I was 14 years old the day that I stood up in church and announced I was going to be a nun. I swore to dedicate my mind and body to Diosito. I spent every minute outside of school at my parish. I knew all the adults in my life were relieved. My wild streak didn’t lead me to boys; it led me straight to Jesús’s arms. Hallelujah?! Well, not for long.
The summer I turned 16 was the summer that puberty hit me like a runaway train. My body didn’t feel like my body anymore. It’s as if I had been a green mango all my life and suddenly I was ripening, there were all these colors growing inside of me. The colors itched, and I knew the only thing that could make that itch stop was a boy. I needed to kiss a boy. I didn’t care which one.
When my first boyfriend confessed his feelings to me, we were in his home. His parents were at work and so were mine. He kissed me, and I felt so many things that I wanted to cry. Everything tingled, and I teleported to heaven and back. Then boom, it hit me. Heaven. Diosito! God was watching me. I was mortified when I walked home. I had let a boy put his tongue in my mouth and his hand on my breast, and I liked it. Did this mean I was going to hell?
As the months went by and I fell in love with the boy more than I was in love with my God, all the adults at church staged interventions. I was being una loca. I needed prayer, holy water, rosaries, confessions, retreats. One of my youth leaders showed me a film of a statue of La Virgencita that bled when people sinned. I was traumatized. At home, my parents never spoke of sex. It was implied that I was expected to be a virgin until I married or died. I wasn’t even allowed to go over to my girlfriends’ houses, so how could they ever give me permission to date. I did the only logical thing a good Latina girl could do: I snuck around.
I was 18 when my boyfriend began climbing through my bedroom window almost nightly. We would have sex on my twin mattress, and I don’t know who I was more afraid of, God or my dad. Sometimes the crucifix above my bed would catch my eye, and I could swear I saw Jesús shaking his head. There were mornings I couldn’t look at Papi because I was scared he had heard my bed squeak over the Missy Elliot CD I had played full volume all night. Mami would occasionally lecture my sisters and me about not giving men what they want and being someone that’s hard to get. I knew that if she found I had been letting someone have all of me she would be mortified.
I was 33 years old when I sat across the room from my mother and told her that I had been pregnant but wasn’t anymore. I explained that I had a miscarriage and that I was fine, I just needed her to know. She looked at me, hesitated for a second and then asked, “Do you know even know who the father is?” I answered, “Of course I do” and left the room. For a second, I regressed to who I was when I first began discovering my body, and its hunger. I spent years filled with guilt and shame. I stayed with my first boyfriend for 10 years too long because I felt I had to. He was my first and somehow for me that translated into him owning me.
When I entered my late twenties, I discovered my wild years. I finally had new sexual partners, and I truly experienced the joy of two people surrendering to each other. I was una suelta, and I didn’t care. I had love affair after love affair, amazing sex, and awful sex. I forgot about God and my Catholic guilt. I didn’t come home for days, and when I did, I didn’t apologize. Every now and then, my parents would flash through my thoughts, and I shrugged them off. I reminded myself that I was conceived when they were just dating. Papi had left a family back home, and once Mami found out I was already born, so she stayed with him anyway. I am not my saintly mother, and that is perfectly fine. I am someone who loves discovering a new body, the thrill of a first night spent with someone new, the infinite possibilities of two people having a good time while naked. I have fought hard for this sexual freedom. I have had to unlearn my parent’s religion and culture. I have put away the belief that women cannot be good and be sexual beings.
I return to the day I told my mother of my pregnancy and miscarriage. She asked if I knew who the father was, but I think what she really meant to say was, “I don’t understand your life but are you OK?” Sometimes I jokingly ask her if she regrets not having more lovers. There are days she tells me I am being a malcriada and shuts me up, but I live for the times that she hesitates. I lean in, hoping to get a yes that has yet to arrive. It’s fine. I have liberated my body from shame enough for her generation, mine, and the next to come.