Sometimes, I honestly have no idea who I am. Barring the trauma induced /naturally occurring existential unknowing, I also am perpetually amazed by how many different lives I’ve lived. Lost child, wayward party kid, stepford girlfriend, sleep deprived wannabe-slut, to the closest thing to normal I’ve ever resembled.
And the normal period of my life? I worked for a porn company.
Man, even from hour to hour, I change. I go from guileless ingenue, to lesbian biker vampire, often within the same evening. Sure, it’s all just clothes, but my everything changes. My features shift and harden, depending on how much hetero male attention I crave. Even my body language changes, sometimes I’ve got the sashay of an amorous secretary, or I’ve got the battle hardened stride of a woman who has roared. Other times, I slump and shrink, doing my best to disappear from this plane of existence.
Primarily because I measure my insides to another’s outsides, but it seems like I’m a real life shapeshifter, effortlessly shirking and taking on mantles as easily as one puts on socks. Maybe it’s a gift, I can empathize with another by imagining myself as another, and I can play hostess or whore with equal amounts ease.
Personally, I’ve thought of it as a curse. There feels like there is no acceptable core to my personality, and what is there, is a raw, screaming mess. I cover it in emotional nacre, refusing to let another soul to come near it. I adored playing pretend, as I was raised to believe that who I was, was unacceptable. My needs, tears, existence were meant to be scrubbed away, and painted over with something a little prettier, don’t you think, sweetheart?
All my tears, my rage, and feelings of loneliness were ordered to be excised from my body and only palatable characteristics are permitted to remain. Maybe this is a socialization that all women, or maybe all people go through, the process of hiding our bad in order for everything to not fall apart. Maybe the new Snowflake movement is because for the first time in our civilization, we are not hiding all of our bullshit from the world.
Maybe I’m just a fuckup who can’t seem to hide it any longer.
Regardless, people laud me for my authenticity, which makes me cringe. What realness? Everything I put forth, feels like drag, and not particularly successful drag at that. My smiles, the quips that roll off my tongue (whether I want them to or not), and the ability to put others either at ease or discomfort, it all feels orchestrated and not honest in any sense of the word.
Through therapy, I’m toying with the notion that maybe these palatable, enjoyable characteristics are as real as the self-loathing and insecurities I harbour inside. My entire life, I’ve rejected what I’ve projected outwards, and kept all the messy insides buried deep within, for absolutely no one to see. It was simply safer that way. As a result, I’ve viewed my personality as a persona, a mask I put on to face the world. I don’t know what is real and what isn’t anymore.
I don’t think anyone does.
“We’re sorry, but your request for financial aid in regards to your sexual abuse case has been rejected. Unfortunately, you do not meet the parameters of this program, as while what you endured may have been traumatic, it does not qualify as sexual abuse..”
Upon reading this letter, my insides froze, just Iike they used to when my ex would touch me. There were no words to describe how much the world stood still in that moment.
CW: This one’s a bit gross and a very vaginal-oriented one, so if you’re not into it, probably would be best if you toddled off to something else less…harrowing.
Many folks with vaginas often have hymens. For some reason, this little membrane of skin is held in freakishly high regard, usually by people without them. They apparently indicate chastity or some bullshit. Imagine if we had a flap of skin on our thumbs and index finger that indicate that we’d never taken a selfie, or texted someone? Yeah, basically that important.
Anyways, here’s the story of how I got my hypothetical dowry reduced from a cow to probably a very ill-tempered, barren chicken at age 5-6.
As a teenager, I read about this hymen-thingy in books. It was supposed to be there in many vagina-havers, but I could never find mine, and I looked around. Not having an intact hymen didn’t really bother me, but like a trinket you misplaced, you end up absent-mindedly wondering where you put it, you know? It took me years and years until I linked a number of fuzzy memories together and then I had a lightbulb moment.
Followed by a facepalm.
