When guys find out I’m a cherry
There’s no good time to tell a dude you’re a cherry. Very first date? Too much, too soon. Wait until the third date and you risk being considered a taunt. 2nd date? Perhaps, but at this point you’re both still fretting over whether or not to eat another lump of bread; delving into sexual histories (or lack thereof) seems a bit extreme. So: There’s no good time to tell a man you’re a cherry. Even worse? Telling him you’re waiting until marriage.
I should be better at sharing this bit of information by now. I’m a 26-year-old woman with a college degree, a good job, an adorable duplex and no debt. I have a solid group of friends, a supportive family and a clear awareness of who I am and who I want to be. By most accounts, I am a successful human being. Yet the moment I have to tell the fellow I’m dating that hookup is not an option, I become a squirmy, awkward, fidgety woman who can’t make eye contact or put together a accomplish sentence. Think junior high dance, only without a bathroom to hide in.
The Talk was never indeed an issue for me until three years ago. I wasn’t like many teenagers, who consider lovemaking a rite of passage. It’s true I always had a crush on one (or two) boys and had my fair share of beau’s, but no relationship ever got serious enough where hook-up was even a thought, let alone a deal breaker. For most of my junior high and high school years, I played the role of the friend — the token lady in a group of boys who were more interested in taking my advice for how to ask a woman to prom than taking me to prom. And given the choice inbetween having just one boy with whom to spend all my time or a group of boys, friends trumped beau.
In college there were a handful of guys who most likely could have been my very first, but things never fairly worked out. One boy confessed to having a gf back home just as I commenced to fall for him. Another had such low self-esteem he wouldn’t make a stir until just before he passed out. The most serious contender waited until I was so smitten with him that I would break plans, skip class, call in sick — whatever — to drive hours to visit him, and then dumped me, telling it “just wasn’t a good time for him.”
Another reason lovemaking didn’t factor into my coming-of-age years is that I’m a Christian. Not a Bible-thumping, the-world-is-going-to-hell-in-a-handbasket Christian, but a (sexually) conservative, Bible-believing, traditionally raised Minnesota Lutheran female who was instructed that hookup is for marriage and that’s that. Heck, the very first time I even heard of a gargle job was when I threw a party in eighth grade and my mom caught a dame going down on a stud in our basement. She was shockingly cool about it (which is telling something: my mom was the Mom of all Moms; the woman all my friends feared, revered and secretly worshiped) and let the party play out until everyone had gone home. Then all hell broke liberate — at least that’s how it seemed to my eighth-grade, never-been-kissed self. She sat me down at the kitchen table, folded her palms, looked me straight in the eyes and said, “Let’s talk about oral hookup.” I’d thought the birds-and-bees talk was painful; this was torment.
I don’t know whether it was hearing my mom explain the basics of oral hookup, the embarrassment of having not previously known about this particular genre or the fact that she caught two of my friends actually engaging in this in my basement, but let’s just say I never fully recovered from that centuries-long five-minute conversation.
Something else that has kept my pants on all these years: Despite my Miss Independent, one-of-the-guys, often cynical/always logical behavior, I am a hopeless romantic. I believe wholeheartedly that hook-up and love should coexist. In fact, I believe they need to coexist; that without love, hook-up is just a Band-Aid fix for something that should be addressed with words rather than walks of shame. What’s more, I’m an obnoxiously picky person who avoids letting go of control, being vulnerable and making mistakes at all costs — a by-the-book Type-A perfectionist. The longer I go without lovemaking, the more build-up there is: the more anxiety and curiosity, fear and desire, anticipation and uncertainty. Basically, what was once just another bit of my identity has, over twenty six years, become a defining element of who I am, whether I like it or not.
