This column is an ongoing experimental diary series exploring the life of a fictional teen Vietnamese girl, Mai.
3 September 2005
I’ve been thinking so much about what all of this vaginismus stuff means. It’s so crazy to me that I’ve never heard about this before. Not from Linh, not from my mum (not that she’d ever talk to me about sex), not from school – although the only sex ed we really receive is being told not to do it. One time in Year 9, we had to watch this really weird video of a woman telling us to keep our pants on, and saying that if we had sex before marriage, we’d be like a post-it note losing its stickiness, so by the time we met someone we wanted to be with forever, they wouldn’t want us because we wouldn’t be able to stick well anymore. I’ve never looked at a post-it note in the same way since then.
I talked to Linh about it, and she said she’d never heard of it before either, but that she’s not surprised that it’s a thing. “Women’s bodies are all so different, Mai,” she said to me on the phone. “You shouldn’t feel embarrassed.” I do, though, even though I know she’s right. I feel weird and broken whenever I try to use a tampon and it hurts and I have to wear a pad like a baby wearing a nappy. I never thought about it that much until now. It’s good to know what it is but it’s scary because I don’t know what’s next.
I thought about Daniel asking if it meant that we could never have sex, and I wonder if he’d still love me if that was true.
7 September 2005
In chem today, I noticed when Soph opened her diary that she still has all the notes I wrote for her this year stashed in the back pocket of it. I noticed because I saw my pink paper sticking out of a corner of it, and when she went to the toilet I had a closer look. There they all were, and some of them looked like they’d been scrunched up a little, and in the corner of the bottom of the page she had drawn little pink hearts in highlighter, outlined in black Sharpie, and then scratched all over them with what looked like the tip of a compass.
When she came back, she didn’t know that I’d seen any of that at all, and we carried on quietly as usual. We haven’t really spoken at all since all that stuff went down last month. No more little snarky comments or anything. Just silence, really, and that says a lot more to me.
I mentioned the notes and the hearts to Nina and Brit at lunch. Nina seemed just as confused as I did, and said she thought maybe there was more going on than Soph might want to admit to. I’m not sure what she meant by that. Brit changed the subject.
10 September 2005
I went over to Daniel’s house today. I told my mum that Brit was having a study session at hers and that I’d catch the bus there, but instead, Daniel’s brother picked me up from the bus stop and drove me to the house. I always get nervous that I’m going to get caught out in one of these situations one day.
Their mum is away at the moment, so Daniel and Matt have the house to themselves. I got there and Matt had a bunch of mates who were over, and they were sitting in the yard with Daniel smoking pot. I’ve never been around pot before, and I didn’t expect it to smell so strong. I also didn’t know that Daniel smoked it – I guess we’ve never talked about it before. My parents were always really firm about the fact that they’d kick Linh and me out if they ever caught either of us smoking it. I don’t really like drugs, I don’t think, and so when I saw Daniel smoking it, I got kind of upset, and I went inside.
He followed me and asked what was wrong, and I said that I just didn’t feel that comfortable around those kinds of things, and he said “god, Mai, you know we’re not in Vietnam,” and that made me kinda mad, the way he brings that up so easily all the time when we disagree about anything, as if I can’t have my own opinions that don’t have to do with my Vietnameseness. But given that we only have these snatches of time together, I don’t really want to fight with him, and so I kind of let it go, and we spent the rest of the afternoon playing Mario Kart with his brother and friends, and it was really nice.
We also snuck into his room for a little while and made out, but since it was the first time I’d seen him since I found out about vaginismus, I had told him already that I didn’t want to do anything more than that, not even take our clothes off. I want to slow down so I can work out what’s going on, I want to make sure I’m ok before we do more. He seems to be alright with that, and so it was really nice to just spend some time together the way we did right at the start, listening to Further Seems Forever and just enjoying each other’s company. I was on the biggest high from him and I don’t think I’ve really come off it yet.
15 September 2005
Nina’s going to Duncan’s formal this weekend and it’s all she’s talking about. We got her dress last month, but now she’s talking about hair, makeup, Tom Wilson’s afters… It’s a Year 12 formal so there’ll be a cutest couple prize as well, and she’s determined that her and Duncan will win. She bought him a gold tie to match her dress, and I bet they’ll look so good.
A bunch of other girls in our year are also going to the formal, so Nina’s been gossiping with them about it at every available moment. I wish I was going too, but at least I have both my and Daniel’s Year 12 formal to look forward to next year.
