Dear Breakup Girl,
I’ve never seen such good relationship advice on a website. You rule, therefore maybe you can help me. Six months ago I met AMY, a girl who I had intense *POW* chemistry with. I mean it, when we first made eye contact it was like my tongue hit an electric socket. She felt it too, I found out later. Not because either of us is extremely attractive, you understand, it was just “there” you know?
Anyhoo, I am 26, a few girlfriends and one live-in experience that lasted a year. Amy, however, was (and likely still is) a virgin at age 27. She told me right up front that she was conservative, didn’t like public displays of affection, didn’t often date, and had never been in a relationship longer than 3 weeks. I thought this was odd, but accepted it. She also told me after knowing me two weeks that she was NOT EVER going to sleep with me. This stunned me, because I usually don’t go into relationships deciding whether or not I’m going to DO something — I usually just let it happen. This hurt my feelings when she said it, but after we talked about it we decided to keep dating. This was probably my first mistake, but keep reading.
To contradict all Amy told me about herself, our dating pattern didn’t seem to fit. We would commonly meet for lunch, which would turn into a long talk, then a matinee, followed by dinner, followed by searing makeout sessions that would leave my lips bruised the next day. These dates happened once or twice a week, and ended at 2 AM when she (or I) would pry ourselves away (no sleepovers, no intercourse allowed) and drive home. The dates always lasted many hours, and even after spending almost 10 or 12 hours together, she would say “I wish I could spend more time with you etc.” By our third or 4th date she had gone from not wanting to hug me in public to kissing me (with tongue) while we were at a table in a restaurant (in a secluded booth, and I didn’t object).
After dating exactly two months, we had an absolutely fantastic date at a baseball game, followed by a steamy makeout session. She practically dragged me to the bedroom and again no intercourse, but plenty of bare skin — and in fact, during this session, after an intense kiss, she gasped “Wow!” and practically swooned in a Victorian novel-esque sense. No, I’m not bragging, just trying to set the scene. At the time I thought I was extremely lucky, and I felt special that this girl was doing things with me that she’d never done with anybody else.
Flash forward to our next meeting exactly one week later. She was completely aloof and I could sense the tension in the air. She then breaks up with me, won’t tell me why, and says “There’s a lot going on in my head right now, you wouldn’t understand” and “If it’s any consolation, I’ve dated you longer than anybody else in my life.”
I was very gracious, kept telling myself to act mature, and actually managed a kind smile and kissed her goodbye. The next day I sent her an e-mail and asked her to meet me for coffee the following week (a full 7 days later, to let things calm down) just to talk, and to see if we could still be friends. It took her all day to respond, but she said she couldn’t give me any explanations and that we shouldn’t meet again. That was that.
It’s been a couple of months and I’ve moved on, no steady girlfriend but I’ve been out several times and enjoyed myself. However I ran into her roommate last night by pure chance and the meeting brought up all those unanswered questions. So why am I writing to you, Breakup Girl? Ultimately, I suppose I want to know WHY. I avoided the topic last night, but if I see her roommate again, would it be okay to ask her why? They are best friends, and I’m sure she knows. By the way, her roommate is pushing thirty and ALSO a virgin — go figure. Also, why the difference between what AMY told me and what she was doing with me? Was she just using me as an experiment? Or did I push her too hard into something she wasn’t ready for?
— A Lamb to the Slaughter
No, kiddo, you did everything right. Whatever else you could have tried, you still would have written to me (as in, “Dear Breakup Girl, I feel like a lout for breaking up with a girl just because she told me she’d ‘never’ sleep with me.”). I will say, however, that vows of virginity and swoony makeouts are — contrary to the stereotypical notion that those who choose to postpone The Act are otherwise glacial — NOT mutually exclusive. That’s not the weird part. The weird — or at least inscrutable — part is the Why of the breakup. What can I tell you? Either it’s very simple — she tried rilly rilly hard but just doesn’t LIKElike you — or it’s very complicated — about this sex thing, she has Issues. I’m not saying that virginity is an Issue; I’m saying that she seems to be having a little [understandable] trouble negotiating this choice (or whatever else is going on in her head right now). I’m saying that in this case, Breakup Girl detects a lot of Issues underneath an on-the-surface perfectly healthy choice.
So yeah, you could do a teeny weeny bit of sleuthing with the roommate, but you probably won’t get Starr-level amounts of snarky data. Girl confidences being what they are, when you ask, you’re going to have to issue a big fat disclaimer about how you are SO not requesting that Roommate betray Amy’s confidence — you just need a little insight into a choice/situation that affects you, and you don’t want to put Amy on the spot. Then you’re going to have to frame your questions so that they’re not about Amy per se, but about the motivations, trials, and tribulations of abstinence for smart, attractive women in general. Find out what you can, but be prepared to shrug and chalk it up to “It wasn’t me.” Because I really don’t think it was you. So don’t get dater’s block as you look to start the next novel. ‘Cause remember, you got some other important data: hey, you practically caused a swoon! You go, Fabio.
This advice was originally published November 16, 1998.