Sex and the Ivy

Then & Now

Filed under: Uncategorized — Elle March 27, 2009 @ 3:04 am

I’m incredibly scared of loss. And I know I shouldn’t feel like I lose something by sleeping with someone, but I do. I decided to stop having sex because I was sick of giving away all these pieces of myself and subsequently worrying about unintentional attachment, ill-advised yearning. It felt like I had no control.

I rarely reread entries on this blog, but tonight, I clicked on this link on the sidebar. I feel so far away from this girl, and yet, I think I finally understand what people mean when they tell me that my blog entries make them wish that they could give me a hug. Lame as it sounds, I wish I could give 19-year-old Lena a hug.

I wrote this when I was in New York the summer after my sophomore year of college. I lived across the street from Tompkins Square Park and spent as little time as possible with other Harvard kids (pretty easy, since they all worked in finance). I had spent four months forgoing sex after dating two guys in a row who both turned out to have girlfriends. I stopped trusting men almost completely, and I say “almost” only because my best friend is a guy (albeit one with zero sexual interest in me). It was pretty much impossible to sleep with me, and I’m certain that I was an insufferable date. I didn’t even go on dates with the goal of falling in love or whatever it is people hope for when they set up contrived meetings with total strangers. I dated out of boredom, and I genuinely didn’t care when I didn’t get called back. If a guy had told me he wanted a relationship, I would’ve laughed in his face. Who do you think you are? Who do you think I am?

Now, when I read myself, I feel sad. I feel sad that I was so utterly broken that I was incapable of experiencing any sort of emotion toward men. I had made up my mind at this point that this blog meant more to me than social acceptance, that what I stood for was more important than the existence of a love life, and that there was no possibility of love in any case since no man would willingly sign up for this. It’s not true, of course. There are plenty of progressive, open-minded men. I knew some even then. But I wouldn’t have sex with even those guys, because I could no longer differentiate the bad apples from the entire population. When I said “no”, it meant, “No, I don’t need any of you.” I was miserly with trust, and once I had mentally checked out of the dating game, no one had any chance of penetrating my emotional armor or anything else for that matter. And yet, as closed off as I was, I was undeniably happy that summer and happy to go back to school and happy to be alone. I was finally free of seemingly endless heartbreaks and disappointments, because I had ceased to hope. And in a strange, satisfying way, I was incredibly at peace for the first time in a long time. In the back of my mind, I thought, “I’m going to be alone forever, and this suits me just fine.”

It’s strange to read words I wrote years ago, but even stranger to think about the subjects of my stories and the people they’ve become. For an extremely public blog, I did a damn good job of not letting anyone’s identity get revealed, which is why it still boggles my mind that someone out there managed to figure out, spread rumors about, and viciously attack who I was dating. Patrick is the first and only man I’ve ever named, and obviously, not by choice in this case. Him aside, I suppose I’m grateful that the only person who ever got hurt from Sex and the Ivy was me. But even after the controversy subsided, I never did put much of my relationship with Patrick down into words. In retrospect, it was because he meant more to me than anyone ever had, and transcribing my feelings to text suggested a permanence I wasn’t ready for. It’d be admitting that he meant something to me, and even if he didn’t know it and my readers didn’t know it, I would certainly know it.

I met Patrick during what was probably the most emotionally tumultuous period of my life. I was so utterly terrified of loss, of losing Kennedy, of losing my family’s support (if they found out about this blog), of losing him, and honestly, of losing myself in him. I was so afraid of losing the ability to be alone and happy at the cusp of 20. And while I desperately wanted this to work out, I simply couldn’t envision a future with him. I couldn’t envision a future with anyone, because I had become so fully cynical in my views about love. It took me months to admit to myself that he cared about me. I spent half of our relationship in doubt.

To some extent, I regret never recording our beginning, if only because the compulsive chronicler in me feels like memories will slip away unless I jot them down in the moment. But on the other hand, I’m glad there won’t be a Patrick to reread years from now. I don’t want him frozen in time, unchanged from sheer force of will. I refuse to turn him into a character, even if it means preserving his memory. When we have problems, I don’t think to write them down. When we’re happy, I don’t think to write it down either. That impulse has simply disappeared, in part because the unstated goal of blogging was always to figure out who I was and who I wanted to become. Now that I know … well, this blog will never be what it once was, because I’m not who I once was. To be honest, I hope I never feel compelled to write here again. It’s an artifact from a time when I was unsure about many things, most of all my worthiness of being loved. Years from now, whether we work out or not, I don’t want to read about Patrick. I’m certain of that much. If we’re still together, then this version of him will seem like such a distant representation of who he later becomes. And if we’re not, then I don’t want anyone — least of all myself — reminding me that I was once in love. Living it will have been enough.