I was at a new media event last week. Ahead of it, I was preparing questions for the speakers, some of whom I was hoping to interview for the company communications blog. ‘How do you think technology is changing media?’ ‘How do you see the future of content?’ And so on. Interesting questions but the thing I really want to ask is ‘how do you think technology is changing the way we live?’ Because it is.
I remember when we first got an answer machine at home in the 1980’s. It was REALLY exciting. No more hanging around waiting for boys to ring! You could go out, come back and check (you hoped) all your messages. It was the absolute cutting edge of technology. The point also being that if a boy took the time to pick the phone up and risk the humiliation of having a conversation with someone who may possibly reject them at the end of it, you were in receipt of important information - even if you weren’t conscious of it at the time - he probably quite liked you.
Not so much now. It’s so much easier to make digital overtures to people on instant message, Facebook, twitter and numerous dating websites. And it’s just as easy to give people the flick when you’re over them. I’m not saying romance doesn’t happen in the digital age. Neither am I saying that all of the boys who had the guts to ring me up in the 80’s were stand up guys BUT…there was a quality to the pre digital era that allowed something a little more substantial to evolve. The process was slower. In between dates, we weren’t bombarding each other with a constant flow of communications via text and email. You knew nothing of your potential conquest’s movements/dinner or feelings about the weather in between times. We made a date to meet and turned up on the appointed day. It was all fresh and the only way we could get to know each other was to talk face to face. If you wanted to blow each other out you had to pick up the phone and do it with your voice…unless you were prepared to deliver the ultimate blow out i.e. standing them up. Tell me I’ve got my rose tinted specs on. You might be right but meanwhile, what do I like about today’s story?
Its two main characters allow time to build a fire beneath their union. It doesn’t happen over night. In my experience, the best things often don’t. It also demonstrates that love can have quite ordinary beginnings…’I spent a while fantasizing about meeting this guy’ she says, ‘but I cared very little when he was there. Weird.’ I like this. We’re bred to believe that if it’s not a constant stream of fireworks then it’s not worth bothering about. I take issue with this. Ask any couple who have been around the block with each other a few times. There might be fireworks but that’s not the glue that’s going to hold you together.
In practical terms, I always enjoy a ‘re-definition of virginity loss’ story too. Simply because the ways in which we traditionally define virginity loss are so limited. There are myriad ways in which we could define this step in our sexual history. Gay people, for starters, might take issue with the heterosexual dictionary definition of the act. Plus ‘virginity’ + ‘loss’ is such an archaic combination of words for most Western women. Its not like we are going to ruin the reputation of our families (as some people choose to believe) on the day that we part company with virginity.
Today’s writer tells a story I have heard before. It’s the story of someone who did feel like they had lost something the first time they had sex. But who went willingly on to ‘present’ it to someone else much later. In the modern age I might add, not way back when I had my rose tinted specs on. I like the way this story builds, if one wishes to resort to such clichés, to a climax worth talking about. Here we go.
“I hope that you remember me but I shared my virginity loss story with you in 2011. It was entitled 'Good girl gone bad', though that's something I have recently grown to regret.
It was a story about how I felt that my virginity was akin to an anchor, weighting me down and keeping me tragically tied to my unhappy past, a past full of confusion, fear and guilt. The person i lost it with left me pregnant and alone and angrier than I think I was to begin with. In my original story I jumped to where I was in 2011, in love for the first time and expecting my second child with my now-husband, Dennis. But I probably left out the most important part of my journey. I think I may have re-virginised myself in the intervening time between falling pregnant and falling in love. I lost my virginity to the father of my first child. But this story is about how I gave Dennis, my now husband my new-found virginity.
Following the birth of my first child, my fear of sex increased. It never hurt, but it really wasn't all that great. It just never felt... good. I had told myself that sex for girls is rarely wonderful. My elder sister, who had only recently lost her virginity with a boyfriend she loved, had plenty of lovely things to say about sex but explained she could take it or leave it, because it wasn't all that. I just wondered what was the point. As a girl you lie under some guy while he gets his rocks off. You might as well be a blow-up doll, that's how little input you have. (I must also explain that the last time me and my first partner had sex, he was watching porn DURING. That was the extent of my appeal to him I guess). So I was convicted to stay away from anything with a penis because nothing was worth feeling low about myself again.
I spent a year-and-a-half post birth adjusting to being a mum which was tough, and any time a guy showed any interest I'd turn on my heel and run away. I became decidedly anti-men and anti-romance. Until I started hearing random little bits about Dennis. Yes, my sister started just talking about him and my ears would prick up. I learnt very little about him, but what I learnt I liked! He's an amazing cook and he used to hold infamous dinner parties for his friends, a couple of which my sister had attended. He was also unduly generous. I saw his picture and can't say my heart skipped a beat, but he had a really kind face and I developed a little crush. I didn't dare tell my sister about it, because I knew she would embarrass me.
We eventually met at my sister's boyfriend's birthday party. I didn't recognise him at first and wasn't blown away seeing him in person, but we instantly got along. My sister did remark that he stayed at my side all night, but I didn't notice. This makes no sense to me at all! I spent a while fantasizing about meeting this guy, but I cared very little when he was there. Weird.
