Sex and the Ivy

Thursday Night, 11:28 p.m.

Filed under: Facts and Fiction, Kay, Nate, Partying, Vix — Elle October 20, 2006 @ 2:20 am
Thursday Night, 11:28 a.m.
Thursday Night, 11:28 a.m.
Originally uploaded by Elle C.

Academic obligations end at 4 p.m. Thursdays, the same time social ones begin. Vietnamese coffee at Toscanini’s with Vix. Kay on Mass Ave, between tests. Speed dinner at Grafton Street with NS (aka Nate), whose initials might as well mean “not single.”

Sprinting sprinting sprinting from Mather to the Square, stilettos in hand and my feet bare. Four T-tokens and sleepy-headed Editor. Last winter’s boy at the turnstile, three stops removed from his home, eight months removed from my heart. In the interim, he dyed his hair black and like me, it doesn’t suit him.

He said my name. I couldn’t bring myself to say his, so I introduced Editor instead. I didn’t ask why he never called.

Abruptly, Park Street. Across the Common, beyond the Gardens, past the Ritz — and now the shoes must come on after blocks of dirt and brick.

Inside, there is open-bar-assisted chatter. I am “Samidha” to the guest list. “No,” I tell them. “I do not have a business card.”

Tonight, talking comes between bites. Six drinks later, Editor and I stumble. On words, mostly. Ironic that the conversation is less steady than my feet.

Promises to keep, she reminds me. And so we walk the miles to the T, with whispers of Wurtzel, of writing, of weary between us. For her, there will be no sleep tonight.

Thursday, I am not done with you.

I don’t love you anymore. Goodbye.

Filed under: Dating/Relationships, Facts and Fiction, Men, Summer Guy — Elle October 12, 2006 @ 3:23 am

“Your words sound hollow in my jealous state.”
“Jealous? When do you ever get jealous?”
“When there is something I can’t have, that I gave up. And every memory with it stings and every memory without is even more unbearable.”

Funny. You only seem to want what you can’t have, be it girl or job. You tell me you still love me but where is this love? I can’t see it, I can’t touch it. I can’t feel it. I can hear it. I can hear some words, but I can’t do anything with your easy words. And every time you offer up that three-syllable lie, I want to push you further and further away.

You’re an idiot. A complete idiot. You had me and I could’ve loved you. But how does one love a man who refuses to be loved? For all your sweet words, you never convinced me of any genuine affection. And now I think it’s too late, because for us, there is no matter of friendship. My platonic standards are more demanding than my romantic ones. I never liked you. You treated me unkindly. As a boyfriend, you were endlessly disappointing. As an ex, you’ve managed to be worse.

3,000 miles is not something either of us can change, but if you were going to call everyday, if you were going to tell me how utterly amazing you think I am weeks after we’re over, if you were going to kiss me the morning of my flight to Boston, then one would think that you would have approached our breakup with a tad more tact.

I spent the better part of late summer trying to free myself from thoughts of you, but it wasn’t until I breathed Cambridge that your taste finally left my tongue. Today, I came across photos of us and we seem so utterly mismatched that the idea of ever having dated seems ludicrous at best.

I lied. I don’t miss you. I haven’t since I boarded the plane.

“Are you afraid that I am going to fall out of love with you?”

Are you afraid that I am going to call your bluff?

The Purge of Purging

Filed under: All About Elle, Facts and Fiction, Life — Elle September 26, 2006 @ 5:32 pm

THE last time I purged was junior spring of high school. I was in Seattle attending a journalism conference with my newspaper staff. After a sickening meal of McDonald’s ice cream and apple pie, I excused myself from the rest of the group and locked up my insecurities in the bathroom of a Sheraton suite. I bent down on my knees, lifted the toilet lid, and reached down my throat with two fingers. But nothing came out. After the third unsuccessful attempt, I gave up, sobbing as I clutched the porcelain rim.

I was 16 then, and I never tried to throw up a meal again.

