The Stranger

“It will have to be a stranger,” my friend Pete said to himself.

We’d just finished painting my bedroom Malibu Coast. We’d spent the evening laughing and talking about foreplay (along the lines of dripping hot wax on your partner) and sexual paint names: Sex on the Beach Beige, Ride Me Ruby, Downtown Daffodil, Blow Me Blue. My new wall color seemed more suitably named Pedophile Pink; it looked as if it should’ve been on the walls of a little girl’s bedroom, not those of a 36 year old single woman.

“What do you mean a stranger?” I asked him.

“I mean the guy who takes your virginity will have to be a stranger. No man who loves you is going to want that sort of pressure.”

Huh. I’d never thought of it that way.
If a man loved me, of course he’d want to be the “one”. Right? If a man loved me, of course he’d value the moment. Right?

The idea of first having intercourse with a stranger sounded like a nightmare. Actually, I think I had that nightmare. Like flushing down the toilet something irreplaceable.
But the more I thought about it, I shuddered. After years of waiting for the “one”, the thought of having sex with a stranger actually sounded…freeing.

I would have no expectations of the guy after sex. I wouldn’t be concerned if he was worried about me or his performance. Would I? I could move on and have sex with men I’d wanted and who, also, had wanted me. Couldn’t I?

I could do it for myself. Yes. Call it a personal exploration. Or call me selfish—as one emailer called me in response to my NYT essay. He said I was too calculative…as if losing my virginity was a premeditated murder.

All along I’ve thought I was saving the experience to share with the love of my life. In actuality, perhaps I had been creating the biggest obstacle to that relationship I so badly desired. And, time ticked on, it was snowballing into a bigger and bigger obstacle. Perhaps I was intentionally rolling that snowball as my fear and my desire almost merged into one.

I started trying to convince myself. I’d be safe: who could become attached to a complete stranger? Even with a flood of oxytocin pumping through one’s veins. Knowing nothing but the smell of his damp skin, the weight and rhythm of his body, the depths he’d reach inside me, and the lock of his lips on mine. (A girl can fantasize, can’t she? I’ve heard, time and time again, my first time might not be all fireworks. But it could be.)

How could a woman connect to a man without knowing the depths of his heart?

My friend Gina, an adventurous, beautiful and wickedly smart 35 year old virgin, spoke with me yesterday about the man she’s been dating seriously. She’s struggling in deciding if she should have sex with him. “Why him?” she asked. “Why him at the expense of all the others?”

And that is the question we both face after waiting so long. Why invest in one when you weren’t willing to invest in someone equally “right”.

“He’s not any more special than the others,” she told me. “Am I hurting someone else I’ve passed up by choosing him?” Ok, realistically, no guy is going to come knocking on her door and demand, “Why wasn’t it me?” While her statement may seem narcissistic, I think it actually reveals a sense of self-imposed responsibility.

And then we both came to the conclusion. It was never about finding the right guy. The qualifications weren’t changing. We were changing.

Maybe it will have to be a stranger.

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