My weekly Red Dress Club writing assignment: Write a serious letter to my younger self.
Hello my Younger Heart,
Sixteen years old and thrilled about a shopping trip in the big city, you posed for this photo with your blond friend Judy. What were you thinking at that moment?
Your sister, who seemed so mature with six extra years of life under her belt, took the photo with her little Brownie camera. Photographs took forever to be developed. Weeks later when your sister finally presented you with this photo, Judy and you studied it like scientists, dissecting yourselves in detail.
If only you could have known how sweet both of you were. If only you could have spent less time being self-critical and given more attention to the truth that your mother fed consistently: “You can do or be anything you desire.”
You thought all mothers made that statement. And speaking of mothers, amazing how your friends loved visiting you because of your colorful, interesting and interested mother. Remember how Ruth went to her before telling anyone else about being 17 years old and pregnant?
Though your friends spilled their secrets to your mother, you held back and let the pile be fed by others. You were careful about asking your mother questions; you knew her wisdom and intelligence carried a mother’s cunning.
You knew it was safer to keep the subject off you, “What did you tell Ruth, Mom?”
“It may be better if she told you about our conversation, dear,” she answered. “However, if you were to ask me about sex at this stage of life, I would ask you to consider whether or not you could handle the responsibility.”
You wondered what on earth she meant. But you wouldn’t dare ask. Danger. Caution, you thought. Mothers and sex did not mix. ‘Oxymoron’ was not yet in your vocabulary.
She continued while casually looking over her crossword puzzle, “But I know I can trust you, my sweet. I know you understand the responsibility.”
You had no clue what responsibility had to do with sex. You were amazed. She had just endowed you with a load of credibility on a subject that may as well have been discussed in Russian. Or Greek.
You went to your room, sat on the edge of the bed, and tried to abate the confusion. Studying yourself in the tri-directional mirror, your frown reflected your silent question, ‘Can mom tell that I just lost my virginity? Does it show?’
You wondered if there was a ‘look’ when girls were no longer virgins. Maybe fathers could see something different about you. Maybe men have a way of, you know, “knowing”; some secret sign that they don’t tell you. Like, maybe your walk changed. Or, you suddenly look grown up? Is this when parents say, “Where did my little girl go?” Maybe bodies give off an odor when the hymen is no longer in place.
You couldn’t call Judy with your mother sitting right by the phone. Besides, telephones were only used for business calls or important matters. You needed to get out of the house quickly. You changed into your favorite jeans, grabbed your cheerleader sweater and ran to Judy’s house in record time.
“Judy, let’s go shopping in the city next weekend. Let’s leave Friday after school. We can stay with my sister.”
You were determined to never look at that gorgeous young man again. You were scared. He’d probably expect to have sex again. You were embarrassed about having sex in the back seat of a car. Yuk. Kids joked about that. You swore to never tell a soul. You were not only ashamed, you were frightened that you might be pregnant.
You had planned to ask Judy about sex and responsibility. But you chickened out. Instead you discussed plans for your weekend in the city.
Saturday morning in the city, safely settled in your sister’s apartment, you sat on the arm of your sister’s easy chair. You looked into the camera and decided that you would not ask your sister about the responsibility around sex. She would probably tell mom that you asked about it. The question remained yours.
At your age, you would not realize that it may be a big deal for a young man to give up his virginity. It never occurred to you that he may have needed to talk to you. Turned out that neither of you would share the joy around this highly pivotal experience that would never be repeated with another human being.
I wonder if you would have been shocked to know then, as I know now, that men can not only forget the name of the woman to whom they have given their virginity, many do not even remember which woman was the recipient. I was surprised to discover that the men who remembered best were ones who had “lost” their virginity to “older women” i.e. babysitters.
Which brings me to a point of tender pride. I’m proud that you remember his name, age, eye colour, hair color, make and model of his car, colour of his car, his position on the football team, his best buddy’s name, his gorgeous teeth and smile and every article of clothing you wore on that date. And that it was a cold winter’s eve that caused you to relinquish your innocence on the fur lining of the winter coat that hangs in the back closet of this current home.
I’m proud of you for remembering.
Your fuller, more compassionate, forgiving and loving older self.
P.S. – Ironically, just last week, I saw HIS name on an email that came from his same best buddy. It was one that had been sent to a horde of people. I gasped when I saw his name. I held my breath when I further discovered a message from him on one of the earlier messages listed below. I realized in a moment that I would dearly love to see him. I would not run. If I ever have the opportunity, I hope you agree that it would be appropriate to apologize for never speaking to him again.