I returned from Seattle, the incident forgotten in the span of a week. I completed my best academic semester of high school that June and spent a dizzying summer interning at E! Entertainment, volunteering for John Kerry’s presidential campaign, and coaching high school debate. I entered my senior year refreshed, inspired, and unstoppable. That fall, I amped up every extracurricular commitment, became a National Merit Scholar, and was accepted to Harvard before most of my peers had even finished applying to college. If I died at 17, my life would’ve been complete. I forgot about scales.

At the same time that I found validation in letters from Cambridge, I started dropping weight. The editorship of the school newspaper took its toll on my health. By June, I was overworked and underweight at 113 pounds, but for the first time since puberty, I was happy with my body. For the first time since puberty, I was happy with every single aspect of my life. I was even getting along with my mother. But once you’ve purged, it never leaves you. You begin to believe that it is actually an option, as if the reality isn’t that you have troubling body image issues but that you’ve found this incredibly effective way to keep the pounds from adding up. Even so long after the fact, it was difficult to keep the thought of throwing up from creeping in every time I consumed a large meal.

IT started when I sprouted to four-feet-eight. I was on the cusp of adolescence, the first to grow breasts, and considered the least fashionable of all my newly judgmental female peers. At 11, it is difficult to find refuge in your moral or intellectual superiority. When other girls weren’t criticizing me, I filled in the blanks. After learning about binging and purging, I determined that throwing up could be a viable weight loss approach. The problem with being precocious is that you discover things like eating disorders, sex, and drugs before everyone else, but stupidly, you believe you can handle it all because you’re more mature than most.

Not surprisingly, I couldn’t handle it. For years, my warped self-perception controlled my life. I was 12 when I first put fingers to throat. I so worried my boyfriend at 14 that he held my face, told me I was beautiful, and made me promise that I would never do it again. Four years later, my freshman fall hookup would give me a nearly identical speech. Showers were daily rituals. I stood before full-length mirrors, scrutinizing flaws before letting the water hit my body. And even today, I express an enthusiasm for scales incomprehensible to those unconcerned by matters of weight. For as long as I can remember, I was the girl who did everything and did it well, but like academics, my body was something I was never satisfied with, no matter what goal had been reached. I wanted to be skinny, and it seemed like it was the one thing I couldn’t have.

I hesitated at the checkbox for bulimia when I filled out my medical information for enrollment to Harvard. I’ve never been diagnosed with an eating disorder, so I feel uncomfortable laying claim to a disease which has inflicted greater pain on other women, those even less equipped to deal with their bodies than I am. But maybe there’s just not a name for the obsession of my youth. After all, the popular statistic is that one out of four American women have struggled with an eating disorder at some point in their lives. Yet even when I choose to tell my close friends, I find myself describing my experience flippantly because the lack of an official diagnosis makes my problem less real, less worthy of sympathy. So I fall back on lines, like the accurate but insufficient “I had a mild case of bulimia,” as if the disease that plagued me all of early adolescence was about as serious as the flu.

THE greatest irony about my struggle with weight is that the Freshman Fifteen saved me. As the New England leaves burned red and crisp with the season’s turn, my waistbands dug deep into my hips and my breasts spilled out of their cups. I began asking for larger dress sizes. I bought bras in every color. It was a gradual transition I barely noticed until I stepped onto a scale. I said offhandedly, “I’m gaining weight.” But then I realized just how much I’d put on. I was a size 4. I had stretch marks.

It would’ve seemed inconceivable months earlier. Overwhelmed by the stifling transition to Harvard, I didn’t eat the first three weeks of freshman year. My appetite fluctuated like my mood. Most of the time, I was energetic and upbeat; but other times, I felt inexplicably sad and desolate, unwilling to speak or even make half-hearted attempts at normality. I thought an apple made a perfectly good substitute for an entree, leading friends and roommates to wonder if I was anorexic. While fielding their suspicious glances and carefully-worded inquiries (”Is that all you’re going to eat?”), I almost laughed inside. I saw their discomfort before they even opened their mouths. They didn’t realize the worst was already over, that the habits they found shocking now were nothing in comparison to the paralyzing self-analysis I underwent at 13.

