I crept out of my room and padded quietly out to the family computer. When I logged into one of my favorite social networking sites, “New Friend Request” blinked in bold blue on the left side of the screen. One click revealed the name Mandy and a picture of a girl with impressive cleavage squeezed into a tiny midriff-baring halter top.
Our computer was in a public area, and during the day, I would decline such invitations without even looking at them. It totally wasn’t worth the hassle of Mom’s lecture if she happened to look over my shoulder. She had a really annoying way of entering a room at the most inopportune moment. But in the middle of the night, I was so bored and restless, I just couldn’t resist the temptation to click.
I’ll be good. No harm in reading her profile and comments. I don’t have to look at the pictures. Besides, I’m almost 18 now, and what I look at is my business.
A bunch of lame animated image files with cutesy messages dominated Mandy’s comments section, and her profile didn’t have much of interest either, except for an invitation to check out her blog. I was always up for a good blog, so I clicked through.
The raunchy description of a sexual fantasy in the first entry was so detailed as to be almost repulsive, yet it still left me hungry for more. My body responded in ways familiar from unbidden dreams and focused fantasies of early adolescence. A niggling voice told me to turn off the computer and go to bed, but I pushed the warning aside. Just one more story, then I’ll go to bed. No harm done by just reading. Besides, it’s not like I don’t have any self control at all. I can read about this stuff and not do anything about it.
Even though I had told myself I wouldn’t, I clicked into Mandy’s pictures. The woman’s breasts were obviously fake, but their perfectly round shape was fascinating. Nothing like these pointy B-cups I was stuck with. Mandy was gorgeous, blonde, voluptuous and worldly. I’d never look like that. Boys would never drool over me like they probably did this woman.
Disgusted, I shut down the browser and went back to my room. As I lay in bed, tears burned my eyes and nose, as the familiar litany of self-recrimination began. I broke my vow. Five months of sexual purity, down the drain in a single night. Back in the center of God’s wrath, a special spot reserved for wanton sinners like me.
Or maybe there was a category worse than sinner. Sinners could repent and be forgiven. I worried that a twisted flaw ran down through my very core. Everyone knew that God didn’t approve of horny guys looking at porn, but girls weren’t even supposed to be tempted by such things. No question, I was a freak, a depraved sex maniac, that’s all there was to it. And the worst part was, it wasn’t a recent bad habit or a phase of hormones. I’d always had a curiosity about women’s bodies in underwear ads, always had little fantasies of romance and wondered what it would be like to be with a boy, had dreams that felt so real…
Since Jolene’s challenge, I’d really tried to keep my vow. Until now at least. I cringed at the condemnation I felt as I recalled her words. The standard is absolute chastity.
Maybe I hadn’t been keeping the vow as well as I thought. Had it been a mistake to read romance novels the past few weeks? Maybe they were like a gateway drug or something. I had thought reading about the seduction of young maidens in medieval realms was a harmless diversion.
Too late, Jesus’ words about lust being the same as adultery sprung to mind. It didn’t seem fair for it to be a sin just to be turned on, but it was scary how helpless I had been to resist temptation. I knew that eventually I’d have to confess, but I felt too dirty to come before God now. Maybe in the morning it would be easier. I rolled over and tried to put the sin out of mind.
As sleep finally nestled around the borders of my brain one last blurry thought bubbled up: the hope that at Elk River College, I’d be safe from such corrupting influences. It was a church-affiliated school after all. Surrounded by fellow believers and true disciples of Jesus, kept safe by the accountability of a roommate, I could make a new vow and stick to it.
Before I knew it, Mom dragged me out of bed and to the surgeon’s office. Nerves about the surgery and lingering guilt from the night before kept my mind off my growling stomach.
Soon enough I was drifting away on a fluffy pink cloud of anesthesia. All my worries melted away and I started daydreaming: me, back on stage, putting on a one-woman variety show.
“Gigi, honey. Wake up. The doctor says you need to keep your eyes open.”
Mom’s voice came through a cottony fog. A warm hand squeezed my shoulder and shook gently. Finally I managed to force my eyelids to flutter open.
“Hi, Mom,” I slurred. I yawned, leaned my head on her shoulder and let my eyes start to close again. I was too tired to be annoyed that she called me Gigi, my childhood nickname.
“Oh no, you don’t,” Mom said, jerking me back into a sitting position. “C’mon, you need to shake off the anesthesia so they can release you.”
I stared vacantly down at my lap. Release me from where? The last thing I remembered was lying on a table. The white ceiling. Doctors and nurses scurrying, waiting for something. Someone had been singing in that room, belting out the lyrics that went along with the piped-in Muzak.
Oh, no! That someone had been me! The doctors must have been waiting for the anesthesia to kick in so they could dig out my wisdom teeth, just as Mom now waited for it to wear off.
I shook my head from embarrassment. The motion helped clear my senses.
In order to keep from falling back into delirium, I catalogued the simple facts of our surroundings. We were on a low bench, covered in blue industrial upholstery. The ceiling was very high.
“Mom, why do they have such flaring glourescent lights?” I giggled at the Spoonerism.
Mom cocked her head as if wondering if I’d lost my wits along with the wisdom teeth.
The oral surgeon finally sent us home with detailed instructions on how to limit the post-operative swelling. “Oh, and one more thing,” he said as we prepared to leave. “I recommend you swish with hydrogen peroxide or warm salt water after each meal to ensure that sockets are clear of debris while they heal.”
With wisdom teeth gone and our drive across country to Elk River days away, I felt perched on the edge of adulthood, ready for a grand adventure with God. To make up for that awful late night indiscretion, I banned myself from using the computer. The Bible and The Purpose Driven Life became my only reading material. Inspired by the gospel of Rick Warren and letters of Paul, I felt unlimited possibility stretching before me – I could be the next Mother Theresa, a female Billy Graham. As long as I could stay pure, God had a special plan for me. I just knew it.