So the tale isn’t that exciting – I wasn’t saving a kitten from a tree, or other typical ways people lose their hymens. It really stems from me being a giant klutz as a kid, and being obsessed with these weird side-by-side uneven bars at the school playground.
Yeah, you’re seeing where this story is going.
I guess I fancied myself an aspiring gymnast; I’d spend all day clambering up them, and trying to teach myself tricks, unsupervised. One day, I fucked up; like out of a cartoon, one ill-executed move meant I hit the bar, right up my alley.
White hot pain shot between my legs, and my brain was convinced some thing was terribly wrong. I burst out crying, and ran into the school bathroom. Sobbing, I looked down and there was blood.
Blood isn’t supposed to come out of there! (OH GOD, I wish that were the case, baby.)
Through snot, tears and blubbering, I managed to convey to the teachers that Something Was Wrong Down There, and they sent me home with my mother. Being only told to that “Tanya fell off some playground equipment,” she was terrified that I broke an arm or something. I imagine she must have been confused when she was handed a very shaken daughter, with tear-stained cheeks but no visible signs of injury. I imagine the teacher told her that Baby!Tanya hurt her Private Parts, and there was blood.
Oh. Ohhh, boy, she probably thought while trying to frantically trying to figure out a way to fix up her daughter’s chastity with Scotch tape and bubble gum. Sex education in 1970s Communist China was pretty terrible, and girls thought you could get pregnant if you sat in a spot previously occupied by a boy. (If we keep defunding sex ed and Planned Parenthood, we’re probably going back to that level of understanding of the human body)
Seems like Momma didn’t attempt a DIY vagina rejuvenation (Frankly, I was pretty juven, no need for a /re/juvenation) and she took me to the doctor – I have vague memories of an exceptionally bright light shining down on my prone body on a cold medical table.
I recall the Doctor’s big face hovering above, murmuring to my mother in a Charlie Brown-style Womp whomp womp Grownup Person Voice. I can’t remember what was exchanged in the conversation, but I distinctly remember my mom’s harried and hurried explanation of what happened to me, as she led me out of the doctor’s office by my hand.
My Chinese was pretty basic, I could figure out things like “I want juice” or “I have to pee.”
I missed that day of learning “Well Tanya, you ruptured your damn membrane in your vaginal opening, the one that culturally signifies your purity. Now you’ve been compromised and the social implications are far-reaching, when you become of marriageable age.”
Which is pretty close to “I want juice,” I guess.
So I never understood what had happened to me that day for many years after.
Except, I guess I didn’t lose it entirely.
Flash forward to like, 18 years– I’m a 23 year old person having first-time sex with someone who was, ahem, girthy. We were getting busy, and suddenly, Holy shit, ow.
A distinct tearing pain ripped through me, and I yelped. We stopped and tried for months to figure it out; was it position? Lubrication? The alignment of the different planetary houses? I had sex for the first time at 16, and while I’m not exactly the Red Baron, my body count was decent– respectable, even.
Months and months, no dice. I even tried to explain it to my doctor, who sent me to a urologist. Cue Tanya in stirrups, having a camera snaked up her urethra and four resident student doctors staring at my bladder doing its thing, on the high-def screen above me.
Absolutely not mortifying at all.
I’m someone who hates having photos taken of her, so this was next-level.
Also, turns out my bladder has plaque on it. Guess I should floss more.
Eventually my doctor has his brain reinstalled and sends me to a gynaecologist. She looks at it for half a second and goes “Oh! That’s just your hymen, there’s still some that remains.”
My brain screeched to a halt.
Is my hymen coming back from the dead?
And that’s the story of how I lost and found my hymen.
Like any good Chinese girl, there’s a great deal of ambivalence about my relationship with my parents. They’ve given me everything, and have taken away nearly the same; there’s no way I could repay them for their sacrifice, but the damage they’ve left me, has also been immeasurable in its cost.
I just don’t know how to feel about them.
