Binders, Dear Life., Guest Posts, Sex

Dear Life: I’m The 34 Year Old Virgin.

April 2, 2015

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Welcome to Dear Life: An Unconventional Advice Column.

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See you at a workshop soon!

Dear Life,

I am a 34 year old virgin.

I have no conservative religious beliefs and I’m not steadfastly “saving myself” for marriage. I just haven’t had sex….ever.

I have spent my life lying to the world, and myself, pretending to be something I’m not….or, more accurately, pretending to have done something I haven’t. People just assume that I’ve had sex and so I haven’t bothered to correct them. I feel like a fraud and a liar and so disconnected from one of life’s most basic human experiences. Stronger still are the feelings of shame and embarrassment and feeling like I’ve not only missed the boat, but am nowhere even near the water to have any hope of getting on board.

“BUT I’M NOT NAÏVE OR A PRUDE!!” I want to scream out in my defense, both to those who assume wrongly and to those who might suspect. But my scream has long been silenced by the fear of judgment, of criticism, of rejection. Why do I need to scream anyway?

I have “fooled around” with a couple of guys in my life. The first one, at age 19, was my university lecturer. He was probably triple my age but I let him touch me because I was in such desperate need of attention and care amongst the chaos of my life at the time. I hated his hands on my body and his lips on mine. Initially I said nothing and went along with whatever he wanted. When he tried to fuck me, I had to tell him that I’d never been this close before. He was going to figure it out pretty soon anyway, right? But, he just rolled over, his back to me and never touched me again. That was the end of that.

For the next 12 years I said nothing to no-one. No guy was even on my radar, let alone close enough for intimacy. I was confused, depressed and held myself hostage to my own walls, the ones I’d carefully built up to buffer myself against further rejection. I thought maybe I was a lesbian, cos I hated that man’s touch, yet I was not sexually attracted to women. So, I decided I must be asexual and concluded that love (and sex) just wasn’t for me. I didn’t need it. Instead, I threw myself into my nursing career and my travels and buried any questioning feelings with food.

Then, while travelling aimlessly around Africa searching for my soul, I unexpectedly fell head over heels for a bad-ass Kenyan guy with a good heart. He was not my type at all. But, how did I even know if I had a “type”? Regardless, our hearts connected and things went further. I loved how he touched me and how his lips felt on mine. Then, almost at the point of no return I dropped the V-bomb on him also. He had a similar reaction to the lecturer, though perhaps not so harsh. But, while it still hurt like hell, I became even more attracted to him, mostly because he had rejected me less. Then I had to return home to Australia, to reality.

In the three years since Kenyan-Guy and only a handful of awkward, ill-fitting dates, I haven’t had to think much about sex. But, now I think I’ve met a guy. I am attracted to his energetic spirit, his humour, his eyes. I don’t know if anything will even happen. But regardless, my virginity fears are oozing to the surface. I want a real, honest and loving relationship involving growth and connection on all levels, including intimacy and sex. But, in order for this to happen, I need to have a rather challenging conversation with the guy, whether it’s with this guy or someone else. Where do I even start? How do I explain myself? Will any guy even want me once they find out? I am so scared of being rejected again that I’m teetering on the edge of resigning myself to voluntary singledom forever. That scares me as well, because I can’t shake that deep desire for just a chance at real love. But, how do I begin to move forward and tolerate being a virgin in a non-virgin world?

Sincerely,

Never Been Laid

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being. Yoga + Writing + Connection. We go deep. Bring an open heart and a sense of humor- that's it! Summer or Fall 2015. It is LIFE CHANGING!

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being. Yoga + Writing + Connection. We go deep. Bring an open heart and a sense of humor- that’s it! Summer or Fall 2015. It is LIFE CHANGING!

 

Dear Never Been Laid,

Like you, I was a virgin in a non-virgin world for a long time, although under different circumstances: I had chosen to save myself for marriage, married my high school sweetheart, and proceeded from our wedding night on, to have a painful, uncommunicative, unsatisfying sexual relationship (that eventually led to divorce).

I was 22 when I lost my virginity, and the experience was devastating. I had all of these expectations about sex and relationships, many of them pushed on me by my religion, but also from the culture surrounding me. All of them at war with each other. There were so many voices shouting at me about what was right or wrong or how things should be that I couldn’t listen to the most important voice that should have been guiding my sexual relationships: my own. My thoughts. My feelings. My body. I had never learned to trust myself when it came to my sexuality —I had only learned to feel shame and embarrassment.

