‘I’d like my pseudonym to be ‘Camille’ wrote today’s storyteller to me. ‘Because someone once came up to me and told me I look exactly like a woman named Camille Kirkpatrick. I like to think that someone came up to her and told her she looked like (insert story teller’s real name), and that she uses my name as her pen name ;)…’
This brought to mind my own teenage years and the amount of times I had the name ‘Hermione’ yelled at me in the street. Younger readers please note, nobody was called Hermione in the 80’s. Harry Potter was but a twinkle in the author’s eye. Who is this Hermione that people speak of? I kept thinking to myself and why do people keep mistaking me for her?
Fast forward a couple of months and I’m staring at a carbon copy of myself at a party in Richmond. Spiky crimped red hair? Check. Combat trousers? Check. Pointy elfin face? Yep, that’s me. It turns out people had been screaming ‘Kate’ at my double for months. We ended up best friends and spent the summer of ’84 lying atop a barge, smoking up a storm on the ‘shores’ of Twickenham riverside whilst I should have been at school learning to write the book that I would publish 27 years later (not). Fun times. I digress.
As I write today, I am sitting in the Virgin club lounge at London Heathrow, about to board my first flight to New York in over 14 years. The Club Lounge was a blag; I’m not that posh. But I am so excited I could combust. By the end of today, I will have travelled 3461miles. Isn’t that amazing? In the meantime, here is today’s story teller, demonstrating great presence of mind despite having signed a virginity pledge when she was a teenager.
‘I'm Camille. I'm almost 29 and I lost my virginity about 2 ½ weeks ago.
I imagine parts of my story likely aren't terribly different from many others who were brought up in a conservative, religious environment. While I wasn't raised in the Christian church, I became involved at my local church at the age of 14 in the Bible belt in Tennessee, and quickly internalized the unspoken expectation that, as girls, we were to protect our purity as though it were the greatest battle of our lives. I was the president of the True Love Waits abstinence organization in college, and I remember signing more than one ‘pledge card’ that I would wait until marriage to have sex. Of course, writing this now, I'm appalled at how I couldn't see I was treating myself like an object or piece of property.
By the time I went to grad school, I began to form a healthier and more holistic view of sex and I realized in my studies over the next few years that sex was a natural part of a loving relationship between consenting adults. Slowly, I began to let go of some of my precautions and fears surrounding sex. Like many girls, I also internalized the notion of being passionately in love with my partner. Since I was in seminary anyway, I didn't really venture much past making out in my romantic relationships (some of you may know that certain denominations have ‘policies’ related to sexual behavior for ministers in training. I won't get into that; suffice it to say that there are many of us who are currently practicing exceptions). I tried to go as far as I could while being within the lines of those requirements. And then, I woke up one day, and it wasn't enough.
I met a guy this past January (B) who told me that he was willing to ‘help me’ explore some of my fears and curiosities about sex. At first I found the conversation a little pretentious (that he assumed I would say ‘Oh, great!’ and throw off all my clothes), but then I realized that he wasn't anything of the sort. In the last few months, we've had several conversations about sex, and explored a bit more than I had before. With B, I learned what it was like to lie naked in a bed with a man and not feel pressured to do anything past my comfort level. I also learned what it was like to explore his body, and have mine explored. All of this happened before I lost my virginity, though (by ‘virginity’ here I mean penetration).
Although I've had opportunities over the years, the closest I came to having sex was during something of a spring fling with a good friend (C). We were away for the weekend 4 years ago; nobody knew where we were. I had resolved to not have sex because of the fears I had internalized, but I wanted to be with him so badly my body ached. After making out for 5 hours (5!) we finally went to sleep, and I think I've been regretting that decision since.
So, when an opportunity became available for B and I to get away, we planned it. The most interesting thing about this whole experience for me has been the process involved. Because it wasn't spontaneous (we live in different states), we had the chance for it to be an ideal setting: we had a nice hotel room with a hot tub, wine, and just about anything else to make it a good experience, but there wasn't any pressure. I did a fair amount of research about what it was like for women to lose their virginity. I was ready.
I remember being so concerned about ‘the setting.’ [I blame this entirely on the movies.] After we were ready, we had one dim light on. Immediately after we began, I was in pain, but was emotionally ready for it as a part of the process (I know this is normal for many women). After a few minutes, though, we had to stop. He told me it was okay; he wasn't upset or mad, and didn't want to hurt me. So, we put our clothes back on, took a quick shower together and went out for dinner.
When we came back, I was playing some music on my laptop; I remember thinking it was a funny play list to be listening to (it was a bunch of remixes of electronica songs). We made out for a few minutes; he unhooked my bra and slipped off my shirt. I pushed him down on the middle of the bed; his shirt came off. It was only a matter of minutes, and I was on top of him (for the first time). At first I felt a little odd being on top (I had imagined it would be the other way around) but it was more comfortable for me. I remember being very amused for some reason that the ‘setting’ was off: all the lights were on, the music was silly; we didn't have any wine first – but it was the most natural thing in the world to finally feel another person inside me. We fell into a rhythm after awhile. Our foreheads were touching most of the time – I wanted to feel that connection as much as possible, and for some reason, that was important to me.
We relaxed in the hot tub afterwards, listened to music for a while and talked, and went to bed. We left the next day, and as I was riding home, I didn't have any guilt or shame. I didn't feel bad about anything that I had done, and I certainly didn't feel any sense of disconnect from God (though I didn't expect to). I did feel profoundly lonely for a few days afterwards, and I think that's because I have such a physical connection to him. I think not being passionately in love my first time has been something of a liberating experience because I don't have assumptions and expectations tied into him. I know that I'm my own person and I can own my feelings and experiences (and so can he; that's not to say that I wouldn't do it with him again). :-)
In the meantime, I think I'm in a time of sexual exploration. I used to feel deprived, in a way, that I couldn't have good sex when so many other people can (and do). I know that's not true any more. It's still going to take me a while to feel comfortable with it, but I'm going to try to be intentional about being around people who support me in this phase (whether that's B or others I haven't met yet). After all, I've got some lost time to make up for.’