As I blew out the metaphorical candles on my 30th birthday cake (pandemic birthday), I said to myself … if I don’t get married this year, I am going to write a book titled “The Life of a 30-Year-Old Virgin.”
At the age of 14 after an impacting youth service at church and a few horror stories from teen Mums, I made a trip to Claire’s accessories and bought a £4.99 ring which I proudly called a promise ring, and vowed to myself and God that I would somehow keep my legs closed till I got married. I came home like a puppy after playing in the park, excitedly telling my Mother that I had made a decision to not have sex till I was married to which she replied “Oh ok.” Not the response I had wanted but also nothing out of the ordinary.
Fortunately, my promise to God lasted longer than that ring which quickly turned green and began to irritate my skin. When I look back now I smile at my naïve 14-year-old self who had little awareness of teenage boys and absolutely no desire to have sex. I had no interest in romance, nothing more than a few B2K posters on my wall along with a few photos of Lil Bow Wow. What was I really abstaining from? Nothing really. I had absolutely no idea that ten years later I would still be honoring that vow but with a lot more determination.
Living in a world that promotes sexual freedom was one thing I was aware of, but what I never expected was that my sexual restraint would offend others. My desire to wait till I got married to have sex seemed to genuinely offend people. When sharing my views and desires, why did people feel the need to justify to me why they were sleeping with their boyfriends and girlfriends? My life decision about how I wanted to conduct myself in relationships wasn’t about them at all, and yet what I shared always seemed to go full circle.
I remember one colleague calling my decision “unnatural”, that I was “wasting my body” and that I didn’t really love someone if I wouldn’t sleep with them. I found it fascinating that purity was so loathsome to people and that a decision to remain sexually pure was not afforded the same respect as being promiscuous. How quickly things had changed in just a few short decades. What will perspectives be like in 2070?
Though I don’t remember ever feeling ashamed of being a virgin at 16 or 26, I also had no desire to broadcast it. I quickly learned that to leave university as a virgin was odd, to some it was admirable but mostly it was odd. But to be a virgin at 30 was just ridiculous!
Being a virgin also seemed to make you easy prey to young men wanting to see if they could change that status for you. For years I heard things like:
“You don’t look like a virgin”
“You don’t act like a virgin”
And others simply didn’t believe me all together – I didn’t know how to feel about that one.
After a few relationships that didn’t bring me to an isle I was wondering if I would ever get married, ever have sex or perhaps that wasn’t so wrong after all. Maybe my flat stomach and perky breasts would be wasted, nothing but holiday photos that I would embarrassingly show to future nieces telling them how good I used to look. How was it that the same people telling me to have sex, were also sharing narratives like “all men cheat” or “guys are visual.” Were they all just out there playing Russian roulette hoping to beat the odds? It made no sense to me.
But what I didn’t know as I turned 30, is that I would be having great sex just 10 months later, with a man that loved me for me. My husband. But even if he hadn’t come along I like to believe that I would have stuck to my guns. Because I believe that what so many of us are craving is so much more than sex. It’s connection, acceptance, and love. Me having sex when everyone else told me to may have made me more socially accepted, but at what price? This isn’t designed to condemn, not in the slightest. But as well-being, self-care, and loving yourself become everyday mantras, it would be foolish of us to think that who we allow into our bed won’t affect our innermost thoughts and feelings about ourselves.
Today I thank the decision of a 14-year-old for protecting me from making mistakes of the heart and body, that naive little girl might have known more than she ever realized. Perhaps she wasn’t so naive after all. What’s the 14-year-old version of you saying today?
A Brit living in Paris, after falling in love with a Frenchman during a pandemic (there wasn’t much else to do.) Content creator and copywriter for companies with a purpose. Lover of delicious food and clothes off eBay!