I have a little cousin who’s 14. When I talk to him, it scares me to think that his baby-face awkwardness could hide the same fire, the same foolish unformulated lust I once had, when I was 14 and awkward too.
Kids like me stay quiet in the hope of taking up less space. I was the girl who grew so tall one summer that she suddenly had to slouch to fit in group photos; the teenager who grew boobs before growing a thick skin. All the other girls wore the same clothes that never fit me, they had the same hairstyle that I couldn’t figure out. I also knew that soon enough, they’d all look exactly like their mothers, up to the details of their big botoxed foreheads and stupid smiles frozen in perpetual ecstasy for designer shoes.
I didn’t mind because I wasn’t really in boring Lebanese suburbia; oh no, I was on the road with François Villon, Elsa Triolet and Anaïs Nin.
I only started paying attention to reality on the day the new girl joined our class. She was older than us, as tall as me, with bigger boobs that were never hidden. She was loud, and tacky with an impossibly big nose and glitter on her nails. She knew older boys and I thought she was the height of sophistication and experience because she knew how to take the bus to Hamra. She was everything my other classmates were not, and I found it enchanting so I made her my best friend.
Her house had dust-bunnies everywhere and no adult supervision. We did each other’s nails in the kitchen and ate instant noodles with Doritos for lunch. It felt so bohemian! My parents (who hated her) didn’t even know what instant noodles were!
Suddenly I was tired of being quiet. My first act of rebellion was to get my unibrow separated by a cheap neighborhood beautician. I still remember my mother’s unprecedented fit of rage when she saw my butchered eyebrows. Mother was right, eyebrows never really grow back, but it was a meaningless detail compared to the thrill of finally getting to invent myself.
For the first time, being tall for my age presented an advantage. With enough makeup, I could look older, I could look more interesting and more adventurous. I wore long velvet skirts with black lace shirts and bought lingerie that would put a burlesque dancer to shame. I also clumsily mumbled naughty jokes that I thought were sassy (but I don’t think anyone ever heard them). The next logical step was to do what all my heroes did: fiery embraces, glorious fantabulous sexual exploits.
But that’s the thing about my heroes, they were all really good with words and it makes everything seem fantabulous.
I had been flirting with boys for a few months and so far the most notable embraces I had experienced seriously lacked fieriness. Instead they involved unpleasantly sloppy kisses and a boy struggling with my new red bra while I pretended not to notice and kept my shirt on. Still, I was determined to discover what all the fuss was about.
It was a Friday night; we had beer, Doritos and noodles at my friend’s place. There were 4 of us on that sofa: me, a faceless boy playing with my hair, my friend, and her boyfriend. When we turned off the lights, the faceless boy’s hand found its way on my belly. We had planned video entertainment for the evening and I was honestly excited about watching a porn movie for the first time. Somebody pushed play and we saw a random scene featuring at least 3 erect penises and 2 women.
And I thought…
It was so gruesomely fascinating I couldn’t take my eyes off the scene, but first things first: I not-so-subtlety made sure the boy moved to the other end of the sofa since my friend and her guy had somehow ended up on the floor, presumably doing things I no longer found enchanting.
And then I focused on the issue at hand:
I didn’t even know a woman could open that wide! I mean, theoretically I knew of course, but that remained very very very theoretical until I saw it. What that actress had between her legs resembled some carnivorous flower on speed.
About 20 minutes into the movie, I finally managed to turn off the TV but I was already traumatized by an anal sex scene and some very hardcore deep-throating as the actress kept trying to maintain a look of perpetual bliss, as if to reassure me, while she worked on a monstrously big penis that gave me nightmares for a week.
That Friday night, I essentially concluded that sex was a nasty and violent affair. After doing some calculation, I also decided that there was no physical way for me to actually do it, since penises were too big to fit in my non-pornstar vagina. You see, I had (naively) thought of porn as the theory I could check out, along with the works of Germaine Greer, before taking the big leap.
I was, obviously, an idiot.