My Semi-Celibate Life [By Dana Sukontarak]

For the Twenties Unscripted fifth anniversary, I’ve invited five writers who have been anchors throughout my journey to contribute guest posts during the month. I asked each writer to pen whatever they’d like relative to the theme of transformation and turning tides.

Next up is Dana Sukontarak.

Dana is the rebel. From tweets to the essays in her book “Men”, Dana pulls no punches. She isn’t someone I always talk about when I mention my blogging folks, but she is someone to whom I’m forever indebted. Years ago, she helped me unearth my voice and vulnerability when I contributed an essay about my sexual assault to her then-website The Apposite. Her writing has always wowed me, challenged me and raised the hair on my arms just a little bit. I think that’s what excellent writing does; it blows us away all while making us think or rethink about the lens through which we view the world.

I hope you enjoy Dana’s contribution to this series, “My Semi-Celibate Life.”

In my early twenties, I have often confused a sexual prowess with what could more accurately be described as sexual irrationality. I once treated sex like a conquest. I lost my virginity 10 years ago. In that time, I’d never stopped to consider the negative implications of my self-proclaimed sexual liberation. Now, I’m 28, in the midst of my languid late twenties. I no longer have the energy for certain things. I have become selective about the assignment of my time, money, and emotions. I recently came to the realization that sex has consistently clouded my judgment since the time I began having it. I’d never considered a self-imposed hiatus until this year. My celibacy was all but absolute, but even short stretches of consciously sex-free days allowed me to see many things in a clearer light.

This year, I came face to face with someone who’d broken my heart two years ago. The summer of our breakup, I had sex with a lot of different people. I guess I thought it would help my healing, or maybe I was content in denying there was healing to do. After much turmoil and many unanswered emails, I saw him on my work plaza at 8:30 one morning, walking a new way to the train and passing me in the opposite direction. We had an awkward but friendly conversation that led to friendly messages that led to a month of us talking and having sex twice within one week. He knew I was trying to be celibate. We did it anyway. We talked about a lot, he cried and apologized. He told me he’d been at home for most of the past two years, cautious not to run into me because our feelings were still too alive. He seemed genuinely remorseful for how he left, which was suddenly and for his emotionally manipulative ex. Still, he didn’t want to pursue a relationship with me. He wanted to be single, but he still started arguments with me for hanging out with another guy I’d dated after him.

I told him that I was glad we reconnected, but didn’t want to continue anything sexual. The almost month I’d spent without sex leading up to our tryst had instilled me with logic in the face of potential orgasms. I did the math and it wasn’t worth it. We had gambled once before, and quickly run short on beginner’s luck. I knew that history would repeat itself. He told me he was unable to even be around me, as a friend, if he knew sex wasn’t on the table.

It was a jarring experience, hearing my worthiness equated to my willingness to fuck, by someone I thought I loved and respected. Since then I have been considering the importance of sex, but mostly, I have been considering the ways I’d been using sex.

I realized I’d been having sex for a number of differently problematic reasons: control, affection, and validation, to name a few. I was doing it casually, but less for pleasure than for intimacy. Sometimes, I was doing it with people I didn’t care for, but forced myself to pretend to want to care. I often made sex into a challenge, focusing on conquering another person’s attention and emotions. It was all ownership and entitlement, under the guise of a deep and meaningful connection. I’d been absentmindedly ruled by oxytocin and directed by a dark, subconscious urge to manipulate and manage another person. Sex was imbued with expectation. It paved the way for disappointment when reality did not align. Sex had become a complication, more of an empty investment than a satisfying experience. Of course, sometimes I’d feel like doing it. But that desire was already being snuffed by my interest in growing and connecting in other ways.

Love is not about sex. Sex is not impossible without, but better with love. Sex is a very fragile thread to tie heartstrings with. Sex should supplement, not supplant an emotional connection. It took me ten years and a lot of sex to come to these conclusions. Sex is special and confusing. It is a powerful thing to share with another person, but used too often in the wrong ways.

A previous version of me may have begged for him to stay, to concede to his notion that our sex was an all-important form of communication between us and should flow freely as such. This version of me knows that sex is as important as we make it. And right now, it’s really not that important at all.

Dana is a 28-year-old writer and editor from Washington, D.C. You can follow her on Twitter at @UnlimitedDana or visit her blog here. Her first book ‘Men’ is a collection of writing about love and relationships released in 2016. It can be purchased here.

Something About Turning 27

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My feet are on a different sidewalk of solid ground. I don’t know when it happened. It seems foolish to say that there was something about turning 27 a few months ago that picked me up from the rubble of earlier days and dropped me in this newfound place. Because there is hardly anything special or magical or definitive about turning 27. I am still new. Green. Young. Impressionable. Prone to making mistakes. I’m still following a compass that sometimes sends me into deep seas and dark oceans.

