Sex and the Ivy

My College Sweetheart

Filed under: CK, In Retrospect — Elle April 11, 2008 @ 6:57 pm

A year and a half ago, I wrote a series of entries about Kennedy. Our freshman year of college had just finished and we were what I called then an “unlikely duo”. She is many things to me: my first and most significant girl crush, an authority figure who I am more likely to listen to than anyone else (my mother included), and nowadays a kind of sister. “Best friend” always seems inadequate.

We were supposed to go to Europe together that freshman summer but through a combination of my own irresponsibility (made a terrible impression on her family) and simple bad luck, we didn’t. She’s in Germany now and late this May, I’ll be joining her for nearly three months. So it looks like two years later, our trip is finally coming to fruition. This means a great deal to me.

So in celebration of our summer together, here is a compilation of entries about my greatest love of the past few years:

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While riding on the Metro 70 this morning, I saw the man beside me reach over to his female companion and pick something out of her hair. A year ago, I wouldn’t have thought twice about the gesture, but that was before I met CK.

CK is one of my closest friends at college. But more than that, she is also the first and only woman I have ever been romantically interested in. That fact is as public knowledge as it is a running joke. But it is also the truth.

Her hair and I are deeply involved. Poofy, unkempt, and unapologetically black, it shuns chemicals that threaten to smooth out its kinks. It has a life of its own. It has a spirit. My job is not to break that spirit, but to calm it. CK looks different when her tangles are neatly pried free. I wish I knew better how to handle black hair, because if I did, I’d pick out her hair completely for her. She rarely does it for herself, and so I find myself constantly retrieving odd pieces of paper and dust from her fro, when not busy taming it with my fingers.

CK doesn’t conform to traditional beauty standards at all. And yet she has managed to capture my heart while piquing my sexual interest, no small task when considering that I am decidedly preoccupied with what our culture deems pretty. Here is a picture of her, if you can close your eyes and imagine: brown skin, full lips, big mouth, wide eyes, slender legs, round nose, and rounder bottom.

To me, CK is always attractive, but this is not merely an empty compliment I offer all my girlfriends. She is beautiful in a way that wine is better tasting once you have had a few sips to start. She is beautiful in the way that a lover is always beautiful. When she is fresh out of the shower, I sneak glances at her breasts and backside as she changes, because I might catch something new I haven’t discovered before on these seldom-seen spots. I have long determined through close observation that I have never seen a more beautiful body than hers.

For starters, CK has an amazing mouth. It is full and juicy, the most kissable I’ve ever encountered. Sometimes slick with gloss but usually bare, CK’s mouth is a contradiction of sorts. Peeks of metal and colored plastic hint at a tongue piercing, unexpected of this chaste Southern girl. The precise manner with which she bites down on her lower lip is altogether coy and disarmingly seductive. CK is a virgin. But of course.

Invariably, I am tempted to request a kiss, but the rare lip-to-lip contact she makes me crave often comes when I least expect it and never when I outright demand it. She is a frustrating lover who operates on a whim, most affectionate when least solicited.

CK is a small woman, and that too is part of her charm. She is compact, portable like me. Even with all her curves, CK is adorably petite, possessing a slender frame and the features of a cherub. Now that I have known the build of her body, I question whether I could ever be attracted to an Amazon, a taller, broad-shouldered species of girl. And the truth is, part of CK’s appeal lies in the fact that she reminds me astonishingly of me. We are girls who can be broken if squeezed a bit too hard, if pulled more forcefully than expected. And there is a kind of solidarity in living in the same five-foot-tall world.

This started as a piece about my relationship with CK’s hair but I realized in the middle of writing it that there is so much more that must be explained about her body and about her quirks in order to communicate the intimacy of my fingers working through her locks. So I will try, for the first time, to write more clearly than I ever have about what it means to love someone.

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We met on the second night of school via our mutual friend Kam, although “met” implies handshakes and introductions while our meeting consisted of Kam escorting me from the door of a finals club to the door of my bedroom.

Immediately, she hated me. The feeling was more than mutual. She was the worst kind of abstinent. Laying no claim on holier-than-thou coolness, CK refrained from drugs, alcohol, and sex out of personal conviction alone. You could call her moral, but you wouldn’t dare call her straightedge. While she thought, “That rash, drunken whore is going to get herself killed,” I silently fumed, “Who is this short-haired, fully-clothed monster telling me what to do? Kam better get rid of this pint-sized bitch by morning.” Neither of us was particularly impressed with his taste in friends that night.

What followed that disastrous first encounter is a bit of a blur. Against all odds, we came around to liking each other. Precisely how, I can’t say because I barely remember. She informed the gay best friend that I was “actually cool” when sober. JB, in return, sang her praises. I decided that I was a fan of CK after all. After repeated run-ins through mutual friends, we became comfortable enough around each other to hang out, just us. One night in early fall, she stopped by my dorm room, upset at a guy’s inconsiderate actions. Mid-explanation, her voice cracked and eyes welled up. I didn’t expect it. The vulnerability she showed made the difference between friend and confidante. I trusted her completely after that.

