Perpetual Virgin (A Novel in Progress by Leah Marie Brown)

Chapter One: What’s in a name?All right I will admit it; I have told more than one man that he was my first lover. I don’t know why I started lying about my sexual history, but I think it could have something to do with my name.

What’s in a name? If you are looking for the philosophical or poetic answer, check out Shakespeare. If you want a real-life, unvarnished example of the importance of a name, of how it helps mold and shape the personality and sexuality of an individual, read on.

I am Vivia Perpetua Grant. I know what you are thinking. What in the hell sort of name is Vivia Perpetua?

Maybe I should explain. My parents are strict Catholics. Born and raised in a small English town, they clung to their faith the way most British cling to their tea, the Queen, and their quirky comedies (I am sorry, but I just don’t get the humor of Monty Python. And am I the only person on the planet that finds Mr. Bean’s excessively large nostrils and slow-witted mumbling more than a little frightening?) Anyway…

Seduced by the promise of straight American roads, large homes, and dental care, my parents left England a few years after getting married, vowing they would continue to take tea, cheer Mansfield, and raise their children to be God-fearing Catholics.
So, how did I come to be named Vivia Perpetua? Be patient, I am getting there.

I am a little shaky on the details, but apparently old Vivia Perpetua was a noble woman who lived over a thousand years ago and was imprisoned because of her faith. I am not sure if she was known for her modesty or her matronly virtues. Either way, my grandmother (God rest her soul) raised my mother to believe that Saint Vivia Perpetua had been the superlative woman, someone who knew that chastity and humility paved the road to Heaven, just as wantonness and wickedness paved the road to Hell. You see, Saint Vivia Perpetua spent her last few morally-correct moments on earth in a Roman amphitheater being torn limb from limb by a boar or bear or leopard. I am sorry. I don’t remember which wild animal mauled the martyr, but that’s not really the point. The point is my mother named me Vivia Perpetua because she believed it would somehow safeguard me against the evils that she believed were currently plaguing the world’s youth: sex, drugs, and rock and roll.

I know it sounds cliché, but it’s true. My mother really believed that if she named me after some long-dead, mostly-forgotten saint, I would spend my life collecting unused eyeglasses for the blind or doling out mosquito netting to malaria plagued Africans (not that there is anything wrong with those efforts, but please). Even more important than my mother’s desire to raise a socially conscious do-gooder, was her desire to raise a young woman who would vehemently guard her virtuousness until matrimony.

It didn’t work.

Okay, I never dabbled in drugs (not even a puff on a joint – despite the fact that one of my friends promised me smoking pot would make me wildly popular and increase my breast size – whatever), but in high school I cranked Aerosmith and had sex. I have been out of high school for twelve years now and I still like rock and roll and I still like sex.

In fact, I love sex.

So, you see, my mother could have named me something more normal. I could have been one of a million Jennifers, Amys or Cynthias born in 1978 and it wouldn’t have made one bit of difference. But, no. She had to saddle me with Vivia Perpetua and a load of baggage about sex. In fact, I have more baggage than the Louis Vuitton flagship store on 5th Avenue in New York City, which I visited once with my best friend Fanny Mounts (yes, that really is her name so no wise cracks) who works as a Regional Merchandiser for LVMH. Fanny is gorgeous, smart, talented, and the most sophisticated person I have ever met. She has sophistication oozing from her otherwise immaculate pores. She’s French so I am pretty sure the sophistication gene is hardwired into her DNA. Fanny never lies about her sexual history. She is confident and unflinchingly honest.

Like when I first met her. She told me her name was Stéphanie Elise Girard Mounts and I told her mine was Vivia Perpetua.

“How horrible,” she gasped, as if I had just confessed to having been born one half of a Siamese twin. “I cannot call you that name. To me, you shall be Vivian.”

“Like Vivian Leigh?”

Exactement,” she smiled. “Only less tragique.”

We were best friends from that moment on. We talk almost every day and we share all of our secrets.

The first time I told her I had lied to a lover about my sexual prowess, she said, “Honestly Vivian,” pronouncing the end of my name with her charming nasal accent, “I do not understand why you lie about such things. If a man won’t accept you for who you are, he is not worth the Dior Gloss.”
Fanny and I are addicted to Dior’s Addict Ultra Lip Gloss, but at $25 a tube, we are careful to use it on only the most delectable and Dior-worthy dates. In fact, it has become our code-phrase.
“Was he Dior-worthy?”
“I thought he would be, but he spent sixty-eight minutes talking about his ex, suggested I pay half of the bill, and then tried to use a coupon to pay for his half.”

“Girl, I hope you saved the Dior.”

I forgot to mention that Fanny is completely obsessed with Christian Dior. Not the conglomerate, but the couturier. She even quotes him.

“Remember Christian’s mantra: ‘The tones of gray, pale turquoise and pink will always prevail,’” she once quipped, in an effort to persuade me to wear a ridiculous fuchsia bubble skirt.

But I digress. I was supposed to be telling you about my pathological need to portray myself as a virgin, why it is my mother’s fault, and why I am now in the eye of maelstrom that has destroyed everything I once cherished.

Maybe I should start at the beginning. . .


Anonymous said...


I love this! I hope you finish!

Madeline said...

Leah, Your imagination is amazing! Great and much good luck.