A while back, the world was going crazy about “Virgin Diaries” and a particular couple the show featured. The two were not just “saving themselves” for their wedding night; they hadn’t so much as kissed in all the time they’d been dating. I guess they were saving even their lips for the altar. The reality show was kind and intrusive enough to film that seminal moment, and it was both sweet and glorious. I am joking. It was truly horrifying.
After the pastor’s “you may now” signal, the parched bride went at her new husband like a sleestak trying to suck his molars out by the root. Though the halfheartedly-reciprocated mauling went on for approximately three seconds, I am going to have to do the Rosary a full 2,000 times to pray that yuck away.
I give the groom kudos for not dodging her (he was definitely not prepared for the lunge). And I give the bride kudos for, without a whit of practice (except maybe on her pillow), going in whole hog. (I’m relieved there were no cameras there for my first kiss. It was after a pizza party and during a moonlit walk, and it was perfect. Had it been captured on video the world would have caught a buck-toothed 7th grade aggressor with cheese in her retainer and going for broke. It wouldn’t have been pretty.)
I have no idea why anyone would want their G-rated deflowering memorialized for global consumption. The couple had to have anticipated that viewers would have all sorts of reactions, and they did. Some wedding-goers were delighted; some were schaudenfreud-ishly entertained (one YouTube commenter noted, “It’s like a mother bird feeding her baby”); some, like me, were mortified.
And here’s why. Most people watched the video long enough to see two people awkwardly navigate a virginal kiss, the bride a bit more zealous than the bridegroom. If you find the right footage though, when the camera follows them a bit, what I see are two people on wildly disparate planes. The glowing bride says the kiss was definitely worth the (27-year) wait, and she plants her lips anywhere near his at least 15,000 times post-ceremony. He is definitely the kissee and remarks at one point, “She started kissing me again and, it’s just like this feeling of why is she kissing me? What?! Arghhhhh! This doesn’t seem quite normal.” Not quite normal.
I know, as a mother, I am supposed to be all chastity-club. But I am the opposite: I think my sons should have lots and lots of (safe) sex before they get married. Part of growing up is delving into the mysteries of the body, if for no other reason than to figure out yours. Masturbation is one route, sure, but how you get off when alone doesn’t necessarily predict what your preferences and peccadillos will be when you’re not. Being with another person provides a whole different context to experiment and fumble, sometimes wonderfully and sometimes woefully. But, the exploration isn’t just about figuring out what you like, it’s about figuring out who you are–sexually and otherwise. In my mind, promoting abstinence is not only ill-advised (and by that I mean insane), it’s a means of stifling a burgeoning adult.
Imagine saving yourself for your wedding night, and that abbreviated first time being the inauguration of your sex life. It’s supposed to be this beautiful spiritual connection–and what if it just isn’t? I know people who’ve spent their whole lives planning their dream weddings. Some negligible pieces of their vision might change over time: at 13 they may have wanted a calla lily bouquet or boutonniere–but at 22 they decide a red rose is timeless. Upon engagement, they settle on zinnias and dahlias.
What doesn’t change about their vision, though? The anticipation of what they’ll feel at that moment of union. Now, think of that in terms of the wedding night. At least one of the two (what a disastrous bonanza two out of two could be) has high and untested ideas of what the sizzling or spiritual (or both) zenith will be. The fireworks, the two-souls-becoming-one business. Of course, perhaps specific expectations might be met; it could happen. And that’s fabulous. But what if the culmination of all their erotic dreams falls short? Really short? Amazingly short?
Obviously, a single night is not automatically indicative of a sexual relationship that spans the entirety of a marriage. The potential clunkiness and sharp angles of that first tete-a-tete could definitely de-kink into an easy, love-inspired and/or steamy connection. But, any way you cut it, the first clue as to how their mate performs and what they favor is going to come hours after they’re legally (and in some cases, sacramentally) bound. Quite the risk. What if that singular connubial hookup is a harbinger of many, many more less-than-satisfactory things to come?
If you enter your marriage a virgin, you are crossing your fingers and hoping, without knowing, that the two of you are compatible in bed. But, if you ask me, that’s a Hail Mary. What if “willpower” was just code for “Don’t come near me with that thing”? How disenchanting would it be to find out there’s no chemistry (wanting to have sex with someone vs. having sex with them are not the same thing). What if you have the epiphany that your new husband or wife should have been friend-zoned eons before you tied the knot? What if the other person is more adventurous — and you are more a Wonder bread? What if you want naked, lights-off sex and they want you to wear a hassock and fez under fluorescent lamps? If they’re a furry, it would be best if they’re matched with another furry, right? Whew—so many things can go awry.
So that is why I tell my boys to go out and have as much premarital sex as they want. I don’t say it every day, and I certainly never put notes in their lunch boxes that said “Hope you have a great day! P.S. Don’t be a virgin.” I just want them to figure out who they are and what they need way before they are walking down that aisle. (Plus, what if they never marry? They’re supposed to live an abstentious, celibate life?)
Of all the worries I have on my list, my sons’ “waiting” probably doesn’t make the top 10. But when I think of their futures and the love I want them to have in their lives, I want it to be healthy. You may define “love” one way, and I might another–but isn’t that what we all want for our children?