I remember when my mom sat me down to explain how babies were made. It was Christmas Day and there was a new, tiny rodent running around with our two, supposedly male guinea pigs. My mom knew this was her chance to tell me how that happened.
I laid on my back on the Airbnb bed as hot wax ran down my pelvis. Kneeling over me was my buddy Ash, meticulously dripping the green goo onto my pubic hair like Michaelangelo sculpting the dick on David. “X marks the spot,” she grinned, about to make the first rip.
Right before this, I had listened to the agonizing screams coming from this very bedroom as Ash removed all of the baby hairs on my highschool ex-boyfriend’s butthole. He just so happened to be six-foot-six-inches and an army ranger, so I listened to his boyish shrieks with absolute schadenfreude. When he came out of the makeshift wax studio, he looked more traumatized than when he finished his boot camp hazing.
I had a few (straight) relationships in high school, but I could never reconcile how my thoughts dwelt on the lingering touch of my friend’s hug and the warmth of his leg next to mine when we sat together at the crowded restaurants. One stuffy summer night in the park, I melted when he reached over to wipe away a drop of beer from my face and slid his fingers along my cheek. All we had were those moments, half-hearted but unmistakable, and all I could do was to wait and see if they would ever amount to anything. I wasn’t gay, I’d tell myself. That little word would upend my life.
When the United States repealed the 18th Amendment in 1933, alcohol was finally legal. People were swarming the newly-opened bars and rolling barrels of beer through the streets. In the Summer of Love 1967, youth cultures gathered in San Francisco to cast off conservative values and experiment with sex and drugs.
Though our 2021 context is entirely different, we are poised to share similar collective experiences of jubilation.
After more than a year of virtual concerts, conferences and classes, glimpses of “normal” life continue to dance around our yearning minds. Tinder bios now read “fully vaccinated,” like an adoptable puppy. I can finally hug my friends without worries in a flash of optimism.
The year is crashing to a close and that cutie whose video you pin in discussion section just got their second dose. Pop a squat in their Zoom DM’s and shove yourself into their frame of view before they book it back to New Jersey. Cast your doubts to the side and go get boba with that guy who’s attractive in two of his tinder pictures but not in the other three. Put your dick on the table and text that girl from your FWS who your measly little freshman self could only admire from afar. Live dangerously.
In the words of the esteemed rap group Flatbush Zombies: “Always into weird, feared, dark-type girls. Independent, don’t-need-no-[man], keep-on-they-light girls. Don’t mean to be cliché but I like girls, that like girls, that like girls…”
A pink-haired pessimist straddling the divide between feminism and misandry, and sometimes trying to emit a soft goth girl glow (really just my glamorized rendition of mental unhealth) — I think I see why boys so commonly suspect bisexuality of me. I’ll sense his suspicion as he steers the post-fuck conversation (pre-fuck if he’s ambitious) towards that one foursome he had last year, in which he was the only male participant, he makes sure to note. Tossing the topic back my way (“Have you ever had a threesome?”), he goes on to reveal his true concern: “Was it with another girl?” “Do you hook up with girls?” “So you like girls too?”
No, actually, I’m not into girls.
I never thought I would get nude with a bunch of strangers. The thought of stripping down to my fleshy rawness was akin to a hermit crab without its shell — veiny, pink and vulnerable. I did not want to be perceived, especially without the cloth adornments that hid the awkward bits I was always taught to be ashamed of. They were called private parts for a reason.
It was a freshman encounter with a Risley tradition that finally freed my spirit. I was watching their annual production of The Rocky Horror Picture Show with three platonic male friends.
“On her 50th birthday, Xiaojie Tan would have gathered with her only child for a slice of strawberry fresh cream cake, her favorite.” I’m forgetting where I first saw these words — perhaps an aesthetic infographic that left me ruminating on the necessity of a pastel color palette slideshow to draw an audience around a fatal hate crime – but I remember how I felt reading them. In the sweet celebration of a successful violin recital, or A’s on my report card, my mom would drive her only child an hour or so (more an effect of traffic than distance) to the California coast for some strawberry shortcake, my favorite. Our destination was a certain bakery cafe situated in a seaside region of Los Angeles known for its immigrant Asian population — which includes a sizable Japanese community that sustains countless Japanese markets and other businesses my immigrant Japanese mother wished we lived closer to.
My mom would nudge me forward at the counter, reminding me I’d have to order for myself — and in Japanese no less. I’d shyly mumble my request before she’d follow with her own order of Mont Blanc chestnut cream cake. We’d then take our seats and possibly order some tea to pair with our midday desserts, over which I’d fuss without filter about my present trials.
Ah, spring. Life stirs once again, the flowers blooming and the birds chirping. Nature’s sweet songs ring through the crisp air. It is a joyous symphony. That is, until you realize it’s the sound and smell of every living thing trying desperately to get laid.
You don’t have to walk through a cloud of AXE body spray to realize you are part of the same seductive symphony.
Editor’s Note: The following content contains sensitive material about sexual assault.
Every fraternity house has at least one predator, and I know who was in mine. I wasn’t there when it happened, which is by and large the most common excuse I hear from bystanders, but I know it did. Post-formal fraternity houses are chaotic: in the typical drunken haze, music seems to emanate from the walls themselves as the room spins around you. I was passed out on a couch sometime around midnight when a friend, eyes wide, skin pale, shook me awake and told me that he had witnessed the aftermath of a sexual assault. Within the minute, we saw the victim burst through the front door into the cold without her coat, explained by the quiet desperation on her face. The fraternity covered it up, of course.
Everyone was taking the online BDSM test in high school. Hushed voices rang through the halls, “What results did you get?” We held up our friends with the kinkiest results like a new man at his Bar Mitzvah, cheering and throwing him above the crowd. Someone at every lunch table and in every clique bragged about being 98 percent rope bunny, 54 percent masochist, and 24 percent pet. Most of us didn’t even know what that meant, but it had to be edgy and therefore cool.
Then there was Brian. He displayed his glowing phone screen to the cafeteria, reporting that he was in fact 100 percent vanilla.