By Lynne Childress
Is there something about yourself that you are pretty proud of, but don’t wave around like a banner? It’s not that you are ashamed of it, because it’s actually the opposite, but you don’t want people to think that you are judging if they’ve chosen something else? Well, until October, I had something like that.
I was a virgin until my wedding day, October 2, 2010. Yep, I was the “39 Year-old Virgin”, a year younger than Steve Carrell in that movie, but with cuter hair. It’s something I chose, based on what I know God wanted for me. And it wasn’t easy, and I didn’t advertise it, because I didn’t want to come off as smug or judgmental or Holy-rolleresque. I was more thankful than proud, because unlike many things in my life that I have started and abandoned (I’m looking at you, Grad School, that move to New York , my banana bread/nacho truck/craft fair business, and my Zumba for people with joint problems certification), this is something I stuck out, thank God. I shared it with other people I knew were walking the same walk, or were really close to, or if I thought that I had to bring it up now to stave off awkward situations later (like when I asked my now-husband’s niece if she had a bridesmaid I could room with when we traveled to VA for her wedding, since we didn’t want to room together). But I didn’t wear a t-shirt, and when it was the right time for me to change my status, well, I did, happily (tee-hee).
And I was fine, keeping it to myself but bringing it out if need be, because I wanted to encourage friends of mine who were holding out by telling them that it was so worth it in the end, but not wanting to become one of those folks who the brilliant Bridget Jones called “ a smug married”, which my friend Elicia tells me I’m not. Which is good. You know those folks who like to tell single people how much wisdom they’ve gained in their married state, while looking down their noises at you with the faint musk of “Glad I’m Not YOU Anymore. By Faberge” wafting from their married necks?
But I recently saw several depictions of virgins and virginity on TV, which I watch much of, and it occurred to me that I needed to write down my thoughts on what I saw.
The first was on “Glee”, a show I wish I had come on 15-20 years ago when I was still young enough to play a teen, because I would have loved to be on this 2000’s version of “Fame”, where people break into song in the choir room, or lunch room, and dance on tables and know all of the words and back-up harmonies. There is an “Abstinence Club”, and from the beginning of the series, it’s been played as sort of a joke, since the idea is that most teens aren’t virgins, or if they are, they definitely aren’t joining a club and telling people about it, and if they are, it’s because they are hypocrites, or afraid, or trying to reclaim their virginity if they lost it and it didn’t turn out the way they wanted, or if they are trying to forget sex and focus on their singing careers. A recent episode reintroduced the Abstinence folks, in particular the faculty adviser, an OCD woman who talks in a baby voice and doesn’t want to be touched, even by her new husband, played by the delicious John Stamos ( she is secretly still in love with the Glee-club adviser). This woman is so out of touch that she actually thought that “Afternoon Delight” was a song about a delicious dessert, and was stunned to discover that it was about the joys of daytime sex. Funny, right? Nobody normal actually chooses that, right?
The second was something I saw maybe the day before I saw the Glee episode, on “Oprah: Behind the Scenes”, or the “After the Magic” or whatever it’s called. It’s the show that comes on the Oprah Winfrey Network that highlights the producers behind this last season of O’s syndicated show. It’s kind of neat to see the running-around that the producers have to do to make it work. There was this episode when the producers were planning a show called “The 30-year-old Virgin”, featuring a young woman who was cute and sweet and 30, but hadn’t had sex yet, and wrote the “Oprah” show because she wanted some help with changing that. Apparently, she had some self-esteem issues, and was afraid to put herself out there and let herself be loved. So the Oprah producers set her up with a relationship coach, who worked with her and put her through some exercises that would eventually give her the confidence to go out there and meet somebody and have sex like any normal person in America should be doing. And to their surprise, ANOTHER woman in her 30’s wrote them too and said that she was in the same boat, so they put her through the same course as well. And the producers seemed pretty pleased with themselves that they could help shake this woman out of her spinster-dom.
