My tenth grade biology teacher is the first person to ever tell me that I look like [One Specific Porn Star], though he doesn’t really tell me in his own words. Instead, I inquire about his stares to friends in my class to no avail until one boy claims to have seen porn on his laptop during school hours.
“What does that have to do with me?” I ask.
He shows me a video during study hall. The resemblance is undeniable.
That night, I fall into the never-ending black hole of videos featuring [One Specific Porn Star]. I see the resemblance from every angle. Periodically, I stop watching her videos to look at my own face in the mirror and go right back to watching again. I stay up all night like this.
The next morning I am tired but even with the bags under my eyes I see nothing but [One Specific Porn Star] when I look in the mirror. I go to class and when my biology teacher hands back my test I avoid touching his hand. I consider for a moment what would happen if I asked him about the porn on his laptop. Would he break down and cry? Beg for forgiveness? Deny everything? Or try to bend me over his desk?
For the rest of the semester I don’t raise my hand and when he rearranges the seats I get the urge to spit on his shoes when he places me right beside his desk. I don’t study for his class. I get a D and am kicked out of the honors program, though I am sure to know just enough material not to get an F. Re-taking the class would mean seeing him again.
I watch [One Specific Porn Star] so often that she is all I see when I see myself. I am both elated and despairing. What better thing for my teenage self esteem than the knowledge that thousands of people—maybe more—would get off on watching me have sex. But something about it feels imposing. Like a windstorm about to erupt into a tropical rain or a kitchen timer I know will scare me. I try to enjoy being beautiful.
The second time I am told that I look like [One Specific Porn Star] is a bit more direct. I’m nineteen and working at an organic restaurant and juice bar. I’m busy, sweaty, with strawberry and avocado stains drying into the fabric of my shirt.
There is a girl who can’t be much younger than I am and when she gets to the counter to order she pauses in stunned silence for a moment. Her voice stalls like she is studying the menu but her eyes study my body and face instead. “Can I get the blueberry mango smoothie?” Her words sound nervous, like they’re floating on the surface of foaming saltwater.
“Apple or orange juice?”
When I am done blending and hand her the smoothie, she takes a sip and asks quietly, “Is it rude to ask you why you work here?”
“I work here because it’s my job. I need money to live and I like juice.” I try my best to express my confusion but in response I appear to have confused the girl even more.
She whispers a little lower, “Aren’t you [One Specific Porn Star]?” For a moment, I consider saying yes, just to see what it would be like. To see what she would say. “How did you start? Like, what did you do to get into it? Did you know someone?”
When I realize she wants advice I can’t give her, I shake my head and say “Sorry, that’s not me. Good luck, though.” And go back to slicing pineapple on the counter. The juice sticks on my palms, and the girl lingers for a moment. She looks at me like she’s trying to crack my skull open like a walnut. She thinks I am lying. I let her.
The third time I am told that I look like [One Specific Porn Star] it is more like a confessional. I still work at the juice bar, which is where I meet my boyfriend. He comes in all the time, and after we start dating he stops coming in and admits he likes me much more than the juice and the salad wraps. I don’t mind. If given the choice I, too would say I like him more than juice and salad wraps.
He is kind to me. He has light brown hair and a scar on his shoulder from a dog bite. He likes cashews. He has a crystal and rock collection. He likes baseball shirts, though he doesn’t care for baseball.
Together, we wake up early for lake day trips and do Pilates together. We plant hanging tomatoes on the balcony in his apartment because it gets more sunlight than my balcony. We try to make our own red wine blend and it fails miserably. He tells me he enjoys when I wear red lipstick but hates getting it on his face. He teaches me how to drive stick shift. We have sex roughly once a week, sometimes more if the mood calls. We date for seven months.
He is too nice to admit it outright, but I notice that he is bored with our sex life. Some days he is less bored than others, but when things become routine it is sometimes inevitable. This displeases me. I try a few things—blowing him in the middle of the living room, letting him lick whipped cream off my body even though I myself don’t like whipped cream—but they lose their novelty.
One night we are in my bed, swimming in my oatmeal-colored sheets. I kiss his cheek, his neck, his chest. Make my way down. But he grabs by shoulder gently and says, “Hey, can I tell you something?”
“Of course.” I lay back beside him, afraid he is about to break things off with me.
“Honestly, when I first met you, the very first thing I noticed was than you look exactly like [One Specific Porn Star]. Do you know her? You probably don’t. She’s—”
“I know.” I haven’t heard her name out loud since that girl at the juice bar. I haven’t thought about her much since then. I never had to.
“Oh god, you think I’m a pervert. You probably think I’m such a dirtbag.” He gets a sour look on his face and buries his head into my shoulder.
“I don’t. I know what I look like,” I say.
“You’re prettier than her.”
I am not.
“Thanks,” I say.
“I just want you to know you’re prettier than her. You’re beautiful, okay? But I’ve always been into her videos. I used to watch her a ton before we got together.”
“Do you still?” I ask. “I don’t mind if you do.” I mean this. I can’t enforce constant power over his thoughts and desires.
“Recently. Yeah. I have. I’ve been getting back into her a lot.”
“And sleeping with me just isn’t the same?” I ask.
His eyes widen and he shakes his head. “That’s not what I meant at all.” Even in his dopey kindness, I can hell he is lying to save my feelings.
“Then what did you mean?” I ask, and silence follows. “What were you thinking would happen when you brought this up to me?”
He shakes his head and hides his face, and I touch a hand to his shoulder. Try to comfort him in the wake of something that I’m guessing should probably hurt me.
“I don’t know,” he says. And now I am the one who is silent. I rise from bed, and he does not try to argue. I rifle through my bag for my laptop, straining on too many tabs and blinking low battery. Slowly, I find her, for the first time in years. Her face shines sweaty as she bounces on top of some man who doesn’t matter. I turn the volume up and follow her lead.
My boyfriend’s eyes are glued to her, and what’s more—my eyes are glued to her. In this moment, I feel like a little girl staring at the grown woman version of herself, and I wonder if it will always be this way. I tilt my head back and catch the mirror. He is still looking at the screen.