It sounds to me like your first physical experience with your professor was not just unfulfilling, but painful, and his reaction colored how you saw yourself and your virginity. I was struck by these admissions in your letter: “…I let him touch me because I was in such desperate need of attention and care amongst the chaos of my life at the time. I hated his hands on my body and his lips on mine.” Our lives are often chaotic, even outside of sexual relationships. We often turn to other people for solace or to food or alcohol or drugs or internet porn or any number of behaviors as self-medication when what we really need is self-care or self-awareness.

You are 34 years old. You’re a nurse. You’ve traveled the world. And you’re a virgin. These are things about you that can be learned in this letter. But these are just details. Basic facts. They don’t have to be the things that define you unless you want them to—or unless you let them. For years, you’ve been letting how other people have responded to you seep in and become the things you believe about yourself. You felt judged, rejected, depressed and confused. Twelve years is a long time to withdraw from desire.

You figured out that you weren’t asexual. That you were sexually attracted to men. These are important realizations. You put yourself out there a second time, with the Kenyan man, and you grew a little. You had a different experience with a similar outcome. But the way you describe both men is that they were not your type from the start. Have you taken time to consider what kind of partner might be right for you? What you need in order to feel safe and deeply connected? What are the dealbreakers? Or at a deeper level: why did you choose them when you knew they weren’t right?

And to take it even further, have you explored your own sexuality? Not just who you like, but what you like. What turns you on, what makes you feel good, what makes you feel sexy? How often would you like to have sex in a relationship? What turns you off completely? Just because you’re a virgin, that doesn’t mean you aren’t a sexual being. Sure, some people are more sexual or physical than other people. It’s all okay. You find out what you like, and you find someone who’s compatible with those things—or is willing to adapt because they care about you and want to take risks with you.

Sex is so much about communication—and while I think there are people who can divorce emotions from the act, I don’t think you are one of those people (I’m not either). Yes, that means having a challenging conversation. But in a healthy relationship, these are the kinds of conversations that grow you rather than tear you apart.

The two men who rejected you were the problem here. Not your virginity. They weren’t right for you. They didn’t know how to appropriately respond to your vulnerability. Nobody says, “Well, you’ve never been married before so I’m not really interested in marrying you until you have a few divorces under your belt.” That’s just crazy talk. Apparently some people treat sex this way. But not everyone. Not the right one.

Enthusiasm is a great quality in a partner, on every level. You should be with someone who’s excited about you. Every part of you. But first: you should be sure you’re excited about yourself. This may mean therapy, a change of career, ridding your life of toxic people, or simply finding new ways to celebrate yourself on a daily basis. You don’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to have it all figured out. But until you feel confident in your own sexuality, simply having sex isn’t going to solve anything. Sure, you can say you’re no longer a virgin. But why is that anyone’s business but yours and your partner’s?

Listen, there is something far worse than no sex: uncomfortable, emotionless, nearly sexless sex. Sex just to be able to say you had sex.

You’ve come this far. Sex in a loving, communicative relationship is worth waiting for. You’re worth a potentially uncomfortable conversation. You’re worth everything. Treat yourself that way and find someone who treats you that way too.

Then: don’t just get laid. Have sex. Make love. Be active. Be present. Enjoy yourself. Have fun. Make mistakes. Try again. And again. And again.

All the love and light you can stand,

Amanda

Please note: Advice given in Dear Life is not meant to take the place of therapy or any other professional advice. The opinions or views offered by columnists are not intended to treat or diagnose; nor are they meant to replace the treatment and care that you may be receiving from a licensed physician or mental health professional. Columnists acting on behalf of Dear Life are not responsible for the outcome or results of following their advice in any given situation.

Amanda Miska is Editor-in-Chief of Split Lip Magazine. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from American University. Her fiction and non-fiction have been published in Whiskey Paper, CHEAP POP, jmww, The Collapsar, Storychord, Five Quarterly, Lockjaw Magazine, Pea River Journal, Hippocampus Magazine, Cartridge Lit, Atticus Review, the Prairie Schooner blog, and elsewhere. She lives and writes in the Northern Virginia—for now.

