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A Consequential Coming of Age

After half a lifetime of dating, one woman realizes her most torrid affair had been with a girl—whose brash style had indelibly influenced the woman she'd become

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  • Being friends with Larissa was a little like being abducted: I never could decide whether I should have run—run far, far away from her— or if I loved her in a sense so pure that were it a case of Stockholm syndrome, I'd have never known it. More than any boy who'd come later, it was Larissa to whom I lost my innocence; it was Larissa who would inform—and direct the course of—every romantic relationship I had thereafter. The subconscious checklist when I met a boy in my teens, and, later, men in my twenties, was simple: Did I feel intimidated? Frightened? Was there something strange about them—a kind of otherness?

    My fascination with someone would begin with a kernel of information that baited my curiosity. There was the premed student who, having been diagnosed as bipolar, refused to take his medication; a philosophy professor who on our first date told me that his mother had recently attempted suicide by driving off what she thought was a cliff but turned out to be the edge of a ditch; a career waiter who revealed, also on our first date, that a freak accident had left him impotent; a musician who wore women's clothing; a male model; a car dealer; a drug dealer; an art dealer; a successful author; an unsuccessful author; and an eccentric video artist. "It's like you're playing Choose Your Own Adventure with dating," a friend once said to me. "You don't look for partners. You look for teachers."

A Consequential Coming of Age
After half a lifetime of dating, one woman realizes her most torrid affair had been with a girl—whose brash style had indelibly influenced the woman she'd become
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