“I did it.” I thought, “I actually did it!”
It was the night before my wedding and I had managed to protect my virtue. I doubted myself many times in the years leading up to this moment. The doubt mostly came from statistics (which never lie) that clearly indicated the odds were against me.
Moving to DC turned out to be exactly what I needed. It was a little bumpy at first since I decided to move in with my brother and his new wife. They were both very supportive and helpful in my quest for happiness. Uh… sometimes too supportive. Like, my sister-in-law dressing me up for dates and giving me tons of unsolicited advice. You know how that goes…
Dating in DC was a little better than it had been in college. More professional people were added to the mix and I joined their ranks as a general manager of a startup company. I enjoyed the work, so every time a relationship fell apart I didn’t really mind. That summer as I spent some time at home, my mom remarked that the single life seemed to suit me. I certainly was tired of trying to make unreasonable suitors happy. Life on my own was turning out to be very fulfilling.
Of course, as you may have guessed — oh, yeah, and I told you at the beginning — shortly after that conversation with my mom, like literally two weeks later, I met a guy that went from friend to fiance. He moved to California and we kept up a long-distance relationship until it was now the night before our wedding. He’d proven to be someone I respected deeply and who gave me the space and respect I needed too.
I had received lots of advice about what to do on the wedding night from my sister-in-law (of course) and close friends. None of it made any sense, especially what my sister-in-law said. My mom didn’t say much. As my new husband and I got into the car to head to our hotel I had a surge of panic run through me. All this time, all this waiting, all this build up… and I had no idea what to do beyond the elementary mechanics of “insert here”.
Maybe I should have sat in on a few sessions of sex education in high school. Would it have taught me more? So many people argue about what teenagers should and shouldn’t learn about sex that I honestly doubt it would have helped. Not long ago in my community there was a big to-do when the elementary and middle schools started introducing these concepts to the children without parental consent. The community was international and the administrators felt confident that, going on statistics and research, they knew what was best for the children. A group of my friends banded together and met with the administration to address their concerns about what material would be covered in these introductory classes. There were lengthy discussions about what educational boundaries were appropriate for children and teens.
At the time I had kids in kindergarten and second grade, so I didn’t (and still don’t really) have a clear idea what I thought about the whole thing. These questions have been on my mind again lately as I’ve researched this and other topics. What is appropriate? What do we need to know and how do we prepare ourselves and our children? And the biggest question… how do we all agree on what should be taught in school?
I can’t help recalling that first night. I had been fully armed to protect my virginity, but had no idea how to enjoy my victory.
Obviously it takes two, so it’s worth mentioning my husband’s background and approach to intimacy. He came from a more open family environment where your body was just your body and nudity was more about nature than naughtiness. Still, he was equally unsure how to make it all work and that first night we were both baffled by the complexity.
Unfortunately there isn’t a standard sex education class you take once you become sexually active. Couldn’t find any classes like that at the library or community center. Religious groups usually step in and try to provide guided support for couples struggling with intimacy. Some religious organizations are more systematic and organized while others randomly provide resources. Sometimes it’s a matter of being in the right place at the right time or having a great pastor who does a great job answering questions. There are also plenty of books out there directed at helping couples master the art of love-making. For me and my husband, we both took different approaches to educating ourselves. He favored neutral scientific resources. I started out trying to talk to people.
No one in my circle of friends and family really felt comfortable. If I’d even hint at what I needed help with, there was this awkward feeling of being “shushed” as the person indicated the subject was WAY too personal to discuss. I also had to be careful not to come across critical of my husband and I’m sure he felt uncomfortable knowing I was trying to talk about it with other people. He didn’t have much to worry about, though, because everyone was simply too embarrassed. Maybe some of you reading right now are thinking I should have talked to you. I wish I had…
When we talk about abortion we need to talk about education. How are we educating ourselves and each other at every stage of development? How comfortable do we feel talking about sex with each other and with our children? Are we sensitive and respectful as we discuss these topics?
As a diverse group of amazing people, we come at this topic from different perspectives and angles. I have come to believe that it’s the variety of insight and perspective that can help us come to solutions that will better serve our families and our society. But we don’t want to talk about it. It’s too personal. It’s too sensitive.
And that is part of the problem….