the story behind loose girl

I spent most of my childhood and adolescence in northern New Jersey, just a few minutes drive from Manhattan. Because New Jersey gets such a stigma – why, I still don’t fully understand – I was embarrassed of this fact for a long time. In college, when asked where I was from, I would say, “Right outside New York.” And my smart-ass friend, who was from Manhattan proper and whom I still love, would chime in, “Right outside New York – is that an actual town in New Jersey?”

I went to Clark University, and then got my MFA…and then got another masters in counseling psychology. I almost, almost, got another masters, and regularly consider a doctorate. Make me stop! My problem? I love learning. I love books and lively, passionate discussions. I love delving deep inside a subject and pulling up the hidden pieces. I love to see the connections between things. Writing memoir has been intensely gratifying for me for these reasons. To be able to apply the intricacies and artfulness of craft to my own life has been, for lack of a better word, divine. Where others might find comfort in a god, I get my salvation from seeing design in an otherwise messy, complicated, often challenging life.

It took me ten years to get from the first spark of an idea to the first full draft of Loose Girl. There is no question for me as to why. We live in a culture where women talking about, even thinking about, our relationship to sex is laden with pre-scripted understandings. Head into the world of girlhood and sex, and those limitations are even greater. I knew that I had spent most of my life obsessed with boys. I knew that my relationship to that felt secret and misunderstood. There were two lines of discussion when it came to what that relationship must be: I was either a whore who had no self-respect, or I was empowered and above cultural restrictions about who I had to be. But neither one of these roles fit me. I knew how I felt – I had felt unloved and unworthy most of my life, and I believed a boy’s attention would save me from that. I believed that if a boy chose me that would make me worthwhile.
For many years I read everything I could on the subject. I took notes. I ripped articles from magazines. I marked up books – especially Promiscuities by Naomi Wolf and the works of a few other feminist writers. I read many memoirs. Finally, at a loss I took two years off from writing. During those two years, I got my counseling degree. I got pregnant. I considered that maybe I wouldn’t be a writer anymore. But, one day, I simply sat again at my computer and began to write. What came out was Easy, my YA novel. Easy is not autobiographical. It simply holds the same theme as Loose Girl. After working with teenage girls as a psychotherapist, I was excited at the idea that I had written a book especially for them, one that addressed the same issues I saw them struggling with, and that I had struggled with so much at their ages. But I also knew I had not written the full story, one that would fill a cultural silence about why all these girls chose promiscuity over safer routes.

So, I sat again at my computer, and over the course of five months – through my second pregnancy and then a newborn asleep on my lap – I wrote Loose Girl. I sent it to my agent, excited, and he called me soon after. “Are you sure?” he warned. “You’re putting yourself out there to be attacked with a subject like this. You have a family, little children.” I told him I would think about it for a few days, and, deflated, I hung up the phone. I knew he was right. A woman cannot write about sex without repercussions in this culture. I knew I would be accused mostly of needing attention (a girl cannot talk about her sexual experiences without needing attention for it, you see), of being a shameless whore, of not being slutty enough, of…you name it. I knew it would all come my way. But I also knew that most every girl I had spoken with had been lost, confused, wandering through the same story I had just written. I knew that any adult woman I spoke with about the book had said, “My God! That’s about me!” There were too many of us, and too many years lost over feeling like the only one. I called my agent back the next day, resolved, and so…here it is, my story.