Writing this post is so incredibly hard, mainly because it involves bearing a bit of my soul and a part of me that I keep so incredibly well hidden. In fact, unlikely the majority of my posts where I write spell check and then post, this might just be the end product of a couple of edits and revisions.
Last week, the really rather lovely Cherry Healey and the boffins that help her make her incredibly and endlessly fascinating programmes aired a show entitled ‘Like A Virgin’. It’s more than likely on i-player, given that it aired on BBC 3, so feel free to trundle off and go take a look for yourselves, if you feel so inclined.
Now, once upon a time, a not so young and not so fair maiden saw a tweet asking for participants for said documentary and volunteered her services. Why? Because to be honest, I’d suddenly felt bold. The last year or so I’ve felt myself growing more confident and comfortable in my own skin, and becoming equally comfortable with one of my few remaining taboo subjects seemed natural. But that’s not the only reason; in fact you only have to go back a few months on here to find my 30 before 30 posts. Which was never supposed to be some zeitgeisty fluff thing for me to appear hip and cool and vaguely down with the kids as I get into the decade where you finally have to admit you’re no longer that young. It was very much about me solidifying some very real things I want to tackle, that frankly I’ve left unattended for far too long. Ok, so there are some fun things in the list too, but look no further than the first few…a serious platter of life areas to be tackled and addressed.
One of my top three was dating. In fact dating appears on it more than once. Having someone in my life, actually being able to not have people constantly asks the question ‘so, still single then?’ or if they did be able to say ‘actually, no, I’m seeing someone’. Not that it’s about pleasing others, I just feel ready to well, actually grow up a bit and get serious about things.
But I’m leaving a few facts out here, because so far, so not new information. I’m not just single, I’ve always been single. I mean, a couple of dates and cheeky snogs (and maybe even getting kicked out of a nightclub for ‘inappropriate behaviour’ but that’s a whole other story) but that’s it. 29 years of reading lots and lots of romantic fiction, watching lots of film and TV where the girl gets the guy. That stuff rots your brain, ladies and gentlemen, steer well clear! Or maybe indulge a little; after all, it does warm the cockles of your heart….
Oh, yeah, I’m still leaving something out. But then it’s very hard to quite know how to put it. Ahh, how about I tell you a story. You sitting comfortably? I’ll begin.
I went to an all-girls school. My life at home, like everyone else in life, wasn’t rosy and I therefore really struggled with doing homework, which meant I used to get so much stick from the teachers because they could see I could do the work in class so I got labelled as lazy. I wasn’t fat, far from it, but I was at the time taller than average and well covered. Probably about a size 14-16 when everyone else was a size 8-10 and thus got teased for my size. Not to mention I was cripplingly shy and found it hard to deal with my emotions and make friends. So boys were the last thing on my mind. I was in the school musicals and the choir, channelling all my energies into worlds that were entirely fictional….song, dance, acting and reading, a lot of reading.
Then I went to college to study Media when I’d done my GCSEs. What a culture shock. There I was doing a course crammed to the rafters with boys, and in fact, men. Short, tall, good looking, ugly, blonde, brunette, cool, geeky; you name it, I studied alongside it. I was so behind in terms of relationships and so incredibly green. I knew very little about sex and relationships bar what I’d read in novels or within those sealed sections you used to get in Sugar and Bliss magazine, but obviously there were lots of things that such a publication wouldn’t feature so there were lots of gaps. For example, I was that afraid of any sort of relationship that once Christmas, a guy on my course was giving out Christmas kisses, and I was so determined to avoid it, that he ended up kissing my ear. That’s right; I didn’t even want to be kissed on the cheek. Oh how my older self shakes her head at her younger one!
Guys fell into one of two categories. Either I fancied them like mad but only from afar and I’d go beetroot red in their company or they were mates that were no different from female friends. What about those that fancied me? Well, I swear on everything I hold dear, for about five or six years, I didn’t think anyone had ever a) fancied me, b) tried to chat me up or c) ever would. Which is ludicrous, because there is no such thing as a stereotypical type of what guys like. That’s actually a lesson I’d so teach myself if I could find a Tardis and go potentially create a time paradox.
When I turned 18, I discovered two things. One, being alcohol and my ability to down a pint in under a minute, and the wonderful new friends you seems to be able to make once drunk. For someone so shy they could barely speak to people sometimes, having a drink made it so much easier to interact socially. For a very, very long time I’d often hear the comment ‘why can’t you be like you are when you’re out? You’re so much nicer then’. Ta, by the way, those of you that said that. Because there’s nothing quite like making someone feels like their natural personality isn’t enough when they’ve got issues with low self-esteem!
The second discovery proved to be equally useful. It turns out you can fancy your friends. Funny that, never occurred to me that stuff in common + finding someone attractive= winning situation. I’d definitely like to hit my past self over the head for that. So, I got my first part time job and after about six months of being in complete denial, I finally admitted to myself and probably far too many of my friends that I indeed had the hots for the guy in question. And so a lasting infatuation began. It consumed my life, at least my romantic one. I never saw other guys if he was around, it was like they didn’t exist. I’d even had one guy tell me that he liked me but was never going to try it on because I was so clearly into someone else. At the time and for many a year after, I was convinced that it was a two way thing, that he liked me back, even though nothing ever happened between us. But lately, I’ve been thinking about it, amongst many other things, and my viewpoint now is that maybe it was easy to hide behind that, that maybe it was simply a crush that got very out of hand. The saddest thing is that maybe if I’d been bolder and braver, I could have had the flame extinguished a lot earlier and remained friends with the person in question. But c’est la vie.
