Did Dolphins Cry? by Kirsten Reneau

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The first time I had sex, I expected that I would, at the very least, cry.

It’s easy to make me cry, really — I weep at feel-good stories on the radio and I once had to blink back tears after reading the Wikipedia article for “Sophie’s Choice”. With that in mind, I thought it stood to reason that I would get emotional after my boyfriend and I stumbled our way through what I thought was the ultimate cumulation of true intimacy for the first time.

I knew that Megan who sat next to me in Health Class during our freshman year of high school had. It was the same class that someone had etched a dolphin into my desk years before. I traced the grooves as my teacher stuck pieces of scotch tape on us and told everyone that it was like having sex; you know, the first time, it sticks. Emotionally, that is. Then she would take the same piece of tape and put it on someone else and point out how it had lost its stickiness and couldn’t bond to the new person, and that, kids, is why you should wait until marriage.

Megan cried because it physically hurt, she said, the literal act. But I didn’t expect to cry because of pain. After all, my parents, always willing to avoid awkward conversations, gave me a book about having healthy sex and I came to my boyfriend ready with condoms and lube that I vaguely understood how to use.

But my other friend, she said that she cried because she got so emotional, and she and her boyfriend just held each other for a long, long time after, and I thought maybe I would cry like that. Like maybe it would be an opening, an awakening in myself, or between me and this boy I just knew that I loved so much — that we would both (or at least, I) would be so overcome with emotion by this beautiful thing we had done together that it would bring me to just a few soft tears, which he would gently wipe away in the afterglow, a story we would fondly recall after we were married and somehow both rich and happy too.

What really happened was that while “Friends” played in the background and snow fell softly outside my parent’s home, he lingered over me on the too small basement couch, and it worked for maybe all of three minutes before I told him, I’m sorry, but please get out of me, it hurts. He apologized over and over again while he pulled up his pants and kissed my shoulders and I didn’t shed one single tear, much less feel any kind of awakening or a newfound emotional connection.

As I put back on my shirt I thought of how I once learned dolphins were the only other animals that had sex for pleasure and wondered if it hurt for them too, if teenage dolphins had to hide from their parents, if they worried about birth control or unexpected pregnancies or the emotional repercussions of sex too early. Did dolphins cry?

“What are you thinking about?” He asked me as he buckled his jeans.

“Nothing,” I said, not wanting to admit that after losing my virginity I could only think about dolphins.

“How does it feel, not being a virgin?” He asked.

I knew I was supposed to feel something, some kind of way about myself, but it was like a birthday party where people keep asking you how old you are, and you keep saying the wrong age because nothing actually felt different.

The next morning, I slept in while my family went to church. When I woke up, I watched “Out of Africa” alone in the house and Meryl Streep was so beautiful that I cried.


Kirsten Reneau is currently working on finishing her MFA in creative nonfiction at the University of New Orleans. A Pushcart nominee and former journalist, her work can also be seen in Hippocampus Magazine, Xtra Magazine, The French Quarter Journal, and is forthcoming in The Threepenny Review.

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