This is a short note about when I became a woman. It was 11 years after I got my first period. I had left home. I had spent the summer traveling, staying mostly at a hostel in the interior of BC.
I had met a young man who I fell desperately and quickly in love with. We spent the weekend making out (in public places all over the town), and two weeks after he had left, hitching a ride to the coast, I got a letter from him saying he wished we had talked more. I went out to visit him in Alberta, where he was from, and spent another week or so discovering myself as a lover, a sexual being. I had been sexually abused as a child and had thought that I'd never be able to have that kind of intimacy with someone. But with this man, it was powerful and all encompassing. I felt swept away, and also opened up.
He came to visit me in the fall, back on the west coast, and the intimacy I felt with him opened spiritual places I hadn't imagined existed.
After he left, I went to see my counsellor. I told her that it had been perfect, and casually mentioned the sores on his lips. After a red flag raised itself in her mind, she showed me a medical book with info about herpes. My heart sank. I had opened myself to this man and exposed myself to herpes. My first love. My first vulnerable, sweet, wild ride into sexuality with a man.
It took me a while to break up with him. I confronted him about not telling me about his cold sores, because obviously he would know. He brushed it off with a modicum of an apology. I went out to Alberta at Christmas and felt drawn into the magnetism of intimacy with him again. But when I got back to the coast at New Years, I phoned him from my new apartment, and ended it.
I think about what it was that I consider to be the defining moment that I became a woman in that experience. It wasn't that I had been opened with this man. It wasn't that I had broken up with him. Nor was it that I had realized that I had put myself in medical danger without knowing it. It was that I had loved, been vulnerable, opened my soul with another person, been hurt, claimed back the spaces I had shared with him, and yet also took the lessons with me. To this day, I am thankful that I learned with him that I can be a sexual being and not break into 10,000 little glass pieces all over the room. But I also know that I put myself in a risky place because I was naive, and from that I have learned caution. (thankfully, 3 years later, I had a blood test that showed I was immune to herpes). But through that experience, I learned more about my sexual and spiritual strengths: which define me as a woman.