Despite what you may think, abstaining has not made me a pitiful, lonely, pleasure-deprived shell of a person. Nor am I anti-sex. In fact, I’m all for lovemaking — from what I’ve heard, it’s fantastic! Life-changing! Glorious! (At least when it’s good.) I cannot wait to have hookup someday. Right now, however, I appreciate — and even take pride in — my virginity. It separates me from other women. Not in an “I’m better than them” way, but in the same way that being taller than most makes someone unique, or having two different-colored eyes. As for The Talk, I’ve found that over time it’s become more of a Dude Decoder than Relationship Wrecker. Let me explain:
Every man reacts differently to the No Hookup bomb. Some play it cool while calculating how to coerce me into switching my mind. (This usually involves the displaying off of make-out moves, tales of the extreme elations I’ve been missing and/or purring that they don’t mind waiting — unless it’s going to be, like, two years, in which case they’re not so sure.) Some bail instantly. Some fake acceptance — and then bail a few dates later. And some truly give celibacy their best shot before cracking down and, yep, bailing.
That’s what happened three years ago with Boy One. At the time of The Talk, Boy One and I had been on two official dates, but had liked each other for a lot longer. We were making out on my couch when he went to unbutton my jeans — which was about seven steps beyond what I was ready for, and my assets language told him as much. He awkwardly apologized, I awkwardly said it was fine, and we kept smooching, awkwardly. Instead of just sucking it up and telling Boy One why I was being so weird, I determined to be utterly mature and wait until he had left to text him asking if we could talk. He called me and I spent the next half-hour mumbling and stuttering out the truth. I don’t reminisce his exact reaction, but it was something along the lines of, “It’s not a big deal, why didn’t you just tell me?” At which point I felt relaxed, foolish and annoyed with myself for not having had the moxie to say something in person.
Unluckily, because Boy One fell into the celibacy-then-bail category, it was just a matter of time — three months — before the truth came tumbling out. Our relationship ended in a drunken yelling match that spanned from my withholding physical affection (his words) to his withholding emotional closeness (my words) to us not communicating, period. Turns out, the lovemaking thing mattered.
Boy Two was the polar opposite of Boy One: optimistic, bubbly and more excitable than a puppy. We lasted about two months before I bailed. Hook-up was less of an issue this time, mostly because I knew he was my rebound (yes, I’m a terrible person). I simply told him I was waiting until marriage, didn’t see us going in that direction, and that was that.
Boy Three truly threw me for a loop. He worked at my church and was downright different from anyone I’d previously dated, a fervently devout and serious Christian with cemented views on pretty much everything. At very first, this was attractive: who doesn’t like a man who knows what he wants? Once I figured out what it was he desired, however — a wifey who would bear his children, metal his clothes, laugh at his jokes and agree with him at all times — it was awful.
What indeed shook me about Boy Three, however, wasn’t his traditional values or stringent religious beliefs. The thing that threw me was how much he pressured me sexually. Unlike Boy One, who had at least respected me enough to attempt to abstain, this stud — this man who repeatedly told me he’d chosen to dedicate his career and life to God — coerced me into the most awkward sexual situations and conversations I’ve ever suffered, pushing and prodding me further and further outside my convenience zone. And every time I would thrust back and say no, he would throw a tantrum and shut down, making me feel guilty, angry and entirely lost as to what on earth I’d gotten myself into. I stuck around far too long with Boy Three, but when I ultimately did leave, it was with renewed determination to string up on to my virginity, even if it meant waiting a lifetime.
Like I said before, I’m not anti-sex. I’m not immune to desire, either: It’s flattering when the man I’m with wants so badly to rip off my clothes and have his way with me that he has to leave the room in order to respect my decision. It drives me crazy when he murmurs in my ear and taunts me in all the right ways. And, yes, in situations like those I do waver and wonder whether or not it’s worth holding out for the big I Do.
So why do I do it? Why do I stick to my boundaries when it would feel so good to bust through them? Why have I had The Talk so many times it’s become (almost) convenient? Why do I string up on so tightly to an antiquated lifestyle choice that’s shunned by society and makes people assume I’m a repressed prude?
I do it because after twenty six years, I’ve come to realize that of all the practices and opportunities suggested in life, to love someone is the most precious. A long time ago I was instructed — and chose to believe — that love and lovemaking are intertwined in such a way that to separate them would be to lessen their value. When it comes to my decision to stay a cherry until marriage — to hold out for that one-time-only chance to fully connect with and know and love another person — I want to make sure it’s the right man.
Until then, bring on the squirmy no-sex talk.