Being only the second grandchild on either side of the family, everyone was waiting for me to be born and I was instantly adored.
I was born a fat, adorable privileged, white baby.
Who turned into a blonde haired, blue eyed darling as fuck child.
The only “ugly” phase I can remember going through was a brief moment in my 10th or 11th year when my nose was too big for my face. It was plump and wide and my face hadn’t grown into it yet. Also I had stupid as fuck bangs and awful 90s clothing.
In hindsight, as cute as I was and as much as everyone was always on about it, I am thankful that the other things that made up who I was seemed equally as important.
I played piano, I loved to write, and was regarded as smart – which isn’t always a plus for a girl. But these things were always celebrated, too.
Though something shifted when my mom left my stepdad around my 12th birthday. Up until then, I had been an oblivious child – I went to school, played with my siblings, we had kittens, my mom was married, I saw my dad on the weekends, everything seemed reasonably normal.
Then they split up and my mom started dating. A lot. I don’t know if she was lonely or if some switch just flipped in her head because I was starting to look more like a woman or was mature for my age or whatever. But a boundary was crossed where she was no longer my mother, but mostly just my friend.
She openly drank and smoked weed around me. She constantly brought her latest boyfriend home so we’d wake up as kids and there’d be someone new making breakfast every weekend. Also at that point things got mucky because I decided I wanted to be home schooled. So I was now home all day with my mom, seeing even more of it.
I learned from her that your worth as a woman is measured in how much attention you get from men.
I learned that how to get that attention was to look beautiful and sexy.
I learned that to keep that affection you had to have sex with them.
These are not good lessons for a preteen girl to be getting from the most powerful female figure in her life.
As a result, I had oral sex for the first time when I was 13 and intercourse when I was 14 (two months shy of 15, but still – too early in my humble opinion).
Because I was home schooled and didn’t have a group of friends my own age, a lot of the guys I was with were much older, inappropriately older. Sickeningly older when I think of it now.
At the time though – it was cool. I felt like I was a child being allowed to express myself in the fullest sense of the word. I didn’t have a mother that was holding me back, I was allowed to be whoever I felt like being regardless of the arbitrary number of my age.
But here’s the thing – age isn’t arbitrary. It does matter, especially when you’re younger.
The brain isn’t fully developed.
Emotional maturity is not solid in its foundation.
This is why we need parents to be parents and not friends. This is why, along with a certain amount of freedom and lots of love and respect, we need rules and boundaries and guidelines.
I had sex with 7 different people by my 16th birthday. That’s too many. By the time I got married when I was 20, that number had tripled.
And it wasn’t in the name of sexual freedom and female empowerment.
It was just what I thought you were supposed to do – please men with your body.
It wasn’t until I was within the safe space of my marriage that I started to really explore love and sex, why we need it and why we do it.
It wasn’t until my divorce that I really started learning about human sexuality and how important it was to be educated.
It was then that I started to unlearn what I had come to know from my mother.
I realized affection and sex are two different things
that physical attraction and sexual attraction are two different things
I learned I didn’t owe anybody anything
and I could say no and be honest
I generally just started to give less of a shit
And was comfortable in my own skin
I learned about open relationships, polyamory and other forms outside of monogamy
I learned that monogamy is not wrong, but rather – it is a choice. One people can make and be very happy with if it is a conscious desire and they have the right tools.
I learned what makes a functional relationship, monogamous or otherwise, versus a relationship based on lies, denial and an overall feeling of sacrifice.
For the first time, I felt what it was like to be in a relationship because you are choosing to be every day. Not because you feel guilty or you’re afraid to be alone, or you simply perceive yourself to be in too deep to leave.
I learned what it felt like to experience total freedom. And that’s when my life really began.
Jena Schwartz The learning and then unlearning and learning again here — I pictured it almost visually contracting and then expanding again. “This is why we need parents to be parents and not friends. This is why, along with a certain amount of freedom and lots of love and respect, we need rules and boundaries and guidelines.” So moving, Katie. All of it.