Somewhere between losing my virginity in an awkward, less-than-a-minute debacle and before I would make my second attempt at the beast with two backs about ten months later, I became a slut. A major and slightly infamous slut.
I forget who I heard it from first, but I thought it was a joke. It was the first months of my freshman year at university and a sister of a friend had heard my name going around in the drama department. No, surely not, I said. It had to be some other Flick, but even I had to face there weren’t that many Flicks to get confused with. Then finally one of my male friends reluctantly confirmed the rumors and the clever nickname.
People were calling me Slutty McSlutSlut. And they were doing so with genuine distain.
I could see how people might get confused. After all, I was fairly open about my sexuality before I even started experimenting with it. I remember distinctly one summer in the pool at Elijah’s house that as our group swam around, waiting for the bratwursts to cook on the grill, we gave each other superlatives, “most likely to get arrested”, “most likely to adopt ten kids” and so forth. Somehow I got “most likely to sleep with a professor” and “mostly likely to be a porn star.” This was when I was still a virgin. I brought this to the attention to my friends. I wondered how I was the most sexualized when I had less experience than all of them.
“I don’t know, Flick. There’s just something about you,” Elijah said. “You aren’t afraid to do whatever you want.” Secretly, even then, I thought they had something there. But I still couldn’t get past the irony.
It was the same way when I realized that in many circles I was known as Slutty McSlutSlut. My instant reaction was to laugh my ass off. It was so ridiculous. How does the girl who had only fellated one penis in her life become a slut? Once my male friend told me who started the name and the rumors, it was bit easier to understand. A female friend was the one calling me a slut. Like Lily, this girl would be another example why it’s difficult for females to be friends. I learned a hard and familiar lesson; Jealousy makes many a loathsome bitch. Though in my eyes, she had little to be jealous of. I was hardly bringing in the tail that my social pseudonym implied.
After the December incident, Brock and I only almost had sex again once. We were in the spare bedroom at Elijah’s house while everyone else slept down the hall. As usual things progressed to hungered kissing and a few abandoned clothes, but when it came time to slip into another try, there was a hesitation on both sides.
“Do you think you’ll bleed again?” Brock asked, hard and topless. His professionally straightened hair was partially crimping back into his faux ‘fro.
“Fuck, I don’t know. I hope not. Jesus, would that be normal?”
“I don’t know either.”
We were haunted by the murder of his mattress and, despite a ready interest in replacing the horrible experience with a better one, the trauma was too much to risk it in someone else’s bed. God, so much fucking blood that first time. It was miracle he even wanted to touch me again. Thus, instead of sleeping together, we fooled around. I may have let him put a thumb in some uncomfortable positions, which I didn’t actually like. However, since he was into it and already afraid of my vagina, I made the effort to pretend like a supportive sexual partner.
Unsurprisingly, it wasn’t long after that things with Brock tapered out. Then of course they completely blew up Dresden style. It was the usual high school drama, he started flirting with my best friend since elementary school, went with another girl to prom after agreeing to go with me, and generally ignored me, sending me back to the former friendship plateau I was used to. I entertained the idea of throwing a tantrum or two, but kept it mostly to passive aggressive bullshit like a normal teenage girl. We did manage to reconcile long enough that after the field party for graduation night we fooled around again, almost like a nice goodbye. We still didn’t sleep together though, suffering forever from the post-traumatic stress of my virginity. He eventually moved on and started dating a friend of ours from a grade above, Nikki Cox.
Meanwhile, there was an entire summer before college started to find something or someone to amuse my interest. It was an easy search after Elijah got a job with Nikki and a boy named Zane at the local GameStop. Straight off, something seemed familiar about Zane. The “don’t I know you” line wasn’t actually a come on. It turned out he was three years ahead of us in school and he’d grown up just down the road from me in our little town of Three Forks. The South is a damn small world. It got even smaller when we found out our dads used to hang out as teenagers.
How I felt meeting Zane was completely different than what I experienced with Brock. The latter was mostly curiosity and staving off loneliness. But Zane, I wanted him in a completely carnal infatuation. I was attracted the moment I saw him sorting used Super Nintendo games into the racks. He was scrawny with a skinny nose too and several tattoos. He had short hair and sweet buggy eyes. Elijah told me that the GameStop gig was a temporary job for Zane until he shipped out in the Fall to the Middle East as a medic for the National Guard. I didn’t believe it until Zane told me himself. Suddenly, he became even more perfect. He was leaving, no chance for attachment. It was exactly what I wanted. So, I went after it.
After my shifts at the restaurant, I went to GameStop. Sometimes to shop, sometimes to meet up for food or movies, sometimes just to hang out long after close. Our group congregated on the sidewalk, chatting and some smoking cigarettes. Most everyone else faded out as the midnight hour encroached. They had curfews or other obligations; I had neither. More often than not Zane and I would be the last stragglers. It varied but most nights we sat in the back of his truck until we got too tired to keep talking, because that was all that ever happened, we talked.
