FIRST TIMES. Imogen Philips. The paradise Garden.

By the 15th April 2012, I was knickers, skirt and both legs over my head in love. It felt like that then, and now the wisened old prune me would perhaps re-label it ‘infatuation’ but it certainly was not.
The boy who took my virginity in the early hours of that beautiful spring day was, in my eyes, an absolute first prize. I felt as though I had won him, from a girlfriend he had when I first got to know him, and I treated him as I would a Fabergé egg, if it fell into my hands. I snuck, from my room, to my absent brother’s (sorry) where he was supposedly sleeping, in a carefully chosen t-shirt and knickers, and got into bed with him. The adrenaline running through my body was like hot treacle, and with almost every fibre of my being, or non-existent hair on my legs, I needed him, I needed to jump through what I saw as the final hoop to skip the queue and glide into the gardens of paradise.
And in a heart-wrenchingly vulnerable moment, my 1st prize did something wonderful, he told me, with his long lashes and curly hair looking down, that he loved me. ‘I love you Im’. Stars exploded, entire lorry-loads of heart-shaped confetti and glitter shot out of the sky all around me and I felt I had found a home, underneath this tall boy, who loved me. What I actually said in response was ‘I think I love you too’ – pretty cool and nonchalant of me no? But I didn’t have much time to be nonchalant because suddenly he was trying to get inside me and OH MOTHER TERESA THE PAIN. Ouch, ouch, ouchie Mcouchie the goddamn pain. We had to stop, but then couldn’t stop ourselves from starting again, and slowly but surely my virginity was tossed out the window like the condom we just used (s/o to Durex).
I put on a Bob Dylan album to try and bring back the memory of my first time as clearly as possible. I used my love of his music (actual knowledge of it very limited) at the time, to start conversations with the boy who I went on to fall in love with and lose my virginity to. But really, listening to You’re a Big Girl doesn’t make me see more clearly the duvet-tugs and sweat breaking on the back of his neck, it makes me think how far I have come to be the 20-year-old tofu guzzler I am now. For this boy, I grew out my fringe and shaved all the hair off my body in a weekly ritual before I saw him. Now, anyone just has to ask me to lift up my arm to know that normally there is a smattering of harmless hair there.
My first time taught me that I was a sexual being, and that I had a body that could give me and others’ pleasure. But it also taught me submission, and to stay quiet about a pain or a problem, so that the boy in the bed could get his pretty little moment at the end of the tumbling around. It is all the other times in between, the truly shit ones, the unwelcome ones and the delicious back-scratching ones too, that have taught me to be a woman, and to use that power however suits me. I don’t practice what I preach most of the time, and am guilty of letting boys come inside me even when I know that means a bleary-eyed trip to the student pharmacy later on, but listen, I’m a work in progress just like the Appleton Tower at Edinburgh, and who knows how long it’ll take to get that done.
The memory, now that I have taken it out to examine again, feels so tender that I almost can’t bring myself to comment on whether the sex was shit. Probably, but then again definitely not. My body was opened up like a flower to this 15-year-old boy, and he treated it with kindness and care. He went on to throw it around a bit, and toss that precious ball of love he had made for us away like a shit Pasante condom with no lube. But I will always attribute my sexual awakening to him, and to the fact that he looked not dissimilar to Michael Fassbender. He’s at Oxford now, and we aren’t in contact, but that doesn’t matter, because each of my petals he helped me to unfurl, are still unfurled, and I’m whole continents away from feeling as though any boy who I end up underneath, is more precious than I.


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