When I was 16, my friends Sasha, Jasmine, and I made a bet over who’d lose her virginity first. We were the last holdouts in our larger group of friends. Several of my friends said they’d been having sex since they were 14, and Kelly proudly said she’d started even younger. I wasn’t sure I believed them, but I thought a lot about what they said.
I mainly thought they were too young to be having sex. Only recently, it seemed, we were playing with Barbie dolls, and now they were talking about all the sexual things they did and what they wanted to try out next. As for myself, I often felt like a little girl lost in a grown woman’s body.
Growing up, I didn’t want to have sex. Until I was 15, I wanted to be a nun: sacred and untouchable. Then I started to live in this magical world where I could be married and have kids but still be a virgin. I was terrified of having sex. I heard things from my friends, like, “The first couple of times, it hurts and you bleed.”
Me, pain, and blood don’t mix. And I couldn’t think about having sex without feeling guilty for going behind my parents’ backs. If they found out, I thought, they’d scream and yell at me because I was too young to be having sex; it wasn’t acceptable according to my family’s traditional values.
I’d heard my mother say how kids are getting wilder, hornier, and dumber, particularly ones around my way. Those were the kinds of kids that my family and people I admired looked at with disgust. I didn’t want to be that.
It wasn’t just sex that I was afraid of, though. Serious relationships scared me too, because I didn’t want to get hurt. I remember desperate-sounding girls calling my house crying after my brother broke up with them. He’d make me answer their calls and put them on speaker phone; then he made fun of them after they hung up. I didn’t want to be humiliated like that.
Just worrying that the guy I liked wouldn’t like my friends, or vice versa, was enough to keep me from attempting a relationship. Plus the idea of having sex with a guy who I really cared for scared me; I was afraid of having that beautiful feeling, and then having it drop down to the ground just as easily as it went up.
Still, I was the oldest one among my friends, and to hear them talk about having sex made me feel like I was younger than they were. I told myself, “If they can do it, why can’t you?” But then I’d think, “You’re too young. Don’t you want to wait until marriage? It’ll be more romantic.”
I’d go back and forth in my mind:
“There’s so many people in the world; do you really think you’re going to stay with one guy forever? Don’t you want to see how other guys are?”
“That’s how diseases spread.”
“I’m not dumb.”
“You are if you’re thinking about having sex just to get it over with.”
A couple of months before the bet, my friends and I had adopted a new phrase—”It’s all for experience”—which I came up with because I wanted some adventure in my life. I heard a lot of people say the best way to learn is from experience, which I believe. So even though I was scared of sex, I entered the bet.
Having sex just for the experience seemed easier than trying to get into a relationship in order to have sex. I thought that maybe I could detach myself from the emotional part of sex so I wouldn’t get hurt if we broke up.
My curiosity grew, but I didn’t have much opportunity to have sex. The guys around my way? Hell no! They were my brother’s friends and way older than me. My brother told me to stay away from them. And that was fine with me because they were the type of guys my mother looked at with disgust.
As for the few guys I had crushes on, I tried to avoid them because I was scared they wouldn’t understand me or like me. But my friends were getting action and I felt left out. Besides, I was having problems at school and at home. I was depressed and longed to get rid of that feeling. I thought sex might help.
So during Christmas vacation, a few weeks after the bet, I decided to go for it with Ralph. I’d known Ralph for two years. He was a year younger than I was and (from what he and his friends said) had already had sex when he was 14.
He’d wanted a relationship with me since the year before. I’d considered going out with him, since he was cute, and he wasn’t a “playa,” but he did dumb things like stand on the fire escape ripping up paper and yelling “Parade!” I thought I should at least respect the guy I’m with, but I also thought he was as good as I was going to get.
I told Ralph to come over to my house at noon and called my friend Sasha and told her to come at exactly 1 p.m., so I’d have an escape in case I decided I didn’t want to go through with having sex.
I told Ralph to bring the condom, “just in case.” We started kissing, which was nice because he tasted like Snickers. But kissing was as far as I’d ever gone with a guy, and the idea of going from kissing straight to the boogety-woogety felt so freakin’ weird. My mind wasn’t feelin’ it, so neither was my body.
I held off as long as I could, but then things started heating up—our pants were down and Mr. Wiggles needed a jacket. I was thinking, “When is he going to pull out the condom, and when the hell is Sasha going to come?” And that’s when I was saved by the bell. Sasha knocked loudly on my apartment door, scaring Ralph off me.
I felt so relieved. But I was also slightly disappointed because I had the chance and didn’t take it. Sasha and I pretended that we were in a rush to go somewhere. I gave Ralph a kiss goodbye and we all left.
I felt like an idiot. I was just a kid, wishing to be grown-up by having sex. Plus, I didn’t think it was fair to use Ralph like that, even though he knew about the bet and said he was fine with it.
After that, we only spoke three more times on the phone, and then we never talked again. I didn’t want to see his face anymore because there’d always be that “almost-event” on our minds. And I didn’t want to remember it because I felt so stupid. I decided to take things slower from then on.
But a year later, when I was 17, I got a second chance.
I met Chris in a hotel hallway in Georgia, at a friend’s 21st birthday. As I walked my friend Kim to the elevator, she stopped Chris in the hallway and said, “Hey! Boy, doesn’t she look fine?”
“Boy?!” said Chris. “I ain’t no boy.”
