It’s the last weekend in September, and it’s warm for a fall night in North Dakota. I’m in the backseat of a Ford Zephyr, losing my virginity. My boyfriend’s birthday is two days away. And he definitely keeps reminding me about it. If you’d like to know (and you obviously do, because you’re here, right?), it took about seven seconds. Maybe. If I’m being generous.
I grew up in a small, Catholic town, and my older sister had always told me she wanted to wait until she was married (she didn’t.) I considered it. Then realized I may never want to get married, or worse—what if I don’t marry until I’m in my thirties or forties? It’s an odd thing to be thinking about as a 14-year-old, but my boyfriend was 15, about to turn 16, and was putting a lot of pressure on me to “give in.” You’re now thinking: what good parent lets their 14-year-old daughter date a boy that’s almost 16? Well, you know. Small towns. And he was a stellar athlete. And popular. And had nice parents. And was also Catholic. And…
When I did finally (sorta) say yes, it’s only because he guilted me into it by saying that he was going to be turning 16, and it was some sort of goal to lose it before then (what a goal!). That all his friends were losing theirs, too (they weren’t). Anyway, here’s some things I remember about those seven seconds, and mostly, after them:
Rise Against was playing in the background. “Swing Life Away” surrounded us in the car. What a good song. I’m going to listen to it now while I write this. The vanilla-colored car from the ‘70s had a maroon velvet-ish interior. I always knew my first time wouldn’t be special, but really? The backseat of a car? An old, rusty car? Parked in what my town called The Hot Spot (sort of like Make-Out Point in That ‘70s Show). Could this get any cheaper? *Cut to me in the future: it can and most certainly does.* My grandmother’s empty house was only two houses down from where we were parked. And I felt horribly guilty. She had just passed away a few months before. I felt like her ghostly head was shaking in shame while she watched me undress with some small-town boy who would grow up to be a republican.
I remember lip syncing to the Rise Against song, and my boyfriend/virginity stealer asked if I had said something to him, and I quickly said no, embarrassed. For some reason, I was always feeling embarrassed around him. After we were done doing you know what, we sat awkwardly in the car, his arm draped around my shoulders. My thighs looked so fat next to his scrawny legs, and all I wanted was to put my clothes back on. Our awkward, naked, arm-draping cuddling session lasted several minutes. I’m not good at math, but that’s, like, a million times longer than the actual act itself lasted. And afterwards, he said he “had to get home” and dropped me off.
I didn’t cry.
A new girl had just moved to our school. She was very tall and lean and athletic, which was very important in our town, because all we really had going on for us was that we were impossible to beat in sports. She had long, beautiful blonde hair, almost down to her butt. I had just cut mine the summer before and still had short, black hair; It was in that weird in-between stage of growing out. I was also (and still am) very short, about 5’. So, as you can see, the literal complete opposite of New Girl. She was my boyfriend’s age and quickly went from New Girl in class to It Girl in school. Without even trying out for volleyball and/or basketball, she was instantly put on the varsity team.
About a week later, after The Seven Second Event, there was a wedding in town. In small towns, everyone goes to the wedding, followed by the dance, whether they’re invited or not. There’s free food and beer, and who doesn’t love home-cooked meals and endless free booze? I met up with my boyfriend at the dance hall. We walked the few blocks from the wedding dance to his parents’ big, grey house on main street (which is still there, and I still drive by when I go home to see my parents). We had sex for the second time. Only this time around, he lasted considerably longer. It was about thirteen seconds. I said out loud that I should probably get on some birth control, beings as we just had sex twice in less than a week, and that was most likely setting up the premise of what our sex-life would be. I had nothing else to base this theory from, beings this was A) my first boyfriend and B) my first-time having sex. He said nothing back to the birth control statement. I was thinking he’d have some sort of input, like, “yeah! We probably should be smart about this; we’re going to be having LOTS of sex in our long future together!” Or whatever boyfriends usually say. Anyway, I laid down beside him on his bed, and thinking that since his parents weren’t home, and we were also in his room this time (and not a car), that we’d spend more time together post-coitus. There were no streetlamps shining in on us like in the backseat, so I didn’t feel ashamed about my bigger-than-his-thighs. Except he quickly put his clothes back on and said that his parents would notice he was gone from the dance and needed to get back. I thought it all felt a little cold and emotionless. All of it. But his parents were strict and Catholic, so I didn’t argue with him.
We went back to the dance hall. He made me walk in a different door than him because he didn’t want his parents to see us walking in together, knowing they’d assume we had left somewhere together. I joined my friends, tried to enjoy the dance, even though I felt terribly disconnected from them and everything going on around me.
The dance was coming to an end. I hadn’t seen my boyfriend since we walked back together. At one point, I think I had even asked one of his friends if they’d seen him, who said they thought he was still around. Whatever. I’m a cool and casual girlfriend, right? I don’t NEED to know my boyfriend’s whereabouts or who he’s with. I continued to try to have a good time with my friends. None of my friends knew at the time that I had started having sex. My friends (which are just your classmates in small towns, because there’s literally no one else) were very much goody-two-shoes, and I would have rather died than let them find out. I looked around for my boyfriend later again and still didn’t find him. He had clearly left and had been gone for a couple of hours. I saw that his parents were still there at the dance. They looked pretty not concerned about their son’s whereabouts. In fact, I’m fairly certain they were very drunk. I figured he went with his friends to go drive around, as that was the thing to do in small towns— “cruising main” or “dragging main”. Only the cool kids with a car were able to do that. And he had a car. (See how cool I was? Dating someone older? With a car? So cool. So casual.)
A couple more hours passed, and the main doors opened to the dance hall. The lights turned on. The dance was ending. My friends and I turned around to look at who could possibly be coming in so late. There in the full light, my boyfriend and The New Girl strolled in together, drawing more attention than the newly married couple. How small towns love to talk. They might have well had been holding hands or making out. I tried my hardest not to fully turn around and stare at them. Them. Walking in. Together. In front of our whole town. Through the same doors at the same time. Where his parents were. My mouth dried. My face got hot. Not even because I knew that they had clearly just fucked, but because everyone else saw it and also knew.
I didn’t cry.