For almost as long as I’ve written this blog, I’ve been in touch with someone whom I have come to think of as my New York Counterpart, Therese Shechter; a person who has been making a documentary film about virginity loss and blogging about it for the last forever. A little like myself but the film version. Well it turns out that forever is more finite than I thought because hells bells! She’s gone and finished it.
Furthermore, it debuts this Sunday November 17th at the DOC NYC Film Festival; 9.30pm at the SVA Theatre in New York so go and see it. It’s a fresh, funny and long overdue exploration of the myths and misogyny surrounding the ‘precious gift’ of virginity. For anyone who knows me, and even those who don’t, you’ll understand why I’m gutted I can’t be there for more than one reason. I have an ongoing romance with NYC and I’d love to wish Therese well so go for me. Break a leg Therese and massive congratulations to you. No one knows better than me how gratifying it is to see what has kept you awake at night for more years than we care to count take tangible form. Enjoy!
There is a New York theme to today’s post and in the process of describing it; I am going to sound like a total ponce. I bought some books at McNally Jackson on a recent trip to NYC and I was so excited about reading them that I came back to London and purchased the cheapest flight I could find to somewhere in Europe with the sole intention of doing just that. I booked a holiday to read some books. Ok, so I’m exaggerating a little. I was tired and needed to take the kind of break where you don’t feel like you stuck your hands in an electric wall socket. That’s how NYC makes me feel and I love it…but its not conducive to the Zen state of mind I was hoping to achieve with a stack of books, a Mallorcan mountaintop and, as it turns out, *the most annoying ginger cat in the world.
But I did want to honor the books. And so…day two atop the mountain (its a hill but I’m a townie so it feels like a mountain) and in between sunbathing, what could almost be described as biking (cycling down to the shop, walking the bike back up) and eating, I finished fellow blogger, Leandra Medine’s book ‘Man Repeller’. I liked it very much. This book appealed to me because I love the idea of telling stories via items of clothing that we have known, loved and occasionally hated over the years. As a dyed in the wool tomboy with more traumatic tales to tell you about being squeezed into my older sisters hand-smocked-by-my-mother (‘but I made that dress Kate. How could you not wear it?’) as a stroppy four year old than I care to remember, this is a sartorial subject close to my heart. This shit matters.
Leandra’s story takes shape around the observation that what she chooses to wear; in fact, the things that she loves to wear the most (high-waisted denim shorts, dungarees amongst others), also happen to repel men. This forms the basis of her uber popular blog, Man Repeller and now, this book. What’s this got to do with the theme of my own blog you ask? Well, Leandra is very upfront. She says things that most of us think but don’t always say out loud. This is one of the things I like about her and her virginity loss story is not left out.
Here’s the thing. As I read it, the thought occurred to me that this story answers a question that comes up a lot on this blog. I get a lot of emails from young people and I’ve heard a lot of stories over the years. As you can imagine, they’re not all pretty. Not that I expect them to be because that’s life. Those who subscribe to the everything has to be ‘perfect’, whether it is their virginity loss experience, their day, their lunch, whatever, annoy me almost much as the ginger feline who wakes me up every morning on this mountain top and appears to think (persistently) that I am in charge of its eating schedule. Life is not ‘perfect’ and this is what makes it interesting. The two most important qualities we can cultivate during our time on earth are humor and a sense of perspective. Because almost any story can be funny given time and the right point of view.
I digress. I guess what I am saying is that I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on what could make your story memorable for the right reasons. Setting aside the actual moment of course (that part often does suck I’m afraid), your choice of partner is something that you mostly have control over and this choice can drastically shape the outcome of your experience. Leandra, bizarrely, picks well.
I say bizarrely because its not the most promising start. She and the man she choses to help her dispatch her virginity had been broken up for ‘approximately one year, five months, three weeks and two days’ after he had chewed up her heart and spat it out - several times. Despite this, and presumably recognizing something in said man that isn’t immediately obvious to the reader, she harangues him into being the person she loses her virginity to. See what I mean? This can’t end well.
But here is the part that got my attention. No matter that she and Abie are nothing more than technical friends by this point. No matter that there is every chance that once the deed is done, and having had no prior experience of just how much the having of sex can bend one’s mind and emotions, when she arrives at his apartment at virginity loss o’clock, he has taken the time to line his living room, the hallway, the bedroom, in fact, his entire apartment with lit candles to celebrate this momentous occasion and to give it extra gravitas. Corny? Maybe. Sweet? I think so. Thoughtful? Absolutely yes. And there is the clue: thoughtfulness.
One word that packs a big punch. And whilst it might seem obvious to you and I with the benefit of hindsight, sadly it’s not always the most obvious quality to inspire the average teenager. Ergo Leandra is ahead of the curve because one thing I have come to know over the years of reading your stories is that you can’t go wrong when you do it with someone who actually gives a shit about you - and someone who has the foresight to go out and purchase that many candles and light them cares about the outcome of your experience. And whilst I don’t want to get all Jane Austen on you because I believe there are many more important moments in a woman’s life asides – and, I guess, as well as - finding someone to marry, reader, she does actually end up marrying him.
Furthermore, I cannot deny that the romantic in me wished it so all the way through the book. Or at least that they would get back together. Marriage is a minor detail in my view. But I did enjoy the wedding outfit very much.
Finally, I’m not suggesting this pyrotechnical gesture be your benchmark younger readers. It could be impractical to sit around waiting for the one human being who is prepared to break the bank and attempt to set their entire living space alight for you. But its equivalent wouldn’t hurt. And if anyone has some real life examples, I would love to hear them *thinks back to own experience and finds it sadly lacking*….however, like Leandra, it did at least inspire a book!
*the finca owner’s wife fed The World’s Most Annoying Cat twice from her plate at a local restaurant. It found out where they lived, came to visit and it has not left since. True story.