At some point during the long, cold winter of 1978 I lost my virginity. I don’t remember the exact date. That night, the world was brittle and below zero, and the moon shone on the sparkly cake frosting of snow, covering the earth with a wondrous uniformity.
I was in a truck with this boy from my class. We were drunk. We had been to a kegger that I don’t entirely remember. The DJ probably played “Don’t Fear the Reaper” and “More than a Feeling.” That year, my Junior year, I’d discovered the blankness of beer and embraced it with vengeance. If pressed, I’d guess the party had been at this local family-owned ski resort, that the more decorous, less self-destructive kids had been skiing or sledding or something.
For me, a kegger was about two things: the rapid and unthinking consumption of too much beer, and finding some guy to make out with. In the front seat of that truck, I had succeeded in both.
We were parked on this little dirt road off a main road about five miles from my house. The guy I was with, his name was Chris, was just this guy. He could have been anyone, really. He had red hair and beyond that was fairly unremarkable. He might have been on the hockey team. But then again he might not.
We had left together, he had agreed to drive me home, I thought that was a good idea, but then my judgment was impaired.
We were both drunk, after all. Too much PBR, too many teen hormones, too much do it do it do it raging in both of our alien and alienated bodies.
So there we were parked in the middle of nowhere. The closest house was a quarter mile away. Though I suppose if I had shouted someone would have heard me, if only because that night was so still, so cold, so brittle that it would have easily been shattered by a single piercing cry.
We made out. My jeans were off, my blouse undone, his pants were off or at least down. It defies me now, when I think about the downy, wooly, wintry bulk of our clothes, to comprehend where all the garments went in the small confines of a truck cab, but I had to be nakedish, and so did he, because he was lying on top of me one moment and lying on top of me and inside me the next.
There was pain. I gasped and struggled. He was too big, too heavy, and there I was below and around him and before I knew it, it was over and I wasn’t the same.
1978 was before the times of date rape. The concept hadn’t been invented yet. Some might call what Chris did to me in that truck cab rape. I did. I have.
Except it wasn’t.
Because what I have left out of the story and what I have left out in telling it before is that I said “yes.” I told him he could. I gave him permission. I let him in.
And the naked, mewling truth of it all is this: that I have been more comfortable saying that I was raped than I have been in saying that I gave it up. It has been less hurtful to me to say that I was forced into this act that it has been to admit that I was complicit.
When the term “date rape” was created at some point in the 80’s, I leapt upon it. If I allowed myself to believe that Chris raped me that night, then the responsibility I felt was alleviated. I had not done this to myself; I had had it done to me. I revised my history; I told the story as just another narrative of date rape.
I was out. So was he. We’d been drinking. We made out. It was winter, a small space, and he was big, bigger than I. I said no. He had his way. The end.
And a part, a big rolling part of me still holds that fiction and clings to it like a stuffed animal. It has a lot of benefits, this fiction. It makes me irresponsible for my irresponsibility. It makes me a victim. It gives me a big blank check for sympathy. It explains my titanic will to self-destruction, or if not destruction then denigration.
The problem is that it isn’t the truth.
It’s funny what we can convince ourselves of, given enough time and will to do so. I spent many years of my young and not-so-young adulthood having pretty much convinced myself of my date rape because to look upon my choices and to take responsibility for them was more than I could bear.
But I wasn’t raped, I wasn’t a victim. I never accused Chris of anything. I never told anyone who would know him that he raped me, so really this fiction was my own. He, his reputation, his life wasn’t hurt by my revisionist history. I’m in contact with only one person from my high school, and she has only returned to my life recently, well after I’d come to grips with reality.
The question then becomes why I lied to myself and to others, why I manufactured this fiction. And the answer, I think, is that reality was more painful. It hurts more to realize that I cared so little for myself that I repeatedly put myself in these situations where I could and did do things that hurt me emotionally and physically.
It hurts more for me to recognize that my parents were disengaged from my life and couldn’t/wouldn’t see what I was doing to myself,
It hurts more to see that choice, to just fuck this guy without pleasure or affection or anything else positive, really, as another link in my narrative chain of doing things that would/could/have devalue myself and to take responsibility for those choices.
I don’t mean to be so hard on my sixteen year-old self, and as I read this, I do kind of feel like I’m beating her up a bit, but I do mean to be glaringly honest and say that sometimes I have chosen a palliative fiction over the painful truth.
We got dressed, Chris and I, after he had come. I don’t know if he was wearing a condom, but I’m going to guess he wasn’t—I spent the next few weeks worried if I would get pregnant; I didn’t. He drove me home, he probably kissed me good night. He never knew he took my virginity; if he saw the blood he probably assumed I had my period.
In any case, I didn’t tell him.
At home I looked at myself in the mirror, Chris’s semen and my blood dripping down my thighs. Looking at myself to see if I could see the difference, because that’s what stories tell you you’re supposed to do, I couldn’t see one. I went to bed telling myself that now I was different.
I was. I wasn’t.
All I know is that it hurt. Even if it took me years to admit it.