part one: summer of love and
winter of self-hate

CW: explicit sexual content

In one of my favourite songs by psychedelic indie band, Tame Impala, the lead vocalist coos the lyrics: ‘the less I know the better’ over funky guitar and airy keyboards. It’s not just the amazing sound that attracts me to the song, but also the truth I feel in those lyrics. Little did I know how ironic that phrase would be to me in just a few months time.

After coming out of a two-year relationship unscathed, I easily slid into the period of my life I think of as my ‘summer of love’. I was eager to have a good time by means of casual sexual encounters and exclusively putting myself first. That song was my anthem in my summer of love. I was single and having a great time travelling around Europe taking as many lovers as I wanted.

I always grew up thinking a respectable girl had to limit her sexual partners to a modest number. This concept was taught to me through mass media in the forms of pre-teen books, movies and songs. If I wanted to keep a guy interested, I had to keep my body from him until we were serious. I kept this concept with me until the first time I had a one-night stand.

The epiphany I reached with that first one-night stand was that I realised didn’t want to get serious with this person. I just wanted to have sex with this person— whom I just met. I had control over the situation. I shouldn’t feel ashamed of that. This was an extremely liberating feeling and I wanted to feel it again and again.

Once I started traveling around Europe in the summer, I was hooked on the one-night stand rush. I felt my sexiest and most confident knowing I could walk into a bar and leave with a guy. I felt I had every guy wrapped around my finger and I was calling the shots, which didn’t happen when I would get ghosted over and over by guys back home that I showed interest in a serious relationship with.

Whether it was sleeping with two guys both named Lucas in a single weekend at the beach or having sex on top of a Cliffside on a Vespa, you could say I was having a bit of a sexual awakening. It translated into me saying yes to more adventures and leaving my fear of failing behind. After all, things aren’t scary when you don’t know they’re coming—the less I know the better because that means I can enjoy the moment.

Now those ghosts back at home were showing interest in me through social media likes and messages. I had the power back. My found confidence was electric. I felt the most alive I ever had been. Who knew that life could be this stimulating when you let go of inhibitions and live in the moment? This epiphany for my perfection and anxiety-driven state of mind was thrilling.

Unfortunately the summer doesn’t last forever and during my last weeks abroad I had a very sobering wake up call. The initial symptom was just distinct enough for me to Google on my phone while I was in a public bathroom. After a few terrifying scrolls on Web MD I hopped on a creaky train to a neighbouring town through the mountains. After a steep climb to town, I found the hospital. Tears streamed down the sides of my face under my dark shaded glasses. I didn’t want to enter the hospital. I didn’t want to know what was wrong.

About 45 minutes later in a maternity ward of a run down hospital in a beach town, with three brow-furrowed medical professionals crouched around my eagle spread legs, I was having a panic attack in an examination room over a small itchy bump I discovered on my labia. The door was open to the hall. The medical professionals were not wearing masks nor did I have a drape over my legs. We didn’t speak the same language so I had to ask my questions through Google translate on the computer. This was the most embarrassing experience of my life.

The next couple days I spent sobbing while my roommates were out. I fearfully called my mom crying to tell her what happened. It helped to tell someone what was going on, but I knew she was disappointed in the choices I made. She told me that she was upset and she felt she had failed  to teach me the things to protect myself, which made me feel even stupider for the decisions I made. I had used condoms the whole summer—that is except for one time in the heat of the moment. Questions filled my head. Was it from that time? Or could it have been any of the others? Why did this happen to me when all my friends act the same way? Was I being punished for something?

I can’t contact those guys asking these questions. I barely knew them. Yet I trusted them to be honest with their status. I can’t ask them if they have an STD because then they will think that I’m a dirty slut. I was afraid of blame and truth. I felt like my world was ending. Panic and urgency flooded through my body, but I had no idea what to do. I was far from home and the ones I loved; so I had to immediately suppress the surge of emotions I felt and shut down. I ended my time abroad on a somber note after an incredible summer. It was time to face reality.

story continued in part two: life goes on and it’s not always great