Join Jen Pastiloff in Ojai, Calif this May for a life-changing weekend retreat. May 8-10th. No yoga experience required. Just be a human being.  Click photo to book.   "Here’s the thing about Jen Pastiloff, folks. Here’s the revolutionary thing. She listens. She listens with an intent focus, a focus that follows your words inside you. Because she has hearing problems, she watches your lips as you speak, and she plucks the ash of your words from the air and takes it inside herself and lays it beside her heart, where before too long your words start beating as if they were strong, capable, living mammals. And then she gives them back to you. Boiled down, this is the secret to Jen’s popularity. She can call what she does Beauty Hunting–she is for sure out there helping people find beauty. She can start a campaign called “Don’t be an asshole” and remind us all to stop a second and please, please, please be our better selves. She can use words like attention, space, time, connection, intimacy. She can ask participants to answer questions like What gets in your way? What stories are you carrying around in your body? What makes you come alive? Who would you be if nobody told you who you were? All of that is what it is. But why it works is because of her kind of listening. And what her kind of listening does is simple: It saves lives." ~ Jane Eaton Hamilton.

Join Jen Pastiloff in Ojai, Calif this May for a life-changing weekend retreat. May 8-10th. No yoga experience required. Just be a human being. Click photo to book.
“Here’s the thing about Jen Pastiloff, folks. Here’s the revolutionary thing.
She listens.
She listens with an intent focus, a focus that follows your words inside you. Because she has hearing problems, she watches your lips as you speak, and she plucks the ash of your words from the air and takes it inside herself and lays it beside her heart, where before too long your words start beating as if they were strong, capable, living mammals. And then she gives them back to you.
Boiled down, this is the secret to Jen’s popularity. She can call what she does Beauty Hunting–she is for sure out there helping people find beauty. She can start a campaign called “Don’t be an asshole” and remind us all to stop a second and please, please, please be our better selves. She can use words like attention, space, time, connection, intimacy. She can ask participants to answer questions like What gets in your way? What stories are you carrying around in your body? What makes you come alive? Who would you be if nobody told you who you were? All of that is what it is. But why it works is because of her kind of listening.
And what her kind of listening does is simple:
It saves lives.” ~ Jane Eaton Hamilton.

Do you want the space and joy to get back into your body? To get into your words and stories?  Join Jen Pastiloff and best-selling author Lidia Yuknavitch over Labor Day weekend 2015 for their 2nd Writing & The Body Retreat in Ojai, California following their last one, which sold out in 48 hours. You do NOT have to be a writer or a yogi.  "So I’ve finally figured out how to describe Jen Pastiloff's Writing and the Body yoga retreat with Lidia Yuknavitch. It’s story-letting, like blood-letting but more medically accurate: Bleed out the stories that hold you down, get held in the telling by a roomful of amazing women whose stories gut you, guide you. Move them through your body with poses, music, Jen’s booming voice, Lidia’s literary I’m-not-sorry. Write renewed, truthful. Float-stumble home. Keep writing." ~ Pema Rocker, attendee of Writing & The Body Feb 2015

Do you want the space and joy to get back into your body?
To get into your words and stories? Join Jen Pastiloff and best-selling author Lidia Yuknavitch over Labor Day weekend 2015 for their 2nd Writing & The Body Retreat in Ojai, California following their last one, which sold out in 48 hours. You do NOT have to be a writer or a yogi.
“So I’ve finally figured out how to describe Jen Pastiloff’s Writing and the Body yoga retreat with Lidia Yuknavitch. It’s story-letting, like blood-letting but more medically accurate: Bleed out the stories that hold you down, get held in the telling by a roomful of amazing women whose stories gut you, guide you. Move them through your body with poses, music, Jen’s booming voice, Lidia’s literary I’m-not-sorry. Write renewed, truthful. Float-stumble home. Keep writing.” ~ Pema Rocker, attendee of Writing & The Body Feb 2015

Featured image courtesy of AngelsWings.

