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“I want to talk to you about something. I want to talk to you about sex. You might be surprised to learn that I haven’t had sex. Like, ever. It’s not a religion thing. It’s not a trauma thing. It’s just a thing that is true.
The reason I’m telling you this is because I want to be upfront about the fact that this is why it might take me longer to be comfortable with sex than you were expecting. I just don’t want you to think you’re doing anything wrong, or that I don’t like you, because I do. I feel safe on my birth control, I feel safe with you. It’s on the table, but I need more time.”
I spent two days rehearsing and reworking this speech in my car during my very long commute.
Minor negotiation with my roommates got me an empty apartment on Friday night, and I invited the very sweet guy I’ve been dating over for a movie and a home-cooked dinner. We were close to hitting the double digits in dates, even though we hadn’t been going out for that long. I could feel the moment of truth coming on.
Being a virgin this late in life is something that made me feel freakish for a couple years, a feeling I didn’t get over until my mid-twenties. It’s doesn’t bother me as a fact about myself anymore, but it’s still a fact I don’t like other people learning about me. I’ve become adept at nodding in the right places, or offering just-vague-enough agreements in conversations over cocktails with the few friends I have who don’t know.
It’s not hard, no one suspects this from a woman my age. I’ve mastered my totally earnest/responsible/mature face for responding to gynecologist’s disbelieving raised eyebrows.
The disbelief, shock, and pity I get when people do find out usually requires some sort of justification and I have condensed the explanation down as short as I can get it:
Chubby in high school with horrific acne, by the time both of those issues were resolved I was at a small college where the entire population paired off in the first week and I didn’t realize that the window wouldn’t ever open again, then a couple years in my crappy hometown, known statewide for it’s off-the-charts rate of chlamydia infections, then a couple years struggling to find safe lodgings and steady work before I actually started dating for the first time in my life.
And since starting to really date, I have learned to never let a guy prompt the conversation.
I learned it from the first boyfriend (when I was 22) who maintained patience through a month and a half of fooling around but didn’t want to hear “I’m not ready.” The message was ground in by the guy who couldn’t bring himself to knock me off that pedestal of purity and contented himself with just pawing around the cornices.
And as though I hadn’t gotten quite enough BS reminders that I am a little outside the ordinary, the last guy I dated for a notable length of time went from being fun and interesting to obsessed and zealous to convert me the second the v-bomb got dropped. He stopped asking me about my day or my opinions and managed to bring every single conversation back to my vagina and unswiped v-card, even out in public.
I understood that was because he was a freak, not because I was a virgin, but it was still not the most affirming experience of my life. Telling someone the truth never had been.
So, on Friday night I slid into my car after work, blasted my psych-up gym playlist, and went through my speech a couple more times. I got home and changed into nicer clothes. I re-tidied my already tidy room. I slapped on some makeup. I sautéed chicken and garlic.
I was going in prepared. I had been mocked, rejected, disbelieved, and fetishized because of this stupid imaginary thing, but this time, instead of trying to hide this albatross around my neck, I was going to whip it out and deal with the consequences.
He came over exactly on time, despite the terrible weather (it was snowing like hell that night) and we hung out in the kitchen while I finished up dinner. We watched a movie. He complimented my cooking. We talked about books and work. Eventually we moseyed toward my room where we both realized that, busy with my other preparations for the night, I had forgotten to change out of my I-don’t-care-it’s-Friday-sports-bra. After a couple confused seconds of him attempting to unclasp spandex, I was suddenly spewing out my entire speech.
In my car, with Gin Wigmore in the background, it had sounded mature and unapologetic. Not-quite-topless in my bedroom, it just sounded rehearsed.
And he didn’t care.
He barely reacted, like it was such an utter non-issue he wasn’t sure why I’d even brought it up. I actually wound up tugging my bra back on and repeating a few parts of the end of the speech, to make sure he got why we were talking about this, because a shrug, an “OK,” and a kiss was so completely not what I was expecting.
He just assured me that it didn’t matter and he wasn’t in a rush. It was a totally anticlimactic ending to a suddenly anticlimactic story.
And it was awesome.