“I’m only nineteen but my mind is older…”
– Lin-Manuel Miranda, “My Shot”
Nineteen was a pivotal age for me – in a lot of ways, vastly more significant then eighteen. Among other milestones, it’s the year I started university, met my best friend, came out as bisexual and non-monogamous, went to my first BiCon, experienced my first group sex, and realised kink was A Thing and not just me being a freak.
Last night, at a play party, I chatted with a young woman who is currently nineteen. She is also so incredibly brave, smart, self-aware, sensible and fearless that I am a little in awe of her. This started me thinking about what I wish I’d known at that age that I know now, in the hopes that it might help some other young person who stumbles across this site and is as lost and confused as teenage Amy was.
So, some notes to my younger self…
Everything you’re experiencing now is real. Everything will also change. Both of these things are okay.
I know you think this man is the love of your life, and right now that might be true. What you don’t know yet is that there is so much more love still waiting out there in the world for you; love vastly more rich and complex and beautiful than you can even imagine right now. What you want right now is real and valid. What you want in ten years will be different, I promise – and that will be real and valid too.
Your value is not in your innocence.
There are men out there who will trip over themselves to get a piece of you before too many people have touched you. You’re attractive, you’re very young, you’re somewhat naive and when they look at you, they see a certain wide-eyed innocence that they can’t resist. Run from these men. They will use you up and then spit you out when they’ve had all your “first times.” (They lack imagination and don’t see that there is a whole lifetime of exploration to do!) They’ll call you a whore the moment you act less than virginal. They want innocent little girls because they can’t handle a fully grown woman who knows her worth well enough to demand that they treat her like a goddamn human being and not a trophy.
Equally, your value is not in your sexual availability.
You will get invited to a lot of exciting parties. You may then stop getting invited when you don’t fuck the host or their friends. People will hit on you constantly. You will go on some dates with some guys you really, really like… and then never hear from them again if they reach for the condom on the first night and you say, “no, I want to move a little more slowly.” You should say yes to the invitations you wholeheartedly WANT to say yes to, and no to the rest. The people who are worth your time, energy and affection will value you just the same. Access to your body does not need to be your ticket to acceptance and community.
Sex is morally neutral.
You’re not better than “other girls” if you wait a while before having sex with someone. You’re not a prude, frigid or broken either! And you’re not cooler than “other girls” if you have a lot of casual sex. You’re not a whore, damaged goods or broken either! The only sex you should be having is the sex you want to have, with partners who want to have it too. Whether this is a kinky orgy with twenty strangers every night of the week, or only with your spouse once you’re married, or anything in between. I promise it’s okay and it says nothing either way about your morals or character.
Love is abundance, not sacrifice. Love should not hurt.
Right now, you may believe that the more it hurts, the more you love the person. Remember that night your new boyfriend stood you up and you came home, makeup all cried away, to tell your fiancé, “I know I really love him because of how much this hurts?” Love, generally, shouldn’t hurt. Of course it hurts when you argue, if something goes wrong, and that’s normal. But every day shouldn’t be pain and self sacrifice. Love should bring you vastly more joy than hurt. Love should expand your world, not shrink it. And speaking of which…
Nobody is worth changing yourself for.
It’s a truism that the only constant in life is change. You will change, your partners will change, and relationships do change us in profound ways. But any changes you make should be on YOUR terms and because YOU want to make them. No-one who loves you will demand you change. Someone who values you will not make you contort yourself into a little box you don’t fit in. No-one who deserves you will belittle you or put you down for all the wondrous little things that make you you.
You have a right to walk away.
If someone treats you badly, you can leave. If someone makes you cry at least as much as much as they make you smile, you can put an end to it. When someone fucks with your head, you can choose to stop letting them in. If someone abuses you, you have the right – and you owe it to yourself – to tell them to take a running jump off a cliff and get the fuck out of there. You don’t need anyone’s permission to protect yourself from abuse and mistreatment.
Your body is normal.
If you come from clitoral stimulation only but penetration does nothing for you, you’re normal. If you love being fucked but oral sex doesn’t get you off, you’re normal. If you’re multi orgasmic you’re normal. If you’re anorgasmic, you’re normal (though, if you WANT to change this, there are resources!) If you squirt, you’re normal. If you don’t, you’re normal. Whatever you like and however your body works, it’s okay, I promise – meet yourself where you’re at, give yourself permission to experience ecstasy however it works for you, and accept that bodies, just like everything else, change. Your pleasure may look very different in ten years – and you’ll be normal then too!
And some bonus tips to finish:
- Life is too short to buy shitty vibrators from Ann Summers.
- The word ‘no’ is both a complete sentence and your best friend.
- Get some goddamn lube. (Water based and body safe, please and thank you!)
- Ask the cute girl out.
- If someone kink-shames or body-shames you, DTMFA.
- Getting older is nothing to be afraid of. The power and strength you will come into will blow your mind.
If you enjoyed this piece or found it useful, please consider buying me a coffee to say thanks!