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.
The manic pixie dream girl is my greatest foe. I jest, but she’s higher on the list than I like to admit. I detest her daring attitude: motivated not by a sad girl’s hopeless disregard for bodily safety but by some romantic notion of heroism ingrained in her stupid, little head. I despise her allegedly adorable inability to produce an unhappy thought, or to truly think at all. And I loathe her supposedly sexy stint as no more than a quarter of a whole person whose relevance fails to extend beyond the bounds of some guy’s own experience.
He chuckled at his phone with the sort of strained enthusiasm meant to spur a person’s curiosity. Curiosity spurred, I crawled to the foot of the bed and peered over his broad, tattooed shoulder. I wasn’t exactly eager to stow aside my feminist propensity of ignoring men when they, in typical fashion, summon attention to themselves whilst performing some act wholly unworthy of the attention they summon. But his shoulders were broad, and tattooed. And we had just had some cool sex, so all in all I was feeling benevolent.
They have always tormented me on the margins of my screen: these flashing banners with the promise of voluptuous, bouncing anime titties. I have restrained myself from clicking on them, knowing full well the forbidden games might strike my laptop with an assortment of viruses and pop-ups. It’s not like I needed a flash game to fulfill my needs when the usual gang bang sufficed. I curbed my curiosity for long enough. The orgasming animations beckoned to me, not out of lust, but out of spite.
The date itself was great. As recent Ivy grads living in New York do, we met on Hinge, the millennial’s go-to catalog of both eligible and ineligible singles. The digital prelude consisted of playful digs atCornell and Columbia’s sports programs, obligatory “Fuck Trump” talk and our shared affection for the filmography of Marty Scorcese. After a few days of feigned interest in her gap year in Italy (“ugh im soo jealous – ive always heard naples is beautiful”) and mutual social media vetting, we agreed to meet at a ramen joint in the East Village.
She happened to live a few blocks away (what a convenient coincidence), so we went back to her place to smoke some medicinal reefer. And after a joint and nine minutes of Scorcese’s criminally underappreciated 2011 masterpiece Hugo, we found our way to her bedroom where, without too much detail (basically – me on top, her on top, me on top, sideways, me from the back, concluding with an unironic congratulatory high-five) and with the clarity of hindsight, I can confidently say we enjoyed one of the three greatest sexual experiences of my life.
Sweaty and spread-eagled on her bed, we passed each other a Menthol Juul, listening to Daniel Caesar’s romantic banalities humming in the background.