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My deep, dark secret

At the time of my mother’s ovarian cancer diagnosis when she was 65, she wanted to be a grandmother. I just wanted to be normal.

I was 36 years old and I’d never had a lover, a fact I was ashamed to admit and had only divulged to my therapist.

Although I’d wanted to be in a relationship, my attempts to date brought on a total body fight-or-flight response. I played out idealized romantic scenarios in my mind, but when it came to actually being with a man, I felt like somebody’s prey. At the same time, I was terrified of being abandoned.

When I noticed a potential boyfriend looking at me with interest, I was convinced he’d pass me over once he saw through my superficial appearance: with my clothes on, I believed, I was false advertising. I imagined that once he saw me naked he’d view me in a light of lesser worth, because of what had happened to me, because of what I’d been involved in when I was a child.

As a girl, I’d been sexually abused, manipulated into acts that entailed the same body parts and motions as intercourse, but that was rape, my therapist said, that wasn’t the same thing as having sex: I was a virgin.

But I didn’t consider myself to be a virgin. I considered myself to be an anomaly.

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