Where to begin with today’s story? Well, it’s a Virginity Project first for a start. The first person I have encountered who had a legitimate reason to worry about ‘dying a virgin’. Rachel had boxed ‘two rounds with cancer’ by the time she was 20. That puts things into perspective right?
She also makes some timely insights into American life on the eve of the American election. The Virginity Project tries to stay out of politics but at the same time cannot help praying that the American Republican Taliban do not win Tuesday’s election. I am sick to the back teeth of listening to old, white men who should know better attempt to justify their Neanderthal attitudes towards the opposite sex. If you are an American man who loves a woman. I mean really loves her. In a ‘I want the best for you and not in a way that benefits me’ kind of manner, why would you vote Republican much less be one? I realise that all politics and, ergo, all politicians are flawed by their very existence but we have a real opportunity here to make life better for upcoming generations of women instead of worse. You don’t need to be an American to get a lump in your throat when you watch this video. You just need to be conscious. I’m not religious in a conventional sense but even I will be praying on Tuesday.
Which brings me to love, an area I have been exploring lately. I have been interviewing people of all ages about love and how our ideas change about it as we get older. Two weeks ago I went to Scotland to interview a man who has been married to his wife for 70 years. Last weekend I interviewed an 8 year old boy who struggled to say more than ‘gross’ each time I steered the conversation towards the concept of love over a game of scrabble (that he almost won). I like today’s story because it encapsulates what romantic love can involve: a conscious decision to let one’s barriers down and, in Rachel’s case, one of those magical experiences that you hope every single person gets to encounter at least once in their lifetime.
Hopefully consensually (and not by any of that naughty ‘legitimate rape’), unencumbered by guilt and in full possession of the ability to control one’s fertility. If you’re American, you possess the power to help make that happen in your country this Tuesday, November 6th.
I was born in '84 and live in the USA, where half of the population is hyper-sexualized and the other half thinks shoving holy texts up people's reproductive organs will stop them from having sinful relations. Personally, I'd just like for them to meet somewhere in the middle. I don't need to see pre-teens nether regions creeping out of their low-waisted jeans every day, but I also don't need holy texts shoved up my reproductive organs, because that causes paper cuts. And papercuts are unpleasant.
But anyway, moving away from pop culture and politics…
In high school I was awkward, shy, and had absolutely no self-esteem. I spent those years living vicariously through my friends' experiences in relationships. I watched, listened, and learned from them as their hearts were stomped on, hopes dashed, cheated on, lied to, settled for, left out in the rain to walk home, and above all, how emotions, good takes-you-higher-than-a-kite emotions, blinded them from what could so clearly be seen by an outsider.
I wanted to be wanted, hell, to even be just desired, but not
at the cost of what appeared to be soul crushing experiences.
Somehow, I did end up having my first kiss by the end of senior year though. It definitely was not all that and a bag of potato chips. In fact, it was completely unexpected and unwanted. I went in for a hug, and he slobbered on my mouth like a Saint Bernard. Later on that evening, he texted me and asked if I was ‘dessip at him’. Upon questioning the ‘dessip’ word, he texted back that I needed to read the word backwards, because he didn't want to write out a bad word. It was at that point I realized that I had settled for someone, simply because they had pursued me, and I promised myself I would not settle emotionally for someone again.
I was 20 when I lost my virginity. He was a fun friend to hang out with, fun to fool around with, but not someone I saw myself in a relationship with. During the period of time leading up to that night, not once did he ever press the issue of sex. He had been with two people prior, one of which broke his heart and the other was a one-night stand who ‘turned out to be a psychopath’. Thus, he wasn't looking for anything by the way of emotional attachments. He was willing to go at whatever pace I wanted and that suited me just fine. The night it happened, I was scheduled for a lengthy round of CAT scans and the like for the next day. I had had cancer twice in my life at that point, and scans were routinely done on me each year, but these were extra, as my doctors needed clarification on blood tests that had been done earlier. So anyway, we were doing the usual fooling around, when I stopped and told him I ‘didn't want to die a virgin’, and he was allowed to help me out with this problem, ‘like right now’. I don't normally think about death while doing something so entertaining, but given the circumstances, it's not completely out there. I knew that if everything turned out normal anyway, I would not regret my decision to make him my first. And so it lasted a few minutes, and there was nothing earth shaking about it, but it felt good, and knew I wanted to do that again.
Over the next few weeks we did it again several more times, and it got better each time. Then he began to see a girl for a serious relationship, so we stopped our benefits relationship. I went out with a couple of guys every week, and determined within 5 minutes of meeting each whether or not I could see myself in a relationship with them, if I could hook up with them, or if I simply needed to crawl out the bathroom window to escape the date. There were 32 flavors of men out there, and I was going to try them all. My friends were amazed at my ability to be friends-with-benefits but never fall for any of them. I simply saw it as two very different beasties - emotional needs and physical needs were always kept separate. My health issues also played a role. For one, a person cannot strongly fight when their heart is broken, and two, if I ever fell for someone, they needed to be a strong, dependable person. Not everyone has it in them to stick around when you have to jump in the ring and box a few rounds with cancer.
When I was 21 I met a man who I knew I could hook up with, and maybe be in a relationship with. I wasn't really sure about the latter, because I had never thought it before. Maybe I was just PMS'ing, maybe I was delusional, maybe I was all messed up in my head because of the health issues. Everything inside of me told me to run away, because what if what I was feeling was lust and not like? And then I would be like my friends from high school and college and end up getting my heart puked on. But I stayed to see what would happen. On our first date, he brought up boyfriend/girlfriend talk. My response was, ‘I don't do relationships. They are a waste of time because everyone always breaks up.’ He should have walked out right then, but he didn't. On our 3rd date, we had sex. I don't remember much about it, other than my G-Spot was glad I stuck around.
do remember very vividly, is about 3 weeks into us dating, there was a night
where we were kissing, cuddling, and looking into each other’s eyes- and I
don't look into people’s eyes when things are even remotely smushy - and
something happened inside of me. Something in my chest actually popped, my
heart felt lighter, and I felt a warmth all over. It was almost as though the
'pop' I felt was the wall I had built up, breaking down. I didn't know what was
going on then, but looking back I think that was when I started to fall in
love. Of course, we made love that night, and afterwards, as I lay panting on
top of him, I said, ‘I think I wouldn't mind wasting my time with you.’
We've been together for 7 years, married for 5, and created an offspring 4 years ago. Someday, if he passes away first, I will experience the greatest sorrow in my life. But I would rather experience that sorrow, and all of the wonderful things that led me to it, rather than never experience any of it at all.