If it looks like a slut…

*Note: profanity and ‘I AM WOMAN HEAR ME ROOOAAAAAR’ ahead. 

I’m going to admit some things in this post that I haven’t said directly in the past, things I’ve hinted at but never officially ‘confirmed.’ But the things need to be admitted so that the rest of this story makes sense – and this story has been weighing on me for a little while now, so I’d rather admit things that maybe I would have wanted to keep quiet, in lieu of saying nothing at all.

Here goes: Last week I was slut-shamed by my therapist.

Quick background: I’ve been seeing this person for about three-and-a-half years, and he’s absolutely wonderful. He was the perfect person to get me through the end of one relationship into the beginning and end of another; he’s given me a new outlook on life that I never would have found on my own. I don’t see him that often anymore, save for a check-in every four-to-six months, but I usually cherish his advice and love the hour I get to chat with him about everything and nothing.

I realized just before the Savannah trip in November that I hadn’t seen him for nearly five months, and figured the end of the year would be a good chance to check-in again; my word, the last time I saw him no one was married and yoga teacher training was a distant dream. Originally, I assumed it would be a normal check-in, hi, how are you, how is your eating; but as life likes to do sometimes, there was a bit of a curveball instigated by the wedding last weekend, and it was extremely reassuring to know I’d be talking out some of my confusion with an old friend. I’m not going to go into too many details and I’m not going to give a play-by-play of the session, but here’s what happened: after discussing recent events in comparison to what’s happened to me in the past two years, my therapist turned to me and said this: “I think you’ve got the right attitude! Keep reminding yourself there is no reason to bring the past into the present. But LB, remember you shouldn’t jump into bed with guys so quickly. Make this one work for it a little bit, at least!”

On the surface, it doesn’t sound like much. Standard advice that’s beaten into all of us, right? Girls, don’t sleep with a guy right away, and don’t sleep with a lot of guys or you’ll be a slut and no one will want you. Self-respecting men don’t date sluts. Pretty simple, right?  Except it’s not simple at all. It’s actually a really fucking complicated scenario, and those scolding words are minimizing that.

I mean, let’s break it down now. I am a grown woman. I make the decisions about MY body, and it is MY choice who I do or do not sleep with, and when. It’s not anyone’s place, in particular my therapist’s place, to tell me what I choose to do and who I choose to do it with is wrong, or shameful. I’m so SICK of the notion that women need to use sex as a tool to keep men interested, like it’s currency, something we DEIGN to do, unless there’s something in it for us, like a piece of jewelry or the want of a man. Sex is a healthy and normal part of life and relationships, and I will not be told that the best way to make sure a guy stays interested is to hold out and leave us both with blue balls. Because GUESS WHAT: women enjoy having sex too. Mind-blowing. I know.

Slut-shaming runs so much deeper than merely calling someone a slut. I don’t care if someone wants to call me a slut. Don’t believe me? THEN GO FOR IT. You think your words hurt me? You think it’s anything I haven’t heard before? I’ve called myself worse things than you could ever call me. What’s weighing on me is not that my therapist actually called me a slut (because he didn’t), but the idea that he was encouraging me to use sex as a tool to get something (attention or desire), while simultaneously chastising me for having a healthy sex life as a single woman. News flash: I make no apologies for the decisions that I’ve made with regards to my body and I don’t regret a damn thing in my life, sexually or otherwise. And frankly, at the end of the day, if there is a guy that decides he’s no longer interested in me because we’ve had sex once, I don’t feel bad for me. I feel bad for him – how boring that you think sex is at its peak when you’re having it with someone new for the first time.

I’m going to step off my soapbox now and take a deep breath. I so rarely see my therapist anymore that it’s not worth it to make a huge stink with him – and honestly, I think he meant well; I know he wants the best for me, having watched me go through a lot of heartbreak in a short period of time. I know people see and hear and experience slut shaming to levels that are so far and away beyond mine. But I’m just sick of hearing these comments. I’m sick of it, especially as a 27-year-old single woman in New York City. I will not be shamed for the choices I’ve made because I stand by every single one of them. And always remember: neither should you.

