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Review of Kerry Cohens Loose Girl: A Memoir of Promiscuity

looseHyperion, 2009


By Michelle Wittle

At age eleven, Kerry Cohen learned the power she held over men. As Cohen walked down a street in her hometown, a man in a truck hung out his window and whistled at her. She saw how much power a person could have over another and how she could use that power to feel better. She wanted to be a part of something. She wanted to belong. She needed to be accepted, and the only place she found it was with men.

This memoir is not a laundry list of bedded men. It is not a sex tell-all. Cohen uses the words “addiction” in the introduction of the book to let readers know the seriousness of these random acts and the severe impact they had on her life and her ability to form healthy relationships. However, Cohen makes it clear, she wasn’t addicted to the feeling of sex, but to its power. Being wanted and needed by another person made Cohen feel she belonged to someone and she was worthwhile. She thought she understood what it meant “to be loved.”

I thought so too. I tended to be pushy, needy, and even crazy. I could never verbalize my emotions. How could I explain to another person I was scared or I didn’t belong? I interpreted my parents’ death as a deep rejection. My parents didn’t love me enough to take better care of themselves; therefore, they left me. Much like Cohen, I looked to others to define me. I wanted to be worthwhile to someone. I needed to feel important and loved. I, too, was addicted to love’s power.

Like Cohen, I am recovering from the addiction of seeing myself defined by the world. Sometimes I slip up and find myself looking to one person to love me and believing that if this person could love me, the world would follow. I interpret an unanswered e-mail or phone call to mean the person hates me and I am not worthy to be in his or her life. I’m still pushy. I protect myself, because I believe I am worthless and any person I care about will leave. It’s all part of the recovery.

Loose Girl: A Memoir of Promiscuity is one of the most honest and open books I have read about a young woman trying to grow up as her family falls apart.

Michelle Wittle is an MFA candidate in creative writing at Rosemont College in Rosemont, Pennsylvania. Currently she works with the literary magazine Philadelphia Stories, where she writes a blog series and sits on the fiction board.