Author’s memoir helps to normalize sexuality
By Srianthi Perera
A therapy cult encouraged Natascia Mallin to erase her personal history.
But, to the advantage of those who would benefit from a scintillating and honest read into female sexuality, she did not. She came out of the cult, named The Intimacy Project, after four years.
It also initiated just the opposite effect: rather than forgetting her history, she dug into it.
The result is her memoir, “The First 50: A Saga of Backseats, Bedrooms, Lookout Points, and Dive Bars,” published by Rare Bird Books and available on Amazon.
Mallin, a Jewish Italian-American born and raised on the Westside of Los Angeles who is now a resident of Mexico City, pulls no punches in her debut. It outlines 50 erotic encounters that took place between the ages of 13 and 33. She’s 36.
Her writing is daring, engaging and passionate, just like her adventures. The chapters delve into her lovers in chronological order, painting them in broad brushstrokes but containing just enough color to understand them.
In chapter one, Mallin describes a foray into a steam shower with her first lover:
“Engulfed in clandestine embrace, flexing in discovery, 14-year-old Natascia dissipated into expensive vapor and the newness of passion. There was no age. No time. No law. There was only Ricky and the beating rapture of zest. Hours went by. A lifetime. I don’t know. It could have been forever for all I cared, but eventually the water ran cold, and infinity ended. Ricky wrapped me up in a million-thread count, pre-revolution Egyptian cotton towel and ushered me into David’s brother’s room and onto David’s brother’s bed.
At the end of the quick sexual act, the teen had a recurring thought: “He didn’t ask.” The intimate happenings with equally fleeting other beaus include the surfer boys of Venice, camp friends, the young men she met in the extravagant parties held in Santa Monica mansions and fellow classmates at college.
Mallin, who is a cis-gendered queer female, said she wrote “The First 50” to normalize female sexuality.
“I am tired of the current conversation in which women are either hyper-sexualized through advertisements, pornography, and Kardashianesque sensationalism, or else they’re victimized in news stories of exploitation, exposés of sexual abuse, and progressive sociopolitical commentary that focuses on rape culture and survival,” she said.
“More than half of the human population is perpetually subjected to this dualistic view of its core erotic nature, and yet, shockingly, we are capable of having myriad experiences as human beings despite our not being male.”
The author wants to give voice to little girls growing up in this “false narrative” whose lives, experiences, feelings and thoughts are relegated to the scenery, discredited as secondary and ignored the moment they are gendered as “other.” The book is aimed toward men as well.
“I wrote this book for all the men who categorize stories that don’t have a male protagonist as ‘Chick Lit,’ and thus subject themselves to blind ignorance by limiting their knowledge of the human experience to only those things relatable to their own phallic nature,” she said.
Mallin’s frank memoir came into being because of an obsession with documenting life. She wrote down or filed away “every personal emotional epiphany scribbled on a napkin, every vivid dream I woke up with, every love letter I’ve ever stayed up all night to write.”
She has journals worth of poems, angry rants and short stories. She has about six years’ worth of daily diaries and countless lists that range from groceries and Christmas presents to people she’s slept with.
“I never threw anything away and was obsessed with the notion that one day I would make all of it matter,” Mallin said.
Mallin joined The Intimacy Project in 2010. Cult members were encouraged to take a sincere look at how they formed all of their ideas ranging from family, to friendships, to physical health, to power and analyze them in minute detail in order to discover whether they were a reflection of our “authentic self” or were just an idea we had unwittingly adopted through social conditioning.
“I was highly encouraged to abandon my constant documentation in order to “erase my personal history” and free myself from the prison of my mind,” she reflected. “Not only did I agree to stop one of the most authentic disciplines of my life, I even went so far as to label each journal, relic, piece of paper, etc. with a brief description of what it was and what symbolic value I’d “idiotically” assigned to it in preparation for a ceremony in which I would systematically burn all of it. Thank God the veil was lifted before I actually did that and I left the cult for good.”
One day, Mallin wondered if she had forgotten everyone she had slept with as a result of trying to erase her personal history.
“I busted out a piece of paper and wrote “Chapter One” and the rest flowed like honey,” she said.
With the encouragement of her lawyer and her father, Mallin changed the names of her lovers.
“At first I was stubbornly committed to using everyone’s real name. I have very strong feelings about holding people accountable to their predatory abusive behaviors,” she said.
But the ironic injustice of being sued didn’t seem worth it. “I think it would take an inhuman lack of self-awareness for someone not to recognize themself in the stories,” she noted.
Mallin moved to Florence, Italy when she was 17, but ran out of money “pretty quickly,” so she returned and enrolled at Santa Monica College. Later, she moved to Oakland and finished her undergraduate degree at Mills College, “just in time for the Great Recession.”
She has some acting chops under her belt, but most of her bills are paid by working in restaurants, as a caterer, private chef and nanny. Her current — and greatest — passions are traveling, food and talking to people. Her dream is to be an Anthony Bourdain, the travel journalist who wandered in many lands meeting people and observing their ways.
Mallin plans to follow “The First 50” with an illustrated children’s book for adults that deals with alcoholism and emotional abuse and a novel influenced by her time as a nanny.
Just now, her first publication takes center stage.
“I would have killed for a book like this growing up,” Mallin said. “A book that helped me make sense of everything that was happening to me sexually; that I participated in, agreed to and committed.
When she was growing up, there were few female narratives that didn’t exalt monogamous “true love” as the ultimate achievement and objective of a fully realized woman.
“My greatest hope is that someone who is completely lost in the maelstrom of conditioned romantic relating gets a hold of this book and it offers them a moment of rest and comfort from the abyss of amorous oblivion,” Mallin said. “That and HBO, Netflix, Hulu and FX launch themselves into a bidding war over the rights to it.”
“The First 50” published by Rare Bird Books is available as a paperback ($20) and on Kindle ($14.99) on Amazon.com starting August 24.