My problems never lasted past September. Though the climate cooled, I warmed to Harvard. By October, I ate well. By January, I was nearly twenty pounds heavier.

After the initial shock of realizing that I was no longer the svelte little thing who trounced onto campus a season earlier, I almost didn’t care that I was tipping the scales at a weight I would’ve deemed obscene a year ago. I was still far from heavy, so I doubled my wardrobe, solicited male attention, and realized that life went on. I had gained 18 pounds, one for each year of my life, and yet when spring blossomed, the world still stood. This was the final confirmation that I had not merely left a disease behind, but that I was finally okay with who I was.

I moved into Mather House two weeks ago. On my wall-length cork board, I have pinned up a series of eight pictures taken last fall. They are the result of my then-floormate’s VES project on Asian sexuality. I agreed to pose for her as a favor. Only later did I learn that the photos made their way into a student gallery at the Fogg. She shot me nude — my limbs plump, my hair unkempt, and my expression unafraid. Even when I was at my skinniest, I wouldn’t have been able to face the camera like that.

I remember the photography session fondly. As my floormate – usually soft-spoken — snapped away, she commented that she was impressed with my security. I hadn’t even realized it. I was secure.

There are differences now, subtle but enough that I trust my judgment more than I used to. This September, I found myself eating as little as I did a year ago. I stopped being able to recognize hunger pangs, an aftereffect of the havoc I wreaked on my developing body. It is always disturbing to realize that I must eat on schedule because I cannot rely on instinct. The cardinal rule of the inflicted is to never ask for help, because it is outside interference that impedes progress, so it was with a twinge of regret that I told my blockmates to watch me and make me eat if I didn’t do it on my own. But at least I asked.

I promised myself that sophomore year would bring the shedding of freshman flab. It is healthy. I could stand to lose some weight. I am down to the last eight pounds now, and they are slowly but surely peeling off. There is a scale by my bed — my first, borrowed from Terra — and I weigh myself daily. Sometimes I wonder if it is healthy to own a scale. I worry that I might slip back into old patterns of thought, and I don’t fool myself into thinking that I won’t. I am not repeating the same mistake I made at age 12. I am not invincible.

Saying yes was never so easy.

Filed under: Berklee, Facts and Fiction, Sex — Elle September 18, 2006 @ 2:40 am

EVEN as he slid my panties off, I remained convinced that this was not going to end in a regrettable mess of bare limbs and sweat. So with my back to the bed and one less piece of clothing on, I lifted my head and reminded him, “You know, I’m not having sex with you.”

I figured this was the polite thing to do. My statement was not going to prevent blue balls, but at least he knew what was coming. Or rather, who wasn’t coming.

“Why not?” he asked, more inquisitive than aggressive. I said something indefinite in response. “I’m just not” or “because” or another half-hearted answer that sounded unpersuasive even to myself.

“Well, I guess I’ll just have to do a good job of convincing you.” And then he slipped his fingers between my legs and pressed down into the hot center.

BEFORE I met up with him at Canton Junction earlier that night, I boarded the commuter rail with a fistful of promises to myself and every intent to keep them all. As the sky darkened outside the windows and the train tumbled closer to my destination, I shivered at my seat. Reaching into my purse, I retrieved my lipstick and reapplied it as if my lips would matter this evening.

He pulled into the parking lot and got out of his car. By the time I walked close enough to get a good look at him, I noticed his hair was shorter than I remembered. And for once, he wasn’t wearing a baseball cap. Slight changes. I wondered if I looked any different to him. Older. Thinner. Any more beautiful in autumn than in the spring.

Our conversation moved easily like it always has. As we drove deeper into Canton and then Stoughton, my eyes followed the suburban world passing us by. Then the roads closed in between looming branches and leaves, the colonial residences grew larger with every mile, and Boston’s urban landscape became a distant memory.