18 September 2005
Oh my god, so much drama. I was excited to hear about the formal from Nina, and I assumed I probably wouldn’t until later this afternoon because I knew she was planning on getting drunk at the afters and staying there. So imagine how surprised I was when I woke up at 1am and saw that I had 12 missed calls from her.
When I rang her back, she picked up immediately, and I could tell from her voice that she had had a lot to drink. “Mai, is that you?” she shouted down the phone. “Mai, you wouldn’t fucking believe what’s happened. So we’re at the afters, right, and I went to the bathroom for literally 10 fucking minutes and I walk back into the party and Duncan’s got his tongue down fucking Lauren Edwards’ throat. Can you fucking believe it?”
I tried to calm her down but she was sobbing hysterically, and she told me she’d already called her brother and he was on the way to pick her up. It really surprised me that Duncan would do that – they’ve been together for ages now and he’s always been really respectful towards her. Of course it would be Lauren Edwards though… I don’t know what her and her friends have against me and my friends, but it’s always something, isn’t it?
So of course Duncan’s been trying to ring Nina all day today to apologise, and has sent her so many texts, but she doesn’t want him back. She’s been ignoring all the texts and calls, and I think it’s probably good that she just has a bit of time to process it all before she makes any more decisions.
Daniel said that sometimes guys think with their dicks rather than with their brains, and that maybe Duncan really is sorry. And maybe he is, but I don’t think that means Nina has to forgive him straight away, or ever, if she doesn’t want to.
I don’t think Daniel would ever cheat on me. I hope he wouldn’t. But maybe that’s what Nina thought about Duncan too.
It’ll be so awkward when we get back to school next term.
23 September 2005
Since it’s school holidays at the moment, I’ve been spending a lot more time with Linh, Nick and Ella. It’s nice to be able to see them more often than usual, and catch Linh up on all the goss in person, rather than just on text or the phone. She told me about how in high school, her best friend, Nikki, was also cheated on by her boyfriend, but they worked it out and got back together, and now everything is really good. So I guess that can work. I asked Linh what she thinks about “once a cheater, always a cheater” and she sighed and said “Mai, you can’t look at everything in such a black and white way”, but I guess I want to believe that someone who really loved me wouldn’t fuck up like that. Maybe I’m naïve.
Luckily for Nina, she’s away at the moment with her family in Bali for her cousin’s wedding, which I guess would be a pretty good distraction. Duncan has messaged me a few times on MSN asking me to talk to her for him, but I blocked him. It’s not really my business to get involved. Nina’s still pretty upset – and I would be too – but she’s been emailing me about all the cute boys at the resort. I get the feeling she won’t be too sad for too long.
The other good thing about school holidays is that I have more time to talk to Daniel. I’ve only seen him once so far, when we went to see a movie, and I’m not sure how much more I’ll be able to, but it’s the best to be able to call him whenever I want to, or text him without having to worry about being caught in class. He’s been spending heaps of time with Matt’s friends, including Ben, who Brit’s been going out with, and he said Ben can’t stop gushing about her, which makes me smile too. Surely not all boys are bad, if these two make us so happy. Screw Duncan – Nina can do heaps better anyway.
28 September 2005
Brit’s dad got a job in Queensland, and she is going to have to move away next month. I can’t believe it. She only found out last night, and broke the news to Nina and me on MSN tonight. We’ve all been friends since Year 5 and I’m so used to seeing her every day, and talking to her every day, that it will be really weird for her to not be around anymore. Now that Soph isn’t hanging out with us anymore, I guess it’ll just be Nina and me – which is how it was back in primary school, and we always had a good time, but it’s going to be so strange.
Brit said she’s not sure what’s going to happen with her and Ben. Long distance is a really big deal. Moving schools for Year 12 is going to be weird for her, too – she said most of the subjects can be transferred over, but she seemed to be stressed about it as well. I think it’s pretty unfair of her dad to make such a big change to her life at this important time, but she said it’s an opportunity he’s been waiting for for ages, so that makes sense, I guess.
I’d imagined Year 12 to be all four of us studying together, finishing the exams and then going on a big Schoolies trip up to Byron, but now I guess it’s just going to be two of us. Things keep changing and I don’t know how to feel anymore.
Less than a week until we’re officially HSC students.
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.