Honestly, it feels like I barely know them; as people, they’ve been this peripheral presence in my life most of the time, and when they were in full focus, those experiences were something I’d rather forget. As parents, they were a mixture of “trying their best” and “how did you screw this up so badly?”
I hated them, I loved them. I feared them, and never respected them as parents.
Yet when I look at them, I see myself in them.
I see my mother’s smile, my father’s humour, and both of their relentless tenacity. As I grow, I find myself more interested in learning about who they were before, in order to get an idea as to who they are now.
I want to paint in the rest of the portrait, of these two individuals who met, fell in love, raised a child and proceeded to screw her up by trying to do the Right Thing the whole time. However, with each pass of the brush, they become increasingly layered and considerably more difficult for me to hold in my mind. They weren’t always the neglectful, abusive tyrants of my past, and they were more than the adorably aggravating, harmless parents of my present.
Somewhere, sometime, they were hopeful young lovers, heads filled with dreams of a new life in Canada.
Somewhere, sometime, everything went wrong.
The reason why I am in so much pain, is that I feel like I was that something.
So one day, I realised that my passing girl-crushes on women were more than simple straight-girl curiosity. I totally was into chicks, I guess. This sapphic epiphany resulted in a two-year expedition into the land of Lesbos, where I figured out my sexuality and also lost my girl-ginity.
For the record, virginity is not if you’ve ever had good ol’ heterosexual lovin’ with a dude, but rather you doing something for the first time ever – up yours, patriarchy! So anyways, because I wanted to get sexy with a lady, I turned to my lesbros, who suggested that I sign myself up for some online dating. This was apparently the way to meet gay ladies, and also worked in my favour, as I had absolutely no gaydar and the flirting skills of a male protagonist from a Judd Apatow movie.
I log onto OkCupid and start searching for women in my area, to get into.. my area. I stumble on one profile, a girl who had tattoos, a blonde undercut, and the prettiest blue eyes I’d ever seen. So I read her profile, and she indicated that she likes The Big Lebowski – hey, I like movies and stuff, too! We’re basically soul mates. I send her a message with one simple line, stating that “the rug really tied the room together.”
She messages back, and I charm her with my e-suaveness; we set a date to meet for the first time, in some cafe somewhere. On paper, it sounded horrible, she knitted while chatting, and I rambled incoherently for 2 hours; it was actually really very lovely, and we both discovered that the other is also an awkward geek, so a second date and third date was set.
The third date was nerve-wracking, because it was The Third Date, with all its expectations and whatnot, and to make things worse, I was super Horngry by the time we met. She was kind enough to offer to cook me food at her place, and I agreed heartily; not because I thought I was gonna get laid, but because I so hungry, I was about to eat a fire hydrant. (Upon reflection, it was a super sly way of getting me to her house, but I think with my stomach first, vagina second, brain last.)
Flash forward to us at her house, preparing the ingredients for the leek soup she was going to wow me with; I completely missed any previous cues indicating her attraction and my only hint was to stammer that I never have a clue if a girl’s into me, unless she makes the first move. She then apparently has had enough of my idiocy and grabs my face and kisses me, her hands completely covered in onions or peanuts or something. So sensual.
Like the cool dude I am, my legs literally give out, and not in that millennial sense of the word, either-I mean they actually, truly collapsed under me. Laughing, we made our way to the couch where we began to get naked, where lots of kissing and praying that the roommate wouldn’t burst into the house happened. She had breasts from God that were nestled in a lacy bra, and was a great kisser- I was probably wearing some cat hair-covered bra I found on my floor, and was hoping I wouldn’t throw up in her mouth from sheer nerves.
Luckily, I didn’t end up throwing up on her and because of that accomplishment, we end up in the bedroom where The Sex was going to start. Thing is, I had no idea how to pleasure a woman, as the only vagina I’ve ever touched was my own*. Turns out, it’s very much like touching your own vagina, just.. You know, on a different person. I guess she was as stoked as I was, as she kept repeating, “THIS IS AWESOME,” like a college kid doing MDMA for his first time at Coachella.
