March 31, 2010

The Prodigal Daughter Returns

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I’m back. It’s been almost two years since I scampered around campus in too-tight tops with my mismatched breasties on display, banging out (ha) sex columns peppered with cutesy euphemisms and dishing the hot goss on my vag-about-town.

With boundless confidence, endless male prospects and a bottomless bank of nicknames for the various wieners I encountered, writing The Sun’s sex column in the 07-08 year was as easy as, well, me… Not.

Boundless confidence? I second-guessed myself every time those 2400 words went to print. Endless handsome gentleman prospects? Yeah, no. Coupled with the fact that I didn’t seem to have a firm grasp (or any grasp whatsoever, really) on what clothes flattered my body or where the line between “looking like I’ve seen the sun in the last four months” and “chubby Cheeto” lay, I did not exactly look the part of the charismatically gorgeous sex writer. I did have a sizeable collection of names for the peenies, though.

I had fans, sure, but I had an abundance of haters, too. While the email feedback I received was filtered (kindly) by The Sun’s editors to weed out the unnecessary harassment and the frightening freakies, there were plenty of ways to reach me: the comment threads on The Sun site, independent blogs, confronting me at Rulloff’s, passing the messages along to my friends. And, back in my day, there was even an exceptionally bitchy iteration of the online message board called JuicyCampus, which served primarily as a platform for college classmates to fling damaging rumors, body snark and general vitriol around anonymously. While a thick-skinned immunity to the detractors would have been ideal, I never quite got a handle on the “whatevah, I do what I want” buoyancy that should have made it all easier.

But what kind of woman sits down to write a column about her fairly active sex life — condom errors, messiness, cheatin’ boyfriends and all — for an audience as diverse as Cornell’s student body and expects to be embraced by all? A naïve one; one who believed that the sequence of sleeping around and writing about it while maintaining a genuine respect for herself and a solid self-image made her empowered. But if I allowed the commenters and critics — of my writing, of my body, of my behavior — to affect me so profoundly that I’d occasionally run into my roommate’s bedrooms and cry, then how empowered was I, really?

And then I graduated and life continued on without the boys and the bars and the beautifully nurturing bubble that is Cornell’s community. Due to my profession, my new faction of potential New York City dudes was largely populated by overworked and fairly disgruntled professional bloggers whose stores of quick wit and enchanting humor seemed to have expired by the time their last posts were published each day.

Gone were the simple strategies to forge easy connections (however ephemeral) to which I’d grown accustomed at school: fraternities, mutual friends, classes, a refusal to set foot in Johnny O’s, a fierce affection for Pixel. Not only did I find myself with little to offer in the way of genuinely stimulating pre-hookup conversation, but I also felt desperate to build authentic relationships in a brand new city while my college besties were a million miles away.

There is a particularly crushing loneliness in that sudden post-college automatic faux-adulthood, a time when you’re a card-carrying grown-up but are still somewhat surprised when people ask you to sign important papers or trust you with an expense account. When you’re in college, peers who can relate to your struggles surround you — and they’re there every day, growing with you. They’re not running off on business trips, actively planning weddings or scrambling after a sudden layoff.

Compared to the Big Scary Real World, the college community is a fairly steady, structured environment full of shoulders to cry on when your heart gets broken and hands to hold when you take a pregnancy test. There are roommates to laugh with when that pompous AEM goomba fails miserably at making a quick early-morning exit; criminal record-free dudes to make out with in the darkest corners of Stella’s. It’s a perfect environment for experimenting, for sleeping around; for having fun in an atmosphere where so much can pick you back up when that fun isn’t so fun anymore. Being physically intimate without the intimacy is simple when your world is full of solid, intimate relationships — but when it’s not? Sleeping around kind of blows.

So: the sex. I’ve had some since college. There was a UTI here, an extraordinarily pricey cab-ride-of-shame there, a mystifying incident with a particularly smooth-talking gentleman two years my junior. But, meh. None of it was memorably fulfilling, exciting or, really, worth it. Who could have predicted the peen fiend would be saying that kind of thing two years down the road?

After all of this (and a couple of job changes), I ended up in the Midwest living with my boyfriend and a cat and all three of us are brilliantly happy. But let’s not kid ourselves here: nobody wants to read anything Elizabeth Gilbert wrote after Eat, Pray, Love, and the chick who wrote Julie & Julia attempted to write a sequel about her relationship(s) after the whole blog-to-book thing went down. Does anyone really give two shits about the new Sex and the City movie after Carrie has ended up with Big? No. They should have locked it up after their respective happily-ever-afters.

But college sluts (and “sloppy hoes,” as I was frequently called) can live happily ever after, too. I’ll lock it up for now — but I’ll tell you all about it tonight.

Jenna B. graduated in 2008. She can be contacted at opinion@cornellsun.com.

Original Author: Jenna B.