Most of my high school friends lost their virginities in college, but as it’s been previously established, I didn’t. I never even played “Spin the Bottle” — hell, I only held a guy’s hand once, and it was in the car for just a few minutes. I got my first kiss about a week before graduation, but other than that, nada. Sex just wasn’t on my radar. I didn’t think it was possible for me, at least not at that time in my life. I think I knew I wasn’t ready, but I also had no idea what “ready” meant. I couldn’t conceive of a time when I’d be close to whatever it was.
My parents are not what you’d call “affectionate” people. I was hugged plenty, kissed occasionally, all the stuff you’d expect parents to emote toward their kids. But with each other, it was a kiss on the cheek every once in a while and that’s it. Never saw them hold hands, never saw them kiss on the lips, never saw them hug, really. When we convened on the couch together as a family and watched a movie or a baseball game, I sat between them. If I came home and they were already watching a movie, they were sitting apart, almost like they were reserving the space for me if I showed up. Not that I wanted to think about it, but I never saw them show any signs that they thought the other was attractive, except maybe when we’d dress up for a nice dinner out and they’d exchange “You look handsome!” and “You look nice!” and then focus their attention on how pretty I looked instead.
I never thought twice about it until one day at a school assembly, I found myself sitting behind my friend’s parents, and his father had his arm around his mother. They weren’t making out or petting each other. Just sitting naturally, comfortably, proud to be with and next to each other. It occurred to me that I hadn’t ever had that baseline of normalcy in my house. My “normal,” as my parents had established it, was one of delicate, respectful distance. Everyone had their own space and invading someone’s space required permission, or at the very least, a heads-up. If there were to be an invasion of said space, it’d be a pretty big deal because it’d be against the norm. And against the norm wasn’t preferable, so it wasn’t really ever done. Or talked about.
It’ll probably come as no surprise, then, that I never had “the talk” with them. Everything I’ve learned about sex I’ve learned through friends, partners, porn, movies and my own imagination. Not that I wanted to learn anything about sex from them, but it would have been better to know from my most trusted source that sex wasn’t this forbidden, unmentionable thing. I mean, I never even caught them. Unsurprising, too.
So I got it in my head for a really, really long time that sex wasn’t something I should be involved in — not because it was specifically relayed to me that sex was bad, but because it wasn’t relayed to me at all. It was nonexistent for them, as far as I knew, and therefore it was nonexistent for me. It was something that other people did.
There’s another reason why I didn’t have sex in high school, and that’s because the first guy I truly fell in love with — and the first guy I actually wanted to have sex with — was, of course, Mormon. The type that followed the rules and everything.
I’m sure that, on a subconscious level, this was all very convenient for teenaged me. I didn’t really know what “Mormon” fully entailed until I got to know him better, but I definitely knew that he was “forbidden” in a certain way. I think it eased my mind, knowing that even if my dreams came true and we got together, he still wouldn’t expect <em>that</em> of me for quite some time. And it made me feel less out-of-the-loop, less uninformed, because I didn’t need to know about sex. It wasn’t in my life. It was something other people did.
Of course, I still felt inadequate around other people. I’d get uncomfortable when my girlfriends would bring up their sex lives, and I know they kept it brief and cryptic when I was there so they could have a real conversation after I left. My guy friends didn’t get too graphic talking about sex around me, but they teased me occasionally because they knew it embarrassed me, which made me feel just as inadequate. Hanging out with him, I felt as confident as a teenager could. Though I was nervous being around him because he was my all-consuming crush, that hookup weight never hung over us because it wasn’t in the cards. We talked about movies, school, music, friends, life, everything but, and it freed us up to be really great friends, albiet with my fantasies brewing below the surface for a long time. We were friends every single day until we kissed — yes, he was that first kiss — and we’ve been friends every day since. Turns out we weren’t in the cards for each other.
I think I entered high school knowing I wasn’t going to have sex, I spent high school in love with a guy I knew I wasn’t ever going to have sex with. It was easy to love him because he was a wonderful person, and because I knew he’d never present me with an opportunity to make me feel inadequate. I lived in a pleasantly chaste, uncomplicated bubble for eighteen years, and I was never face-to-face with anyone who might consider popping it. After I graduated, I carried that blissful ignorance — and chronic avoidance — straight into college, which I’ll elaborate on in the next post.