At first, my interest in Zane had been purely physical. I’d even recruited Elijah to help out, make a few comments to let the guy know. So, I knew that he knew and that he knew that I knew he knew. Yet, he never made a move, even when we were alone for hours at a time in a dark parking lot with nothing but the moths around the light poles for company. Our relationship was chaste. So instead of getting an emotionless but tantalizing sexual experience in order to not go to college as a complete neophyte of sex, something else entirely happened with Zane that summer. He became my friend.
When I realized we weren’t going to start making out in the back of Zane’s Ford, I still kept hanging out after hours because I started to like the conversation. I stomped out the rumors he got from Elijah and the rest of the crew about Brock and me. He laughed as hard as I did when I told him about the mattress. Then he told me to go fuck them all when I opened up about feeling second rate or like an afterthought to most of my friends. Zane didn’t take bullshit. We bonded over Big Red and trying to get the hell out of this place. He told me about the girls in his past. Stories he expected to appall me, but only made me hang around for more.
I eventually got in trouble for coming home too late. I’d never had a curfew but I learned that nearly 4am was definitely it when I walked in to my mother sitting in the dark living room, asking me if I knew what time it was. I told her the truth. I got caught up talking. Time seemed short around Zane. He made me realize what friendship should feel like, fun. But the more I liked him as a person, the more nervous I got about him leaving.
One night, I asked him if he was scared to go into a war zone.
“I’m going to have a big gun. What’s there to be scared about? But I’ll miss the stars,” he added. “I’ve been to several cities, lived in a few of them. Nowhere has stars like here.” The earnestness of his voice surprised me. It was almost poetic and I couldn’t bring myself to respond. I just matched his gaze, turning my neck upwards to try to see what he saw. I used to look at the stars a lot. As a kid on the drive home after church, I’d lay in the back seat staring up into the back windshield, looking at the stars between the black lines. I searched out the dippers and made up my own constellations. I counted them and marveled at how steady they stayed while we cruised on curvy back roads. I didn’t look up much anymore. But at Zane’s comment, it was like meeting the stars again for the first time. They were beautiful and bright, close enough to scratch your hands on.
I felt good being there with Zane. That summer in his pickup would have been enough for me.
Nikki hosted a party in early August, a few weeks before we were all due to head campus over in Greenville. She and Brock were becoming a real thing, so were Elijah and Lisa. I was left to my own devices with the extra attendees, including Nikki’s roommate, Zane, and Zane’s National Guard friend who was going to Afghanistan too. Eventually a drinking game of Truth or Dare Jenga got started at the kitchen table. I sat next to Lisa and Elijah, Zane was sitting across from me. About three drinks and countless tower falls later, I felt something on my foot, specifically along my ankle.
I didn’t flinch but took a drink of my vodka and leaned back in the chair until I could see under the table. Zane’s foot was playing with the edge of my jeans. I swallowed and took my turn, pulling out a block with a handwritten dare. I turned to kiss Lisa. Then, I slipped off my sandals and, without looking at him, I rubbed my foot against his skinny ankle as well. The table wasn’t that wide. Things escalated. It wasn’t long before the arch of my foot had found a warm home between his legs.
“Huh?” Zane jerked up. His eyes shot open. “What was the question again?”
Elijah repeated the Truth. I flexed my toes harder.
“I…fuck I don’t know. Just skip me,” Zane said, his eyes fluttering as he took a large swig of his beer. My knee accidently hit the table when he moved and the Jenga pieces came tumbling down. I got a weird look from Lisa, who very overtly peaked under the table and then met my face with wide, surprised eyes. It was a wordless conversation and in seconds we were both laughing. She lit another cigarette and while the others began to reset the pieces, I got up to go to the bathroom. The vodka was running through and I needed to catch my breath.
I lingered at the sink when I was done, throwing a few splashes on my face, and then searching for a towel by the shower. I grinned manically at myself in the mirror. I was warm with alcohol and flushed with pushing boundaries again. I was literally playing footsy, which seemed silly and childish but also very fun. What had changed with Zane, I didn’t know. But I wasn’t about to question him about it either. I was getting ready to head back to the table for more Jenga and drinks, when someone started pounding on the door.
“For fuck’s sake, I’m coming out. Hold your damn horses.” I swung the door open, expecting Lisa or one of the other girls. Most of the guys had been going outside in the bushes during smoke breaks. I barely had time to register that it was Zane in front of me before my neck was sandwiched between his hands and his lips were tight against mine.
In what felt like one swift motion, the door locked behind him and I was up against the towel closet, his entire body crushing against me. I didn’t pause, stop, or ask questions. The only sounds from me were soft groans as I decided to just go with it. His grip roved across my entire body, pulling me constantly closer to him.
