One time when I was on acid a friend of mine said the word “slut” in reference to a girl he was sleeping with and I lost it. I realized that in my heyday I would have been called a slut. And the vibration of that word rang through me crashing and clanging against my organs and I realized how assaultive and hateful it was. It was like a poisonous gas had swept through me and killed all the plants inside. I suddenly wept for all the girls who are called that. For it is a word uttered behind their backs, in the freshman barracks as the girls walk away heels in hand. And all they want is to be liked. They make this sacrifice, albeit ignorantly, to please the flesh-gluttonous pompous frat boys. And look what we get!
Anyway, the word got me thinking about a certain phase of my life—one that is so integral to who I am today. A phase that had to do with chasing the feeling of being alive. Now in retrospect, with balance as my mantra, and wholesomeness as my default setting I am nostalgic about those days when I used to invoke the chaos—send myself into severe highs and lows just to feel the thrill.
I may have been a “slut,” but I don’t regret one moment of it… of my predisposition to throw life down the hatch and wait for its intoxication to stun me. I have had people tell me they can’t believe some of the things that happen to me and the stories I carry, but I believe I attract this attention. And when the little Indian girl in the supermarket grabs a handful of my butt and asks me to come to bed with her I laugh gratefully and take her number and call her later. If my life is like a movie it’s because I summon the chaos. I want nothing less than to drink the lees of life. The Thoreau way… to skinny-dip in the crusty lake just to see what it feels like to have all your molecules arrested by cold.
When I was in high school I was the only one who would ever go skinny-dipping. On a whim in the ocean or in some strangers backyard. And I was wondering where my kind was… the kind that would do such a thing with me and run naked through the conservation land in the nighttime beneath the stars to be eaten alive by mosquitoes as we rolled around in the grass sharing firsts and peeing together. I wanted to kiss girls and inhale them and taste-test everything, if only for the experience. I dated every phenotype in the book- older man and professional man and tattooed man and starving artist, women, and foreigners… athletes and intellectuals, military men and spiritualists. I did so to relish in their “ness” which was rich in its uniqueness, and to pull back the curtain of yet another niche of existence.
Freshman year of college my best friend gave me a book entitled Swimming Sweet Arrow. I read it cover to cover in one day and basked in the rolling images the author would cast of the two best friends going “parking” with their boyfriends and overhearing each other orgasm. Thereafter they would get out together to pee side by side and let everything drain from them into the field grass and feel the night breeze graze their wet spots. Side by side we grew up and particle by particle assembled our views of reality. At night I would sneak out of my father’s house to walk the deserted streets barefoot and feel the cement still convecting heat from the summer day before it. I’d pick cigarette butts off sidewalks and smoke the rest of them. Sleep was a low priority, after all the experience I gathered eagerly like flowers from a meadow. When the rain came, the lips between my legs exuded a sort of nectar- a testament to the life that stirred inside me, and my diet of natural phenomenon and naked human interaction for spiritual sustenance.
This is a celebratory piece. The chronicles of the high school girl who slept around and experimented everything. But unlike how most people perceive “sluts” as doing things out of a lack of self-respect, I did them for a deep love and respect for life- for the versatility of it and to get as close to the human condition as possible. I don’t regret a single night that I climbed off a dozing boy in the wee hours of the morning to locate my clothes with head throbbing, disoriented and euphoric. On my own before the unsuspecting respirating body inhaled its first sharp and conscious breath of the day.
This is also not a solely self-indulgent piece. I share it to demonstrate the importance of gaining life experience. My friend Amanda, my relationship with whom this post is largely based, shared an insight with me the other day. She said, “How many girls have you heard refer to their ‘freshman year of college?’ It’s like girl code…we all know exactly what it means and we have kind of taken a secret unspoken vow to not judge each other on it.” Freshman year is the quintessential opportunity to unleash one’s inhibitions and let curiosity run wild. And it’s amazing how many times (in my case at least) I had to have one night stands to realize they were unfulfilling. It’s amazing how many times I had to throw up from alcohol poisoning, and how many hangovers I had to endure before I decided to ease up on the drinking. Amanda and I did this whole freshman year pedal to the metal thing to the fullest. We were the most badass girls on campus, at Clemson, surrounded by a sea of goodie two shoes southern Baptist sorority pageant housewives to be. So of course Amanda and I offended the general masses with our progressive humor and free love campaign and gay rights attitudes.