Before two months had passed, we were living together. I relocated from my tense Canaday D suite into hers in the neighboring building. I liked her roommates better than my own. In a box by her closet, I kept a toothbrush, a towel, and flip-flops. Each evening between her sheets, I cradled my laptop, slept against her back, and crooned off-key the Bright Eyes that accompanied the late night. In the morning, I’d scurry down her stairs, across the courtyard, and up into my room where I quickly showered and changed. But after class and between meals, I’d be found in CK’s room more often than in mine, whether she was there with me or not. Sometimes, all the others were out, and they came home to no one but me, their adopted roommate, napping away in CK’s bed at the most content I’d been since college had begun.

I began to feel more comfortable in her skin than in my own. I took to wearing her clothes like I would wear a boyfriend’s, though I joked that her wardrobe (which ran more casual than mine) was reserved only for my grungy days. Her tshirts and sweatshirts and pants and even socks — they were all fair game, except for the size six shoes that would not fit. And although the mismatched outfits I constructed fit my frame, my appearance was that of a stranger invading fabrics not her own. I looked just as out-of-place in CK’s clothing as I did in the oversized garments of my male lovers.

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I have learned CK’s curves from consecutive nights of side-by-side embraces, from furtive caresses over shoulders and under chins and down happy trails. I like to think that she has a body only I know how to hold and handle, that there are words and gestures belonging to us alone.

CK has a boyfriend now, but I don’t know if he picks at her hair like I do or if she drawls “baby” to him while teasing his cheek with her fingertips. I am certain that her paramour suspects me of being bitter. He would not be incorrect. As much as I adore him, I can’t help but think that he has somehow ruined our relationship.

My animosity toward her relationship is hypocritical. I date far more men than she ever has or will. But in my defense, none of them have ever presented an actual threat. I have been more fully exposed before CK than I have ever been before a boyfriend. And there is no man I have ever loved as deeply as I have loved her. There is a part of her not mine now but I do not begrudge her her contentment. In the same breath that I admit my jealousy, I confess I share in her happiness.

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We were supposed to backpack through Europe this summer, just the two of us. We didn’t go, to our mutual disappointment. Now I don’t know if we missed the only opportunity we’ll ever get to take a trip like that together. Sometimes I wonder if a prolonged journey to another continent would have changed things. Away from boys and friends and boyfriends, I wonder if our thoughts would’ve turned more willingly toward each other; if during one warm, heavy night, we would’ve curled up on the floor of a hostel like we have countless times on her bed; if this time, we would have dared to press our noses together closer than we ever have before.

–September 2006

Snapshots and Snippets From New York

Filed under: New York, Travel — Elle April 8, 2008 @ 1:04 am

I tend to hate the photos taken of me next to my laptop. I’m a blogger, so naturally, reporters ask me to pose with my weapon of choice. I don’t mind acquiescing, especially since I’m not a photographer myself and it’s not like I have a suggestion for a better shot. Still, I can’t help thinking that the more obvious setup the setup, the less meaningful the picture. It’s strange that the easiest portrait to shoot is the one that appears the most contrived. I never look natural in my photos next to computers.

But this one I like for some reason. He took it Saturday night. We’d just gotten back to the hotel from coffee on the Lower East Side. I was looking at my Tumblr dashboard when he shot this (you can tell from the screen it’s Tumblr). I didn’t know until we scrolled through his photos later that he had taken anything at all.

An actual candid of me. Pretty rare.

Another interesting photo (from our coffee earlier that evening). I started taking pictures of him with my cell phone and he responded by snapping me with his digital camera at the same time. It was war.

Got back from New York this morning after sleeping at some atrocious hour last night. 72 hours in New York. Christ. Things I did this weekend (with helpful links):

* Got two dresses at AuH2O, this fantastic East Village clothing store with one-of-a-kind pieces made from recycled fabrics. Kate, the owner (who’s only 23!), is doing a custom piece for the Guy. New York fashion students, intern for this woman. She’s responsible for cool, creative, affordable stuff like this Metrocard dress.

* Had a cup of New York’s best coffee at Abraço

* Best meal of the weekend: dinner at a great French place in the East Village called Antibes Bistro. The desserts are amazing. What I recommend: butternut squash ravioli and the chocolate terrine.

* Brought the Guy and the dog along for a fascinating meeting with a downtown production company.

* Visited the International Center of Photography. Really enjoyed the Glenn Ligon exhibit critiquing Robert Mapplethorpe’s The Black Book (a volume of homoerotic images of black men)

* Saw a lot of people, just generally. Consumed a lot of coffee and Haribo gummi bears, just generally (the latter brought back from Germany when I visited Kennedy over spring break).

* Hung out at night with the Guy’s sister who studies fine arts in the city. Wound up in Williamsburg both Friday and Saturday night after disliking the pretentious crowd at Plumm and D’Or. Jules (my down-to-earth NYC companion from last summer who was the only person I knew who lived in Brooklyn) would’ve been proud.

* Took plenty of candid photos and video, somewhat against my perfectionist will, but oh well.

Good drive. Good company. Great weekend.

New York for the Weekend

Filed under: Uncategorized — Elle April 4, 2008 @ 9:04 am

We are taking off in five minutes (an hour late) to New York for the weekend, a trip prompted by my desire to catch my friend Jenna while she’s in the city. Jenna is The Cornell Daily Sun’s sex columnist and writes funny-as-hell pieces that are seriously the best of the genre. The girl is SO ballsy. Check out her stuff.
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