Female, 20, New York
I was 20, and there was this bar I frequented then, one of the first excessively hip joints I managed to slide into without a valid ID. Or, I “frequented” this bar the way you “frequent” anything when you're 20, which is to say I visited the place maybe five times in total across one summer. Still, I fancied myself a regular. I ordered whiskey sours, and probably didn't tip well.
It was late to be a virgin — no one else on the planet was a virgin. But on the first night of college Welcome Week, I'd woven this elaborate fiction of sex experience while trying to look cool in a game of Ten Fingers, not figuring that all the participants in this game would become close friends. Never ballsy enough to repair the damage and own my chastity, the years ticked by and I turned to drastic and somewhat punitive measures — after all, I'd had a great boyfriend in high school, and had evidently blown the one chance to lose It (in a timely fashion) to someone I loved. Boyfriend and I had been shy with our bodies. I'd always wanted It, but could never figure out how to ask. I figured I'd know once I hit the big city, but in lieu of clubbing with my savvy roommate on weekend nights, I made life-long gay male friends in the drama department.
At 20, I wanted to get de-virginized fast: the idea was that I'd get 'er done, and then the world would open up onto the sexual landscape of the empowered, single woman. The boys would come out of the woodwork. I'd no longer be shy.
So one night, somewhere between one and three whiskey sours at this bar on Jefferson Street, I met the Silver Fox. He was less of a fox — it turned out, in daylight — but my friend said he looked a little like Rivers Cuomo, only grey. Fox was sitting with a friend at the other end of the bar and the pairs of us made googly eyes. When my friend and I moved to a table, the boys “sent over” free bread. Later, the Fox lured me into some conversation about nothing, and soon we were making out against a wall.
Fox walked me to the train, like a gentleman. As the L doors closed, he yelled, “I love you!” I was giddy, 20 and giddy, and for the next few days, I loved the Fox back. He sent me a string of bizarre text messages, homemade poetry I found cute (“In that red dress/You are like a pederast”). I agreed to meet him again for dinner. We talked about documentaries I'd never seen. We closed the place.
It was too late for me to take the train, he said. He said to come back to his, no funny business, he swore. It's preposterously preordained from here, so non-magic: he put on Sam Shepard's Fool for Love and stroked my leg down the length of his futon. Before I could process what was expected, Fox was sans pants. I sat up, told him, “You should know I'm a virgin.” He said he'd be gentle. He was.
Once it was over, Fox rolled over and looked at me funny. “What?” I asked. “It's your body,” he said. “Don't take this the wrong way, but — have you, um, done this before?”
I was shocked. My de-virginizer had forgotten this most sacred of confessions. I debated whether or not to remind him of my recent confession, but in the end, I did. I told myself on his futon there that I'd no longer need to lie about having sex. I could see, from the futon there, how strange and necessarily private an event it really was.
“You're a virgin?”
“Are you okay?” And he was off. I felt bad for Fox — he wouldn't stop apologizing. And I saw it was not love, what we'd done.
And it was AOK. We'd “break up” (the way you “break up” when you're 20, after three weeks of doing it) for a cold little reason: mutual loss of interest. I've since looked up 'pederast' and fallen all the way out. Eventually, I forgot his real name.
I don't regret the inelegance of this non-story, because what losing my virginity taught me was this: sex for the first time is supposed to be this cultural milestone, an event a woman is supposed to feel in her bones. We are meant to allow our first-times to shape us, epitomize a whole love life — but in my case, Fox and his futon were nothing but an anticlimactic appetizer. After 20, I started looking at sex with candor and without fear, without mysticism. I was optimistic that the deed could be lovelier (I was right), yet I stopped measuring my coolness and normalness in the trite language of feelings felt on schedule, or “in the right way.” I realized, at 20, that I'd be doing myself the strange service of letting weirdos in for the rest of time, and thank goodness.
"Good" so rarely looks like what it's supposed to.
Image via Flickr.