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All The Sex I've Ever Had

Updated: Dec 24, 2022

Have you ever feared that what you share with others shapes how they view you? Have you ever been worried that no one could relate to your true self? We all share these anxious moments—and, as a result, miss the opportunity to relate to others.

I was scrolling through my timeline one morning when I stopped and did a double-take after a caption caught my eyes with the words All The Sex I’ve Ever Had. I clicked on it to find out that the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago would be hosting a traveling performance, for one week only, including 6 local Chicagoans sharing their most intimate stories. The title was enough to send me directly to the website and without needing to read much more I bought my partner and myself tickets to opening night. I mean, hell, we were long overdue for a date night and I was beyond intrigued.

For the entire week leading up to the show, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. When the day finally came, we were the first two people that walked through the door and found front and center seats. It wasn’t until then that I finally read the introduction to the program in the pamphlet that I had been handed while entering. It denoted that there would be a “cast of real-world elders who share secrets of first crushes, turbulent affairs, unexpected pregnancies, and deaths of loved ones. They chat with the audience, toast to important milestones, and dance on stage.”

Not long after I concluded reading my pamphlet, the lights dimmed, and a wonderful woman stepped on stage. She described the experience as “a new understanding of intimacy, acknowledging that aging can yield deep knowledge—and a way of being in a society that is open and fearless.” We, the audience, were all asked to then stand and take an oath together that what stories were told in that room would stay in that room. After we all swore, she exited the stage and an Ella Fitzgerald track began playing before the first of the six introduced himself. From this point on, a song would be played by the DJ to signal the start of each decade. Starting in the 1950s, at the eldest storyteller’s birth, we worked our way to the present. Every storyteller brought us along to narrate the stories of their birth, their first kisses, and their coming of age moments.

It wasn’t long before I started noticing the selected 6 storytellers represented a realistic look into history and not a single one was a straight White man. The only two men were both homosexual and all of the women were Black. For too long many of us have only heard the stories of White and straight individuals publicized and illustrated in the media. It was even more rocking to the core to be sitting in these courageous individuals’ presence as they opened up to us. Not every story was the sweet first kiss you stole from your neighbor, some were incredibly private, sometimes violent moments.

In honor of how they shared their memories and because I promised to hold them sacred, I will share my own in the same manner and spirit of the evening with you. One woman’s young memory triggered one of my own that I hadn’t thought about in a while. It was one that I had never told my partner of 3 years, not until that evening.

I was about 7 years old when I went across the street to play with my neighbors. We were in their backyard and there was a boy in the yard that shared a fence with theirs. He was close in age and told us to flash him. I didn’t see why not because I didn’t have anything to flash. Our chests looked the same and so I did. I mooned him too. Not thinking anything of it, I told my parents excitedly. (I quickly learned not to show anyone my ass unless I wanted it beaten bloody and red.)

Stories followed one after another after another, and occasionally the six on stage would be stopped for questions. Audience members were asked to raise their hands if they had ever had a crush on a teacher. It was a trick question because if an audience member raised their hand, they were singled out and asked to share their story with the rest of the class.

Throughout the performance, the audience was also asked to share personal experiences such as who has tried anal and who has lost a loved one before all. This was all in conjunction with the stories the cast members shared with us.

Since the oldest and youngest members of the six were nearly 2 decades apart in age, the last few first kiss stories came later, just like mine.

I was 17 when I went to my 3rd party ever and drank ‘til I lost count. I wanted to work up the courage to tell my crush I liked him because coincidentally. we had also turned from enemies to lovers within a few weeks and now I was afraid to lose him as a friend. Somewhere between me babbling and crying in an attempt to express myself he just shut me up by kissing me and after he pulled back I retched all over the both of us. It took me a few years to realize how unromantic that moment truly was compared to what the movies had told me all my life.

Another woman shared when she first was in a locker room with others and received comments on the appearance of her body, which immediately pulled me back to when I was 18.

I was in a hotel room with some of my closest girlfriends at the time. We were all getting dressed together when one caught a glimpse of my breasts and announced to the room that I had ginormous areolas. She called them “chip nips” and said they were bigger than the milky way galaxy. I was mortified.

That’s one of the greatest takeaways I got from this evening and these beautiful people’s stories. Not enough of us realize the extent to which our words alone affect one another and the memories that we’ll carry forever. Especially those that define and shape our sexuality and therefore identity as human beings. I felt ashamed at moments throughout the performance to not have considered more often how I may have come across to others based on how many of my memories were triggered that I repressed for this long. People will always remember the way you treated them and actions will always speak louder than words.

It was beyond impressive to witness these strong storytellers remember decades of their lives and these turning points in them. It was also a reminder of just how recently many of our loved ones were affected by things many of us consider to be in the past (the Jim Crow Laws, homosexuality being illegal and punished, the AIDS epidemic, etc.). Nearly every one of the six on stage had been affected by one of those horrors and the trauma that came with it within the last half of their lives.

When we reached the 90s, DJ Bonita Applebottom joined in to share her birth and in the year 2020, she shared her own hookup story as well. Once we hit modern-day, we were transported to the year 2040 in which each cast member shared where they dreamed their life would be including the partner they would share it with, the health of their bodies, and the place they would live out their final days.

After the show wrapped the audience was invited to meet and greet the cast in the museum lobby where each of the six had a table displaying memorabilia and souvenirs from the many stories they had just told us. I stopped to speak with each one and thank them for sharing such a special evening with us.

I’ve certainly never had any experience quite like it and can’t imagine I ever will again, but for anyone who has the opportunity to see it, if it comes to a city near you, I cannot recommend it enough.

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