.  Looking back at it, intellectually I can see that I wanted a few things:  I wanted to feel normal, to be loved, to be reassured that it would all be ok, that the path and plans I did have were, in fact, right for me.  But I was a mess.  I was lost, confused, scared.  I was surrounded by people who I didn’t know, and who couldn’t possibly understand what I was going through.  The only person I sort of knew was my fiancé…and it became clear to me pretty quickly that I didn’t really know him at all.

I cried a lot.  I hurt physically.  I hurt emotionally.  I tried to distinguish physical love from emotional love.  I wanted to be held and comforted.  I wanted to be the perfect fiancé and new lover.  But it hurt to be touched intimately, so when he didn’t touch me I felt rejected – like a freak.  Touch me but don’t – love me but leave me alone – hold me but give me space.  I was a mess – but tried to hide it.

By the time we left Florida and started a trip across the US, we had more or less settled into a routine I guess.  I had mostly regained control of myself and was ready to just get on with it.  No more feeling sorry for myself, just improvise, adapt and overcome.  We drove through many states, studied maps and highways (no GPS of course!) and made a trip through Nashville.  We spent a couple days there touring around and just “vacationing”.  We traveled across the southern states and to California.  We visited one of his brothers, a close friend of the family, and we stayed with my aunt, all before finally making our way back to our hometown in Washington.  That many hours in a car with someone, and all the hours of conversations, and all the quiet times of contemplation…left me with probably as many questions as answers in my life.

I came to realize that the man I flew to Florida to be with did not really exist.  I was in love with someone who didn’t exist outside of my mind.  And I wasn’t sure at all that I liked, let alone loved the man whom I’d been traveling with.  But I was trapped.  Stubborn.  Independent.  Prideful.  I had planned my entire adult life around a person who didn’t exist.  Who could I talk to?  What should I do?  I didn’t know.  I was on my own to figure it out – I was always on my own.  I had been planning and talking about this wedding for years.  The date was set.  The colors were set.  I wore a ring.  Everyone expected that we would get married in October.  What option did I have? None, besides marry him.  So I did my best to convince myself that this was the best thing, that I could love him, that we would figure it out…we just had to get married and then…well, I guess we would figure it out.

In my heart, I knew I shouldn’t marry him.  But I truly didn’t know what else to do.  My parents had told me I couldn’t live with them after going to Florida.  I hadn’t applied to college.  I didn’t really have any friends that I could get an apartment with.  I had to just figure it out.

I got a job. I cleaned the house.  I cooked dinners.  I planned a wedding.  I went to bridal showers – for friends and for myself.  My brother’s girlfriend made my dress.  We added peach flowers and pearls to my mother’s veil.  We ordered invitations, cake, and flowers, and rented bridesmaids dresses and tuxedos.  We bought rings.  We settled into a routine and got to know each other more and more.  I still wasn’t sure I was doing the right thing – but I kept my doubts and my fears to myself.  I would find a way through this.  Improvise, adapt and overcome.

We got married in October 1989.  I was 18 years old.  We lived in his dad’s house.  We were trying to figure out life and make plans.  This wasn’t the fairytale I signed up for, how would we ever survive?  Improvise, adapt and overcome.

We bought a used car.  We rented an apartment.  We changed jobs. We got hand-me-down furniture. I continued to wrack my brain to find a solution.  How could we ever get anywhere without anything?  Dead end jobs.  No education.  He had left the Marine Corps.  We were stuck – going nowhere fast.  We fought, we argued, we blamed each other and the universe.  We were unhappy.  We were trapped.

But Damn-it – I was stubborn.  I was independent.  I would figure out what to do next.  Improvise, Adapt and Overcome.  There had to be a way…there had to be!  And I would find it.

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