My, My

There’s a power in the stillness of a steady yoga practice. There’s this awareness that builds, slowly but so quickly, when you force yourself to stop for a moment and breathe. When you sink slowly into yourself, breathing into long shapes, moving without thinking, yet consciously aware of how every fiber around you connects; there’s a power that can’t be replicated, yet carries into every piece of your daily life. Tuesday this week was the first time I’d gotten on my mat since Saturday, following the big weekend and its subsequent recovery period, and in those few days away from practice, somehow everything and nothing happened. At work on Tuesday, I couldn’t get my mind to focus. In that strange time between everything and nothing, anything else seemed uninteresting, and I could feel the slow slope of despondence start to creep back into my head, a familiar creep that is what you could call step one to my convincing myself I ‘don’t need’ to practice tonight, because really how much better is it going to make me feel anyway?

Okay. I’m going to cut the dreamy speak for a minute and just be real. The past few weeks have fucking sucked. There, I said it. My back is aggravated again from an old yoga injury, work has been crazy, I had a reality check about the things that matter most to me in life, and I can’t go into context here but let’s just say if I hear one more fucking person tell me “You never know what’s going to happen in a year!” or respond to my joking exhaustion related to weddings with “Don’t worry it’ll be your turn someday” I’m going to FUCKING LOSE IT. And actually, last night as I was sitting on my couch after everything and nothing, I did just that. I grabbed a pillow and screamed into it, just screamed, like a toddler having a tantrum. I cradled the pillow between my arms and my chest and dug my fingernails into my arms and just screamed until I lost everything, lost the breath in my lungs and the will to fight this battle that I was never going to win.

Once I was done screaming and I cleaned up the blood from where I managed to break skin on my arms, I sat and stared at my mat that I’d rolled out ambitiously when I got home from work like it was a cockroach in the middle of my living room. In all the screaming, I think I’d finally given up on something that I’ve held onto like a talisman for so many years now: hope. I just couldn’t put the energy into being a hopeful person any longer at that moment. I stared at the mat, gently calling me despite my resistance and sighed, eventually dragging my bloodied and hopeless self to lay for a minute against the cool material of my happy place, and let my carefully curated Yoga Pump Up playlist drift over the mini speaker. As I lay and breathed deeply, I started moving slightly, stretching my arms out, and up, and over, stretching my spine convex, concave. Finally I told myself to get up and stand in a Downward Dog, and then I could go back to wallowing alone on my couch, like always.

And then this song came on while I was stretching “just a little,” and I stopped. I listened for a minute while I took deep breaths in Down Dog, maybe the first real, deep, honest breaths that I’d taken in a long, long time. I let the lyrics run through me like shattered glass and like butter, and I closed my eyes and started moving with the slow beat of the song, forward to plank, rolling into a backbend, opening shoulders and hips and hamstrings and heart. It’s a song that I’ve listened to so many times before, but as I moved and stretched and listened, I realized that I don’t know what the song was about – like it’s written so you don’t know if she’s sighing about how love saved her or how it destroyed her life. The best conclusion I could come to is that it’s both: the words spoke to every end of the spectrum I’ve experienced: the melody played real, true love, and it played to a lost love that feels so long ago. It reminded me how your heart skips at the start of anything, new friends and new beginnings, and how hard it sinks when those things finally come down, pieces scattered like broken memories. As I listened to the song, really listened to it, I let my body move, in total focus, deep breaths, doing what felt right, up to a headstand, down to a split; the whole time the song played behind me, or maybe around me, or maybe through me, and when I finally stopped, I could feel the stirrings of hope come back to me, and I knew everything was going to be okay.

There’s a power to a steady yoga practice. There’s this awareness that builds, slowly but so quickly, when you force yourself to stop for a moment and breathe. There’s a power that can’t be replicated, when you let yourself surrender for just a minute, and become aware of the present moment, and what’s happening right then. Because it’s easy to dwell on the What the Fucks and the Why Mes and the endless, endless parade of shit that storms on all aspects of life over time. It’s easy to live in the past, and try to fix something that can’t be fixed. It’s not easy to look forward all the time. But for me, that night, a few minutes in Down Dog is a way to start looking in a different direction, at least.