This column is an ongoing experimental diary series exploring the life of a fictional teen Vietnamese girl, Mai.
3 August 2005
I’ve been thinking a lot about Daniel and Chloe. He doesn’t talk about any of it much, but ever since he told me about her, I’ve felt both closer to him and more distant from him than I ever have before. I feel jealous of her, and then I feel bad for feeling jealous. I wonder if he compares me to her. I wonder if he wishes it was her instead of me. I feel like a bitch, a horrible person. She’s dead. I shouldn’t think any of this.
In a few days it’s going to be our three-month anniversary, which is pretty crazy to think about, that it’s been that long already. But sometimes I am worried that he will get sick of me, or find someone he likes better. I’m worried he thinks I’m bad at the stuff that we have done, and that he might start getting annoyed that we haven’t gone all the way yet.
And I feel bad for all of it, because he is so sweet to me, and he’s also so sad, and I don’t want to make it worse. No one told me love was this hard.
It’s been really weird being lab partners with Soph in chem. She’s still not talking to me, so we only discuss the work we have to do, and otherwise she just looks at me with this totally blank face and pretends I’m not there. I think about all the fun times we used to have and it makes me feel really sad. It’s hard because she won’t even tell me what’s wrong, so I can’t fix it.
7 August 2005
Yesterday was our three-month anniversary. Daniel wanted to see a movie but there was nothing on that we could agree on, so instead we just walked around the shops for a while, and he bought me a really cute keyring in the shape of a love heart. Super cheesy, but it was sweet and now whenever I look at my keys I think of him.
I had told my mum I was at Nina’s for the day, but in the evening we had plans to go to dinner for Bà’s birthday, so I had to be back for that. We did go back to his house for a bit and made out for so long on his bed that I felt like my mouth was on fire, but the same thing happened that always happens, with the pain, and I cried and he didn’t say much, just sat there with me and patted me on the back and told me he loved me and that everything would be ok. He told me he really wants to have sex with me, and that he thinks we’re ready, and that made me feel a bit worse, even though I knew he didn’t mean for it to. I wish I was ready, but if it’s this painful now, and we haven’t even done much yet, then I don’t know if I’ll ever be ready to properly have sex.
The dinner was ok. We went to a Vietnamese place that Bà really likes, and some of my cousins came too, and it was nice to chat to them. I always miss Linh at those times, though. I know Bà misses her too, and I gave her a little present that Linh gave to me to give her, and she was so happy she nearly cried. But we can’t talk about it much when my parents are around, because things just get a bit awkward. And Bà hasn’t seen her for a long time either, because she only goes where my parents go, and they never go to Pendle Hill, or anywhere where she might be. I wish Bà could meet Ella and see what a good mum Linh is. I know it would make her so happy.
I wonder what has to change for my family to be together again.
11 August 2005
Today Lauren Edwards came up to me at lunch while Nina was in the bathroom. Brit was off sick, so I was sitting alone. She said “Mai, is it true you’re frigid?” I thought I misheard, so I asked her to say it again, and she said it again. “Are you frigid?”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“Well, I know you’ve been going out with Daniel Mercer for what, four months?”
“Three months, actually,” I said, thinking about the keyring in my pocket and smiling at the thought.
“Ok, three months. And I heard you haven’t even had sex with him, and that you don’t like it when he fingers you. Are you frigid?”
As she said this, I could see Soph sniggering in the distance, and I instantly knew that she had told Lauren. God, I hated her so much then, and I wondered if our friendship had meant anything to her at all.
“I don’t really want to talk about this with you,” I said. “It’s none of your business, you know.”
“Are you sure you’re not a lesbian?” Lauren leered. “Daniel Mercer is pretty hot, you know. So many other girls in our grade would kill to have sex with him, and you don’t even want to. Maybe you’re into muff?”
I started to cry, then, and at that moment Nina appeared, walking back towards me. She looked from me to Lauren, then back at me.
“What the fuck did you say to her, you stupid bitch?” she screamed.
“Just that she’s a frigid fucking dyke,” Lauren spat. “Look at her haircut. The shitty emo music she listens to. Who does she think she’s kidding?”
I could see Soph laughing.
“Get the fuck out of here,” Nina shouted. “You’re such a bitch, she’s never even done anything to you. Just get the fuck out.”
