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June 26, 2000 e-mail e-mail to a friend in need

Let me get the sad part out of the way: remember the weedy sea dragon who was going to be a daddy? I'm sorry to report that our favorite egg-bearing dad just couldn't pull through -- though thankfully, he did leave some hatchlings to carry on his winsome (yet masculine) name. Ah, if only he could have held on until this past Saturday's Mermaid Parade!

If you ask me, our filmy friend is the Mr. Hooper of the year 2000. How do you tell kids where he went? How do you explain he won't be back?

That said, explaining death to the novice is a walk in the marine park compared to explaining its Freudian cousin: sex. (Don't recommend using the WSD as an example, though: just when the kids think they've got this stork thing all figured out, along comes a pregnant...guy!?)

Explaining why not to have sex is equally challenging. Just when the kids think they have this waiting thing all figured out, along comes ... Our Entire Culture. Not to mention Their Entire Class (saying, "Oh yeah, I've done it. Hurry up!).

BG tried to do it here. But I also -- through the magic of the Do Tell -- asked for your help. So here -- in the spirit of last week's roundup on interracial dating -- is your column on

Teen Sex (or Not): Talking The Talk

Here's what I asked:

Do Tell: If you had sex earlier than you meant to, what, looking back, do you think would have stopped you? OR: If you were on the fence and then said no, what caused your decision? Either way, was it something that someone said? A new way of thinking about it? In other words: what can BG pass on from you that could help others?

And here's what you Do Told, with your pearliest pearls in purple.

Virgin: "I'm a college student in a long distance relationship. No matter how much birth control I use, sex is not going to be worth the potential pregnancy amd all the stresses that come with it. Neither of us wants to put our college careers in jeopardy for a little physical pleasure -- especially when we have so many other ways to enjoy each other without the risk of pregnancy. It's also something I've always told my boyfriend: 'If you aren't ready to talk about what would happen if I got pregnant [This doesn't count. -- BG], you aren't ready to have sex.'"

Calpurnia: "There's also such a thing as waiting too long. Truly. I was brought up in a very inhibited household (to this day I don't use tampons — I was brought up to believe they were wrong, and though I know that's crap, I can't get past it). When I was 19 I was going out with a truly lovely man of 28. After months of dating he made it clear that he would like to take things to another level. I was afraid to. I thought it was wrong. I truly cared about this man and he cared about me. He was absolutely respectful of my feelings on the subject, but eventually we broke up because I felt he was looking for someone who could give him what he wanted and bailed on him. 15 years later he is married with two kids and one of my best friends in the world.
    BG, the stupidest thing I ever did was say no to this man. He would have been kind and considerate nad he never would have hurt me or broken my heart. I did -- and do -- love him very much. But instead, I clung to my "precious virginity" until I was date-raped when I was 24. I was too naive to understand that not all men would respect my wishes when I said no. I am sure that if I had slept with my now-friend I would have understood what was happening before it happened. I wonder if I had slept with my firend when I was nineteen, if none of this would have happened -- or if I could have coped with it better. My first time would have been something I could look back on with fondness, my heart would not have been broken, and eventually I would have moved on with a few more sexual survival skills.
    Teens: Your first time should ideally be special, but realize that it may not be with your last partner. If you put so much emphasis on THE ONE, you might be shattered if/when it ends. Just wait -- as long as it takes -- for someone truly kind who respects you. Then you'll have some perspective when you really do meet the one you lose your head over. "

Kurzon ("mom of a four-year old, hoping he has a better sense of himself at 18 than I did): "I was raised to wait for marriage. I wanted to. I was dating this guy for quite a while (probably four months until we got to 'it') and he had had sex before. I told him I wanted to wait, expressed my concern that this would make him take off on me, and he reassured me that he respected my decision and it was fine by him.
    Well... things just progressed gradually until we were having sex and I couldn't argue myself out of believing what was going on. So I never really said, 'Yup, tonight's the night,' I never agreed -- I never really felt like I was even consulted. Once I realized what was happening, I cried and cried. I wasn't ready, it wasn't what I wanted. Then I went with the 'Oh well, I'm used and dirty now, I might as well enjoy it' and did my best to be an active participant from then on.
    So, tell those young people that they know what they want to do and that they have every right to say NOT TONIGHT. And tell them that just 'cause someone wonderful says 'OK, I believe you' ... well, I was a university biology major and I missed him sneaking past me. 'If you don't know what to do yet, the time to decide hasn't come. When the time comes to choose, you will know what to do. The trick is in listening to yourself when the time arrives.'"

Mike: "Don't lose your virginity just because you can. I was painfully shy in high school, and when I got into my first serious relationship in college (with a young woman much more experienced than I), I got caught up in the feeling of 'Wow! I'm doing all this stuff I never did before!' While that's a nice feeling, it also meant that I never asked myself 'Wait -- do I want to do this stuff?' Would I have waited longer if I'd asked myself that question? Maybe, maybe not. But I do know that I regret not stepping back for a moment and taking stock."

Lindsey: "I had sex just after I turned sixteen -- with my first boyfriend, who was one of the popular jocks in high school. I was sure I wasn't ready to have sex, and didn't want to, but I wanted to let my boyfriend know that it wasn't that I didnt find him attractive. But I didn't articulate that very well, and he got the impression that I did want to have sex, immediately. I stopped him and told him in not so many words that I wasn't ready. He spent the next hour making me feel very small, and very very guilty, until I eventually gave in. I cried the entire time. After that I felt that since I did it once I couldn't say no. But not one time did I enjoy it. And you know, I was an intelligent person, a classic overachiever -- and yet I did not see the obvious until after we broke up. I would stress to teens that if someone makes you feel anything like guilt for not having sex, DO NOT HAVE SEX. It's a total red flag that they don't care enough about you, and -- please learn from my mistake -- you should wait for someone who does."

Liz: "At age 21, I almost started having sex with my then-boyfriend, but decided not to. I didn't feel secure enough in myself or my relationship to make that kind of change in my life. What made me decide to say no at the time? We went home to our respective cities over the holidays. I was going to start taking the pill, which would have necessitated that I stop taking antibiotics for my skin. I realized that I wasn't willing to give up clear skin for sex with him."

And here's one for the grownups (oh, and here's another) about taking your time:

Ellen: "I had sex too soon in my past three relationships. All ended in disaster, one quickly, two slooooowly. I drew lovely scribbly erotic pictures in my mind, mostly from their come-hither looks, their overliterate talk, and their voracious emails. Don't get me wrong, I loved them all -- but each one was looking for a panacea, not a real relationship. And so was I. Now I'm getting to know a new guy, extremely carefully. If he makes a poor friend, he ain't going anywhere below my waist. Period. Oh, and I'm 35. It takes some of us longer than others..."

* factoid from the BG newswire: this conservative student advocate organization reports that while more than half of college students say they're sexually active, 72% were monogamous at press time.



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