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8 Comments

  • Reply Diana April 2, 2015 at 10:28 pm

    This letter made me recall something that happened so long ago I’d forgotten — I desperately needed to ‘get away from it all’ once so I went on a Caribbean cruise. Alone, with some books. I was placed at a single’s dining table for all meals — they didn’t know I was married with children. It didn’t take me long to figure out it was expected that I would want to hook up with one (some?) of the singles during the cruise. The first guy to hit on me was a doctor. I did want to get to know him, but only in hopes he might give me some sleeping pills. 🙂 Actually, he was so nice I wanted to spare him rejection. I don’t know why I said what I did, but I guess it has to do with feeling/being different when you’re out of the country — I told him a big lie: I said, “I can’t, I’m a virgin.” He didn’t seem shocked – and I was in my 30s – but he said “I can take care of that and we will both enjoy it.” I declined, quickly, and went back to my cabin to read. I kind of wished now that I’d been single and a virgin.
    Very best to you, Ms. V, in whatever paths you choose among the options of Amanda’s good advice. I would say that your situation is enviable to many whose early lives were painfully altered as a result of immaturity, inexperience, negative circumstance, or poor judgment, vis a vis sex. You have before you, in effect, a tabula rasa!

  • Reply Jade Robinson Myers April 3, 2015 at 6:25 am

    Dear Ms V.
    You just happen to live in a society that uses sex for many meaningless, destructive purposes. perhaps you want to feel a special love to share the physical aspect of it….isn’t THAT shocking? NOT…in other cultures or eras you would be revered. There might be something to think about, though. Perhaps your first experience with your professor left you with a wariness of sex. It is worth considering that his reaction might have colored your view of sex with a dash of trauma. I’m sure you are not alone in your situation;there are probably many 30-year old-virgins hiding in closets! How is that for irony?! Be yourself and actively think/look for what you want…not what the supposed norm is.. Love and Luck to you.

  • Reply allya April 3, 2015 at 7:26 am

    I had sex with a woman for the first time when I was 18 – it was with my best friend and (at the time, anyway) the love of my life. I had sex with a man for the first time a few years later, after that relationship ended, and this time we were both drunk at a party and never expected to see each other again. I’ve had a lot of different experiences since then, and here is what I know about sex:

    1. It’s amazing, and fun, and scary, and honestly surprisingly mundane. I strongly second the advice to explore your sexuality on your own: sex with another person is special for sure, but not necessarily more special and intimate than having a deep, honest conversation with them. In both cases you make yourself vulnerable to this other person and trust them not to hurt you with what you’ve shared. But just like being confident in your own thoughts and feelings can help when you open up to someone in conversation, understanding your own desires and being confident in what you like, what you want and what makes you feel good are all things that can help when you have sex. By the same token though, you don’t have to have it all figured out – ever! When you’re with the right person, communicating what you like and what you’re not sure of won’t feel like a burden, because they’ll be right there with you, making you feel safe and supported just like you want them to feel. This is true of every time you have sex, not just the first time. Long story short? Sex is pretty much like every other aspect of a relationship.

    2. It’s really not that important. OK, you’ve never had sex. I’ve never been to Kenya! It’s fine to feel sad about not yet having done something you want to try, but you’ve still had lots of really exciting experiences and adventures in your life and done plenty of things other people haven’t and would be envious of. I believe you will have the chance to do this, and to do it exactly the way you want to, but even if you never had sex, your life would not be diminished for it. And hey, this is one adventure you still have left to look forward to!

    3. Most people – and 100% of the people you really want to be with – won’t care about your history. You’ve had some really bad luck on this count, and I’m sorry. But I don’t want you to think “the right person” who will be patient and caring through your first time is some elusive species you’ll have to search high and low to find. There are hundreds, even thousands of “right people” out there right now. This guy you’re crushing on is probably one of them. (If he’s not, he doesn’t deserve you anyway.) One piece of advice I would give you, especially if you are still worried about this, is that if/when you talk to him (or anyone) about it, don’t frame it as a negative. I know it might be hard given it’s something you’re sensitive about, but keep repeating to yourself: this is not a flaw, it’s not a sign that you’re defective, and it’s nothing anyone should find a turn off. It’s just a fact about you. When you are ready, say to him, “I love your eyes and your energetic spirit, and I think I’d like our relationship to get more physical. I’ve never had sex before, but I want to, with you.” Or say whatever you are comfortable with that frames losing your virginity as an exciting adventure you want to share with him. Talk about any reservations you each have and be honest if you’re nervous or unsure, but if this is something you want to do, make that the key point in the conversation.