So, every episode there is the scene where the producers tell “Oprah” about how their preparations have been going for the next show. This time, The O seemed caught off-guard, because she had NO recollection of ever okaying this show. After being reminded by her staff that she most certainly did, Oprah said that what made her uneasy was not that there was actually a virgin in her 30’s, but that the show was acting as if this was uncommon. “I am sure”, said Oprah, “that there are many women out there here are still waiting until they get married to have sex. You’re acting like it’s abnormal”. And the producers stared at her wide-eyed and one of them said, “Well, it kinda is.” Oprah said to go through with the show, but from the standpoint that this was about the journey that these two women had decided to take, and not a blanket statement that all middle-aged virgins needed to go into therapy, because Oprah was sure that there were women out there who were making the conscious decision to wait until marriage. The producers were so sure that this was not the case, and that Oprah would see. Well, on show day, right before the guests came out, Oprah quizzed her audience and said, “How many of you think that it is strange to be a single woman in your 30’s who is still a virgin?”, and to her shock, pretty much everyone raised their hands. “Wow”, said Oprah. “I guess that I didn’t have my finger on the pulse of America the way I thought I did”, and the producers proudly pronounced that Oprah was a bit out of touch, and that they were right, and the two young women featured on the show did a nice segment and were ready to go out there and let down their inhibitions and have a normal adult relationship that would, naturally, lead to sex, because that’s what all relationships that are right lead to. Right?
And that’s what made me want to get my thoughts down. See, “Glee” and “Oprah” are both shows that seem to encourage people to be themselves, whoever that is, without judgment. The show choir on “Glee” is made up of overweight kids, a kid in a wheelchair, several jocks and cheerleaders who have embraced their inner performer, several gay and bi-sexual kids, and is also kinda racially diverse (There are several white kids, two Asians, 1 Latina, and 1 Black girl. There was a black guy, but he transferred out). They are mercilessly tormented by other students and one faculty member, and are struggling with what it means to really be THEM, but the idea is that Glee-club is a safe space to do that realizing and stuff in. And “Oprah” is all about living your best life and being your authentic self, and Dreaming BIG and whatnot. Seriously, I credit God and an article in an issue of “Oprah” magazine called “Dream Big” with encouraging me to open myself up to applying for arts-related jobs again during a period in my life where I was taking a break from acting because, well, I liked to pay rent and make my car payments.
Digression-aside, the point is that both “Oprah” and “Glee” seemed like places where I could feel comfortable being whoever I was. But at that moment, it seemed like whoever I was didn’t fit in with the new idea of “normal”, and that meant I was either fooling myself, repressed, or lying. And this made me a bit angry.
You see, I DECIDED to wait until after I got married to have sex. It wasn’t that I was afraid to love, or that I was hiding in my room, or that I wasn’t happy with myself. It was a decision born out of my faith, and I felt that I wanted to share that moment with 1 person, the person who I planned to spend the rest of my days with. I know many people in Christian circles who either have the same idea, or if they’ve already had sex, are waiting to have it again until after they marry, but I also knew other women of different faiths or who didn’t subscribe to any religious faith in particular, but had just decided that they wanted to have that experience with their future spouse and that person only. And I felt that after all of those years of trying to lay low and smile and nod because I didn’t want to come off as judgmental, that now I was the one being judged. And I had to say something.
Sex is a personal thing and something, hopefully, that you get to choose the timing on. I am not going to launch into a dressing down of current media and society and go on and on about how we’ve gone downward and whatnot and intimate that everyone needs to make the choices that I did. Because choices are just that, and regardless of what you or I see as right or wrong, whatever choices you make, in the end, have to be valid and right for you. And if you can make the valid choice that you are ready to have sex when it’s right for you, then it should also be a valid choice for others to decide that they want to wait.
I was not one of those who waited until their wedding day to even kiss their spouse, and it was not that I was not a sexual person; I’ve made-out plenty of times, and know how to shake my thing at a party, and may have kissed a stranger guy at the Baja beach club in Ft. Lauderdale when I was 23 after on Ladies Night. Yeah, that happened. Fast forward 16 years to my engagement to AC, where the abstinence got harder, because, we were almost THERE, and I had to pray for strength every time I saw him because I wanted to keep the promise that I made to God because I knew that it was right for us. Thankfully, our engagement was only 2-months long (we had dated for about 2.5 years at this point), so we didn’t have to linger there long. YAY. Because my husband is kinda fine. Just putting that out there. So, it’s not that I am amazing, but that I was blessed that I had a boyfriend, then fiance’, who had made the decision that he would not have sex again until he was married, and that by the grace of God, we got through it, and it turned out to be wonderful. Tee hee.
So, here is why I decided to share all of this. I knew that I wasn’t the only person who had made that decision for themselves, and I wanted people to know that even though we might have chosen a different path, it was just that. A choice. You aren’t a weirdo if you’ve waited or are waiting to have sex until after marriage, and you aren’t a harlot if you didn’t. You are you, capable of your own decisions, decisions that don’t necessarily need to be repeated by everyone that you know, but that shouldn’t be ridiculed either. I just wanted people to know that we are out there, the 30/40/50/60 year-old virgins. Adult women who have made a conscious choice to wait, and will take care of that not because they are trying to right something that’s wrong, but because for them, giving that gift to their future spouse only is right.