My mother converted to Catholicism after marrying my father, but her good-girl label had nothing to do with the church she attended.
Her pragmatism and relatively chaste beliefs collided as we ventured into talks about sex and marriage and virginity.
She never hesitated to share the physical aspects of what sex entailed, but the emotional parts of the conversation were more abstract.
“You shouldn’t have sex until you’re married.”
“You should definitely be in love with the person you lose your virginity to.”
“But no matter what, please, please practice safe sex if you decide to have sex before you’re married.”
Young and unsure of my emotions, I was a bit frightened by something so monumental. I outwardly scoffed at her advice but carried her words tucked into my purse next to sneaked cigarettes, silver tubes of Clinique lipstick, and vague notions about going to college in New York City.
I listened to her words and made my choices as carefully as possible, and I believe I lived up to the most important parts of her advice.
And with a daughter of my own, I am beginning to see that dichotomy between protection and knowledge, between idealism and practicality. One day we will have a conversation about The First Time, and I will be bolstered by the advice my own mother gave me and the ways I wove her words into what I believed was right.
But things grow murkier after The First Time, after The First Person.
I was so concerned with and worried about and overprepared for the question of losing my virginity that I didn’t consider what would happen next.
Wrapping marriage and sex together in a box and tightly sliding a ribbon around it is both convenient and complicated, because the questions about what to do when that ideal isn’t realized become something to be hidden and whispered about with friends.
My mother’s words kept me from making some rash decisions, but when the ribbon was slid off that shiny package, her words stopped. Her silence about sexuality after virginity led me to internalize the idea that The First Time was the only time that mattered.
And some of the decisions I made later weren’t very wise or very pragmatic or very empowering, no matter what I told myself at the time.
I kept that First Time on a pedastal but didn’t understand until much, much later that the precious parts of my sexuality weren’t solely tied to virginity.
I believed once that newness was gone, the decisions I made about my body–the who, the when, the how–were purely physical. I didn’t understand until much, much later that I was wrong.
A woman’s sexuality is a powerful thing, and I want my daughter to know that even when it isn’t shiny and new, it should still be treated with care.
Have you heard? Next Monday, April 23rd, Be Enough Me is taking on the topic of labels with a special prompt inspired by Ashely Judd, called Change the Conversation.
It is time to look past the obvious for ourselves and our families.
We’re inviting posts from voices everywhere to share your labels and who you are beyond that. The focus is whatever you need it to be– from our lives as moms, dads, parents, spouses, professionals, survivors, athletes and more. We invite you to join us, to celebrate our strengths, to celebrate our diversity, to celebrate our voices and change the conversation.
Come back next Monday for the very special link-up. We cannot wait to take the conversation by storm with our voices.