I realized that I was in over my head when he started unbuttoning his pants. I had seen a penis in health class, and once, I saw a horrifyingly diseased penis in abstinence education at church. But here, now, after I had told him, in no uncertain albeit tipsy terms, that his penis would in no way make it to its desired place in my vagina, I started to get nervous.
Honestly, I’m not sure how I convinced myself that things wouldn’t play out this way. He was gorgeous and tall and Venezuelan, and it was late and dark, and far away from my friend’s beach house. I just needed a place to crash. And, let’s be honest. This was Fire Island; his heterosexuality was in question for much of the beginning of our conversation. Totally harmless, and look! An open Bible next to his bed! This is not complicated at all. When I visit Fire Island with my boys, I usually assume that my feminine assets are of little use to me, but my backward gaze on this liberating and petrifying night tells otherwise. I was newly-27, and this penis before me was very clearly interested in my lady parts.
As I walked home at first light the next morning, I took a detour to the beach. I needed to breathe in the salt air, and to breathe through the all-too-raw mix of relief, horror and ecstasy washing over me like the waves rolling before me. A small town Texas transplant and statistic-defying-virgin, I had learned early in my NYC tenure that a tasteful, yet sexy bedroom story is a valuable asset at a party of young professionals. Now, I thought, as the tide came in, like my rising hangover, I no longer needed to hide behind well-timed potty breaks, and my trove of quaint Texas country living tales. Don’t misunderstand. I was not plotting the debut of my new story, but there was something about that walk of shame that brought comfort that no full bladder ever had.
As far as racy party banter goes, what I had just experienced likely shared little difference to the awkward first sexual encounter stories most of the high schoolers I counseled at work face well before their sixteenth birthdays. Except, when the time came to finish the deed, I flipped out, closed my legs and pointed to the open Bible. He finished our steamy, but conflicted episode in the expected way. I spent the final hours of the night huddled next to the wall, freezing, but too proud to ask for a sweatshirt–his roomie snoring above us. I didn’t need a new sex talk alibi to be sure, but I also didn’t need this particular story, either. Not at my age, anyway. But that morning by the ocean, I realized for the first time that I needed something even more important, and maybe had all along: To not to feel so lonely in my mix of intentional-celibacy and newfound semi-sexuality.
The Christian faith is mysterious, a very certain reality that I faced on that beach, on that day, after that night. The Bible–a beautiful story of restoration with lots of crazy, and the church’s teachings on sexuality make more sense in a high school abstinence education class than they do when you are facing down the big 3-0 with as much bravery and hope and virginity as you can muster. I realized that summer dawn that I haven’t given up on revering that sacred flesh where my faith and my body kiss. But I felt quite alone in my experience of it. My community of faith – the church, the physical body of Christ reincarnate, while supportive in my pledge to abstain, had done little to answer my ever-present quandary: How then should I live in this beautiful, sexual, curious body of mine? This is the question that keeps me up at night, and the one I’ll attempt to process here! Join me by Adding Your Hopeful Story here.
A Hopeful Abstainer