But to this day she is one of my most down to earth friends. And I believe it’s because of the life experience we have put ourselves through. Feminism doesn’t mean abstaining from sexual promiscuity if your impulse is to hump the next person who crosses your path. That is disempowering. Abstinence is only validated if your conviction to be celibate derives from a wisdom deep within you. And this wisdom we cannot gain merely from intellectual lecture. It is something we must come to understand from first-hand experience. When I was 16 I thought all the feminists were delusional! I had to rebel in order to eventually understand what their messages were trying to say. Because freshman year of college I thought being a “slut” was empowering. I could never have appreciated the feminist messages if I had not passed through the gate of sexual objectification myself. Had I not done so I would have been as unenlightened as my sorority sisters who today are my same age but are still susceptible to the binge drinking phase of rebellion I passed through 5 years ago. And until they do so, they will stand on the sidelines judging girls doing the “walk of shame,” regurgitating someone else’s words from the bible without understanding why they are significant.
Amanda told me another story about her gay friend who is currently studying at UCSF med school and he told her, “All the other students stay in and study on Saturday nights. And all I want to do is go out to a gay bar and take a load off and have a beer… I’m human!” He works with AIDS patients and he went on to say, “Do you think the average med school student will make a good doctor? No, they can’t relate at all! When I am a doctor I will understand because I know what its like to have sex that you regret or make a bad decision not to use a condom or get super drunk because I am depressed…. I can empathize and the other students can’t!” It is the recovering addicts in my experience that are the most down to earth. They are the story holders. They are the compassionate ones. They are reassured that everything will be okay. And whereas some of us who lack life experience stand on this pedestal of entitlement from which we preach and chastise, those who have “been places” hold their tongue unless they know what they are talking about… at which point the insight they give is received much more effectively.
Upon coming home after one night stand after one night stand I walked into the holding of my best friend and of mother Earth. Certainly now, and I think to some degree at the time, I saw such encounters in nostalgic retrospect- for the epic and flavorful and humorous stories they would become. In the meantime, I sailed somewhere in between leather boots and overalls. Red lipstick and moles drawn on with eyeliner. Ephedrine diets and beers in the communal showers. Road trips through backwoods America in belly shirts buying 6 packs at gas stations and pretending we were in Aerosmith videos. I’m a child of a bolder generation. Whose music isn’t the winey, emo, alternative, half-hearted, computerized, feeble-voiced stuff of today. I’ve imitated the girl in the Cherry Pie music video and recalled Jenna Jameson’s heartbreaker tattoo on her hiney. My feminism is a type that leaves room for rebellion and flirtation with bikers at barstools.
I wouldn’t have traded a single walk home in the dawn for wholesomeness in the ages before I knew why wholesomeness was worth anything. I had to learn through experience. At daybreak, stepping out of an older boy’s car and into my driveway, when the dew was positioned perfectly on the tits of the grass blades to deliver me that subtle nausea of shame. I think I have a relatively fast learning curve. And I think it’s because in my lifetime I’ve perpetually thrown myself into the rift between phases of stability, just to feel the freefall.
“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars” Jack Kerouac said. And I couldn’t agree more. I have little interest in those who sit on the sidelines of life, just to watch others play. What else is there but first-hand experience that makes new impressions on us and molds our incarnations accordingly so we are more adapted to this life? It has always been my mission to make myself the experimental subject in this earthly dimension. I may end up looking like Mickey Rourke by the time I’m fifty but hey, at least I’ll have the peace of mind that I milked the human experience to the best of my ability.
I love people a whole lot. It seems like I love people more than most people. And it seems to stem from my life experience. The more I indulge in people, the more compassionate I become. The more I understand others and have the capacity to love them. Doesn’t it seem like those who have sucked the marrow from life are the most loving? When we throw ourselves out there, we are bound to fall! And sometimes we hit HARD! It is impossible that we do not learn valuable lessons from these falls and thereby, humble ourselves and gain a newfound appreciation and perspective for life. And in the meantime, until we become saintly as a product of all our misdemeanors, the rawness gives way to such a colorful and vibrant existence that even if we are in the trenches, we can relish in the richness of being at close-range to mortality. It is all worth it.
I am a big proponent for doing what your heart tells you to do. Because if you are right, then you walk the noble path. And if you are wrong, the lesson will reveal itself to you in the mess you make. Until then, you will never understand the beautiful truth that debauchery has to unveil. This indulgence is a recipe for evolving as quickly as possible. So do what you believe to be the right thing at the time. Right now, at the age of 23 I am living like a nun and I can credit all my delinquencies of the past to my present disinterest in disturbing the peace. (At some point I will become ready to jump off my next precipice into chaos). I can’t help recall something Oscar Wilde once said: “Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future.” And here we stand in the present moment at the junction of these eras.