The first time I ever had sex was with a stranger in Cambodia while I was slightly high on weed. And not just any kind of weed, but weed pizza.
You have to understand – weed pizza is a Cambodian delicacy. I was told that going to Cambodia and not trying out weed pizza is like visiting India and not taking the obligatory picture in front of the Taj Mahal. Weed pizza is always a little cold and chewy, because the deliveryman knows you aren’t paying for hot pizza, or even good pizza, but weed pizza.
At the time, in addition to being a regular virgin, I was also a weed virgin. How I was a weed virgin, after two years in Delhi University where rolling joints has the highest skill literacy rate, is a good question. I’d always been a nerd, a good girl, an in-bed-by-10PM, phone-on-flight-mode, sorry-if-you’re-getting-murdered-call-someone-else girl. It isn’t that the vices of drinking heavily or smoking or underage sex called for me, and I resisted the call, but that they didn’t hold that much interest for me in the first place. But tangled with this was my upbringing in a semi-conservative Malayali home. Even after I shifted away from home and to Delhi for my three years of college, I felt like every action I took was being scored on a secret report card that would go back to my parents without my knowing. So even when I felt like doing something, there were a lot of times when I’d pull back and decide I didn’t actually want to. And then there were some times where I said fuck it, and followed the moment, and the sky didn’t thunder or fall down, and that was reassuring. The first time I had sex was one of those times.
I was 19, just finishing my second year at college. I’d travelled to Cambodia with two friends for about the most obnoxious reason one could travel across subcontinents – a debate tournament, or a gathering of arrogant young adults all incentivised to take themselves very seriously.
It was the day my team had crashed out of the tournament, and we all went back to the hotel to lick our wounds. Recovering was quite easy – we were staying at a beautiful resort in the middle of Siem Reap, and there were debaters from all over Asia similarly recovering and ready to bitch about the teams that were doing well. We were all losers. But we didn’t have to debate anymore, that was for the winners – which meant we didn’t have to stay sharp anymore. Which also meant that we could order weed pizza.
The night before, I’d seen a cute boy from Malaysia at the dinner buffet and sneakily asked after his name. His face was familiar – my team had beaten his just the other day, but I hadn’t really noticed him in the cold sweat of pursuing victory. This now seemed irresponsible of me: he was very, very cute. My Delhi University standards for debaters had been bearded men with loose fitting clothes who were yet to find out what hair conditioner was. This boy knew what hair conditioner was – could probably give a lecture on it. He was hipster, with that classic floral patterned short-sleeved shirt and sleeves rolled back even shorter, tight trousers showing off a commendable butt.
There was something freeing about not being in India; about being able to flirt outrageously with someone, and know that the chances of spotting them on the Yellow Line the next day and having to say hello awkwardly was very slim. The day my team crashed out of the tournament, and everyone was lounging around the swimming pool, I flirted outrageously with this boy. We got high on weed pizza, got into the pool, flirted some more, and eventually I asked if he wanted to go back with me to his hotel room. As I went up to change first, he emergency texted his friend to lend him some condoms.
I scrolled through some historical records on WhatsApp to research this post. At around 6PM that evening, I texted my best friend, who was getting live updates on the situation, and said “It's happening”. She, wisely, told me “Stop texting”, and I didn’t text her for the next two hours.
My first time was lovely, even though by all technical standards, it was shit. The sex hurt me, so we had to stop; our mouths were cotton-mouthed from the weed, so we had to constantly break to gulp water. But we made each other laugh, exchanged factoids about our countries, made fun of each other’s debating styles. I admired his butt, he marveled at my boobs, and the next morning we had the whole day and an entire hotel room to ourselves. We had sex three times, each time exponentially better than the last. It was an incredibly gentle and careful experience. We studied each other in that boring box of a hotel room, with sunlight streaming through flimsy curtains. I learned I’m noisy, a trait that endures to this day. I learned the boy made no noise at all, unless I went for his ear lobes. It really is incredible how sex, like any other skill, is much more about practice and hard work than innate talent.
I think I got lucky and had a way more responsible experience than I could’ve. For contrast, I was in a high school relationship that ended disastrously in college – the kind where you start by naming your kids and dogs and the kind of house you’ll buy, and end by yelling at each other every time you talk, desperately hoping the other one has the guts to break up with you first. We chose not to have sex (in large part because we couldn’t figure out how). In retrospect, having sex before going to college might have prolonged the oncoming break-up, and would have come from an externalised place of I think this is what I’m supposed to do. And that would’ve been a very irresponsible thing to do. Responsible sex, after all, is about more than using protection. It’s about listening to your internal instinct, being clear and communicative, and taking care of the person you’re with.
I’m glad I waited until I was more sure of myself, and a little clearer about what I wanted sexually. I’m glad that even on weed pizza, I picked a first who was kind and respectful. And if you’re reading this and are yet to have your first time, I hope you are able to make it through the confusion of what you think you want, and settle on what you really want.
About the author:
She who should not be named, enjoys writing and has not had weed pizza in many years.