What does the pandemic mean for those who want to be intimate with one another? How does the concept of social distancing allow (or disallow, perhaps) the notion of two bodies (or more, perhaps *wink wink*) intermingling? I am not an academic researcher on sexual health and identity, so I don’t know, really. However, what I can offer you is a tale of my own experiences.
I have many facets to my identity- Woman. Queer. Mental Health Advocate. Feminist. Survivor. Support System. The list goes on. Now, how were each of these facets affected during the pandemic in relation to intimacy? How did they all come together to learn how to adjust with the greatest boyfriend in the world? Here’s my attempt at an answer:
Obsessions and Handwashing
As a person suffering from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, there are many stereotypes that I see on a daily basis and have to refute. However, there are also several stereotypes which in my case remain true; the most significant one being hand-washing. So, when the pandemic hit and we were all encouraged to wash our hands, which I might add I was already doing about 25 times a day, my obsessions magnified and so did the rabbit hole I fell into. “Why are your hands bleeding, babe?” asked Perfect Boyfriend. “It’s just the sanitizer, haha, I think I overdid it today.” What Perfect Boyfriend did not realize was that his girlfriend had the word “GERMSSSS!!!!” screaming in her head about 100 times a day. Like a broken tape recorder, if you will. So when I tried to be as innocently intimate as wanting to hold hands with Perfect Boyfriend (who will be referred as PB throughout), the pandemic stung on my fingertips and smirked an evil smirk so as to draw me away from my lover. Me, being the headstrong person that I am, immediately called my therapist and practiced Cognitive Behavioral Therapy until I could safely say to Corona – not today, Satan.
Sexy Times Galore
Then came being locked in the house with PB for what felt like an eternity. Don’t get me wrong, it was beautiful at first. We were having sex 12-13 times a day. I did not know that it was physically possible for two individuals to orgasm that much. As someone who just cured herself of her vaginismus, heterosexual penetrative sex was a domain that remained untouched for the longest time; so of course I had to go nuts because anything worth doing is worth overdoing. However, as a queer woman, I started thinking about vaginas. Ah, the vagina. The Holy Grail. I missed vaginas- I still do. I started having a decreased desire to partake in Straight Sex with my boyfriend. I love penises, but man, I missed the vagina. Part of me started feeling guilty, my mind racing with all sorts of questions. Am I a bad person for wanting to have sex with someone with a vagina? Is the stereotype of bisexual people being promiscuous, true? Have I turned into a f*ckboi?
The questions remained unanswered for the longest time until one day, my PB asked me for a threesome with another woman. “You’re thinking about vaginas, too?” I asked hopefully. “I mean, don’t get me wrong…” replied PB. “I love your vagina. It’s my favorite vagina in the history of vaginas. I just sometimes get curious about the other ones out there, y’know?” “HOLY SHIT, ME TOO!!!” I screamed. Did we end up having the threesome, though? Nope. We decided that we weren’t entirely comfortable with the idea. However, did knowing that my Perfect Boyfriend was as human as I am a comforting thought? Absolutely. I wasn’t a “slut”, I wasn’t cheating, I wasn’t a bad person; I was just human.
And So It Goes…
Soon thereafter, my Perfect Boyfriend turned into Mr. Cranky. As all good things come to an end, so did our amazing sex life. We stopped the sex, the touching, the cuddling (little spoon FTW), the hand holding, and even the little pecks we used to give each other first thing in the morning, hoping to God that the other wouldn’t pick up on morning breath. We just stopped. All we did was bicker. I don’t blame us, we were living on top of each other’s heads. I thought that we would get past it, but Corona being a little b*tch, then decided to play a joke on me. My best friend, my father, my everything – died.
I could not be intimate with anyone after my father died. Even in its purest sense, like the intimacy a mother shares with her daughter, I could not engage. I was so angry. I was livid. How could it happen? How could my dad be gone? Why me? I tried everything to numb the pain when I decided then that therapy would be too healthy a route for me. I did the drinking, the marijuana, the popping of benzodiazepines. Nothing helped. What was next on my list of vices to try? Sex, of course. PB and I had a long conversation and decided that we would try to begin having sex again, only if I was comfortable with it. We tried, we tried a lot. Various positions, devices, roleplay, hours of foreplay- but nothing. I was too angry. I was too guilty. What kind of person would I be if I allowed myself to feel pleasure even for a second after the light of my life had just said goodbye forever?
On The Road To Recovery
I worked on it in therapy for months, even received some in-patient care at a mental health hospital for 20 days. I believe that the best way of being able to explain my time at a mental health facility is by showing you a piece I wrote when I was in there; clearly not having the best day:
“I wish inpatient care was as glamorous as Angelina Jolie portrayed it. I wish my sadness and self pity was Lana Del Rey-esque, with angst I could turn into poetry. I wish I had wonderful, deep, dark, thoughtful quotes to pull out of myself about this whole experience. But I don’t. All I have right now is a sickness while I lie on a hospital bed as the nurse checks my vitals. I count pills for fun and find fleeting moments of joy in the gifts that the wonderful people in my life send me. I have three square meals a day, carefully placed in the tiffin carriers they distribute much before meal time. I smile at the head nurse, hoping that today, maybe she’ll give me an extra cigarette I can enjoy in my daily ritual of secret smoking underneath the building shade.
I take glamorous shots of the trees in the garden, during the walks I go to mandatorily supervised by my mother, in the glaring sunshine that I oh so detest. Some days I ramble on about my campus days to the doctor. Some days I just stay in my little nook, watching soap cutting videos on instagram, just to pass the time. I called my brother and asked him to show me the dogs, the ones I missed so much. I think of how my father would have responded to me being in this situation. Would he have been proud of how I’m handling things? Would I be in this condition at all if he were still around?
I sit with my grief as a myriad of emotions swallow me whole. Sometimes it makes me numb. Sometimes it just makes me crazy. And as Susanna Kaysen once said, crazy isn’t being broken or swallowing a dark secret; it’s you or me amplified. And as I amplify, the prick of an injection stings on my skin as the anti-crazy drugs slowly, but eventually, put me to sleep.
So, what’s your diagnonsense?”
Have I completely shred the grief off me? No. Not even close. The loss of my father is something I will carry within me for the rest of my life. However, after a lot of therapy sessions with my wonderful Dr. Geetika (name changed), I learned that there is no reason to hold onto guilt. My father wouldn’t have wanted me to stay stuck in reverse for the rest of my life, and I’ve accepted that. The key to moving forward, Dr. Geetika says, is to hold onto good times, and to accept the pain; to experience it in its entirety. To not fight it. To let it do its thing, as it comes and goes. So, on good days, my PB and I enjoy some beautiful lovemaking, and I am happy to report that I can orgasm again. On bad days, I lie in bed with my eyes covered and let the pain pass, as it always eventually does. I’m just glad that my PB was beside me, every step of the way.