And if you want to hear more, come check out Love Junkie author Rachel Resnick on December 18th at True Sex Confessions Night at In The Flesh Reading Series, along with Neal Boulton, Kiki T., Christen Clifford and Rex Sorgatz!
Warning: There are some spoilers in this review. Rachel Resnick's powerful memoir starts with a bang. Any writer or avid computer user will cringe along with her as she discovers that her house has been burglarized and her hard drive drowned (don't worry, her data is later recovered). To find out the act's been committed by her ex only compounds our sympathy with her. But the plot thickens, and as Resnick takes us through her tumultuous childhood, filled with a mother so intent on her next boyfriend she barely has time for her two children and a father who leaves when she's 4 and later sides with his new wife over Resnick.
Sex lurks throughout her early years, from an exploration with a cousin to a boy who punches her for telling him she likes him to her reading of dirty books and magazines. As an adult, Resnick looks for the bad boys, but not the stereotypical James Dean-esque ones sporting leather jackets and tattoos. No, she looks for truly bad boys, ones who'll hook her and then torment her.
It's unclear where their bad behavior ends and Resnick's willful misreading of their cues begins. After one lover tells her "You're wasting your emotions on me. I don't believe in love," she writes, "This is the kind of love I recognize. The one where the conflicted lover pretends he doesn't feel the way he does feel, must feel." Resnick is clearly a smart, strong woman, and reading on as she makes the same mistakes over and over again is at times trying; like her friends who try to warn her away, as a reader one can see the hurt coming a mile away, the men pushed to being hurtful (not that most need much pushing) to get her to finally leave, or at least, retreat.
Of the man who would later drown her hard drive, she clings most especially hard, even after he dismisses her miscarriage and her pain over it, even after he disparages and yells at her in front of her friends. "I couldn't let go, because it was all I had. I, Rachel, had disappeared. I had poured every ounce of myself into this vision I had of the perfectly loveable Rachel, the perfect couple, the perfect solution to my so-far botched life. I'd invested everything I had in this fantasy," she writes near the end, summing up the crux of this book.
The writing here is sharp, with some sentences standing out as if in bold. Resnick has clearly spent many years thinking about what she terms "love addiction," and while I'm not 100% sure I agree with her about its roots in her childhood (though her mother's abandonment and death when she's a teenager, and her father's dismissal over her, of course had an impact), clearly there is something within her that draws her back to the bad boys again and again, against reason and logic. When she later has a passionate affair with a woman (also a fellow love junkie), she writes that she is "Turned on by her honesty," whereas before she had been "turned on by deception." This, coming after lush descriptions of male bodies, of intimate encounters rendered in graphic detail, that often turned, by her own desire, rough and kinky, is a revelation. Yet looking deeper, it's clear that on some level the intimacy she has shared with boyfriends is also based not just on physical attraction, but the glimpses of their past, especially their wounds, that cement her addiction. If Resnick has a type, it's chiseled, hunky, cruel and broken, a pattern she breaks with her female lover, for seemingly the first time.
There is not a proper "ending" to this book. Resnick doesn't neatly sum up the lessons she's learned, as so many memoirs, especially those of darkness and addiction do. She has certainly learned lessons, but they are ongoing, everyday ones. She may call her missteps on the path to recovery "slips," (as in, flings) but they are also, surely, opportunities for learning. Resnick weaves the highs of first meeting, of flirting and arousal and must-tear-clothes-off-now with the lows that seem to come, for her, right on the heels of these highs. She does not apologize for her errors, but simply lays them out, their truth speaking powerfully to anyone who's deliberately chosen someone we know, somewhere deep down, is bad for us. Highly recommended.