Liz Lazzara graduated from the University of Rochester with Honors in Creative Writing and Distinction in English. She works as a contributing writer for Ravishly and The Liberty Project, among others. She is currently working on her first novel, and can be reached @LizLazzara on Twitter, or LizLazzara.com.
When I was a young A-cup, I did everything I could to enhance my bust. I bought low-cut shirts and incredibly padded push-up bras. All of my clothes were fitted — read: tight. Jeans may as well have been painted on. I bought a button up that could only be buttoned to below my bust, like an added bustier. I was trying so hard to attract attention, that I didn’t think much about what I liked, what I wanted to wear.
This ceased for a time after I ‘landed’ my first boyfriend, my first love syndrome. For two and a half years, I took a break from trying so damn hard. I went so far as to make a uniform of hoodies and jeans, of my strangest ‘man repeller’ outfits, of tank tops and shorts, and IDon’tGiveAFuck.
Until that relationship ended.
It was my decision, and much to do with sex — namely, that he didn’t seem to want to have any. I had my own place, but he shared an on-campus apartment with four roommates. That was where we stayed: in a two-bedroom place with a literal roommate, and a guy who slept on the couch. Every time I showered there, I’d walk out of the bathroom with a towel around my body and a towel on my head almost directly into the living where two or more guys would be lounging around, watching TV or playing Halo 3. I learned to bring my change of clothes into the bathroom with me to avoid running into The Roommate just as I was about to undress. It was less than ideal, but we never chose to spend more time at my place — or rather, he didn’t want to.
The last day we were together, I was changing clothes to go for a run, and he kept his eyes fixed firmly on his monitor instead of the body of his soon-to-be ex girlfriend, who he would never have sex with again.
And so the cycle started again, but with a twist: I still rocked the sweatshirts and jeans to class, but come party time my inner slut was given time to shine.
I gave her free reign under the liberation of alcohol. I had my one and only one-night-stand while wearing a short white velvet dress and angel wings after about five large screwdrivers. I played a good deal of beer pong and followed some guy around a party — to be fair, I didn’t realize this is what I was doing. In retrospect, it must have been completely obvious, but he did make out with me on a few occasions, so it must have been more cute than obnoxious. I wore a lot of sheer white shirts with black bras underneath. I wore a lot of short shorts. I reinstated my push-up bras.
And I was into it, even stayed in this frame of mind and dress after I snagged first a quasi-boyfriend, and then made it official after about six months. Even then, I made sure to keep the eyes on me. If they stayed there, if it was clear that I could fuck almost any guy at almost any time, this new boyfriend would see and stay. It helped that I was out of his league — which I don’t say to be mean; at the time, I cherished our relationship, co-dependent and emotionally abusive thing that it was — but (without vanity), he got kind of lucky.
That was probably an unconscious choice. Pick someone inexperienced, slightly odd looking, and emotionally broken, and he should stick like Velcro. Which he did, until rrrrrrip! — my obsession with being wanted, being cherish, being needed by a man led to me chasing one on a two week trip home.
He was an artist with thick hair, a mustache, and a collarbone tattoo. At that time in my life, that was Kryptonite. The first time I saw him tagged in a Facebook picture with my friend Jameson, I thought he was attractive. Some months later, I friended him, and fell in love with his drawings. The first night we met, we went swimming in a lake at night in our underwear. When I jumped off the wooden dock and into the lake, the clasp on the front of my bra broke irrevocably and I wore his clothes home.
It was a disaster waiting to happen.
But what a sweet disaster it was. Yes, I got drunk and kissed him in a tent in my side yard. Yes, we continued to make out throughout the night, sleeping only a few precious hours on the ground. Yes, he told me he wanted to sleep with me more than anything. But we held hands on a midnight walk to Dunkin Donuts; I was barefoot, and he offered me his shoes. While the other two sleep-over guys snored next to him, I traced the lines of his tattoo (Be strong, I love you) which he had gotten while his father was dying, or just after. It was romantic and ethereal, fantastic in the true sense of the word:
— “imaginative or fanciful; remote from reality”
When I had left my boyfriend in New York, I was having a panic attack in our parking lot. I needed him to come to me, put his arms around me and kiss the side of my head as he used to, until the shaking stopped. Instead, I wheezed and cried and couldn’t catch my breath, but he told me be quiet, the neighbors will hear!
Technically, we broke up.
I was indecisive about telling him while laughing with my girlfriends over tomato soup, our hangover cure, but I couldn’t stop myself from giving him what he was owed — the truth. That, however, wasn’t the problem. He didn’t care that I had kissed another guy or why I had done it. He forgave me instantly, or so he said; I believe he merely didn’t want to lose me, his little trophy girl.
And technically, we broke up, technically he lost me, but we continued to sleep together on and off for a year. I cheated on two boyfriends with him, one who became my husband.
There’s a term for that I believe: slut.
A slut is “a woman who has many casual sexual partners.” A slut is “a woman with low standards of cleanliness.” A slut is “an immoral or dissolute woman; a prostitute.” A slut is “an individual who is considered to have loose sexual morals or who is sexually promiscuous.” A slut is “a woman of a low or loose character; a bold or impudent girl; a hussy, jade.”
I had three casual sexual partners in the course of six months, sometimes overlapping them, always looping back to them. I certainly preferred dry shampoo to a shower, but that was because my bathroom was freezing. I cheated — an immoral, dissolute act that went against everything I had ever believed. I was loose with my sexual morality. I felt low in my character.
But I would never say I was a slut.
I was 23 and confused. I did things that were against my morals, that were wrong by most standards, but I was trying my best to be happy, and didn’t know how. I never aimed to hurt anyone — in fact, I lied and concealed truths so as to minimize pain felt by anyone but myself. If there was any mistake I made, it was following the advice of a twice-broken heart — believe me, they’re unreliable.
It wasn’t until I abandoned all that, though, that I put away the clothes I used to put myself on sexual display. That came when I left my mistakes, my tumult of perplexity, in the past and committed fully to the man who is now my husband. I went through everything I owned and everything that reminded me of that girl I once was went into trash bags — not because the clothes didn’t flatter me, or that I didn’t feel confident in them, but that they made me physically uncomfortable.
Perhaps that was the anxiety diagnosis talking, but I believe not because I haven’t worn those clothes or anything like them since.Instead, I embraced menswear (I’m wearing a sweater of my husband’s now). I embraced basics. I embraced clothes that made me feel confident, cool, and effortlessly woman-like without feeling like a bikini babe posing beside a car.
Now, I put together outfits that feel like myself instead of a highlighter for my body. My pants may still be tight, but that’s my choice. I may wear scoopnecks that hint at cleavage, but I chose them because they make me feel good. I wear heels because I love being six feet tall and thin and strutting around like I’m a contestant on ANTM. And sometimes, I wear sportsbras to work, because I want a long slim line instead of accenting my breasts. That’s me.
I’m also the girl who sexts her husband from the office, who takes masturbation breaks, who watches and enjoys porn, and who has slept with five men — who will only ever sleep with five men.
If what I wear now or what I wore at 23 makes me a slut, fine. If my enjoyment of sex, the partners I’ve had, and when I had them makes me a slut, I’ll take it. Because I’ve had a few casual sex partners. I’ve cheated multiple times. I’m certainly bold and impudent, and think showering is a waste of valuable morning time. So call me a slut, and I’ll take that scarlet S and craft an amazing outfit out of it.
But I won’t put myself on display anymore for the attention of men, plural. If I’m on display, it’s for two people: myself, and my husband.
That’s all I care about.
And if the rest makes me a slut? Fantastic.