I’ll Try Anything Zero to Four Times

Get ready, folks. Apparition Lit is taking you down to sexy town.

Light a fancy candle. Burn some incense. Put that disco ball light on strobe mode.

Cue the smooth jazz playlist. Crank up the ol’ Victrola. Put 1897’s smash hit and circus clown classic “Entry of the Gladiators” on repeat. 

What? I don’t know what you’re into. 

This is the Experimentation Essay, baby. Sexual experimentation. Awww yeah.

If you’re still reading, please gird your loins literally and prepare to be titillated and/or uncomfortable. And now, with your explicit, enthusiastic consent, let’s do this.


The thing about sexual experimentation—well, one of the things—is that it doesn’t only/always go down in your teens or early twenties. Lots of folks “always knew,” but lots of us didn’t get our magical *queer revelations until further along in adulthood. In my experience, real college had far fewer pillow fights leading to lesbian awakenings than many a dudebro would have us believe. 

Thank goodness for the Internet, which I use as god intended—to learn about stuff people do naked. I can ask the Internet all sorts of questions! Like when I consider past human interactions and wonder, “Was this gay and did I miss out on an opportunity that I naively did not recognize was an invitation?”

Dear Internet,

Years ago I was at this pool party and went inside to rinse off, and a girl I’d met at the party said she needed to rinse off too and came with me. And I figured it was like how some girls go to bathrooms in herds and that maybe this girl always showers with friends/people she just met. She was pretty and paid me compliments and offered to wash my hair. I felt warm and tingly and ran away. 

Was… was that anything?

  • Soapy and Confused

Dear Soapy,

Um, yeah.

  • The Internet

Yo ‘net,

I gotta be honest. Disney Robin Hood and Maid Marion were some foxy foxes. Marion had that come-hither look mastered.

I have no questions. It’s just an observation.

  • Not the Only Apparition Lit Editor Who Says Fox Robin Hood Was a Hunk

Dear Not the Only,

A whole lotta people think that. You’re not special. 

  • The Internet and a Surprisingly Significant Percentage of Generation X

I kind of love that I’m still figuring things out, here in my early middle age, spinster that I am, even if it’s small stuff.

Dear Internet, 

Apparently I’m into beards? Not beards like the antiquated slang term. I mean beards like facial hair. With maybe a dash of salt and pepper up in there. I just want to give a good beard a good tug sometimes, ya know? But what does that mean?

  • Me, Last Week

Dear Clarke, 

(I know it’s you. You don’t even bother clearing your browser history anymore.)

Re: beards. This does not qualify as a kink. There’s really nothing to explore here. Go tug on all the consenting beards you want. Stop overthinking everything all the time. You’re a grown-ass woman. 

  • The Internet


Sexuality, like gender or electromagnetic radiation, is a spectrum. When you’re more bendy straw or curly fry than straight as an arrow, coming out as queer is difficult at any age. I feel like I come out (intentionally or unintentionally) in different settings or circumstances all the time. It’s weird as hell, but it’s not traumatic. (This is obviously thanks to the activists before me who sacrificed and fought and thanks to white privilege.) 

Kids come out to their parents and get disowned or put through conversion therapy or suffer abuse to the point of suicide. People die because of this specific brand of hatred and willful ignorance. So a lot of the conversation about LGBTQQIP2SAA rights and a lot of the coming-out stories shared are about young people, and rightly so. We should advocate for and protect our most vulnerable—and that’s our children, especially trans kids of color. (If you’re wondering how to help, consider checking out The Trevor Project or the support resources on the HRC’s site.)

What I don’t hear as often are the stories of folks who didn’t figure their deal out until their 30s… or their 60s… or who are still experimenting and discovering their particular flavor of queerness at their centennial, pirates-and-mermaids-themed birthday party. But these stories are out there. (If any of you attended the 100-year-old Pirate Mermaid’s birthday party, please have them get in touch with me. I really, REALLY want to hear their story.)

We late bloomers aren’t really late to anything. Queerness blooms at any age. Or it bludgeons you over the head with lightbulb moments in adulthood, and you realize that 30 years ago you had a huge crush on Nora from Pete’s Dragon and maybe Helen Reddy still does it for you. Or it collars you and slaps your ass and calls you Kitten Clawbite. (I got “Kitten Clawbite” from a furry name generator. I know next to nothing about the Furry community, but the Internet knows everything.) Isn’t life a beautiful mystery full of wonder and delight?

All of this is to say, curiosity and fumbling experimentation isn’t only for the young. A lot of us weirdos are still coming into our own, getting more comfortable in our own skin, accepting that we don’t look like we did when our human meat-suits were 20 years old, talking to real life friends about all the funny, gross, naked stuff because they don’t have everything figured out either, and writing essays about it for semi-pro speculative fiction magazines. 

The older I get, the less I give a fuck about what’s “normal.” Still working on it. My brain likes to overthink. Sometimes I wish I knew my category—Bi? Pan? Does it matter? Probably not. It’s fun to figure out what I like/don’t like and try new things, even if the verdict is “meh, not for me.” I remind myself not to worry about whether I should’ve had all this personal identity stuff sorted long ago. 

And I really hope I make it to my centennial birthday because I’m going to throw myself the raddest, queerest Pirates ‘n’ Mermaids party ever.

*I use the word “queer” as a kind of umbrella term for non-cisgender/heterosexual and as an adjective I apply to myself specifically. I know there are varying opinions on the merits of different words for different subsections, identities, and individuals. It’s tricky. Even writing “non-cisgender/heterosexual” centers cishet as the norm from which the rest of us stray. But for me, “queer” fits. For you, it might not. Please insert your own umbrella term or inclusive acronym in place of “queer.”



Photo by Denis Oliveira on Unsplash

  • Clarke Doty
    Clarke Doty Owner/Senior Editor

    Clarke is a hospice nurse. When she’s not keeping busy with assorted existential crises over the impermanence of life and the perpetual, senseless human suffering in the world and stuff like cancer and constant reminders of her own insignificance in the universe and how everyone dies and everything ends and does any of it really matter and why can’t I sleep, she likes to read stories and sometimes write stories. You can follow Clarke following Amy, Rebecca, and Tacoma at @ClarkeDoty.

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