Racing through my mind as I pleasured her were thoughts like, “Fuck, this is really happening?” “Are we having sex? Is this sex? Now?” And “the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell.” Eventually, we got into a groove, and ended the night collapsed on the bed, blissed-out, and apparently traumatising her homophobic Quebecoise roommate and probably her two cats as well.
The night drew to a close, and I kissed her goodnight and headed home. Glowing and wanting to tell everyone that I lost my G-card, I thought better of it and began the drive home. Suddenly, I was then greeted with a growl from my stomach that probably echoed in the car – we had forgotten to make the damn soup.
Totally worth it.
For those who are uninitiated, bush parties are the epitome of redneck partying. Basically a get together for teenagers in the woods, they’re a haven for under-aged drinking and terrible life choices. Naturally, I was considered too much of a loser to ever be invited, so I lack many stories about what it’s like to get blackout drunk with my lead-laden teenage peers.
However, I do have one story.
Somehow, someone was foolish enough to let me know that there was a bush party, happening in Rossland, the town adjacent to mine. It was 15 minutes away, so I hopped on the bus and showed up in Rossland, hoping to finally experience these legendary outdoor parties.
Thing is, the police were also part of the MSN messenger group chat I was on, and put the kibosh on that pretty quickly.
So what were nearly a hundred bored, wayward, and definitely intoxicated teenagers to do?
Apparently, the solution to having the party cancelled, was to create one… in the town square.
By the time I arrived, the Rossland town center was awash in alcohol and surging hormones. The whole place was rife with belligerent teenagers, and they were getting rowdier by the second. Somewhere in there, I lost sight of my friends and saw some somewhat familiar faces. Upon saying hello, I was greeted by a very drunken boy who handed me what was probably a very harassed garter snake.
Okay, so half an hour into the party, I was handed a reptile. Cool, fine. I guess this is what the popular kids do.
So while wandering and witnessing the cops haul away one vomiting teenager after another, I link up with some random dudes who were purported to be the rough kids. We wandered off to one unsuccessful bush party, after another, to no avail; the cops were really on their A-game that night.
Bored and stranded with nowhere to go, I ended up crashing at their place. By ‘their place’, I mean someone’s porn-filled shed. With five snoring teenage boys.
I didn’t sleep a damn wink that night.
Around five AM, I decided that I had to get some shut-eye somewhere more familiar; so at dawn, there was a very disheveled, probably still-drunk 15 year old girl groggily weaving her way to her best friend’s H’s house in a town known for its healthy population of brown bears and feral dog packs.
Oh, did I mention I was also not wearing my own pants?
Somewhere around the night, I slipped and fell into mud. A kid, probably the owner of the porn shed, was kind enough to lend me his way-too-large board shorts.
What a sight I must have been.
Anyways, this muddy, drunk girl dodging curious bears did safely make her way across town and arrived at the door of her best friend’s house. However, I realised it was quite early in the morning, and it would be rather rude to ring the doorbell. So what did I do?
I proceeded to break into her basement, where she lived.
My childhood friends are saints. Not many would be able to tolerate their smelly and inebriated best friend sneaking into their room, crawling into bed with them without warning, muttering something about a shed and garter snakes. H simply muttered some noise of assent, and we snoozed until later afternoon.
What are best friends for, right?
Sometime upon waking up, I managed to backtrack my way to this stranger’s house. I didn’t know his name, but I somehow was able to recover my pants.
The rest of this tale was pretty normal., I watched these boys do an inordinate amount of drugs – I didn’t partake, for the record, and I realised I had no cash to get home. Instead of calling my mother like a normal person, I decided to hitch a ride home, competing with this very frustrated homeless man who also was trying to find a lift, beside me.
I managed to find a nice fella on a motorcycle who gave me my first bike ride, down the mountain highway. It was absolutely terrifying, although the man was an extremely safe rider.
By the time I got home, I figured bush parties were a little overrated.