Once upon a time, during a mid-winter break in early 2001, an event occurred that would change the rest of a 12-year-old girl's life.
The aforementioned girl happened to be yours truly, and to put it simply, second base ruined my seventh-grade reputation.
Let’s start from the beginning:
I was an over-developed, 12-year-old, adolescent female who attained the coveted ability to largely fill out an impressive 32B bra (cut to my mid-20s, and the bra size remains the same.).
It was the Friday after Christmas, and I found myself teeming with irrepressible bouts of excitement. I was about to attend my first ever co-ed “gathering.”
I got dressed in my very best pastel pink ribbed turtleneck from the GAP and sprayed down the entire contents of my body with a stealth dose of Victoria’s Secret pink strawberry body mist.
I had dutifully blow-dried my thick bangs, using a brush so round and so massive that their volume swelled to epic proportions. My bangs entered the room before I did.
I had never felt hotter.
Even though I was just a few months shy of 13, I was as smart as prepubescent 12-year-old girls come. Oh, I knew what this party was really about:
Seven. Minutes. In. Heaven.
“Seven Minutes in Heaven” is a glorious game in which one spends seven solid minutes trapped within the confines of a hormone-laden closet locking lips with an acne-scarred, oily-skinned member of the opposite sex.
I was as intensely nervous as I was wildly intrigued.
Sexuality felt like a shiny new penny I wanted to pick up off the sidewalk and forever store in my pocket as a sentimental keepsake.
The gathering took place in the basement of the sprawling Connecticut estate of the wealthiest boy in school. The basement had been converted into a “game room.”
It held court to not one but seven massive televisions sets all right next to each other, so when you watched a Mariah Carey music video, you could watch it sprawled across seven screens at once.
It was the sort of thing upper-middle-class, uncultured adolescent dreams are made of.
After the mandatory ingestion of some ice-breaking, non-alcoholic punch and a few comforting handfuls of impossibly salty pretzels, I found myself sitting on the bench of a non-running shower, completely clothed, nervously fumbling with the seams of my super cool, ribbed, pink turtleneck, awaiting the life-changing moment in which (we'll refer to him as) "Matt Lucas" would penetrate my lips with his.
The clock was ticking dangerously close to the seven-minute time limit, and I was becoming sick with worry. At this rate, we only had about three minutes left to passionately graze our mouths against one another.
I was overcome with swelling curiosity at what it would feel like to kiss this boy -- “Do it! Do it! Do it!” I silently willed the universe.
Finally, he went in for the kill. It felt like all kisses do before you reach mid-high school: a confusing combination of hopelessly wrong and inexplicably right.
Before I knew it, his hands were making their way under my bra. Not part of the plan, but I didn’t stop him.
It didn’t feel salacious or wrong. It didn’t feel like much of anything at all.
So I guess this was second base?
“Times up!” screeched a skinny, ruddy, 12-year-old, obnoxious, little twerp I hated. My seven minutes in "heaven" had ended as quickly as they began.
I had jumped two bases at once, killed two birds with one preteen-boy stone.
I returned to the game room with hot pink cheeks and swollen lips overcome with a palpable excitement. I wasn’t turned on, but I was proud to have embarked on what surely was a mile marker on the journey to womanhood.
When I returned to school the following Monday -- oh f*cking boy.
I had no idea what was to be in store for little ol’ me.
Overnight, I, who was one of the most popular girls in school -- the girl who practically led the pack of the perfectly flat-ironed “pretty” bitches -- became reminiscent of a leper who had fled the shackles of quarantine.
Apparently, lovely little 13-year-old Matt Lucas had taken it preciously upon himself to inform the entire school I, Zara Ann Barrie, had allowed him to go to second base with me, whilst in our seven minutes of hell.
He became an instant super hero, and I became an instant slut.
“Sluttiness” is apparently an intensely dangerous disease, highly contagious to seventh-grade girls. Ever so suddenly, my “besties” wanted to have absolutely nothing to do with me.
It was a scene straight out of mean girls: a flock of mascara-clumped 12-year-old girls circled around me, a tribe of snarling witches clad in Kate Spade mini-backpacks and butterfly clips staring me down like Saharan lions scoping out their next meal.
“You can’t sit with us anymore,” the new pack leader, Sasha, informed me -- her high-pitched nasally voice piercing into the crux of my soul.
I was blacklisted. By my best friends.
I could feel the entire population of the cafeteria wickedly snickering at me, as I hung my head in humiliation and walked away. I had never felt more lonely in my entire life.
I hoped they couldn’t see the way in which my cafeteria tray shook as I shrunk away to the girl's bathroom.
I curled into the bathroom stall and fell into a heap of sobs. From that point up until the very last day of school, I spent every lunch period seeking solace by hiding out in the bathroom stall.
I felt trapped in a dark cloud of shame. Waves of intense heart-palpitating anxiety washed over me every time the bell rang between classes because it meant subjecting myself to the horrors of the school hallways.
See, my newfound “slutty” reputation seemed to have given the boys free reign to touch me as they pleased -- and, within the two-minute walk to my next class, I would face a seemingly endless slew of tween boy hands snapping my bra and touching my body.
I talked to my guidance counselor -- she did absolutely nothing except advise me to “stay strong.” My self-esteem was so broken; I began to believe I was indeed, the cheap whore they said I was.
I fell into a black depression and, like a ghost, vacantly sifted from classroom to classroom until the day after eighth-grade graduation.
All because I went to second base at a middle school "gathering."
In the summer between eighth and ninth grade, I had an empowering epiphany: Screw the popular kids. I flipped the switch and decided come high school, I would make real friends.
So, naturally, I was drawn to the skaters. It was a kick-ass clique made up of cool chicks wearing baggy pants who truly didn’t give a f*ck what anyone thought of them and fiercely protective boys who could care less about my reputation.
They exposed me to good music and gave me the confidence to be myself. I found my identity and owned my true style.
I traded in hideous juicy couture tracksuits for fishnets and shrunken vintage T-shirts (both of which I still rock).
I explored all the desires and talents I had formerly repressed because they hadn't been "en vogue" with the popular kids. I discovered my passion for acting and writing (both of which became my full-time adult career).
Most importantly, I realized it’s so much better to be cool than it is to be "popular."
Because being cool is simply being yourself.
And gaining that life-changing wisdom makes a year and a half of a bad reputation totally f*cking worth it.