I was a late starter. No, I wasn’t late to start walking or talking. I didn’t start school late. I was late to lose it. Yes, IT! I didn’t lose my virginity until I was 22.
This wasn’t because I was hideously ugly. In fact, I was a reasonably good looking young man. I will admit to being shy, but it didn’t stop me having many female friends. In fact I had more female friends than male friends in my late teens. I can’t really explain why it took me so long to have a sexual relationship. I think it was purely a mixture of chance and circumstance.
For me, being a virgin at 22 was extremely debilitating. I felt unwanted and unloved. I felt like an impostor in a world of adults. What’s worse, the older I got, the more I felt I had to hide my virginity. It was like a vicious circle. My virginity fed my lack of confidence and shyness to the point where I shut myself off from my friends and family. The idea of asking a single girl on a date or of having a social life of any kind became an impossible goal for me. I think that’s why I ended up having an affair with a married woman…
Now I don’t want you to get the wrong idea. This wasn’t a Mrs Robinson situation where I was seduced by an older woman. In fact, I was six months older than she was (but years younger in experience and maturity). We had met through work two years before. We were quite good “office friends” in so far as we would have lunch together at work and chat about stuff. She had married young and soon became pregnant. When it came time for her to go on maternity leave, she asked me to help her carry her stuff down to her car. Just before she got in her car to drive away, we had a “moment”. It was unexpected and strange, and though we said nothing, we both suddenly became aware that we had feelings for each other. We had suddenly realised how much we meant to each other and how much we’d miss each others company.
And that, I thought, was that. This was way before social media, so we didn’t keep in touch. I just thought it was a passing infatuation and moved on with my life. I mean, she was married and 8 months pregnant! But a year later when she returned from maternity leave, it was as if only a day had passed. As soon as we saw each other again, that unvoiced spark was still there, and it just seemed inevitable that we would end up in bed together.
Now, in no way do I want to make this sound like a justification for extra-marital affairs. She had married too young and was unhappy, and I will absolutely admit to taking advantage of her vulnerability. She was obviously interested in me for more than friendship, but I still could have ignored this and remained as friends. It just seemed like this was the only way I was ever going to lose my virginity. All I can say is that the affair was brief but loving. There was a quick and slightly humorous conversation about my lack of experience at the beginning, but there was no awkwardness to the rest our affair. She eventually ended the relationship, and my heart was broken, but kind of in a good way. The fact that a few months later she left her husband for a man that she still lives with today makes me feel less guilty about the affair.
Now when I look back at that young man who was so worried about being a virgin at 22, I don’t see what all the fuss was about. So what! At the time my continued virginity felt like a crushing blow to my ego. I spent way too much time feeling inadequate and unfulfilled instead of just enjoying life. I should have just relaxed and realised that there was more to life than sexual relationships. But I couldn’t. I just felt sorry for myself.
Why did I feel that way? Is it more of an issue for men than women? All I know is that in hindsight, I could have probably waited even longer than I did. Even at 22, I’m not sure I was personally mature enough to really cope with an adult relationship. Wouldn’t it be nice if we let everyone grow up in their own time, free of social expectations and self-imposed sexual timetables. Maybe I could have resisted participating in an affair. But then again, I may have also missed out on one of the pivotal relationships in my life.
Do we put too much emphasis on losing our virginity as a rite of passage?