Whoever said people never get over their first loves needs to die. Normally cliches don't faze me. This one terrifies me. Haunts me. I do not want to be that girl who spends her whole life wishing she were still with that guy she dated in high school. It makes me cringe every time I hear someone stifle a cry because he or she just ran into that first person; it makes me want to scream when someone ends a new romance prematurely because they're still stuck on their first ideal. Regardless of that cliche's horrible-romantic-comedy-film value, we all know the dangers of a first: first loves, first kisses, first fucks-they all have the power to shape how we think, feel, and act for (yes) the rest of our lives.
Of course, there is the first time you kiss someone, and then there is the first time you kiss someone-the first time that counts. Most of us are guilty of fantasizing about that first moment until the image in our minds is no closer to reality than the moon is to the sun. Yet half the time said fantasy matters little, because the actual first time you do something ends up meaning much less than you thought it would. The firsts that end up sticking with you can't be planned.
Then there's the potential experience gap: you might be experiencing a first, but your partner may already be well-versed. I'm spoiled: my first and I were always on the same page. But if someone is experiencing a first with someone who's already experienced (and possibly tainted by) that same first with someone else, does that inherently change the "first" experience? Both parties are bound to take away different memories. And the less experienced of the two is likely to find the moment more meaningful. Read: become more attached.
To be fair, or at least to look at the grand scheme of things, exes aren't fun either. But firsts put an entirely different spin on the picture: suddenly it's not just that guy or girl you dated two years ago, but that guy or girl who taught you how to kiss or held your hand when you finally learned to parallel park and took your driver's exam. It's not just that guy or girl you fucked last week, but the first one you fucked before thinking about an actual date. That person suddenly holds this special spot in the back of your mind, all because he or she was the first you had sex with.
It would be inappropriate for me to withhold the fact that I am currently very bitter about my first, so there you have it. I am bitter. Last night I went to a party, all dressed up and 21 and ready to go. The girl handing out wristbands asked me if I worked for Spec. No big deal. I get that all the time. Then she asks me if I used to date a guy named Jon. "Jon who goes to Hampshire, right? I'm best friends with his ex."
It wasn't the wristband girl's fault she seemed flippant. I've been through this before: I don't ever want to be with Jon again. I know his other ex. She's psycho. Yet wristband girl sent me reeling. I have this irritating, irking feeling of resentment boiling up inside of me. Towards Jon.
It's not that firsts are inherently dangerous. They can be harmless. Except when they're not harmless, they're maddening. Maddening because, like it or not, they stick with you. Maddening because it's always so easy to slip back into first-mode, into whatever you had or were used to just because it's easy. It's there when you see that first person for an hour and suddenly want to be with them again even though an hour ago you felt nothing of the sort. It's there when you're in bed with someone new and suddenly want to cry because they're touching you the same way that first person used to do. Mostly maddening because even you think you've forgotten them, or at least that they've forgotten you, it turns out they're still right there waiting to haunt you.
But for all the cliche's haunts, there is something even eerier. Firsts undoubtedly inform our sexual and romantic lives. But we have technical, or objective, firsts, and then we have meaningful, or subjective, firsts. In some sense, by placing meaning on that first moment, we are exercising control over the very thing we end up feeling so powerless about. We're setting ourselves up.
I wasn't going to write about this. I was planning to write about something more lighthearted. Midterms give me a massive headache. I'd much rather gossip about all the weird hookups that went down this weekend. That's not an option. Neither is walking away from my first. It's a vicious cycle: firsts provide meaning, and then maybe regret, and either way our lives keep going.
Miriam Datskovsky is a Barnard College junior majoring in human rights and political science.
Sexplorations runs alternate Mondays.