If dream therapists are to be believed, you’ve likely dreamt of showing up for class only to realize it’s the day of the final exam, and to your horror, it’s the first time you’ve attended all semester. I still have that dream on occasion — and I’ve been out of college for 11 years! The funny thing is that I wake up no less flustered now than I did when the possibility of being totally unprepared for a test was real.
In life, unlike college, not every exam benefits from hours of advanced preparation. Take, for example, your wedding day. You show up virtually unrehearsed (the “rehearsal” dinner is more an occasion for calming nerves and settling last-minute details than actual practice) and say and do things that will alter your life forever.
And then there’s the wedding night. The less experienced you are, the better. Or so I found out when I got married.
I didn’t always believe it, though.
From the time I was a girl, my parents encouraged me to hold on to my virginity. They assured me that marriage would be a lot better if sex was something I shared only with my spouse. My pastors and friends and friends’ parents all supported that view and I agreed. In my heart, I knew it would be worth waiting for.
As I moved from girlhood to womanhood, my convictions remained — premarital sex wasn’t an option — but the onslaught of hormones did make other aspects of physical intimacy look good. My head and heart still believed in virginity, but there were times when my body rebelled; or at least tried to. I dated a little in high school, but nothing serious. Thanks to my sheltered upbringing, the very small Christian school I attended, and the dearth of datable guys, I didn’t have too many opportunities to give in to my body.
Then came college. I went to a big Christian college — a campus teeming with eligible, desirable guys. Suddenly the pressure was on. For the first time, I was on my own and the voices I heard weren’t all singing the song of morality. My friends with boyfriends talked about the pleasure of their physical relationships (interpretation: everything shy of intercourse is fine). When our freshman orientater showed us the lingerie her boyfriend had bought her the past Valentine’s Day, and then admitted she had “modeled” it for him, I was horrified. I guess I really was naïve. Maybe my “code of conduct” was outmoded. I kept listening to the voices.
Then there were all the women’s magazines lying around at the grocery, the hair salon and dorm rooms. With titles like, “Double Your Orgasm Satisfaction” and “The Wildest Sex Move Ever,” and advice like, “there are a lot of criteria people use to determine whether or not ‘sex’ was had. Figure out what yours are and you’ll be sure to recognize the real thing when it happens,” I was starting to wonder if I was the only one in the world who still believed in purity.
I was also starting to wonder if my inexperience was the thing that kept the guys away. You see, all those eligible guys were dating my girlfriends, but not me. When it came to me, we were “just friends.” They liked spending time with me and confiding in me — often about the girls they were interested in. I enjoyed their friendship, but I was starting to wonder if I would ever be the object of their affection.
In all honesty, the thought of being that close to a man was terrifying. Despite my outward show of confidence, inside I was trembling. In one desperate attempt to overcome my inexperience — convinced that was the reason I was dateless — I asked one of my best male friends, who also happened to be the best-looking guy in our dorm, to teach me how to kiss. I actually admitted to him I had never “really” kissed a guy, not passionately, and I didn’t want to embarrass myself when the time came. I reasoned that clumsy kissing was a high school thing. Looking back, I can’t imagine anything more embarrassing than that conversation!
He said yes, but that he would choose the time for our “lesson.” Every time I was around him I was so nervous. It didn’t help that I had developed a huge crush on him. Maybe he’ll do it today. But it never happened. I guess he realized my request was about more than a platonic teachable moment.
It was hard graduating with no serious relationship in the works — I got the B.A. I paid for, but not the MRS. I longed for. I spent a lot of time blaming my single status on perceived flaws. Was I too short, too stocky, not funny enough? I figured something must be wrong with me; that must be the reason I wasn’t romantically attached. When anyone would ask me if I was dating, I’d flush. How can you ask such a thing? I’d think. Can’t you see I’m defective?
I feared those flaws would keep me from achieving my dreams of marriage and family. So I poured myself into a career. On one hand, my success at work was affirming, on the other, I worried that what I was doing to bide my time might actually keep me from what I really wanted.
One day I was talking candidly with a girl at work. She was engaged and telling me about her fiancé. During the conversation, she let it slip that they were sleeping together. She seemed embarrassed but justified, given the number of her friends who were doing the same thing. When I told her I was still a virgin, she blanched. “I’d give anything to go back to where you are,” she said. I was flattered. And stunned. The one thing I was most insecure about — my inexperience — was what she most admired.
I had convinced myself that my lack of sexual exploits kept me from being lucky in love. I knew premarital sex was wrong and I was committed to abstinence. But before this conversation, I had only heard it from my parents and my pastor and my Christian friends. This was the first time I heard someone on the other side of the issue — a sexually active, nonbeliever — looking at where I stood and expressing envy.
I knew I might well die a virgin, and that was never a pleasant thought, but suddenly my perspective changed. I realized it was OK to be a novice; that giddy, schoolgirl excitement was a good thing. No longer did I agonize over what I hadn’t yet done.
I wish I could have learned this lesson sooner. College would have been a lot more fun if I had been more confident about my decision to postpone sex.
In hindsight, I think it’s confidence, not experience, that makes women most attractive to men in the first place. When I met Steve Watters, I knew we’d be fast friends. I pursued him — in friendship — with boldness. I suspect he’d say it was that boldness that led him, a year later, to ask me to marry him. I know it wasn’t my sexual experience. That came after the wedding.
Just the way God planned it.
Copyright 2003 Candice Watters. All rights reserved.