I lay in bed the night before, my mind racing. My friend Ann’s advice kept scrolling through my head like a stock ticker, as if reading it again would reveal some secret to get me through the next evening. “Just relax,” she had said. “It’s not that bad. Brian’s a good guy, right? He’ll walk you through it.”
Easy for you to say, I thought. Ann had a confidence that came with a level of experience that far surpassed mine. She’d become a woman at the age of 16—the same age that I chose to stay hidden away in my high school bedroom reading Harry Potter and volunteering at the local church daycare. Asking advice as a twenty-year-old college student, from seasoned veterans like Ann, was embarrassing.
I don’t remember reading about this in any Judy Blume book either. Are you there, God? It’s me, Courtney. I’m so jealous of Catherine! She first did it our senior year of high school, when she worked at the ice cream parlor. I should’ve worked at the ice cream parlor, too! Maybe if I had, I wouldn’t be here at 20: clueless and nervous about what to expect. Are you even qualified to be giving me this kind of advice, God? Sorry. It’s just that most girls my age have been through this already.
I was supposed to meet him at 5. At 4:30, with clothes strewn across the warzone that was once recognizable as a bedroom (what are you supposed to wear for your first time?), I checked myself in the mirror again. My purse was filled with the things several Internet articles said might come in handy. Just in case, they all said. Better to be safe than sorry. I had decided on a simple outfit, a skirt and flats, that I hoped suggested I was very carefree about this sort of thing. It was now 4:45. I slathered on my pink lip gloss, and ran my fingers through my hair one last time. Here goes, I told my reflection. Don’t screw this up for us!
I pulled up at precisely 5:00. I walked in to meet him. “Hi, Brian!” I said too loudly, before reaching out a sweaty palm to shake his hand. Why did I just shake his hand? This isn’t a fucking job interview.
I’d known Brian since I was a kid; his little sister and I were best friends in 7th grade. I’d ride my bike over to his house every day to play dolls and giggle whenever he walked in the room. Now, years later, it only made sense to choose someone I’d known and trusted since childhood.
He looked nice— shirt and tie slightly wrinkled due to the long hours he’d been working. He smiled, and motioned for me to sit down. He sat across from me.
“So,” he said. “How was your day?”
“It was great!” I said, still too loudly. “I had, like, so much to do, just a bunch of errands you know, and it’s a miracle I even made it here on time!”
Oh God. Just shut up, Courtney.
“I’m glad you did,” he said smiling. He turned around and leaned down to pull something out of the drawer. This was it!
Brian turned back around, manila folder in hand.
“So. First time filing taxes, huh?”
Suddenly, I became fully aware of my lack of sleep and the ridiculous amount of preparation I’d undergone. My cheeks reddened.
“Was it that noticeable?”
“Well, I see that you brought in every receipt from what looks like the past two years,” he said, motioning towards my purse, overflowing with crumpled pieces of paper. My cheeks reddened deeper.
“Right. It’s just that I’ve heard bad things can happen if you’re not prepared,” I muttered, embarrassed.
“We always say better safe than sorry.”
Aha! So the Internet was right!
“This shouldn’t take long,” he said, looking up at me. “But feel free to ask me anything at all.”
His warm smile made me feel more at ease than I ever thought I’d be the first time, especially with someone who’d done this a hundred, maybe a thousand, times. I leaned back in my chair, ready to let him do all the work.
“Wait,” I said, suddenly sitting up again. I knew I wasn’t supposed to ask the most novice question of all, but I couldn’t help myself. It’s a woman’s right to know.
“I’m just…I’m just worried that…Is it going to hurt?”