Wednesday, April 04, 2007

When I was young, I didn't believe in wearing makeup, not for myself. I told people that it didn't make sense, because if someone called you beautiful, they'd really only be saying that the makeup was beautiful. It spoke to my what I now feel is one of the most fundamental truths about me: if someone tells me I am beautiful, I want it to be for real.

Lately, the desire to feel attractive has gone beyond this stipulation. Perhaps it's out of desperation, or perhaps the motivation has merely shifted. Once wanted, ever so badly, to find the person who would see beyond the clumsy stringy awkwardness that was the whole of my youth to the beauty that after school specials assured me was waiting inside. Now that I have that, what I'm looking for, perhaps, is the reassurance that I am desirable; or, rather, that I possess the lures to convince people to desire me.

Where once I longed to be thought of as beautiful, it seems now that I am driven to by the desire to seem, well, fuckable. Ironically enough.

Whatever the reason for this shift, my actions tell me things have changed. I still don't wear makeup; lip gloss, occasionally, and, mascara very rarely and, sometimes-- for pictures-- eye liner. In my day to day to day life, I wear no makeup, that hasn't changed. But I have been, as of late, more hesitant to show what I am made up of: vaginismus.

For a woman who has very negative feelings about the contents of her heart and soul (in my case, black and absent, respectively.), having passable feelings about her body, if only from time to time, may be what she falls back on. As I've mentioned before here, the probable cause for my preference of males as friends probably comes from the feeling that, all else failing, I'd have one last thing I could offer them, from a biological standpoint. For a woman who has critically low self-esteem, sex, or at least the promise and implication of sex, feels like a bargaining chip.

For a woman who has critically low self-esteem and vaginismus, well, it gets a little tricky from there. But somewhere down the line it ends up with her, sitting in a bedroom next to a beautiful, desirable man who finds her attractive on one level and, more importantly, loves her on a different level, wondering why they can't seem to avoid the inevitable biological draw that is fucking up their friendship, and hearing the sentence come out of her mouth: "I understand why I'm attracted to you, but why do you keep falling into this? All I am is the possibility of a blow job. That's my worth as a person."

And then realizing that she believes it.

It's a rather growthful turn of events, it seems, that my latest male friend is not someone I will likely ever be alone in a bedroom with. 42 and married, with one kid out and another on the way, he is, I hope, a silent partner in the agreement that while the occasional flirtation might get us through the day, our loyalties lie strictly elsewhere. Still, my desire to be desirable to him-- if even in a purely hypothetical way-- caused me to hold out far longer than normal with the information that even if he could have me, he couldn't have me.

Still, though, talking about vaginismus is too important to hold out on forever, and as our relationship slowly moved from conquest to caring, I was more compelled to tell him the truth. I told him today.

It was the standard converstaion, I guess. Answering the questions, clarifying the confusion. I took him from the beginning to the end, highlighting all the anguish and frustration with a professional, rehearsed detachment. At one point I thought of the words I was saying and smiled, saying to him, "I've gotten pretty good at discussing all of this kind of stuff easily."

"I guess so." He said. "I probably feel a lot more awkward than you do right now."

I smiled, thinking, Well, duh. I didn't point out the obvious, which was that he was a grown man listening to a girl young enough to be his daughter-- with whom he has no intimate connection and who is, like him, married to someone else-- talk about the process of learning, through trial and error, that her vagina was unable of accepting penetration. Me, I said the sentence "Even in high school, when I'd first try to insert tampons, it would upset me so much that I felt as though I was raping myself." as if I was talking about a problem with my carburetor. He's a first-timer who's probably never had any reason to be more than loosely aware of the concept of female sexual dysfunction. Me?

Among my friends, my vagina is just as often a punchline as it is a source of supportive conversation: did you see that episode of Arrested Development? Silas was painted up bluer than your husband's balls! I blog weekly about every aspect of my sex life, not because I am, as I have said, an emotional exhibitionist, but because I feel it's my duty to spread the knowledge of the condition, and it's just as important for people not to underestimate the riptide effect it has on every aspect of a woman's life as it is for them to just know of it's existence. I've lain, bottomless, on the examination tables of a family practitioner, a gynecologist, and a physical therapist-- all seperately-- and willed myself to stay calm as long as I could stand it, until, all at once, I've errupted in tears and begged them to please, please please please stop it, please god, stop touching me. I've given a presentation on vaginismus to over twenty students in my public speaking class and the male professor , fielding questions about my personal experiences and leading a round of applause in honor of my patient, virgin husband. I dream of writing or editing a book about it, and, more recently, writing and appearing in a documentary with interviews of myself and others and-- so people understand the intensity of the reaction-- a segment wherein I try to succumb to penetration until I can no longer stand it; albeit, with the camera recording only my face.

I loved the way he listened. Quiet, interested. Feeling, as he said, a bit awkward, but not giving me the impression that I should stop or feel embarrassed. He offered some unique feedback that, while not entirely helpful, was far from the parade of stupid that I regularly encounter.

I kept it factual, distant. After it was over, I felt the need to take him further-- I'd told him the facts, but had I impressed upon him the feelings, the impact? He'd seen the girl without the makeup, but been spared the one with mascara streaming down her face.

I survived showing him that I am not, in actuality, fuckable. Now I wanted to bear it all, and take my shot that he might find it beautiful.

That's just a gut reaction, I guess. The young me, coming through. In reality, that would be too much of a connection for our purposes, or, at the very least, too fast. Still, I'm glad I told him what I told him. That I'm not the nymphomaniac I seem to be. That my sex life, is, at best, flawed. That I have a weakness, a problem, a roadblock. That I am human.

And that I'm really, really good at giving head.

"Well," He said, nodding. "That's certainly something, on it's own."

On with it.