We began to destroy the bathroom.
Towels were pulled off the racks, we nearly fell through the shower door, almost popping it off its sliders. Toilet paper rolls were kicked across the tiles. Finally, he grabbed my thighs and lifted me up, sitting me in the damp sink. The soap was knocked into the trashcan and the toothbrushes spilled into the floor. Our shirts were long gone and he pressed between my legs, his head buried along my neck.
In the mirror behind him, I could see us. The muscles in his back flexed, tightening the skeleton tattoo at his shoulder blade. His fingers wrapped in my hair and my head pulled backwards as he kissed his way down to my collarbone. It was perfectly surreal, like my own private movie scene. It was hot and full of gravity. But I knew it wasn’t going to last.
“Zane,” I said, pushing him away a little. “We can’t have sex.”
I hated to say it, knowing it would be like breaking a beautiful spell.
“I’m on my period.” It was finally happening with him and I was cock blocked by my own vagina.
“Oh. Well, shit.” He paused. “I don’t exactly have a condom either. I wasn’t planning on…you know.”
We both laughed quietly. But it left us at an impasse. So, after a shrug, we ignored it. Zane and I went back to dry thrusts, bare chests and heavy tongues. It could have been endless and amazing, until Nikki slammed on the bathroom door so hard the hinges shook. She didn’t say anything but kept beating until we announced that we were coming out. We rushed to put things back into a semblance of order and when I opened the door I saw the back of her head stalking away.
“I guess people really needed to piss,” I said, slightly embarrassed that she seemed so angry.
In only a few minutes, Lisa informed me that Nikki wasn’t upset about having to hold it. She had a thing for Zane. He had turned her down at the beginning of the summer, which had led to the seriousness with Brock. Apparently, while it was bad enough that I’d been with her boyfriend before her, giving the guy my virginity, it was worse that now even her crush had chosen me over her, in her own house. I instantly regretted leaving the bathroom in the first place. I’d went from hot and steamy to cold shoulders.
“Ignore them. She’s just being petty,” Zane told me.
I went out to the car with Elijah and the group while Zane stayed to sort out the rough edges. I felt bad, certainly. But at the same time, she had a man. And why get pissed at me because Zane didn’t like her that way? It got late and we decided to leave when Nikki made it clear the party was over. Zane was falling asleep on the couch. I grabbed a sharpie from the coffee table and wrote my cell number on his arm. I was going to college in a couple weeks and in a few months he would be off to another continent, but I hoped there was still time to try again. Maybe without the glares.
However, I didn’t hear from him and I was now persona non grata at GameStop when Nikki was working. Rather than get bitter about another failed escapade, I began to occupy myself with packing and reading all the brochures that were coming to the house about freshman orientation and my dorm. I used my brand new college email to set up my Facebook, you know when it was still just for college students, and then messaged my future roommate.
To say I wasn’t disappointed that I never heard from Zane would be a lie. But I had plenty else to be excited about. In mid-August, I moved into the co-ed honors dorm in the “Valley” on campus. I was in the building right next to all my friends, Elijah, Brock, Lisa, Stark, and Garett. The next four years were full of possibility. I was finally somewhere that I chose and wanted to be.
So, when I heard that in just a short time as a freshman I was called Slutty McSlutSlut, I was shocked but also sad. Not because it hurt my feelings but because Nikki had felt the need the lash out. As an older student on campus, she had the cred to spread my new reputation. I had never intended to hurt her. But what little sympathy I had soon vanished. What she did was immature but it was something that would become increasingly common. I would soon realize that women are worse than any other group at slut shaming other women.
But I refused to be shamed. I told my roommate Minnie about the name. She was properly outraged about my so-called ‘friend’ until I told her that I had an idea. She went with me to a store in the mall that made shirts. I picked out a green one with purple lettering. When I got it back an hour later, Minnie asked if I was actually going to wear to it.
“Damn straight. No one gets to determine who I am, but me,” I said, putting in on right there in the mall over my tank top.
“You’ve called balls,” Elijah and the others agreed when they saw it.
I made sure to wear the shirt the next time Brock was bringing Nikki to hang out. I watched her read the shirt, but she didn’t say anything or, for that matter, ever again. We had been friends, but with Slutty McSlutSlut, the name she’d given me, proudly emblazoned on my chest, she avoided me. After Brock dropped out of school and moved back to our old town, I never even saw her again.
My victory over Nikki came because I refused to give her the power, to let anyone have the power to change how I felt about myself. I was a woman in control of my body and my choices. It didn’t matter if I slept with one man or one hundred men, how dare anyone condemn me for them. By wearing and embracing the name, instead of letting it be used to shame me, I took control of my reputation. It was no longer used to belittle me, but became the joke among my friends it should have been. One that no one took seriously.