So, yes. It seems foolish to say there was something about turning 27 that reshaped the world and my precious place in it.

And, yet, there was something about turning 27.

There was something about driving up to the sunset of this first decade of adulthood, something that has pushed me to trim the fat, face the facts, and apologize less for the spaces I inhabit. There was something about this age that yanked the curtain up on the woman I am instead of the woman I spent one too many years trying to be.

There comes a point where you can’t run away from yourself; that point both liberates and elevates you. Maybe that is the something about turning 27.

I’m through with running away from myself. I am through with sitting under dim lights as I lean coyly over the table, saying one thing to a man while my spirit screams another. I am through with barricading myself behind walls and praying they won’t crumble. I am through cutting emotional deals with the devil or pouring gasoline on my wildfire heart just to keep up appearances. My portrayal of the cool girl while I was in my early twenties deserves a standing ovation, but she has performed her final act.

Sometimes knowing what you’re not is just as important as knowing who you are.

I am dense and intense, fragile and flammable, a woman with her heart turned up two volumes higher than recommended. I am the sum of all of the goodbyes I ever said and all of the scars they ever left. I am equal parts concrete and shattered glass, whole and broken, complete and wildly unfinished.

And, yet, here I am. Because there was something about turning 27 that summoned me to start singing all of the notes on my staff.

I want to fall hard. I want to dig deep. I want to dive under. I want to taste love on my lips. I want to live big. I want to apologize less. I want to take up all of the space the Universe already carved out for me. I want to stop wanting and instead start soaking up the distance in between then and now, before and after, the things that were and the things that will be.

Maybe therein lies the sweet something about turning 27.


Not Getting Over, But Moving Through

Photo by GG Renee Hill
Photo by GG Renee Hill

There is something about 6:47 a.m. that my emotions can’t hide behind. They can hide behind 1:23 p.m. when I’m at my desk gulping down a cup of afternoon coffee. And they can hide behind 10:12 p.m. when the day’s events have finally worn me out and I doze off to Hey Arnold! while lying on the couch. But my emotions can’t hide behind 6:47 a.m. when I am 17 minutes into the day and all too aware of what I’m thinking and how I’m feeling. At 6:47 a.m., I am in tune with the stitches of my heart that are coming undone.

Mornings are both beautiful and unforgiving in that way.

In the time since I’ve substituted my essays with other people’s love stories on this space, I wrote and concluded a love story of my own. The country imploded overnight. I danced at a friend’s wedding and shouted “Surprise!” at another friend’s going away party. I’ve watched some of my closest friends move up north and out west in a short span of time. I dug my feet into the hole I feel from not busying myself with plans for a showcase next year. I traded in publicly pouring out my heart for doing it semi-privately in other places. Some nights I told myself that I would write, only to end up opting for MSNBC viewing and 9 p.m. naps instead.

That is the thing about your twenties, and maybe that is the thing about life. You have to ride the waves when they’re high, but you owe it to yourself to ride them when they’re crashing, too.

These days, and particularly some of these recent moments, are less about getting over things and more about moving through them. Feeling them. Letting the reality bite and allowing the truth to sting. I am detached from quotable inspiration plastered to Instagram feeds, urging me to bounce back in less than 60 seconds. These days I am most drawn to letting my emotions breathe and take shape.

So, I am reeling and dealing and fighting to hold fast to faith. I am laughing and crying and feeling it out as I go. I am thinking and contemplating and sometimes only coming up with blanks. I am reminiscing and reflecting and missing summer sunsets from early September. I am craving what once was, flinching at what it became, and grappling with what will be. I am reconfiguring all of my jagged jigsaw pieces in hopes of remaining whole. I am certainly not getting over, but I am absolutely moving through.



Before The Sun Rises


I’m going to leave before the sun rises and begins to tell you all of my secrets. I’m going to leave before light creeps through the blinds and writes the first line about the story behind my eyes. I don’t want you to read that story. Not now. Perhaps not ever. Instead I want you to remember the one you read last night in dark places through hushed tones, the memoir written in the dip of my back. It is OK if you know that story. It is likely you’ll forget it tomorrow. But the story behind my eyes–that story will take you years to read and lifetimes to let go. That story is 100 chapters with 500 ripped pages. That book is too heavy for most men to hold.

So I’m going to leave before the sun rises.

