My First Love

The Wurst of Times

The '70s were reckless and we were doing reckless things to punctuate it

It was the best of times, it was the wildest of times. It was a reckless era, filled with junk food, junk thoughts and scant social relevance. Hot pants were all the rage, and the style was a bit of a metaphor.

Yes, the '70s were the kind of wild where you could get laid by accident. You could go out for a jelly doughnut and end up in bed with someone from behind the Dunkin' counter. Meeting was quite optional. If you went to a disco and didn't get laid, you just weren't trying. There was so much sex going on, people were starting to do it standing up with their clothes on in bathrooms, in closets, on planes, trains and automobiles.

I was the standalone, an odd duck of this vapid time who graduated high school still a virgin. I went off to college cherry intact, which was practically illegal at the time. People found out, and they pointed, even whispered. It made me just a little more popular than I might have been, as boys will be boys, and even in those days, they loved being the first.

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I desperately wanted to lose my virginity to someone who loved me, or at least knew my full name. And then I found him. I fell in love with him right before I was flying off to Germany to do a semester abroad. My heart and head were full of love and ideals and him. I'd already figured out what I was going to be: I had discovered the theatre, I had discovered passion and I had discovered me. And I was madly in love with all of it. Particularly the "me" part. Yes we were the "me generation," and I was the mayor.

We did it, finally and clumsily on my last night before going abroad and I got pregnant that first time. It seemed so easy to conceive that I had no problem with the idea of an abortion. It was de rigueur, even though "de rigueur" was not the phrase du jour ("du jour" was). It just all seemed so easy and convenient. I'm slightly ashamed to say that my conscience was only troubled by the slight bother of it all.

I was 19 years old, and arrived in Munich pregnant. I thought it was the morning wursts that were making me sick—and they were, too. Only a sophomore, with big plans and bigger dreams, I had no thought of having this child, couldn't even imagine, didn't even consider it. I was going to be a movie star and this just didn't fit into my scheme. My parents were atheists, as was I, so there were no religious mores muddying my conscience.

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My uncle was stationed at an army base up in Wiesbaden, and when I went to visit him for a weekend and told him about my situation, he got me an appointment with a doctor on base. I don't remember any judgment, surprise or lecture from any of them, only concern. I knew I was pregnant—I was violently sick every morning—and the doctor on the American army base confirmed it.

My roommate and I trained up to England, where other school friends were doing a London Abroad, and one had arranged an abortion for me at a clinic, where it was totally legal. My boyfriend back home had wired me the money and sent his undying love in many forms—letters, flowers, telegrams, phone calls. I somehow felt validated by his love. I wasn't just some knocked-up chick, I was carrying a love child. That vindicated me in a strange way.

I haven't spent too much time regretting the abortion; in fact, in retrospect and truthfully, the conception was more difficult for me than the abortion. Yet, now that I know that it was to be my last pregnancy, my last opportunity to have a child, I do sometimes fill with something like regret or remorse ... or doughnuts. Or something.

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Even now, several decades later, when I run into the father of the love child that we never had, our eyes always find each other from across the room. He still refers to our child as "the one who got away." He'll say it with his sad smile or his guilty eyes, or even a few words, which I've come to cut off. He wishes I'd had his baby. I'm very relieved that I didn't, knowing how he turned out, and knowing how we turned out. But this loss is our continual connection. I will never be free of him. We let a person go, without a thought, because it just didn't fit into our decade.

Occasionally, I day trip through the years that were never to be for my would-be child. I think of the birthdays that were never counted, the graduations that were never videoed, even the wedding that was never planned. Now that I'm older, I also think of the grandchildren I will never have.

Sometimes during those sad empty hours of a day, if I reflect over my life and play the what-if game, I don't know whether I regret the abortion, but I do regret the ease with which I chose it. An ease that was of the times. It was a reckless time and we were doing reckless things to punctuate it. I took away a life, with barely a thought. I was 19 and was so sure. I only wish that I were as sure now as I was then.

Tags: memoirs