hobart logo
To Play Younger photo

Jesting, I tell the 32-year-old ex-butcher I’m dating that I was in utero when “Dirty Little Secret” came out. It’s a running joke we have, twisting pop culture references until our six-year age gap seems more like an ocean than the estuary it is. My friend, the one who used to be blonde but now is in outpatient, the one who buried her sister before moving to LA, the one using my old DBT workbook like an underlined library novel full of my own dirty little secrets, says she doesn’t get the joke. I say it’s funny because I was groomed in high school. Wait, is it still grooming if it’s just sex?

All I ever wanted was to be adored. Instead, I got fucked. I collected gropes, looks, and leering smiles, held my treasures to the sun, just so, until they sparkled like love. I thought I was getting what I wanted. I thought I wanted to be wanted, that I might lose oxygen if these strange men lost interest. Now I’m in pelvic PT for PTSD and in an ethically non-monogamous relationship with a man old enough only to have been my babysitter in high school. My obsession with obsession is over. I don’t want to be someone’s someone. I want to just be still enough to heal. I don’t want commitment, I only want to stop losing my mind. I wonder, could it break, like a hymen on horseback?

I daydream about fucking the Disney princess who grew up on TV. She’s named after a bird with white feathers and her face is like a doll’s—even still, now that she’s bisexual. I bet it would remain symmetrical when shattered, split into even, broken pieces. I don’t normally go for shit like that, but cold porcelain would feel so good against my flushed cheeks, like gua sha. She could roll my wrinkles and sinus pressure right out. Flatten my face til I’m the portrait of youth. I’m a portrait, ready to be framed and valued well beyond my worth. I’m still worth something, as long as I can pull off pigtails with bangs and plaid miniskirts. It’s not youth that’s currency, but your proximity to it. How much of it can you absorb, through your vaginal walls, your TikTok feed, your gaping, girlish mouth.

Let’s play pretend, you and me. Wrap a leash around my neck, I’ll be your good little girl. Order me around, I’ll act out and defy you, give you the full high school experience. Sneak out, get high, call you a Bitch because God! You’ll never understand. I’ll get my period and come running back, afraid, begging you to show me how far the tampon goes inside. This is what you wanted right? Anorexic hips so sharp they’ll slice you in two? Thigh gap so great your head fits between my legs, not for sex, but to carry me atop your shoulders so I can see over the crowd.  No pubic hair for you to hide beneath, it’s only you and me. I need you, daddy, help me make it make sense. I had X’s on my hands but the men believed the way “18” sounded on my hormone addled tongue. I’m sobbing, I’m traumatized, I’m drinking myself to death. Don’t you remember our safe word? It’s “she blossomed like a flower.”

Bossman wires me six hundred bucks for the five erotic scripts I wrote, and I begin to psychoanalyze their plots against my own will—

  1. A well to do woman hosts an orgy that gets gate crashed by a vanilla couple (I just want to be included).
  2. A boy is seduced by his ex-girlfriend’s hot mom on the Fourth of July (I’m facing my fear of MILFs).
  3. A woman submits her holes to her master, strapped to a St. Andrew’s Cross (I’m dating a “Drew”).
  4. A pleasure dom ties a heartbroken woman down until all she can feel is the space deep between her legs (I’m trying to identify with my emotions less).
  5. A chemistry experiment gone horribly wrong (I tell my boss this one requires suspension of disbelief. I find most sex does).

A woman I know, she has the blues— she says they’re genetic. She also says there’s something beautiful about making someone leave their wife for you, like Wendy Dang. I think she means “powerful” not “beautiful” until I see Wendy’s face. Then I understand, nodding, focusing back on the reality show we’re watching. Big city girls are sent to live on a million-dollar ranch, in hopes of marrying the farmer. None of the farmers want to send any of the big city girls home. The big city girls are starting to get annoyed.

I fantasize about the big city girls picking the farmers off one by one, with the farmers’ own loaded shotguns, and creating a queer utopia where they farm their newly claimed land together. Instead, the big city girls cry for their broken hearts. You can learn a lot about a woman from how she cries on camera.

The wrinkles in my brain have finally stopped moving around like horror film spaghetti or babies from the sandworm in Dune. The folds are stuffed with bad nights and bad men—ages ranging from 15 to 50—and all the former versions of myself that I’ve shed like a king snake. They mill about the labyrinth of my mind, and I can’t stop all the former me’s from listening to Lana Del Ray and chasing after the bad men and making the bad nights their own, even though my frontal cortex is impregnably developed. I’m afraid of the city I live in, that I’ll always be TPY (to play younger) because I look 24, which is what men think 14 looks like. Maybe it’s because my mom called me jailbait growing up. It felt like a nickname, sweet and sly on her lips. It felt special, like a shiny present with my pubescent body inside. Maybe now I would turn heads, make a difference, maybe now I would be adored. Over a decade later, I’d snap necks for stability, peace and quiet, for a street no one else walks down. To staple shut the eyes of every man I’ve ever met—good or bad—then take their shotguns and farm their land in peace. I’m tired of being looked at. I want to be braille. I want to be felt—not touched, not seen. I want to make you understand me.