Kim looked at him and giggled, “You know what I mean… son!”
Chris smiled and said, “Yeah, she looks cute.” I blushed and they started teasing me. Then Kim got in the elevator and Chris and I stayed.
I thought he was charming and cute—a beautiful smile, with dimples—and he was 6 feet tall, and built. We talked for nearly two hours in the hallway about almost everything, including… sex. I even told him I was a virgin and that I would only do it with someone I loved. (I guess I sorta stretched the truth.)
He told me about his sexual experiences, including details I didn’t need to know but was curious enough to ask about. He was three years older than I was, and wasn’t a virgin.
I didn’t want people to keep looking at us, since it was so obvious that he was trying to talk to me, so I finally let him into my room. I suspected something big was going to happen. What happened next was all a blur. I didn’t understand why I didn’t stop. But it wasn’t like I wanted to stop either, because I was curious and thinking to myself, “It’s all for experience.” He closed the door, turned the TV way up, and things went on from there.
In the beginning, it was lovely; we were just kissing. The kissing was fun, the caressing was nice, sweet and romantic, but the initial you-know-what wasn’t. Painful? Hell yeah!
We used a condom. I wouldn’t have done it if he didn’t have one, since I wasn’t into catching an STD or getting pregnant. So many things were happening at once and I felt a wave of emotions: “OH MY GOD, wake me up! Why am I here? I’m actually doing it. I want to call my friend. Is this how it’s supposed to feel? I want to go home. I want him to love me.” I knew that I’d changed, but didn’t understand how.
Afterwards, he looked at me and smiled. I wanted to punch him in the face. I didn’t feel good about it. It felt like a wrong move. I rationalized to myself that everyone else on the floor was having sex, but that didn’t make me feel better. I felt like a grown-up because I’d had sex, but a stupid one. I felt like a fool because I was with someone who was practically a stranger.
I wondered if it would have felt the same if I were with someone I knew and loved. I hadn’t felt any real passion. And what was I going to do when I got home? Would I tell my mother? Could she find out just by looking at my face? Should I tell Kim and Sasha or keep it to myself?
“So what’s up? Talk to me,” he said.
I didn’t want to talk to him. I didn’t want to look at him. I hated him. I turned over and said that I was sleepy. I pretended to sleep, but I was thinking about the whole thing. I wanted to cry. I thought I had more respect for myself than to just do it with a stranger. Was he the slut or me?
Chris stayed in my room until 5 a.m., because we all had to leave by 7 a.m. to take the plane home. I went into the shower hoping to wash off the feeling of failure. He tried to talk to me during the bus ride to the airport and on the plane, but I ignored him and sat with other people.
But I’d given him my number before we’d started fooling around, and once we got home, he called me persistently. I thought it was sweet the first time he called, but then I thought he was just being nice to me because he felt guilty, and I didn’t want any of his sympathy.
I was afraid to let myself feel romantic toward him, because then I’d be emotionally vulnerable. I didn’t think that he genuinely liked me. Because he was older, I thought he could have any woman, and would probably prefer ones his age.
I was still all shook up from the things I remembered doing. I worried that he just wanted to do it again. I didn’t want to feel like I was being used for sex. I was so focused on the fact that I’d had sex, I was blind to the clues that he actually liked me, like his frequent friendly calls. I just thought, “God, why doesn’t this punk stop calling me?!”
Even my mother noticed I wasn’t acting like myself. I was unusually quiet and wrote nonstop in my journal, recording every thought I had, trying to make sense of them since I wasn’t talking to anyone about what had happened.
I didn’t check my e-mails. I didn’t even watch my favorite TV show, The Simpsons. Mom would say, “Your show is on. You’re not going to watch it? You’re not going to check your e-mail? You’ve changed since you came back.” I felt like telling my mother everything, but I couldn’t, not yet. I needed to sort things out first.
Five days later, I decided to see Chris. My plan was to act like a real b-tch, so he’d leave me alone. I didn’t want to deal with the constant reminder of that night.
But when I saw Chris, I couldn’t even look him in the eyes. We walked on the boardwalk and I was quiet the whole time. Then we went to see his friends. I was still quiet, but I laughed at his friends’ jokes. He was sweet and respectful, talking to me calmly and wanting to know things about me. I realized that there was potential for a real relationship, so I decided to see him again.
Seven months later, Chris and I are boyfriend and girlfriend. I’m surprised that the first person I slept with became my guy. I always thought that it would be the other way around: He’d be my guy first and then later we’d be passionate together.
Our relationship is not simple, though. We’ve broken up and gotten back together several times. My feelings have changed many times, very fast, from August till now. I hated him, liked him, was annoyed by him, bothered by him, loved him, hated him and loved him. He says that my fluctuating attitude is what bothers him the most about me. I wonder if things would have gone smoother if we’d waited to have sex.
Now that I’m in a relationship, I have a better sense of why I was afraid of relationships before—the emotions can be overwhelming. When I love Chris, he’s the best person in the world. But when I feel neglected because he has things to do, I hate him. When I have things to do, I think he feels bad too, because he’ll say something stupid like, “I think this is a sign.” I hate that, because he makes it sound like neither of us is committed to the relationship.
But we’re working on all that. This relationship is work, but I also think you have to work hard for some of the best things in life, like good grades. I’ve had sex with Chris since the first time. I enjoy it more now because I have this feeling of love inside me, rather than confused feelings for someone I just met.