A shred of self-doubt started forming as I climbed the stairs of his Stoughton apartment and realized that I still remembered all the right turns to take and doors to open. My resolve weakened when I met his new roommate Jeff, tsk tsked at their empty beer bottles, and found his dining table as cluttered with bills as it was months ago. But I didn’t break completely until Jeff’s dog pounced up at me eagerly – Abby was the least expected addition of all. She was a female companion in male territory, and I fell for her faster than I fell for him.

He poured two glasses of red wine, sat us down on the couch in front of an episode of Will & Grace, and rubbed his thumb against the small of my back. As his hands wandered, so did my attention.

“You’re getting fresh,” I teased as his fingers grazed my bare upper breast. He smiled and I turned my face toward his, catching his breath, his tongue, and his lips on my own. His freshly trimmed stubble scratched at my cheek and I pulled him closer.

WE drove to a jazz concert in Providence, the pretense for my visit this evening. Jazz is a foreign tongue to me, a language I tried to pick up when we dated. Still, I found some appreciation for the smooth tones that competed against the Yankees game for attention. And easily, the band won. In the dim glow of the bar, I caught sight of a dark spot on his throat and fingered it apologetically.

“I’m sorry,” I said.

He shook his head at me. “I work with kids. I can’t talk to their parents with hickeys on my neck.”

I offered up a grimace and stole a sip of his beer, even though I had a feeling that I could’ve gotten away with ordering my own.

The telltale mark at the crux of his neck proved too tempting to resist once we were alone on the drive back. So I pulled at my seatbelt and leaned over for another taste.

“I bruise easily,” he warned, and I was quite happy to ignore him. “You know we’re going back to my place, right? I have to water my mint plants before I take you back. Very sensitive pH levels.”

I laughed, more than willing to indulge in his charade. The next morning, I would find an unwelcome splotch of red on my panties. Even when I lost my virginity, I didn’t bleed.

“YOU still have all your clothes on,” I said to him with a hint of indignation. The last of my outfit had finally made it onto the floor.

“Well, you haven’t done anything about them,” he retorted. Lying naked on his bed, I felt unusually comfortable. But in the interest of fairness, I made him strip down until he was as bare as I was.

By the time I felt him against my inner thighs, slowly nudging his way inside me, my protests had long ceased and my claims to chastity had fallen away like my clothes to the ground. He entered me with a sensation altogether familiar and unexpected. My eyes shut, and I moaned low and throaty.

His name was what I said the most, and I ground it out between my teeth with a ferocity reserved for sex that happened for sex’s sake. Behind me, he breathed hard and I squeezed my legs together and he sucked in his breath even harder. He was large and slick and filled me deeper than comfortable. But I liked it that way. Half-breathless he asked, “Is this okay?” and I silently winced but nodded at the courtesy. Straddling him would have made it easier, but the only time I was happy on top was when my mouth was on his cock, taking him down inch by inch and lapping him up again with the tip of my tongue. So instead, I found contentment on my stomach, on my back, and on my knees, as I dug deeper into his sheets and asked him, gasping, to fuck me harder.

Afterward, I sighed into his chest, let the hair dance between my fingers, and traced the long scar that ran between his ribs and under his navel, a remnant of the surgery that saved his life. “Your battle scar,” I murmured.

He picked up my earrings from the creases of his sheets and held them up to my face. I laughed and thought to myself, “He fucked me so hard my jewelry came off.”

WHEN he dropped me off on the corner of Plympton and Mt. Auburn, I left his car with a quick, chaste kiss and a hurried goodbye, stumbling out into the Cambridge cold on my unsteady stilettos and even less steady judgment.

He drove away as I ran off in the other direction, ready to face the night. Were he my boyfriend, I might’ve looked back to catch a last glimpse. But he wasn’t. So instead, I tugged at my skirt and flipped my hair out, readying myself for the festivities to come.

At the steps of the Phoenix, I greeted the bouncer’s familiar face with my right hand on his chest, a warm smile, and a “hey there.” He opened the door just wide enough for me to slip inside and I clutched at the oak of the staircase as the bass pulsed against my chest. The second the warm air and chatter engulfed me, it was like Stoughton and Providence and even Boston were worlds away.

Across the river, I lose myself.