    4. Ultimately, sex is how you define it. You said you’ve messed around with guys before, right? I touched on this earlier but let me reiterate, my first time involved two cis women. No PIV sex was involved. I can’t even remember if either of us fingered the other. Definitely neither of us came (we were both way too nervous). Even so, it felt like sex to me and I consider it my first time far more than the encounter where a drunk dude I didn’t know stuck his dick in me (not that that wasn’t fun!). My point is, I don’t know exactly what you’ve done, but by my definition of sex it’s entirely possible you’ve already had it. Of course, your definition is the one that matters to you, but it’s something to think about.

    5. You don’t owe anyone any information about yourself*. Here is the thing: you probably think that your absence of prior experience will be painfully obvious to anyone who sleeps with you, but I promise you that’s not true. They might think you’re a little shy or inexperienced, but they definitely won’t assume it’s your first time based on anything you do. Now, I actually think you will feel happier, safer and have more fun if you do tell your partner, BUT I also want you to know that you absolutely do not have to share this information with them if you don’t want to. I think maybe keeping that in mind will take the pressure off you, a bit? You don’t have to rush into this. It’s never too late to lose your virginity because it’s never too late to have sex.

    6. The second time will be better. The third time will be better again.

    *unless that information is relevant to their own safety, eg, if you know you have an sti that they could catch

  • Reply Lou April 3, 2015 at 8:31 am

    I was a virgin in my 20s and I felt very ashamed. I kind of made out with a few guys – few and far between – and each time I brought it up, the shame was in my voice. They responded in kind. BAD idea.
    Finally, at 27, I was in a clinch again, this time with someone who was more into me than the reverse, and I had the bright idea of changing the “talk” completely. I took his hand, led him into the brightly lit kitchen, and told him, face to face. (No muttering in the dark.)
    He got to his knees, grasped my hands, and said, “IF we make love, I will consider it an honor that you waited until you could be with me.”
    That was the perfect thing to say!
    That guy gave me a really good First Time, for which I am grateful. (Pity I wasn’t in love with him and the second, third, etc. times were nothing special. But you can’t have everything!)
    I wish you the best of luck. This is not a society that understands high standards and knowing what you want.

  • Reply Barbara Potter April 3, 2015 at 4:10 pm

    Your response was so perfect. Just perfect.

  • Reply Emily April 4, 2015 at 7:54 am

    Letter writer: You are not alone. I am a 30-year-old virgin and have been struggling with my own shame and embarrassment about it. This post (and its excellent response) was exactly what I needed to read. Thank you.

  • Reply multicoastal April 6, 2015 at 9:13 am

    My partner was a virgin in his 30s when we met. He had never even dated before, but he was optimistic and hopeful and honest and he turned out to be an excellent boyfriend and in all honesty probably the best lover I’ve ever had. Don’t give up! I am so glad my boyfriend didn’t.

    A couple of tips from my (his) experience:
    1. Sex isn’t like mastrubation, porn or romance novels, and it can be a bit disappointing the first time if you’ve been building it up in your mind for all these years. Take some to appreciate it for what it is, but recognize that it might not get good until you’ve practiced a bit.
    2. People like really different things sexually, so experience with one person doesn’t necessarily make you better at having sex with someone else. What will make you a good lover is a) really desiring someone b) paying attention to what they like c) being willing to learn.
    3. I have found literally no downside to dating a virgin. And there have been a few upsides, like the fun of being able to experience things with someone who is experiencing them for the first time. So don’t feel like your inexperience is going to be in any way bad for your partner, I certainly haven’t found that to be the case at all.
    4. As far as how to tell him, my boyfriend fairly unselfconsciously told me from the very beginning. So for example, on our first date he said things like “I’m not used to going on dates so I’m not sure what the etiquette for this is, would you like me to walk you home?” And then when he wanted to kiss me he said “I’d like to kiss you but I’ve never kissed anyone and I don’t know how to know if it’s what you want. May I kiss you?” I found this all utterly seductive and utterly charming. And the fact that he wasn’t ashamed of his inexperience made me not nervous about it at all.

    Finally – professors who sleep with their much-younger students are terrible people and it doesn’t surprise me at all to hear that this one was terrible in bed. SO not your fault.

  • Reply luna March 22, 2016 at 1:55 am

    Perhaps you are demisexual. Some of these types think they are asexual until-bam-a connection is formed with someone and they begin to experience things that don’t line up with asexuality, but only with said person. Think of it as “I’m-insert person’s name here-sexual.” Demisexuals do not abstain from sexual contact with others they just don’t experience sexual feeling for another person until there is familiarity/a bond formed.

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