I’ll slip my boots back on and glance over at your wiry frame, wondering whether this is the start of something new or the end of something wickedly fun. I’ll kiss you on the cheek, whisper “Sleep well, love” and grab myself an Uber. I’ll only say “Good morning” to the driver when I climb in and “Yep, this is perfect” when we get close to the address where my car’s parked. For 18 minutes and 30 seconds, we’ll drive through the city in silence as I crave a shower and my own sheets. I’ll blast Purple Rain on the drive back to my apartment, greet a pissed off Roxy when I open the door, and smile at myself when I look in the bathroom mirror. “Who do you think you are, Tyece?” I’ll ask through a laugh.

This is what it’s like to leave before the sun rises.

Later that afternoon, Wale’s Sabotage Love will come on the radio, even though it’s five years old and wasn’t even ever that popular when it dropped. The lyrics instantly pull me back to a much more complicated and fragile time. At the three minute and 15 second mark, the words will sting with truth:

She the shit, she the one
She need now, she ain’t never needed love
Let her go, let her leave
This is something that could never, ever be
Said her heart’s in a cage, cause if you never love, you could never hate

Maybe that is why I always leave before the sun rises. Because once the sun shows up, the cat’s out of the bag and my heart’s out of its cage. After the sun rises, my secrets are yours and I’m forced to confess all of my sins. After the sun rises, all bets are off and that story behind my eyes sits on an empty shelf for you to read.

So, I’m going to leave now. Before the sun rises. Before the day starts. Before the bed’s made and the truth I left behind on your sheets starts to speak. Yes, I’m going to leave now. Because I’ve always been better at leaving than I have been at staying.


The Doubt That Still Lingers


When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.-2

The doubt doesn’t sit in my stomach the way it once did. It doesn’t swallow me whole or render me helpless for days on end the way it used to back in 2014. Success and I have this history now–that complicated, love/hate sort of history. We’re familiar with one another. We’ve learned how to handle each other in ways that are graceful and careful and far less codependent than they once were. I do not parade her around like I once did. I’m a bit more overprotective of her than I should be. Yet, somehow, I still don’t trust my success enough. Success and I still don’t stand closely enough to one another. So, there’s this sliver of space left between us. That’s where doubt closes in.

For weeks, I’ve been thumbing through the Twenties Unscripted strategic plan, this wonderful and daunting behemoth of a document that my talented friend Jazz and I worked on together late last year. It’s filled with objectives and charts and quotes from my fellow bloggers. It is also the closest thing to a mirror I’ve ever had held up to my work in the past three and a half years. It’s more than my own opinions or assessments. It’s rooted in stats and interviews; it holds a much more objective lens up to the past few years. The first night I plopped down to read it, I got stuck on page 17.

“Twenties Unscripted, while appreciated within its circle of long-time readers and by other writers, is putting forth events and promotion efforts that are not garnering adequate local awareness, media coverage, or engagement. Without a growth in recognition and engagement both on and offline, the blog and brand will begin to cost more money than it makes and runs the risk of being pushed to the side by Wilkins for more tangible career goals–which would mean the loss of yet another important voice for Black women in a culture–and city–that needs every strong, intelligent, and unflinchingly honest Black woman willing to share her truth.”

It felt like ouch. It felt like that minute you realize your finger touched the oven, but the blister already started to form. And, yet, when reading that paragraph over and over again, I knew how much icy hot truth ran through those words. I wondered and worried that there would be this doomsday where reality pushes my dreams to the passenger seat. I wondered and worried that if this blog does not grow, it will undoubtedly begin to cost more money than it makes. I wondered and worried that I might let my voice grow quiet and dim in a world that evidences just how much it needs my truth. Of all the things that could happen–a collision with reality, losing money, or silencing my voice–silencing my voice is the one that would eat me alive.


The things I still want feel like airplanes and trains and spaceships away. The life I see for myself still feels like airplanes and trains and spaceships away. Some days there aren’t enough positive affirmations to quell the villains that shout into my ear. I wish there were. I wish there were enough Twiter chats, Periscope videos, and Instagram images to shut down the doubting devil in my head whose favorite question is, “Is this all worth it?”

But, there’s also something oddly comforting about the doubt. It reminds me that I am not all I want to be nor all I can be just yet. It pushes me to prove it wrong. It encourages me not to stand too closely to success, and to find something a bit sunnier to fill that space. It inspires me to look hard at every single one of the footprints I’ve already stamped on the mountain in my uphill battle toward that life I crave.

I almost didn’t want to say write these things, like I’ve reached this point where shining such a bright light on my doubt is a bad creative decision. Or like I couldn’t package these scattered and spread out thoughts in a way symbolic of my writing style. But, then I remembered I’m human. We aren’t ever above our own humanity, complex and messy as it might be. And humanity is not always about sunshine, nor is it always about rain. Sometimes, it’s just about the clouds that you can’t quite see your way through.