Yup. I’m twenty-three years old, currently live in California—aka the “Fornication State”, attend college, live with a stripper…and still haven’t “done the do” yet.
If one were to inquire about why that is, they’d most likely get varied answers that range anywhere from, A: I must be some sort of uptight prude or B: I’m archaically saving myself for marriage to C: I’m a closet lesbian and D: I’m just really, really awkward around men…depending on who you ask. While there’s absolutely nothing wrong with any of those things, none of the above apply to me.
Okay, maybe just a teensy bit of the last one.
But it’s not for lack of opportunity, either. And I’d be lying if I said I haven’t been tempted to engage in the typical FWB situationship once or twice. Problem is, for better or worse, I just don’t think it’s for me. At all.
And while my upbringing probably has a lot to do with it, it’s not that I’m waiting for marriage, either, despite the fact that my father—who’s as Baptist as they come—has made it very clear on several occasions that he’ll disown me if I “let myself be compromised” before walking down the aisle at our church.
Yeah. Because the first thing I’d do right after fucking a guy is give daddy a phone call just to tell him all the nitty-gritty details and intricacies about his daughter getting nailed. Gimme a break.
The simple truth of the matter is…I want to be in love when I do it.
Truly, genuinely, openly in love with a man who is one hundred percent available in every way—and loves me back.
Unfortunately, that just hasn’t happened for me.
At least, not yet.
Over time, I’ve realized that it’s non-negotiable; it has to be with someone I trust completely or it doesn’t happen at all. I’m not the biggest romantic, but I believe in emotional bonds and intentional commitment based on those ties. Even without having been in one before, I like to think I have enough self-awareness to know that I’m a relationship person through and through. And, as frustrating as it can be sometimes, I don’t want to sell myself short of that by simply indulging in the common college culture of casual fucking with any Tom, Dick—no pun intended—or Harry who’s ready and willing to get hot and heavy. And, like most women on campus—and life in general—will find, there’s no shortage of those.
Michaela disagrees with both the notions of having to be married to and be in love with a man to sleep with him, but I really don’t think the latter is asking too much.
So, no. I haven’t had sex. Even though I live vicariously through the steamy, dramatic love affairs of the heroines in my romance books, nothing particularly sensual has ever entered into the equation during all my years in college. Even though there have been multiple times when I would have loved to have felt the strong, firm grip of a guy’s hand on my ass or a warm, velvety tongue against mine.
But whenever those kinds of thoughts lingered in my head, the unclear and somewhat questionable emotions they evoked always sent me further into my studies or volunteer work, and I ended up tucking the deep, mingling desires far into the recesses of my mind.
Until they resurfaced.
I’d then break down after much resistance, forced to temper these unyielding, nameless feelings with the fictional sex of other women and their lovers all over again. Sometimes one story would be enough. Other times, not even ten could get the job done. Which would in turn evoke a cumbersome, nauseating sense of guilt.
A girl who was raised in a strict Baptist home like I was shouldn’t be fantasizing about thrusting hips or quivering lips.
And, somehow, this vicious, confusing cycle would continue.
My eyes inadvertently dart back to the acceptance letter once more, shelving aspects of the past for the present.
Dear Miss Myers,
I am pleased to inform you on behalf of Earth Capital Co. that your application for internship for the post of wildlife conservationist has been accepted by the management of Earth Capital Co. and you have been selected for the annual internship program…
The Recruitment Unit has expressed a positive response and believes that you have one of the best results amongst all the applicants this year…
I’ve already lost count of how many times I’ve read it, and when I get back home, I’m probably going to read it again. It may seem obsessive or narcissistic that I keep doing it and, who knows, maybe on some level, it is. But again, I can’t help myself. It’s like a compulsion, like I have to make sure it’s still there, that this isn’t some fluke.
To indicate your acceptance of the company’s offer, please sign and date this letter…
Please note that this offer holds true for two (2) weeks from the date of the letter and if you fail to join us by then, this offer will be considered null and void…
This letter means so much more to me than just a chance to gain valuable experience with a renowned company for the next twelve weeks. It’s not just a first-class ticket to the opportunity of a lifetime. For me, it’s a sign; a huge, gigantic, bleeping sign that, for once, in spite of all the odds, my life is actually going the way I want it to go. That things are turning out just how I want them to.
It signifies years of effort, patience, discipline, tolerance and sacrifice finally paying off. It symbolizes everything I’ve been wanting for a very long time now; physical proof that, despite all the naysayers in my life, I made the right choice, and now I’m taking a huge and critical step in the right direction…finally.
