Retroactive Interference

So Retro

August 8th, 2014

Compared to my sex life at age twenty-four, Lena Dunham’s Girls is an afterschool special. Gratuitous sex? Yes ma’am! Cautionary tale? Not quite. The summer after my first year in grad school (2009), I had this great weight upon my shoulders, and I ain’t talkin’ ‘bout my ginormous tatas. Rather, I wasn’t getting fucked enough and my scarce sex life revolved around the academic calendar instead of whimsy and desire. I set out on a mission to rectify this grave injustice. My missionary work, only it was more like doggystyle. Like, I got that there were more substantive atrocities in the world, but I was a cute girl not getting fucked in a city full of peen. And that seemed tragic. For me and the guys deprived. I felt like a body wasted.

I declared, “I will get fucked at least once a week for the rest of the summer.” An appreciable feat in the days pre-Tinder—one that would entail my leaving my apartment to chase tail. Because the only tail in my apartment was my cat’s. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that sluts aren’t ambitious! I am happy to report in my slut alumni monthly that I fulfilled my cock quota for the fourth quarter of the fiscal year. Because I was a cute young thang. And guys are easy sleazy. Which is why we get along so swimmingly. I didn’t even have to have a lot of gross sex with strangers. Mostly gross sex with partners from the past and my most dissolute friends—people to whom I have some tenuous connection. Once you’ve lived in the city long enough, you acquire a phone full of viable numbers and a vag full of functional peen.

Except at the end of the summer, counting my cocks as Scrooge McDuck fondles his coins, I realized I wasn’t laughing my way to the sperm bank, redeeming my drink tickets for one giant Chuck E. Cheese plush animal. I was not as wealthy as I had estimated. In fact, I was woefully unsatisfied. How could this be? Had I calculated incorrectly? In inches instead of centimeters? I am a frigid bitch who operates mathematically on sex, reduces it to a science. My formula had been simple: Each experience was worth one solid weak of wanking. And would fade thereafter. Wank. Wane. Once a week was all I needed to string me along. So I thought. After the fact, I wasn’t dissatisfied with each individual experience, but the string of them.

makin' it rain

makin’ it rain

RETROACTIVE INTERFERENCE: Psych jargon for a wank is only as good as your last fuck. Because once you move on to the next one, it supplants the original in your vagina’s eye. Which is all well and good when good fucks cancel out bad ones. Erase them. A nice Jewish girl never accepts a gift she can’t return!

Ross: You actually exchanged it.

Rachel: Well, isn’t it better that I exchanged it for something that I enjoy and I can get a lot of use out of?

Ross: What did you get?

Rachel: Credit.

—Friends, The One With Chandler In A Box

Fast forward to the year 2014. Specifically, my summer of singletude. Cognitive interference is partially to blame for my violent aversion to touching other peen. I mean, any peen at all (file under: psych major phobias). Letting the mediocre inside me might push him out, erase what little muscle memory I have left. When I am my most relaxed and daydreamy, I can still get delightfully drippy and slip inside myself. Like he is the key to accessing a place I forget exists, the door is slightly ajar with the breeze billowing in.

Anyway, every time I’m embarrassed by something I wank to, I remind myself of Vermont. Which is supposed to be of comfort. Like, you are a loser, but once upon a time you sucked way harder. It gets much, much worse. Inescapable. All-encompassing. You know not sexual desperation until you’ve lived in the wilderness for a year. That is my Dan Savage-style campaign: It is better. In New York at least there are endless opportunities for sexual disappointment, revulsion, and humiliation. Which is mildly less depressing (more empowering!?) than no sex at all? The more punctuation marks I use, the more I can convince myself!!!


Cognitive Clutter

 August 8th, 2014

He’s such an abstraction at this point, like some OCD thought running through my brain, over and over. A broken feedback loop that continues to fire, cluttering my mind.

The rational part of my brain realizes once he’s out of my body, he will be out of my mind. Unlike Anders, The Minnesotan, he didn’t damage me psychologically, chip away at my self-esteem. He made me question his sincerity and stability, not my self-worth.

August 15th, 2014

Febos: [Y]ou have to put it all in because you’re writing your way into the ending of your own story. Even if you think you know what the story is, you don’t until you write it. If you start leaving things out you could leave out vital organs and not know it.

Rumpus: One of the things Nick Flynn said, actually on stage here, was, “You have to get it out and get it on paper before you can know if you need it. Wrestling with it in your brain is not useful.”

Febos: I never think about anything in my brain. I think in very small repetitive circles inside my own brain. That’s why I’m a writer. It’s the only way I get any sort of conclusion or understanding about anything.

—Sari Botton, Conversations With Writers Braver Than Me #15: Melissa Febos

I used to craft my narrative while striding down the street. As my hair wafted in the wind, my thoughts seeped out of my battered brain and littered the speckled sidewalks. By the time words were committed to paper, my consciousness was aerated, arranged—infused with sense and syntax. Collected and composed, I arrived at home unburdened. The recording process was secondary to the writing itself; thoughts oozed through my fingertips via osmosis. Now that I am crippled, I must actively pry disjointed thoughts from my riddled brain, dislodging my USB port and uploading the corrupted files to an external storage device. Read-only at this point, the files cannot be rewritten. Walking used to be my outlet, and now I am literally plugged into an outlet.

Besides no longer being able to walk it off, over the past 12 weeks I’ve been overtaxed with an oppressive workload and haven’t had time to process anything else. Within that time span, I’ve taken a year’s worth of intro bio classes, submitted 25 med school applications, begun a volunteer job, run from doctor to doctor (5 so far!), received devastating medical news, begun a physical therapy regimen, and rearranged the next semester of my life. Jesus Fucking Christ, who the hell have I become? A nightmare overscheduled New Yorker. In fact, I wrote 90% of these last three posts on an airplane to LA—where I was for literally a day and a half for my cousin’s wedding—the weekend before my final. Oy vey.

My brain appears to be a broken feedback loop because there is never time enough for thoughts to accumulate into full sentences providing negative feedback. So the individual words keep on being fired into the synapse and reuptaken (that should totally be a verb) before the next is released. They don’t linger long enough to connect. So I’ve felt scattered, fragmented, and frenzied. But fear not: now I have 5 months to complete thoughts and maybe even some reading and writing, and to replace an integral part of my body. Siggh.

Don’t ever let anyone tell you that sluts aren’t ambitious!


She saw her apartment as he must see it—a bit of local color that would fade almost instantly into a tumble of adventures that everyone had on first coming to New York. It jarred Sasha to think of herself as a glint in the hazy memories that Alex would struggle to organize a year or two from now: Where was that place with the bathtub? Who was that girl?

—Jennifer Egan, A Visit from the Goon Squad

Wanna hear something fucked up and vaguely disorienting? I was looking for something on my computer and came across a radio interview with Andrew that I had never listened to before. Detached from his face and physical presence, I didn’t even remotely recognize his voice. I wonder if I could pass him by on the street without processing who he is or noticing him at all. How quickly sex partners become strangers. Kind of nauseating to think about. Let’s hope I could still identify his pretty penis in a line-up. Otherwise my life is all fail.

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