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The Story of a Common Girl

By Jennifer Cross

It happened again the other day. Over dinner, some friends started talking about their teenage years, sharing sexual coming-of-age stories.

Normal stuff: how old they were when they first touched themselves or touched someone else; how their parents were clueless about who their kids were fooling around with; how old (or young) they were when they stepped across each incremental line in the sand of their budding sexualities. They told the stories of regular girls trying on the experiences of being grown up—how they learn to flirt and play and pick someone up and shut someone down.

     Women bond over these stories. Through them, we describe who we are, and how we negotiated the travails of adolescence, learned to navigate the nuances of adult womanhood, learned to relate to sex, men, boys, other women, our bodies, and the expectations of femininity.

     I sipped my tea, quiet, disappearing. I did not participate in the conversation. I never participate in these conversations unless I know I am with other sexual-abuse survivors. I listen, though, and wonder. It’s like eavesdropping on people who were raised in another country, or maybe on another planet. They speak a foreign language, these friends, one I lost the grammar for when I was fifteen years old. I know some of the vocabulary, enough to make it sound like I am a native speaker, at least for a little while. I can pass myself off as one of them when I need to. But I’m not one of them, and have to remind myself that, mostly, they won’t be able to see who I really am until and unless I open my mouth and sing my real song. 


About the Author

Jennifer Cross is the author of the forthcoming Writing Ourselves Whole: Using the Power of Your Own Creativity to Recover and Heal from Sexual Trauma (mango media, Summer 2017), and co-editor of the award-winning Sex Still Spoken Here (cSc Press, 2014). Her writing has appeared in Nobody Passes, The Healing Art of Writing 2010, and Best Sex Writing 2008, among others. She’s currently an MFA candidate in creative Writing at San Francisco State University.