Friday, September 3, 2010

Loose Girl, Lonely Girl


     "It is about how desperate I was to feel loved, less alone, and how, misguided by all those cultural mixed messages, I tried to fill my need with male attention and sex" writes Kerry Cohen in her intense literary confession Loose Girl: A Memoir of Promiscuity.  Don't let the title fool you-- Loose Girl is not just a novel of sex, drugs, and partying; below the surface, inside the pages, it's about need.  Vulnerability.  Loneliness. 

     Raised in an upper-middle class family on the east coast, Kerry's world is shattered when her parents divorce.  To make things worse, Kerry's mother abandons her artistic lifestyle and her hurting children to pursue a medical degree.  Kerry and her older sister, Tyler, have no choice but to live with their lax father, whose parenting style can only be described as lazy.  With virtually no rules and therefore no discipline, Kerry goes wild.  Her father even seems to approve of her behavior.  He is more like a friend-- someone she can drink with, smoke with, even do drugs with.  There is no parenting, no discipline, not even real love.

     With no love at home, Kerry becomes desperate to fit in with her peers.  She wants even more for boys to like her.  She'll do anything --anything-- to feel wanted even for a moment.  Throughout the years she'll go through boy after boy, man after man, heedless of the negative effects it will bring to all her relationships.  She will have few strained, painful relationships.

     During a particularly messy relationship, Kerry's need for intimacy leads her to seek the help of a therapist.  Therapy does not magically fix Kerry, but it does bring about self-awareness and the ability to recognize her self-destructive behavior.  Self-awareness does not eliminate her need, but it does eliminate the need to give in to her hunger, leaving her free to focus on herself and eventually find the love she's been seeking.

     Kerry and I could not be more different, yet I found myself relating to her, empathizing with her.  Even the most prudent of women can understand how she feels;  who hasn't wanted to feel loved?  Who hasn't felt rejected?  These are essentially the basis of her story.  It is so much more than sex.

     Kerry Cohen began writing Loose Girl in 1996, long before the memoir reached its conclusion.  She is now a therapist living in Portland with her husband and two sons.

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