So, after about five years of painful unrequited feelings and a lot of drunken crying in toilets, I moved back to my original home town and spent the next few years being single but not really looking. Oh, I’d convinced myself that I was, and I regularly had crushes on people that right now I think I must have been certifiably insane to have had, but I really was closed off entirely.
Why? Well, by this stage in my life, I’d become the size I am now, and with every size I went up, the less convinced I was that I was at all loveable. I’d gotten to the point where I was sure that unless I lost weight, I’d never be in a relationship.
I’m not the sort of girl that does well with the ‘meet a guy when you’re on a night out’ situation, which is because the first time I ever encountered that special sort of social interaction that only happens when there’s a dance version of a top ten song playing in the background, it went horribly, horribly wrong. I could hear these two guys, one of the egging the other onto chat me up for a bet. At this point in time I was about a size 16, and so seriously lacking in any confidence in whom I was. This one moment is likely to be something that no-one else present even remembers. But I do, because it informed everything that happened since then….I’ve in fact had a similar sort of situation happen a few times more. It made me never trust a guy if he said he liked me, and I probably don’t notice come ons for maybe a subconscious protection of my fragile heart.
I’ve developed such bad habits, ones that I’ve not realised until recently. I actually tell guys to f**k off or get lost once pissed, mainly before I’ve even heard a single word out their mouths. I dismiss flirting as someone being friendly. I tend to only fancy guys that are a challenge, and usually don’t and will never fancy me back. Nine times out of ten, I’ll find a reason to why I don’t fancy someone that fancies me. I think the reason why I’m so rubbish is that even though 60 percent of me is ready for a relationship, there’s 40 percent that is scared shitless. Scared of getting hurt, scared of caring for someone, letting them into my heart and then losing them should it all go wrong. Opening myself up to someone, laying myself bare? Well, as much as I’ve gotten to a place where I like myself, to let someone see the person I truly am….the concept of that is something I dare not risk, lest it end up in heartbreak.
So that’s part of my story. Yes, it’s very, very long and complicated; if you’re feeling exhausted reading it, then imagine living it! But that’s not all there is to it, I’ve left out the whole reason for this post, mainly because to type the words is almost a challenge too hard. Deep breath Sara, just go for it. Ok, here goes. Not only am a hopeless romantic, not only am I terminally single but I’m also a virgin. I’m not saving myself for marriage because I don’t believe in it. I’m not religious, I’m not deliberately celibate, I’m not frigid or anti-sex or men. To put it simply, I’ve just never gotten around to it. Actually that’s not entirely true. I’m not a one night stand girl. I’ve had the opportunity to lose it in that way, with the guy I was, well, the one that got kicked out of a nightclub and one or two others along the way. I’m also sure if I was so inclined, I could go out and find someone to do the deed with if I was to head to any nightclub.
No, my problem is that I want it to be with someone I at least fancy. I’m not expecting to be in a relationship with someone necessarily, it could quite easily be something that is spontaneous, and I just need to feel that spark, that chemistry. I don’t think it helped that I spent about five years with a crush on someone that really was only ever a friend, because I’m sure that spending the ages of 18 -23 hung up on one person meant I missed out on so many opportunities that I simply didn’t see.
I do want to have sex….hell, I get so well, frustrated to be blunt. I do look at guys sometimes and think ‘oh, I could so happily jump you if you were willing’. But my problem, at least until recently has been that apparently I’ve been both too picky and too blinkered and ignorant of what was really going on. I really am a dating delight!
Thing is, online dating thus far has not produced exactly the best quality of dates….I’ve had two with one guy where he bored me to tears because he never asked one question about me or made any effort to try and connect his interests with my own. Have you ever had a date like that, where the guy just wants to drone on about his own life? I put it down to nerves on the first date, but the second showed me that wasn’t the case….at the end of it, he dragged me down this street to gaze at the top of a building where its stonemason in 1802 or whenever had carved a monkey into it, rather than their initials because they were literate. Which you couldn’t see in the dark. Simply fascinating.
I really just want to find someone that shares one or two interests with me, genuinely tries to impress me a little at the start, and I can look at and fancy the arse off in the beginning at least. I’m not expecting the perfect romantic ideal, just someone that I can have some sort of connection…..even if it’s simply sexual chemistry.
Being a virgin isn’t something as I see as a millstone around my neck, to be gotten rid of at the first point in time, because well, it’s far past that anyway! It’s weird that I don’t really usually talk about sex with friends, not because I’m embarrassed, but because their reactions would perhaps make me feel ashamed of something that I know I couldn’t have done much differently to resolve…..I’ve spent such a long part of my life being so emotionally raw, that to let someone in like that would be something I just couldn’t do.
Because of the fact I was supposed to be in this documentary, I’ve lately been having lots of honest conversations with friends, mainly about why I’m so bad at the dating game. It’s weird, I’ve always been a little scared to have those conversations, because I just didn’t want to get onto my lack of sex life….after all, if a friend of yours confessed she was still a virgin in her late twenties, how would you react? I’d like to bet that at least a small part of us all would wonder what was wrong with her to be like that. After all society does deem that it’s not normal to be a virgin past our teens. Although I will say that my literary heroine is Jane Austen and when I’m feeling at my most uncomfortable about my sexless state, I remind myself that she never did, at least as far as history knows.
I do feel like I’m ready now though. Especially as I’ve now become aware of my behaviours and patterns, and am determined to go out and treat the nightlife a little differently. Like actually letting guys chat me up, for instance.
So, I’m hoping 2012 is the year where I finally start living, and experience life how you’re meant to. I guess only time will tell.