When I first read this story, I assumed that The Vow in question had been made in response to parental pressure. I was wrong:
‘Both of my parents knew about my vow and both of them, whom have not agreed on a single thing since their divorce in 1996, told me square in the face that I would not make it. Neither my mother, nor my father believed it was humanly possible to hold off till marriage. I think my parents are happy that I chose to abstain but I don't think it is because of the normal reasons. They just had one less worry in the world. I wouldn't be getting pregnant.’
No, I am actually talking about a more powerful vow than that. This is the vow made between children, children on the threshold of adult hood with idealism, adventures and a bright future laid out in front of them. The world is full of possibilities when we are teenagers. Making a pact to do – or not to do something can seem like a good idea when we are young.
These sorts of pacts can be enduring. I have a friend who decided to give up meat with her best friend at the age of fifteen. To this day, a full twenty-seven years after two teenage girls decided to forego the eating of animals, neither of them has eaten meat.
Of course giving up meat and foregoing sex are two different things and our needs change as we grow and develop. Although I did once hear a story about a vegetarian who had a very nasty bicycle accident. As she lay shocked and bruised in the road, the very real possibility of being crushed to death by a ten-ton lorry having just flashed before her face, a bizarre feeling overtook her. She felt an almost overwhelming urge to eat a big fat juicy piece of meat. Which she did and, by all accounts, she felt a lot better for it. Is there something in meat that helps humans to recover from shock? I don’t know. Was it a strange, almost primordial sense of self-preservation, i.e. I almost got killed therefore I must eat something that once lived? One can only guess.
I digress. At fifteen years old, we are taking a stance. We are laying down the law, our law, as we see fit. Making a vow is a way of asserting ourselves, of imprinting our authority upon ourselves, our parents, over anyone who will bother to listen and telling them, this is who I am.
The trick, of course, is to recognize when the vow ceases to be useful to us because, let me tell you, at some point, that vow is going to become a millstone around your neck. Life changes, we change and situations change. Continuing to do something that you decided to do when you were fifteen is a bit like trying to squeeze into your childhood clothes when you are a teenager. They don’t fit. Don’t even get me started on True Love Waits and the concept of teenage girls promising their virginity to their fathers. People should be allowed to develop in the way that nature intended. If that involves sexual activity, so be it. In Sarah’s case, it didn’t and that is an equally valid choice.
Choice is the optimum word here. Not parents. Or churches. Sarah made her choice of her own free will. No parents were involved in the taking of this vow! Which is the way it should be. Sarah is also grown up enough to know when the choice she has made no longer serves any purpose. Is she planning on being a nun? No. Has she finished her schooling and not got pregnant? Yes. Excellent. Time to move on. The fact is that Sarah probably has saved herself a whole bunch of heartache by not having to deal with the intensity of a sexual relationship at a young age. But at 23 years old, she is more than ready to jump in at the deep end.
The best part of this story is that the opportunity to jump into metaphorical swimming pools comes a whole lot quicker than you think it would. ‘Do keep in touch’ I said. ‘When the time comes, I would love to know how this story develops’. Three weeks later, part two landed in my lap but I’ll save that for next time.
Part One – The Vow
'Growing up does many things. We love, we lose, we learn but most of all we gain a better understanding of our own choices. For me, I have learned that one choice was once right and that now it’s time to change my theory according to life, not past ideals, not personal histories but reality as it is now. The vow started as celibacy, moved to abstinence and is now something else…
My friends and I took the vow around 13. Like typical naive girls we actually believed it would work. I believe what kick started the conversation with my friends was gossip about a few girls our age that were pregnant and had dropped out of school. We were, and are, very educated and so, to us, leaving school was unthinkable. The idea for the vow spawned from there. We all made the pact that we would not become a teenage statistic and we wouldn't let anything stop us from graduation. By the time we graduated high school everyone but myself had broken it.
I saw how miserable sex was making most of my peers so I figured I made a great choice. There was pregnancy; disease, failed relationships and extra pressure that to me, were needless.
At 17, I really began to take my vow seriously and when I received a beautiful ring for graduation, I vowed to keep my promise even more. It worked out great because I was too busy with school to get involved with anyone to the point of intimacy. So no harm, no foul, no lesson. Most of my college days were spent not having a worry about sexual relationships because they never got that far.
At the age of 19, I met my first serious boyfriend. We got serious fast and desires to build a future seemed to only fuel my need to uphold my now, well-known vow. At that time in my life, I was so hung up on what other people expected of me, I continued to maintain my vow even though in my heart I saw my reasons had lost validity.
I always said I wanted to wait until my husband’s ring replaced my fathers, but I have come to realize that in my heart I only wanted to wait for the moment to feel right. Like the heart of my ring I wanted to wait until someone set my heart on fire so that it sparkled like the gem held within the setting. Funny that a loss causes our eyes to become open because I know I had that and even though in the end it didn’t work out, at that time it was real. I always say live life without regrets. Do I regret not sleeping with him? No. Am I happy with my choice to uphold something I no longer personally supported? Well that answer to that is also no.
It’s hard to put in words where I stand today. I am proud of what I have done, I am happy with who I am and I am secure in the knowledge that my vow was valid and is now void. This does not mean I’m hopping in the sack tomorrow, but this also means that who I am today is not who I was 10 years ago. I can honestly say without a doubt in my mind that, at 23, I can make the informed decision to do something I am physically, mentally and emotionally ready for. I know the risks, I know the advantages and I know that it doesn’t change anything. I will still be me; the world will not view me differently. Most importantly I know I will be right.
Life is too short to hold off on your firsts because you never know what tomorrow brings. I recently got a new tattoo that reads my philosophy on life: ‘Doubt nothing Cherish everything Live without regret.’ I fully intend on upholding that for the rest of my life. I will always be Sarah no matter what physical changes or choices I make.'