“We absolutely have to celebrate you getting the Earth Cap internship,” Peyton cheers emphatically, stealing my attention away from the words in front of me. “This is a big deal! We could go out to that new club in the Power and Light District or one of those hot-spot dive bars,” she suggests, her tone persuasive, only because she knows clubs and bars are totally not my kind of scene.
“How about a trip to a conservation or botanical garden?” I rebut. “Ooh, or a state-of-the-art recycling factory?” I add, getting more excited as I consider the prospect. “We could even hike there!”
Peyton offers a dry, non-hesitant, resounding, “No.”
“Bike there, then?”
“Absolutely not!” she opposes, flustered.
I erupt in laughter, recalling that my best friend, for all her athleticism and fitness, still has an unmitigated fear of bicycles after falling off one as a child and landing chin-first on afternoon-baked asphalt. Three broken teeth and a busted lip that needed half a dozen stitches were the outcome, and while not a trace of either is visible over a decade later, the emotional scarring clearly took its toll and is apparent as ever.
“What?” Peyton suddenly asks, her brows drawn close together, and I realize I’ve been staring at her.
I shrug, offering a small, somewhat sad smile. “I don’t know, I just…I’m happy about the internship, don’t get me wrong, I just…can’t help but wonder how much further along I’d be now if I’d done what I wanted from the get-go. Like you.”
The conversation switches suddenly, and I don’t mean to bring up Peyton’s current position as a final-year environmental law student and her trajectory to graduating at the top of her class by the end of the semester. But it’s hard to ignore.
And it always hurts to think about it, not only because it evokes a major sense of regret in me, forcing me to contend with the fact that I could have been where she is now if only I had listened to my heart and hadn’t been afraid to follow it sooner, but also because, chances are, I won’t be seeing my best friend once she moves to LA to practice alongside all the other big-shot lawyers after graduation.
“It’s like I’m playing catch-up all the time but I’m always two years too late.” The words leave me in an involuntary whisper, my countenance falling even though I should be the happiest person in the room.
“Don’t you dare do that to yourself,” Peyton counters sternly. “You hear me? You’ve worked your ass off and more than made up for whatever time you lost. That paper in your hands proves that. Don’t let whatever disappointments you have about your past rain on you parade and dampen your excitement for the future. Regret doesn’t get you anywhere, Reau. Believe me, I know. So you might as well not even waste your time wallowing in it.”
I can’t help but smile genuinely.
“Best. Pep talk. Ever.”
Pey chuckles, shaking her head at my sincerely silly come back.
She always knows just what to say, both a listening ear and a compassionate, honest voice.
Just an amazing person all round. I don’t know how the hell she’s still single.
For as long as I’ve known her, she’s never been in a relationship or had a guy come around, even briefly. Which is a shame because she’s such a catch.
Come to think of it, it’s probably why I haven’t felt as odd about being an SOV: “slightly older virgin” because all three of the closest women in my life, for better or worse, don’t have the kind of love-slash-sex lives I want, so I’ve never really felt as pressured to date or jump into a relationship as I probably would otherwise.
Peyton is pretty much married to her studies, going full-speed on a straight and narrow path to the kind of mega success deserving of her prodigy. She’s never had trouble attracting men, though; the girl’s both beautiful and brilliant, insanely intelligent yet friendly and charismatic, somehow able to bridge that elusive gap between distinguished academic excellence and remarkable social skills. A bookworm of the highest order and a bright social butterfly all wrapped up in a simultaneously inspirational and envy-inducing package. But for all her smarts and charisma, she remains single, deliberately so, turning down potential suitors left and right, promptly friend-zoning any guy who so much as shows a flicker of interest in being even a smidgen more.
Then there’s Michaela, the closest thing I have to a sibling being an only child, something we have in common. She’s pretty much the exact opposite of Peyton, trading one guy for another practically every other day of the week; the ultimate free spirit and personification of commitment phobia.
And finally, there’s my mother; the willing, ever-eager participant in a passionless, almost mechanical affiliation in the name of marriage that she’ll fight tooth and nail to uphold so she can continue to pretentiously humble-brag about the modest band on her finger and the clinical statistics of her union with her husband, silently gloating every time an unsuspecting listener oohs and aahs and tells her how envious they are of her, wishing they too could find the man of their dreams and spend “happily ever after” with him…or at least thirty solid years.
If only they knew.
Peyton raises her mug, bringing my attention back.
“To an exciting future,” she smiles.
I grin, clinking my glass against it in concurrence.
“To an exciting future.”