March 20, 2000
|e-mail to a friend in need|
Opening this Friday in New York: All I Wanna Do (starring my fave rave babes Kirsten Dunst, Heather Matarazzo, and Gaby Hoffman), a swell coming-of-age/going-co-ed story set in a all-girls high school whose student body starts to get an inkling that an ERA will serve them better than an Mrs.
Now, as female utopias go, this one's no Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death. Of course they like boys. A lot. They just don't want them in their hair, in their classes, in (between) their friendships, their employment lines.
Gaby Hoffman's character, actually, was shipped off to the school when her parents learned of her plot to "do it" with her boyfriend. Undaunted and especially once she falls in with her girl gang, who've pledged to help another realize their dreams she and the posse hatch a plot to get "it" done and along the way, they learn a little something about love, loyalty, girl power, and contraceptive foam. Call it: "How to Make an American Pie."
Now, the cute thing here is that All I Wanna Do is not a flat-out sex comedy. In fact, a couple of her friends help her with her caper only because they made a pact not because their hearts are where her loins are. They think her goal is kinda beside the point; after all, they've got to stay focused on becoming scientists and editors and politicians and whatnot not to mention handling the immediate crisis: preventing the threatened boygermination of their beloved institution.
What does this have to do with you (boys included, so don't go anywhere)? Well, it's a nice message: that boys and sex are nummy and all that, but that one does not necessarily have a ton to gain from "losing it" as an end in itself. And that is why BG is never against the notion of
Putting the "In" Back in "Virgin."
Teens. I've said this before, but let me remind you that when I was in Breakup High (which, by the way, was also all girls props to the movie people for getting the feel of it right) we wondered how you made out without bumping noses. When we were sophomores, we were fascinated by the one Kim Novackian beauty in the senior class who was rumored to have had sex . Oh, there were plenty of things with plenty of boys, but SEXsex was hardly on my screen. And I am not even that old.
But a couple of recent studies reminded me of just how hard it is idealistic definitions aside to make sex and love, never mind fun, land in the same place. According to a study of 15,000 girls (ages13-20) published in the February issue of YM magazine, the top reason respondents cited for going ahead and having sex was: Curiosity (58%). Love, at 47%, was the also-ran. Hey, who wouldn't be curious? But you know what you say when you find out about something you were "just curious" about? You say: "Oh!" <silence> That's about it. Well, you know what? That's not good enough. (Plus, remember, that proverbial cat was more than just disappointed.)
Ickier still, a recent study by the Alan Guttmacher Institute showed that among girls who called their first time "voluntary," 25% gave it a 1 to 4 (out of 10 ) on the How Much I Actually Wanted To scale. Blech, you guys. So, so not good enough for you.
And even if you do truly madly deeply dig each other do not underestimate how complicated sex makes things. Not to mention how unfun sex is when things are that complicated. And thus: how unfun all things can get.
Really: how nice would it be to know that the girls you like know that you're not after just one thing? To not have to have this neon WILL WE OR WON'T WE sign constantly blinking and buzzing in your window? As a normal cool guy named Ross said in a recent Jump magazine article about cool boy virgins, "Not having sex made my [two serious] relationships more laid back." Oh, and I know it's hard to keep a game face amidst all the swaggerers and lockerroomtalkers, but know that anyone who teases you either hasn't done it either or wishes s/he hadn't.
I also know it's hard to say No that technique could be a column unto itself. We've all heard that everyone should understand that "No Means No." But you should also listen to that yourselves. In other words, if your gut feeling says "No" or "Not Sure" or "Not Yet" then that, too, means No. There's no "I should want to." Knowing that can help you hold up or even check out under pressure.
So please think of your "virginity" neither as this precious pearly Puritanical treasure, nor as some annoying electronic ankle shackle that will prickle and keep you confined until you find some way to get rid of the damn thing. (Also, allow me to caution you against The Transitive Property [sic] of Virginity: where you say (a) I would lose it only to someone special, and (b) I lost it to him/her, so therefore (c) s/he must be special.) (And don't even get me started on Double Standards.)
Instead, think of your virginity not as something you "lose," but rather, simply, as a Not Yet. As, simply, the fine and dandy way you are before you add a big huge complicated and excellent thing to your life. Like getting your own car. When you get a car, it's not like, "Okay, I have one, there it is, now I'm done," and there it sits. You become A Person With a Car. Who for all the freedom and fun it brings has to keep it and take care of it and park it and fix it and maintain it. And drive it defensively.
That said, remember that if and once you've had sex, you can go home again. Meaning: call yourself a "born-again virgin" or not, but know that just because you had sex with one person doesn't mean that now you, like, "have to" (or worse, "might as well") with everyone you date. Pick and choose. Sex is what you make it mean, so yo, make it good.
Now. What happens if you get all the way to Grownup without having done it? Choosing to wait until marriage is one thing, and that's entirely your business. But seeming to have had that choice, er, thrust upon you by default is entirely another. Problem is, the longer you don't do it, the more of an It it becomes. A Thing. A "How do I tell someone?" thing. A "Well geez, if I've waited this long, The One has to be beyond special" thing. A "it's one thing in high school, but now I really feel like a loser" thing.
I'll elaborate much more in the letters below, but I think the key is this: try, ha ha, not to put your relationships (or temporary lack thereof) under any more fast-track hard-core pressure for Meaningfulness or disclosure than you would otherwise. Like, if you go on a few dates with someone but just aren't Interested, it doesn't have to be Because I'm a Virgin and You're The Last Guy/Girl Who'll Be My First. You're just: not interested.
Also, I'm not gonna get all rainbowy and say that "because you have waited so long, it will be that much more special and beautiful." I don't know. Even if it's with someone you're nuts about, it might still suck. But remember: that could have happened any time. You didn't, like, miss some chance. You will, no matter when / where / how you start(ed), get the hang of it. Just like anyone.
And also: you and your virginity are so not alone. The movie I mentioned was a handy hook, but you guys, plural, are the ones whose letters, plural, gave me the idea for this column. So whether or not you want to date each other is one thing, but know that it will at least not take an elaborate team-driven caper to find someone who can deal with your status, respectfully and patiently (or delightfully not so).
Now all I wanna do is answer your letters: