I’m a 30-year-old Virgin. Go on, Guess Why. – Jodi Tandet – Medium
Blocked Unblock Follow Following unesteemed Pulitzer Prize loser writing about mental health, humor, the oddness of life & more / “stop overusing me!” - the em dash / joditandet.strikingly.com Jun 26 Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash Exuberant game show host: Hello and welcome to… Live studio audience: WHY! IS! SHE! STILL! A! VIRGIN! Host: That’s right, the name of the show is “Why Is She Still a Virgin?” — The game that mimics everyday life for adult virgins. Today’s contestant is Jodi Tandet. Jodi, why don’t you tell the nice folks at home a little bit about yourself? Jodi: OK. Um, hi everyone! I’m Jodi. I recently turned 30. I was born and raised in South Florida, but have lived in Pittsburgh for a year. I love reading, baking, hiking, watching Netlfi — Host: How nice. Isn’t she lovely, folks? (audience applauds on command) (opening beats of Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” play) Host: Well you know what that sound means… It’s time to make wild speculations about Jodi’s personal life choices! Alrighty panel, let’s hear it: why do you think Jodi is still a virgin? 25-year-old businessman: She must be a prude! 19-year-old female college student: Is she like super religious? 42-year-old guy: I bet she’s an ugly undesirable bitch! 78-year-old woman: Does she have a hormone imbalance? She really should get that checked out. Ya know, my husband Albert and I — Host: Thank you, Esther! Next panelist? A therapist Jodi stopped seeing after one session: Hmmm. She must suffer from undiagnosed Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder due to a repressed memory of a childhood sexual trauma. Jodi’s 7th grade science teacher: She’s surely just waiting for true love! When the right person comes along, she’ll be ready. Host: Thanks, panelists! In just a moment, Jodi will reveal the real reason she’s still a virgin at the shocking age of thirty. But first, a quick word from our sponsors. Blue Apron… Hi, folks at home. Jodi here. The real reason for my v-card status is… none of the above. There are actually two reasons, unguessed by the eager panelists, which are constantly intermingling and influencing each other: Sex doesn’t interest me. Sex scares me. You may think these two excuses can’t coexist. Am I indifferent or afraid? One must be the “true” reason and the other is merely a convincing story I tell myself. Honestly, that suspicion has often crossed my mind too. But I don’t buy it. To explain, let’s explore both reasons. 1. Sex doesn’t interest me. Photo by Kinga Cichewicz on Unsplash First, I’ll take you to a different world. Literally. Pretend you were born and raised in an alternative universe. The people you know are exactly the same but for one glaring exception: they’re all obsessed with fencing. (The sword fighting type, that is; they’re neutral on property enclosures.) The inhabitants of this world talk about fencing constantly. Magazines are filled with tips on how to improve your fighting technique. Couples often sneak in a quick fight on weeknights. A common joke is that the internet is 90 percent fencing images and videos. Prior to adolescence, most kids will have had “the talk” with their parents about why they have a sudden urge to pick up a saber and what protective clothing to wear. It’s only natural to crave frequent swordplay, they claim — part of what makes us human. Photo by Eugene Lim on Unsplash So, though you don’t understand the appeal yet, you assume you’ll eventually acquire the taste for wielding a blade. You theorize that once this craving hits, you won’t have to see a full, clean saber to know you’d enjoy touching one. Except that never happens. Fencing continues to seem bizarre to you. Boring. Dangerous. A totally arbitrary activity, especially when there are so many other enticing options for pleasure and amusement in this vast world. Wouldn’t traveling to Paris be preferable? Seeing Hamilton ? Devouring an ice cream sundae? Helloooo??! As a teen, you figure your peers must be faking their fencing fervor too. Exaggerating their eagerness, at the very least. You never question this theory. You’re of the same species; why would your brain, your gut, your heart, relate to fencing so differently from your peers’? Surely the other kids are merely feigning their interests to better fit in with the adults who command the fencing-obsessed culture. By age 13, your friends begin to declare their desires to fence with specific people — usually the best looking candidates, those with frosted blonde highlights and teeth unburdened by braces. Pffft, you think. Surely they’re being hyperbolic! They just mean they like that person’s personality. They’d like to hang out. Connect emotionally. Perhaps Netflix and chill in a literal sense. Maybe one day they’ll challenge a worthy partner to a few rough rounds of fencing but not now. You haven’t been struck with the airborne fencing urge yet, so it couldn’t have reached them. Could it? Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash It’s only when you start college, where the co-eds speak more openly and explicitly, that it dawns on you: many — perhaps even most — of your peers have not only fantasized about strapping on the proper gear and getting down and dirty with blades, they’ve actually played full regulation matches. Many are already elite athletes. And they think you’ve taken up the sport too. Now please rejoin me back in our universe. Here, sex is my fencing. I don’t judge people for going for it — as long as it brings them joy and other athletes in their shared arena are enthusiastic about the spirit of each game too. But I’ve never done it. Nor can I relate to the urge. No, I’m not a cold, icy, unemotional bitch. Thanks for asking. I crave emotional connections with other people. That urge I have. I’d like to get to know a nice eligible bachelor in the fencing-obsessed world, whether or not he’s an avid fan himself. But I’d prefer to refrain from that peculiar, eccentric niche hobby of his, thanks. Photo by Alex Sorto on Unsplash I’ve had crushes. Many. They’re of a different ilk though. Rather than fantasizing about seeing a crush naked, I’ll daydream about how handsome he’d look in a tailored suit. Instead of contemplating the sex we could share, I’ll imagine the unending conversations we could have, the delicious meals we could cook together, the places we could explore, perhaps even how adorable other people would think we’d look together. (#couplegoals) Sex doesn’t enter my mind. It never has. Has fencing entered yours? My concern is with how a partner could make me feel emotionally, not physically. I know most people don’t see potential partners solely as sex providers but it’s still part of their criteria for a romantic match. Maybe they consider emotional and physical factors 50/50 or 30/70. It’s 100/0 for me. OK, I bet you have questions. Let’s get back to the show. Photo by Hybrid on Unsplash Host: Welcome back, folks! Now it’s time for… Studio Audience: INVASIVE! AUDIENCE! QUESTIONS! Host: Yup, time for Jodi to respond to probing, personal questions that they’d never dare ask a sexually active adult. Let’s have the first question, please. Audience member #1: Hey there, Jodi. I’m representing how most people react to your… ahem, special way of thinking. My question, that I know you’re sick of hearing but the folks at home will likely wonder, is: Why don’t you just try it? Just get it over with and have sex with someone already? Maybe you’ll like it? You won’t know unless you try it. (audience mumbles in agreement) Jodi: Hmm. Well, let me ask you a question first, sir. Have you ever fenced? Audience member #1: No, I can’t say that I have. Jodi: Well why don’t you just try it then? Many people love it. You won’t know unless you strap on the gear, step into the area, and start jabbing swords! Audience member #2: Riiiight, ok. But back to sex: you mentioned you’ve had crushes on men. But what about women? Maybe you’re a lesbian. Why don’t you try having that type of sex, just to see? Jodi: Sir, would you try it with a guy, just to see? Host: Er, my producers are telling me we have to go to another commercial. Squarespace… 2. Sex scares me. Photo by Thirteen .J on Unsplash Hi, Jodi again. Welcome back to the wild World of Sexy Fencing! Doesn’t this world seem scary? People claim fencing is simple. Natural. Animalistic. Yet, to be enjoyable, it requires elaborate safety contraptions and mutually agreed upon rules. You can’t just go in blind your first time; you could get hurt! Sure, there are books explaining the minutia of good fencing. Internet articles too. Trained fencing therapists. But those resources can’t predict your fencing partner’s unique preferences or expectations. Having an open dialogue with them about it isn’t so simple; there’s a major stigma against that in Sexy Fencing World. That’s not how it happens in movies, TV, or the personal stories your friends tell describing their first times. They say it’ll just come naturally to your body. It might be awkward but that’s OK. You’ll get over it and improve over time. You doubt it’s so simple — at least, you anticipate it wouldn’t be for you. Lesser romantic activities never felt natural to you either. You feel like you’re just imitating a role — trying to flirt like Julia Roberts, kiss like Kate Winslet, coyly smile like Meg Ryan. All the date’s a stage and you, an unrehearsed understudy, are being called to perform opening night. You wish you could relax and enjoy kissing, like most people seem effortlessly capable of, but you’re overwhelmed by the mechanics of it all. Does your breath smell OK? What do you do with your hands? Do you add a little tongue and if so, when? Which way do you turn your face? How long should it all last? How long till he realizes you’re terrible at this? Or on the off chance he enjoys it, will he quickly expect sex? (That’s often the way it goes in movies. They kiss, then cut to them in bed, ripping off each other’s clothes or waking up naked the next morning.) Nothing about this is simple. You’re an alien tasked with mimicking the bizarre mating rituals of the homo sapien species. Photo by DAVIDCOHEN on Unsplash As a fencing novice at the mature ‘ol age of 30, you’re quite the rarity. You agonize over whether or not you should disclose your status to potential partners. Either way, you see only a small set number of outcomes, ranging from bad to terrible. Option A: You tell them you’re a fencing virgin early on, say date number one or two. They get freaked out and never contact you again. They don’t know you well enough yet to care about your reasoning; they’ve already surmised and cemented an off-putting theory or two. Option B: You tell them at a later date, a few weeks or months in. They don’t like that you withheld this information — which they consider vital — till now. They never contact you again. Option C: You don’t tell them but after some unpredictable number of dates — way way way before you’re ready — they expect to seal the deal. They invite you back to their place, supposedly just to watch a movie or share dessert, but really they want to get into your fencing uniform. You bolt as soon as they make a move. Or you try it out and make an utter fool of yourself, feeling like a fake. A phony. A clueless sexual impostor. A dumb, unsophisticated virgin not worthy of passing the Test of Compatibility. Either way, they never contact you again. You’re not surprised. Fencing compatibility is extremely important! (Or so the women’s magazines all say. It’s not like you care.) Option D: You don’t tell them. But eventually, they figure you must not be into them. If you were, you clearly would have indicated a desire to see their fencing tools by now. They never contact you again. These rejections — a mix of true stories from your past and theoretical renderings of future occurrences — leave you feeling even more freakish. Someone who indeed should be on a game show, with their peculiar story advertised as an outlandish spectacle to “normal” gawking viewers at home. You hope Maury Povich doesn’t catch wind of you. You feel — Audience member #2, interrupting: But Jodi, basically everyone is scared their first time! No one knows what they’re doing initially. It’s normal for your first time to be awkward and uncomfortable. Jodi: Yes, so I’ve heard. How do you get over that fear? Audience 2: Uh, you just go for it! Jodi: Just get over your fear by pushing past it? Audience: Exactly! Jodi: How though? How does anyone in this world have the guts to simply let go of such a fear? I can’t comprehend it. Do most people have a sex-specific fear-suppressant superpower that my genes mutated out? It’s like you’re telling me to just “get over” my fear of skydiving, bullfighting, or farting in a silent library, and give it a whirl. (opening beats of *NSYNC’s “Bye Bye Bye” sound throughout the studio) Host: Well that sound means we’re almost out of time. But before we go, tell us please Jodi: why’d you come on the show today? What do you hope viewers take away from your appearance? Audience member #3: Yeah, what’s your deal? Like, do you want everyone to stop having sex? Are you trying to shame everyone into celibacy? Jodi: Absolutely not. Quite the opposite; I want everyone to feel comfortable doing — or not doing — whatever feels most natural to them. If you desire sex and have a mutually excited partner to engage in it with you, fantastic! Go for it. Screw. Shag. Bone. Roll in the hay. Put on your best fencing gear and complete a few rounds, fast or slow, quiet or loud. I’m glad that brings joy into your life. But I want the same respect for my decision. Actually, no; ‘decision’ isn’t the right word. My asexuality (lack of sexual attraction to anyone) is no more a decision than heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, or any other sexuality. It’s who I am. I want a world in which my absence of sexual desires isn’t questioned. I want people to respect it. Recognize it. BELIEVE IT, GODDAMNIT. Photo by Thomas Welch on Unsplash Audience member #4: It isn’t just a phrase? Jodi, signing deeply: No. Audience member #5: Maybe you just haven’t found the right person! Jodi : That’s not quite right either. While I remain open to the possibility that I’d enjoy sexual contact with a person whom I can deeply trust, it doesn’t change how I feel in the present. As of now, I’d be perfectly fine dying a virgin. I don’t need sex. I’d be less fine dying without ever visiting Rome, swimming with dolphins, or seeing more episodes of Brooklyn Nine-Nine . You, sir, probably don’t understand how I could possibly feel this way. Well, try as I might, I don’t understand anyone who feels how you do. I’m mystified by sexual attraction and desire. Now that we’ve established mutual confusion, can we agree not to question each other? (a few audience members cheer) Jodi: Thank you, thank you! Look, I support sex positive movements. Messages conveying the joys of safe, consensual sex delight me because I know they validate and affirm many people’s honest desires. But, I fear that oftentimes, in an effort to be so sex positive, the message swings too far. People insinuate that not only does everyone deserve to have great sex , but that frequent engagement in it is essential to a happy life. That a sexless life is always a dull life. A lesser life. That’s simply untrue. I’m perfectly happy without having had a p in my v, thanks. I’d be even happier if you stop making me feel that I’m tragically broken. Less human. In urgent need of fixing. Audience member #6: Wait, so you don’t want sex but you want to be in a relationship? I don’t get it. Isn’t that just a friend? What’s romance without sex? Seems awfully sad and empty. Jodi: Not to me. I want all the other beautiful aspects of a relationship. I want to be with someone who’ll make me burst with laughter, cry with joy, and smile just because he’s near me. I want someone who’ll celebrate me, support me, challenge me, dance with me, and cook with me. Perhaps watch Westword and exchange baffled glances with me. I want a guy who’ll spend all day at home, simply relaxing with me. Or out in the world, exploring unfound territories with me. I want someone who’ll listen to me. Hear me. Recognize me. Understand me. Love and appreciate me for who I truly am. I want them to respect every aspect of me, which includes my disinterest in sex. I want someone to share a life with me, but I don’t need them to share my body.