I was what you’d call a late bloomer, and, as some may say, I’m still blooming.
At 27, I stoically stand on the outskirts of my twentysomething peers: I am still a virgin. Maybe even more earth-shattering: I plan to stay one until the day (or I suppose, night) I get married.
This is the sort of admission that elicits firm convictions from both sides of the emotional fence. Some react with awe, others with confusion and still others with a look of pity.
And let’s not forget the list of questions. Though no one has ever uttered these questions directly to me, I’m sure they’re the same across the board:
“Wow, how can you have such willpower?”
“It must be because of your physical disability, right?”
“Please don’t tell me you’re going to try and convert me, okay?”
“You mean you’re a virgin? Like a ‘virgin’ virgin?”
Go ahead. It’s okay. I’ve seen the glares before, from people who are astonished at my sheer ‘willpower’ (I’ve never even thought about it like that) to people who assume that my physical disability must have something to do with my aversion to between-the-sheets fun (It doesn’t) to even people who wonder if I have a countdown to V-Day (I don’t) or if I have an unnatural attachment to Steve Carrell’s character in The 40-Year-Old Virgin (honestly, I’ve never even seen the movie).
In fact, my choice has nothing to do with any of the above. The nail in the coffin that sealed my fate came, ironically, from the place I least expected.
MORE JUICE AFTER THE JUMP…
I’ve always been shy about sex. In our sex-obsessed world, this makes me somewhat of an outsider. Sex does sell, after all. We see sex subtly being advertised on billboards, in Herbal Essence commercials and in those annoying Internet pop-up ads promising you a good time if only you click.
But what about the rest of us? What about the silent minority who DO want to have sex, just not RIGHT NOW?
A life like mine, where I haven’t had a one-night stand and have accepted the fact that for the conceivable future there will be no need for me to buy a king-sized bed or a pack of condoms (do condoms even come in packs?), isn’t part of the discussion. The topic usually never even comes up. I’ve found people just assume that at my age, I’ve “done the deed” and am just being modest. Yet I carry my virginity, invisibly, around with me like some people carry condoms or tampons in their purse. I guess I like the security of it; I feel like it’ll always be there when I need it.
The point: Not liking, thinking, feeling, wanting sex all the time is considered unbalanced. Not having sex is one thing, but not wanting to have lots of it is virtually abnormal.
So why am I a virgin, you ask? I’ve never gone as far as wear a purity ring or fill out a virginity vow card because, quite frankly, I’ve never wanted to make something that I feel is a very private decision open to public knowledge. Whenever I’ve tried to express my decision, I rattle off the laundry list of how I respect myself and my body, how I want the first time to be a magical fairytale with my Soul Mate, how said Soul Mate will of course respect and love me enough to wait.
It’s not because I am religious. Most people would consider me a heathen, in fact. I didn’t start going to church until I was 14 and my parents dragged my sister and me to a local Unitarian Universalist church. My mother grew up a strict Methodist, and apparently she wanted us to have the same experiences she did, only a more liberal, open-minded, self-journey one. It didn’t work because I’ve moved as far away from any religion as I can. I’m not a virgin because God or the Bible tells me it’s a sin – why would God deprive people of what some consider an animal instinct?
It’s not because I’m a prude who has dreams of forsaking life on the outside in favor of a nunnery. I’m not as naïve as all that. I know the basics – what parts are involved, what each part does and the importance of safety first. In fact, I learned most of the ins and outs of sex from that health class and magazines like Glamour and Cosmo. By the time I was 13, I’d check out Glamours by the handful and lock myself in my bedroom for hours, pouring over every article and diagram; it was my own private life and love lesson.
It’s not because I’m trying to make a social or political statement. Never once have I ever thought that having sex meant giving in to the ‘man’ or throwing your feminism out the window with your bra. In all honesty, I always assumed that I would have a traditional life: white-picket fence, cookies (and maybe a bun) in the oven and certainly would have gone through the whole sex/first-time thing before I walked down the aisle.
It’s not even because I suffered family trauma as a child that has left me jaded and mistrustful of people, especially men. My parents were young lovers who met in college and never searched again. They were married for 25 years and had more good times than bad. Same thing with my extended family, with no bitter divorces or custody battles to speak of.
I could say I chose to remain a virgin for all those reasons – my love of God, my lack of a picture-perfect couple – but truthfully, like many things in life, my “aha” moment came in the form of a story, a story that, instead of showing me how I wanted my “first” time to be, showed me how I didn’t want it to be.
The scene should have been beautiful, magical, with roses and candles and in a room filled with ‘80s soft rock ballads. But it wasn’t, and I took the lesson to heart. I knew those weren’t the memories I wanted to remember about my first time when I’m an 80-year-old woman.
The bottom line is that it’s made me more cautious, and now, it’s all about me – not about God or what other people do or what other people say I should do.
For me, sex has never been mutually exclusive with love. That love can be something much grander than passionate love making, I suppose, sealed my choice. And that’s just what it is: my choice. Maybe he’ll come some day; maybe not. But I’ll always be able to count on that choice – and it won’t leave me disappointed come sunrise!