"You know, I’m just really coming from a place of yes,” I confessed out loud to the table, knowing exactly how I sounded, and also that no one would blink in this group of Los Angeles girls who all seemed to be successful in a certain way: the way where jobs were creative, everyone seemed to have free time (the most creative job is no job), and somehow still have money for cheese plates, cigarettes and lots of daytime rosé.
I had moved back to LA after being in Santa Barbara for five years, and I was trying to reestablish a life for myself. I’d never been any good at keeping in touch: my friends had moved on without me. So when I came back, I found myself inviting myself to the dinners of girls I hadn’t seen in years, trying to keep up with aimless conversations about witchcraft and weight loss, having verbal diarrhea about my “place of yes” while stuffing my mouth with blue cheese.
Shy by nature, likely due to deep-rooted insecurity, I had always fought my social anxiety with either of two different tactics: agoraphobia, or binge drinking. Either I'd go through long periods of never leaving my house or assuage my social anxiety by getting black-out drunk at parties where it was completely inappropriate to do so, having embarrassing conversations and shame-spiraling for days after. This time I decided to try a new approach. A “place of yes” approach. I was going to let go of my need for control and say yes to every opportunity that came my way.
Little did I know this would lead to a week of adultery, tent living, and shingles.
My friend’s cousin had been pursuing me for months. I’d lived most of my life absolutely terrified of boys, but when he invited me over one weekend, my new philosophy led me straight to his door, at midnight.
Yes, I’d love a drink! Yes, let’s put on a movie! Yes, I’d love to see your room! You can guess what happened next.
When we woke up in the morning, I wanted to tell him it was rude to repeatedly hit snooze when you had someone in bed next to you, but I didn’t want be a bad houseguest. After listening to “Chimes” for the 5th time in a row, I got up and ran to my car in the morning fog.
After my sex-induced sadness, my girls dragged me out dancing. In my head, I have moves for days, but in reality, my signature step makes me look like I’m rowing a canoe. Regardless, I happened to catch the attention of a long-haired, tattooed man from across the room. When he approached me to talk, my place of yes made me work for a real conversation, and the more we talked the more I found him funny, mysterious, and intelligent: at least as far as drunken, fedora-wearing guys in bars go.
I thought we really hit it off. He, at least, was trying to hit it. When he asked if I wanted to go over to his house after closing, the word YES shot out of my mouth like a cannon, and we started the walk to his loft a few blocks away.
We were soon locked in the throes of passion on every surface of his apartment. The kitchen, the floor, the bathroom sink, all over the abode until we both collapsed onto his bed, exhausted.
“Yes,” I thought to myself, “This was just what the doctor ordered.” We fell asleep in one another’s arms and I woke up to him screaming, “YOU NEED TO GET OUT!!!”
Yes #2 had a girlfriend, which he explained to me while hurrying me out, my clothes still hanging off my arms. She’d be home any minute. I cried as I made my way back to my car. It was 7 AM. Was I a mistress now?
The same day, I was invited to go camping in Santa Barbara for a friend’s birthday, and, of course, I said yes.
I had never been camping and thought that people were kidding, mostly, when they talked about it. Hungover and ashamed, I tried to figure out if I owned any appropriate athletic gear. Daisy Dukes and Timberlands? I left my house with a big gulp worth of coffee, my eyes half open, and like a scene out of Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion, or maybe To Wong Foo, I sang Sheryl Crow’s “Strong Enough to Be My Man” at the top of my lungs as I headed down the Pacific Coast Highway.
I arrived at the campsite and headed straight to the picnic table while the others set up the tent. Within an hour, an orange blob had been constructed for us to sleep in, and my friends suggested we take a hike. I don’t usually hike, either, as I believe that we are very blessed to live in a world with cars. But I was operating in a place of yes, so I hit the trail.
I soon realized something was wrong. The pain between my legs was excruciating. I was in sheer agony, and could only walk with a gangster lean. It felt as if my thong was on backwards, like a thousand bees were stinging one side of my body, like every 20 minutes I was suffering from a mini-stroke. As soon as we got back to camp, I took my friend into the outhouse.
My place of yes had led me to a glorified Porta Potty, asking my friend named Crystal to check my vagina.
“Does it look weird? It feels weird!” I pulled my underwear down further. “Seriously Crystal, just check my vag.”
“It looks like maybe you could have a bug bite?” she said.
A bump. Great. I had a bump. A thousand things went through my mind. I envisioned everything possible. Could an STD surface that quickly, within a day? Did I have super-herpes? A new strain? I would get super-herpes. Oh my god, I had super-herpes!
I had to stick out the weekend. I had been a bad friend in the past year, and I needed to prove my devotion to a group of girls who had been nothing but good to me. So I sucked it up. If women could endure childbirth, I could surely withstand what was either a bug bite or super-herpes. The best way to show you care is by surviving vaginal discomfort, I decided. Yes.
On my drive home, a thousand things went through my head. Something insane and beyond my control was happening to my body. The pain was otherworldly; the rash was spreading, it couldn't just be an STD. God had branded me with a Scarlet Letter for sleeping with a man who was spoken for. My life and my body were together going down in flames.
I headed straight for the doctor’s office in search of a prescription. The reason for my visit: too many yeses had turned me into Hester Prynne. But my general practitioner told me I just had shingles, gave me steroids, and sent me on my way.
I went home, and couldn't stop thinking about those commercials on TV: THE SHINGLES VIRUS IS ALREADY INSIDE YOU. Had my “place of yes” philosophy given me so much anxiety that I’d actually reactivated the chicken-pox virus that lay dormant inside me for 27 years?
The week I said yes to everything, it turned out, was the week I learned that sometimes I’d better say no—that what I'd wanted from my “place of yes” was confidence and comfort, two things that bad sex, tent living and stress shingles are remarkably disinclined to provide.