By Kelly Seal
I’d like to say that having sex for the first time was a pretty straightforward experience for me. That it happened, and it was awkward or beautiful or something concrete. But that would be a lie. Mostly, my first experiences with sex were a series of stops and starts.
Here’s how my elusive path began:
I was a senior in high school and happily in love with my boyfriend. We were in the heady midst of applying for colleges – both eager to escape the drudgery of my hometown where nothing incredible seemed to happen.
We generally stayed late after school for rehearsals (we both were musicians) or to just hang out until we took our respective buses home. Neither one of us had a car, which made any kind of intimacy difficult. So, outside the school’s media dark room (yes, this was back before digital cameras), we made out and felt each other up. Pretty soon this wasn’t enough, and it became increasingly clear we’d have to find a more private place.
After a few failed attempts at finding a good private spot – backstage behind the school auditorium, in the back of the bus, in the instrument storage locker, we became a little desperate. I wanted to have sex with him. I wanted to see what the next step felt like. My hormones were raging and I knew my first time would be transcendent because I was completely head over heels for him.
One afternoon, I brought him home with me since we’d gotten out early from school. My parents both worked downtown, and wouldn’t be home until after five. My brother was away at college. This seemed like perfect timing – we would finally be alone.
We hurried into my room, hand in hand, and started fumbling with each other’s buttons. Our hearts were beating fast. My breathing was short and shallow. I just wanted to feel him, have him inside of me. I was also terrified since neither of us really knew what we were doing.
We were naked and entwined when I heard our backdoor open and my mother’s voice eminating from the kitchen.
“Fuck!” he exclaimed, pulling away from me and grabbing his pants, making a beeline for my closet. I told him to stay put until I figured out how to sneak him out. I ran to the kitchen before she had a chance to find me.
“What are you doing home so early?” I casually asked my mother, still a little breathless. She looked at me suspiciously, since I’ve never been a good liar and my face was beet red.
“Is someone here with you?” she asked, pushing past me towards my room.
“No, nobody’s here,” I said wearily, chasing after her. She opened the closet to find my boyfriend, cowering in the corner. At least his clothes were back on and his hair not as rumpled as it was. He held his hands in front of his zipper.
“Hi,” he said. “Well, I have to get going…” And like that he shot out of my house while I was left to endure my mother’s punishing words alone. He broke my heart a couple of weeks later, when he took up with a piano player two years younger. She ended up being his first time, I like to think for no other reason than because she had her own car.
Then there was college. I was living on my own, free to do whatever I wanted with whomever. I wouldn’t have to sneak around. It felt completely liberating. I knew my first time would happen without incident.
I met a boy at a party who was a year older, and a musician. (I seem to have a thing for musicians.) We flirted for a couple of hours and then went our separate ways. I didn’t think much of him until he showed up below my dorm window the next night, throwing Halls cough drops up at the screen to get my attention. Then he self-consciously serenaded me while the rest of the dorm watched. In my 18-year-old mind, this was the height of romance.
I wandered down to him after that, and soon one thing led to another and we were back in his dorm room, conveniently alone. He turned all the lights off, which made me wonder neurotically if there was something wrong with my body. I tried to play it cool, be flirtatious, and generally act like I knew what I was doing, like I’d done this before. I was too embarrassed to admit the truth.
As things progressed, he got up to get a condom, since I guess he didn’t have one handy in his bedside table. That made me feel special. At least I knew he wasn’t too prepared.
I was a little nervous watching his fumbling attempts to put it on. He tried a couple of times, but soon it was clear that sex wasn’t going to happen. I didn’t know how to help him, so at first I just laid there. Then I rolled over on my side away from him, telling him everything was ok but secretly wishing I could just grab my things and go. It was humiliating, I thought as hot tears rolled down my cheeks. I felt rejected twice.
When I finally did have sex for the first time, it was brief and unemotional. I just wanted it to happen. My feelings had been tangled up in it before, and it hadn’t worked out. But I was left feeling just as deflated. It turned out that having my first time behind me didn’t make everything suddenly better.
Now several years later, I can look back and laugh at these failed attempts at real intimacy, even though at the time I thought my world would crash down around me, and I’d be the only virgin left. But I learned that the first time I had sex wasn’t all that important in the grand scheme of things. I learned that what is most important for me in any sexual relationship is emotional connection – the mechanics are secondary. And that knowledge took a few stops and starts along the way.