Eventually a teacher came over, and Nina and Lauren both got detentions for the rest of the week.
I can’t believe Soph sold me out like that, to someone she knows that I don’t like. I’m not even sure she likes Lauren, either, or is just hanging out with her to piss me off.
I have no idea what she’s playing at, but I’m so sick of this. I’m sick of people wanting to know my business, I’m sick of feeling like a loser because Daniel and I haven’t had sex, I’m sick of girls at this school acting like being gay is the worst thing you could possibly be (I’m not, but I don’t think it’s a bad thing if I was).
Linh told me that it sounds like maybe Soph is going through something and doesn’t know how to deal with it, but I don’t think it’s fair if she’s taking it out on me, AND refusing to tell me what’s going on. Everything feels like such a mess and I would do anything to just get back to the way we used to be.
I told Brit about it on MSN tonight and she’s pretty pissed off too. I think even she is getting over being friends with Soph.
20 August 2005
Today I went formal dress shopping with Nina and her mum. We don’t have one this year, but she’s going to Duncan’s Year 12 one next month. Can you believe that they’ve been together for a year already?
We looked at a lot of shops, and then finally we found the perfect dress for her. It’s black with a halter neck and gold accents, and she said she’s going to wear it with black pumps and understated gold jewellery. Nina’s brother’s girlfriend is a makeup artist so she’s going to do her makeup. She’s going to look so beautiful.
The Year 10 formal last year was a total bust. I took my family friend Henry and he was being so boring and such a dag the whole time. I can’t wait for our Year 12 formal next year. I’ll take Daniel and it’ll be so much better, and maybe by then I’ll be over this whole weird sex thing and we’ll be able to do it afterwards and it will be so magical.
23 August 2005
Chem has been so awkward with Soph, especially since that thing happened with Lauren the other week. It feels like a really long time ago now that we used to have sleepovers and talk about everything, because now all she does is ignore me, or snap at me when I’m doing something wrong.
Yesterday I asked her, again, what her problem was with me, and she just laughed and said, “forget about it, Mai. You’re too busy with your little boyfriend to even notice what’s going on with your friends.” That really hurt, because I don’t think I’ve been a bad friend to anyone since Daniel and I started going out.
“What’s your issue with Daniel?” I asked.
“Girls, back on task, please,” Mr Roberts said at that exact moment, so I never got to hear the answer.
26 August 2005
OMG. I have the biggest news.
So, today at lunch Nina told me that she had been searching online with all the symptoms I’d told her, with the sex (if you can even call a guy putting his fingers in me sex) being painful, because she said she couldn’t imagine that I would be the only person to ever experience this. She found a LiveJournal site called Vagina Pagina that had a thread from someone describing pretty much exactly what I experience every time Daniel fingers me – the tightness, the clamping, the pain, everything. They called it vaginismus.
I can’t believe there is a name for this, that it’s something that others go through too. It’s been happening to me so frequently since we started doing stuff that I know it can’t be a coincidence. I wonder if it’s the same reason I’ve never been able to use a tampon (Soph always used to laugh at me for this – god, now that she’s not talking to me I’ve started remembering things about her that aren’t so great). I wonder if it means I’ll never be able to have sex.
Mostly I’m just so relieved that it’s not just me. Nina showed me the website and the people on there talked about going to the doctor about it, and getting treatment. But I can’t do that without telling my parents, and I’d rather die than do that right now. So I’m not really sure what I should do next, or if I should tell Daniel about it. Everything feels really uncertain and weird and scary. But at least I know now that I’m not a freak, and that maybe there is a way ahead for us.
30 August 2005
I have spent the last few days reading heaps about vaginismus. It is really exciting and terrifying all at once, to know that maybe there’s an end to all of this. There was a lot of scary talk about dilators (big plastic things you put up there to train yourself to be able to take it), which freaked me out to think about. But the more I sit with it all, the more hopeful I feel.
I told Daniel about it and I think he was a bit confused. “Isn’t it just supposed to work?” he said. “Does it mean we’ll never be able to have sex?” I told him I wasn’t sure, but that I was feeling a lot better about everything, and he seemed happy to hear that.
Giselle Au-Nhien Nguyen is a Vietnamese-Australian writer based in Melbourne. She writes a regular column for Daily Life and has had her writing featured in publications including Rookie, frankie, The Lifted Brow and i-D.