I am not a virgin.
(But don’t tell my mother.)
At the age of five, I gave myself to Jesus. I did not know what giving myself to Jesus meant, but, being young and naïve, I did it anyway. I was a little girl vowing to live a devout life and live the way I was told: purely. I remember sitting in a circle with my mother and grandmother: hands held, prayers said, and before I knew it, I was born-again.
I was taught the ins-and-outs of what was wrong and what was right. I was taught that Jack Daniels was the devil, and that swearing resulted in a good spanking. Most importantly, I was taught that sex was for marriage.
What a burden that would become.
To the disappointment of my mother, I was an extremely sexual child. I humped the couch and had a special “feel good” teddy bear that visited me in the bedroom. My early sexuality proved to my mother that I needed a re-birth, re-Christening. Did she believe a prayer would relieve me of my sinful ways? Yes, she did. And that was when I gave myself to the Lord.
Not long after, I started elementary school. It was a private school in Los Angeles, which was guarantee I would grow up too fast. My sexual life blossomed in school, and it was then that my daily humps begot adult fantasies. I daydreamed about Zack Morris, my very real, though fictional, Saved by the Bell crush, and a magically dissolving bikini. I was only five, but in my fantasy, I was sixteen, and Zack wanted my body. Without hesitation, I gave it to him. I relived this dream repeatedly, my pillow to my groin, my body experiencing a thrill that I was taught was reserved for adults. But at that age, I never felt guilt.
As a child, the concept of “sex” was never introduced to me, other than being told it was “bad.” My nightly rendezvous with Zack Morris educated me about sex, but the words and images weren’t put together until I was six or seven, when someone’s parents let their kid in on the penis and vagina secret, a secret that quickly spread among the children.
It was then that I caught the sex bug.
Critical in my sexual explorations was popular R&B girl group TLC. I was in the second grade and they were banned in my household, but I listened to the CD every chance I had. It did not take long for me to learn the lyrics to their risqué “Red Light Special,” and it took even less time to develop a penchant for the silk pajamas made famous by the music video for “Creep.” I began to tell classmates that I wanted to be a stripper when I grew up, and I said so with intent and without irony. I practiced my future occupation in my bedroom, listening to the radio-edited version of “Diggin’ on You,” as I gyrated and shed my top, my mother’s bra after that.
As I got older, I began to hide my humping. Not that I was ashamed of what I had been doing, but I understood that my mother was trying hard to steer me away from this activity. I was proud to be sexual at school, but at home, I had to hide my identity.
In the fifth grade, my mother decided it was time to take me on a retreat to explain the birds and bees.
“Do you know what sexual intercourse is?” she asked.
I shook my head. Despite having watched porn at my friend’s house for the past three years, no, that day I did not know what sexual intercourse was.
“What do you think it is?” she asked.
“Hugging? Naked?” I trembled.
I had to listen to her explanation of a penis and a vagina. Even worse, I had to pretend innocence. That is I had to pretend to be a child. Didn’t she notice I was maturing, and that I was already growing pubic hair?
* * *
As I ascended into my teens, I began to realize what giving my life to Jesus meant. I may not have believed in it spiritually, but I understood it intellectually. I had always been deeply entrenched in obsessions; by the time I was thirteen, those obsessions took over my moral life. In a twist of fate, I began to worry about what my religion, and what my family, deemed as wrong. Did I believe in these Christian rules? No, but I felt guilty breaking them. I began to obey.
My mom had a list of things she didn’t do. I felt obliged to follow her lead, so I began to adopt those same rules as my own. Whenever I varied even a bit from her list, my sense of being collapsed. For example, shaving my legs with a straight razor and not an electric one made me sad. Every time I thought about using a tampon instead of a pad, my dignity waned. I lived a life of Christian and motherly guilt.
The one “don’t” my mother drilled into me from birth? How terrible sex was.
“I saved myself for marriage,” she told me often, and with pride in her voice.
When I turned sixteen, I vowed that I would not have sex until I was married.
A year later, I lost my virginity.
I lost my virginity at age 17 to my first boyfriend. It was a night planned out: my roommates both went home for the weekend, my dorm room was had to myself. I remember it being awkward, as most first times are, and I remember having the terrible feeling that I needed to pee.
As much as I had sex that freshman year of college, I was never comfortable with it. I always had my mother’s nagging voice in the background. “I didn’t have sex until I was married…” And it would echo and echo. Each time I had sex, a tremendous amount of guilt would wash over me. My mother’s bar set so high above me. I was a failure.
“Are you having…?” my mother asked.
I had been dating my boyfriend for more than a year before the question came up.
“Oh, no! No!” I lied.
We were sitting in a car, and I was waiting for the light to turn green.
* * *
I didn’t get used to having sex until I was in my early-to-mid-twenties. It wasn’t until then that I matured and sexuality came out of hiding. I finally understood what it meant to be a woman. (Move over Zack Morris, and hello Mark-Paul Gosselaar!) One night stands, two night stands, every encounter was a learning experience and something I relished. Sex became exciting, and the day after was not filled with guilt, but with Plan B and the giddiness of a young girl finally begetting her dreams.
I am now 27, the same age my mom was when she was married, the same age she was when she lost her virginity. I am not married and I am not a virgin. I am not a virgin 100 times over—but that is a secret that remains with me.
I hope my mother thinks I am a virgin for the rest of her life. Even after marriage, I want her to believe I am chaste. When I have kids, I want her to believe it was immaculate. Until her death, I want her to believe my hymen is still in place.
And what it comes down to, my friends, is that I will never tell my mom I am not a virgin.
It is the one thing I am afraid to say.