Anyway, I'm rambling on. I added him on facebook, we messaged once or twice and then I decided to hold a dinner party. I, too, love to cook and since I was still living with my mum and dad and not working while taking care of my daughter, I cooked all the time and decided I was quite good at it. I wanted to impress him and invited him along. He couldn't make it and I was disappointed. But when I checked my messages a couple of days later he'd left a very long message inviting me to dinner. A lot of things went through my mind, namely that I wasn't attracted to him, per se. I thought he was nice and we got along, but I thought sex was so gross and unnecessary I couldn't think of him in that way. Needless to say I said yes.
I dressed a little dowdy for a first date and only had a very small glass of wine with my meal (tactical, as wine makes me feel a little horny), which was out of this world! He'd booked a table at a Michelin starred food-tastic little spot near Soho and I was amazed. The conversation flowed effortlessly but he didn't even try to kiss me at the end. I was thankful for this. In the past I had sat across from one too many guys who were just a tad too pushy when it came to initiating kissing and more. And they were all so dull, if they weren't cruel and arrogant. Dennis was laid back, he asked me questions and made me laugh. A lovely first date.
We continued in the same vein for a couple more dates; fantastic food, easy conversation, not even a peck at the end of the night. By this point I was getting frustrated. What the hell was wrong with this guy?! I was dressing a little more provocative each date, but he didn't seem to bat an eyelid. So after our third date I text him to say I just wanted to be friends. He said fine and I was gutted.
A week went by and I was a little miserable. So I asked my sister if she thought Dennis was interested in me. She looked at me like she wanted to slap me. She said of course he was and told me to call him, which I did. So I made amends with him and he gladly booked a table for our fourth date. Another superb meal and a couple more drinks and finally everything seemed to fall into place. I was adamant that I wanted him to make the first move and so we sat, both a little tipsy, with a lot of tension in the air. He seemed to take a deep breath before he leaned in, but it was probably the most amazing kiss of my life. Obviously, the kiss is the first step into becoming physical, so I took it as a sign of our growing feelings for one another. I had been denying my own sexual needs for so long, I didn't expect much. Besides, I'd told myself I didn't find him sexually attractive, but after that kiss I stoically ate my own words. I was attracted him, but I also needed to know he fancied me too. I think I got a resounding yes that night.
We could only see each other once every ten days because we both had other commitments (he worked shifts). This is one of the awesome things about our early relationship. It went at such an even pace. As the old saying goes, 'Absence makes the heart grow fonder' and it certainly did that. He lived in West London and I lived in Guildford, so when we met up I noticed he was booking things closer and closer to his place, but I never went back with him. Eventually he invited me for dinner at his place.
He had never cooked for me before that night. He made his own pasta for tortellini, cooked duck in chocolate and prune sauce (so delicious, I could have wept) and finished with an amazing chocolatey meringue tower. I had planned to leave by half nine to get the train back into Guildford, but I couldn't, we were caught in a lip-lock so intense I found myself completely reneging on every promise I'd made myself about never having sex again. I gave myself to him. It seemed like the most natural and honest thing to do at that moment. And I realised something. The whole time we had been dating, all of those times he had given me amazing gastronomical experiences, easy conversation, gentle approaches. He had been wooing me the whole damn time, even by not kissing when every other guy would! While it's not the most important thing, he spent a hell of a lot of money on our dates. Most guys don't want to part with money without some guarantee. He knew I wasn't a virgin. I had a child for goodness sake, yet he was still careful enough to go at a pace I was happy with and not rush ahead. And do you know something else? The sex felt amazing! That's why afterwards, while he wanted to cuddle, I bawled my eyes out.
I am embarrassed by this now, but it's true. I cried for ages. Poor Dennis didn't know what to do. Our society does something to girls that is so unhelpful it's obscene. It tells girls from a young age that the greatest thing that can happen to us is to be wanted, but that sex (in itself) is damaging to us. We're told guys think about sex all the time, they are the predators, clearly implying that women don't think about it and we are the helpless prey. That's why so many of us love the chase. We doll ourselves up, head out on the town and love to see the men baying like wolves, but only the real sluts among us give in and let themselves be 'had' and only the really experienced whores know how to enjoy themselves as much as the guy does. All that combined with my years in Church, hearing about the virtue of abstinence and how unholy fornication is, made me feel like I had failed yet again. When I gave myself to Dennis that first time, I was shocked at myself that I had enjoyed it and let him know I did. I tried to act bashfully and fumbling like I didn't know what went where, because I didn’t want him thinking I was a slag who went out and had sex all over the place. I had the baby, but he didn't need to see me as an easy lay and this is why I cried. I couldn't explain all this to him then and it probably wouldn't make much sense now.
I cried the first few times we did it because each time it felt better and better, until eventually, something else that I didn't think ever happened to girls during penetrative sex, happened to me. I orgasmed. By this point we were both head over heels in love with one another and we found ourselves in a trusting relationship, which I think certainly helped me. So why was I still so ashamed of enjoying it?
Only in the past week or two, since visiting your blog again have I become aware that I have slowly let go of my neuroses about sex. But has that come about through age? Do I feel like I have been given permission to enjoy it because I married my lover and we have a family together? Or am I finally comfortable with sex and my body. It's interesting to me that all the men I dated (aside from the guy who hated my body) were lovers of food too. But Dennis came at a point when I was trying to be like everyone else. I trained many times each week at the gym with my trainer to get a 'perfect body' and looked the best I ever have. He stepped in and opened my eyes to food as art, so I stopped denying my stomach at the same time I stopped denying my sexual urges. And I've not looked back since. The sex is still amazing and adventurous and I'm at peace with it.
I'm sorry. This is incredibly long as before! But I remember how helpful it was talking with you before, so I felt the need to share again!”