Yesterday I was talking about the idea of personal power and where I’ve given it away or perhaps flung it at people over the years. And then my mind wandered over to my virginity, something now that I see as a sacred gift, but how I gave it away when my values were completely out of whack. Or perhaps they weren’t out of whack; they just hadn’t ever really been discussed before. I’d only been observing and collecting information on sex from my parents, my friends, my community and from the movies I’d seen, and I’d gotten the message that you only lost your virginity once, so it was a big deal, but I missed the part that connected your virginity to someone you loved.
I was 15 years old when my virginity became a topic of discussion and I was a freshmen in high school at Hockaday, an all girls prep school in Dallas, Texas. The topic of sex hadn’t even been on my radar before it was, because my parents never talked about it and going to an all girls school was incredibly isolating when it came to men before the internet or cell phones existed. It was like men were from another planet, and we had football games and arranged school dances to mingle with them. But what I did have that helped in meeting friends and guys was a license to drive at 15 and a large 1987 suburban to hold several teenagers. My type of drivers license was called a hardship license, which meant I got my license at 15 rather than 16, because the house we lived in wasn’t on a bus route, my parents both worked and I needed to get around.
But let’s take a pause and talk about the house and the state of the union in my family, perhaps that will give some context as to how my virginity was dished out so haphazardly.
For 3 years my family of 5 (an older sister and little brother) had been living in a large mansion on a corner in a district of Dallas called “The Park Cities.” We had the president of American Airlines living across the street from us on one side separated by a pond, and Mary Kay Ash and her pink poodles living in her gated fortress on the other side. Mary Kay owned Mary Kay Cosmetics, and she was enough of a big deal that tour buses would regularly stop to see her pink mansion and would crush the bricks that lined our driveway as the bus turned around in our driveway. This mansion we lived in had a separate guest house and pool house, a secret staircase from the upstairs down into the grand library and an intercom system in all rooms in order to call people because all the rooms were so far apart it was difficult to hear anyone if you spoke loudly or yelled. I threw a pretty epic pool party for my 14th birthday at this mansion, and I loved showing it off: particularly the secret staircase and the waterfall in the pool. I felt like it gave me value in the eyes of others to have such a big house.
And then all of a sudden life changed, and we weren’t living there anymore, with little to no explanation as to why. But the shift was fast and furious and then someone else was living in our mansion and we were in a 1 story house 15 min across town, about the size of the guest house on the property we’d just left, with no pool and obviously no secret staircase. This little house somehow had 4 tiny bedrooms and 2.5 bathrooms crammed on top of each other, and I didn’t want to have my 15th birthday party there because I didn’t even want anyone to know I lived there. It was old and it smelled very strange.
I spent as little time as possible at this new old house, so I’d spend hours after school at my friend Carol's house. She lived in a duplex apartment across the street from the public co-ed high school in an upper class neighborhood called Highland Park. Carol's parents supposedly lived on the other side of the duplex, but they were often traveling or at their other house in California, so Carol's house was THE place to go for some no parent time. There would be people lounging on the couch and restocking her fridge with wine coolers bought with fake id’s. Carol also had a back porch with several camping chairs and scattered ash treys for cigarettes. It was at Carol's house that I tried smoking, I tried (and loved) wine coolers and I tried whip its, a temporary high from the canister of a whip cream bottle. And it was also at Carol's where I met an ever flowing sea of guys, all from the public school across the street, most of them freshmen or older.
So let’s back up and talk about sex for a moment. As I shared, I wasn’t around guys very much and I didn’t have much exposure to them before spending time at Carol's house. But I did have my friend Meg who would also hang out at Carol's, but only to get dropped off and picked up by her older boyfriend Tommy, who attended our brother all guys school, St. Marks. Tommy was a senior and Meg a freshman, so it was taboo for them to be dating, and he certainly wouldn’t hang out with us, he’d only come pick Meg up and take her out and then drop her off again, barely giving us freshmen the time of day. But somehow in those comings and going’s, Meg lost her virginity to Tommy and that was all we wanted to talk about.
Sex was put on a pedestal, and according to Meg, it was the be all, end all, so of course I wanted to experience it too. But with who was the big question. The chosen man wouldn’t be from the all boys school because I hardly had any exposure to them, so if I wanted this to happen, it would have to be with one of the guys from the group that came in and out of Carol’s place. So I went on the hunt and spent even more time at Carol's engaging in conversation with every male I saw. And then I found him. Drew, the guy I wanted to have sex with. Drew had short, coarse, light brown hair, a square jaw, small brown eyes, was about 5’10, muscular and wore glasses. He wasn’t particularly handsome or friendly, but he was around Carol's a lot and talked to me sometimes (more than other guys), and I’d heard from others that Drew's father owned the distribution rights to Budweiser Beer in Texas, so I knew he had money, which was a big deal to me at the time. I wanted to be taken care of and I wanted my father to be proud of who I was going to gift my virginity to, so I thought he was a great option. I tried several times to create moments for Drew and I to hang out alone, but that didn’t seem to happen much, until one night it did. What sealed us into a connection together turned out to be a very unfortunate evening for him.
A group of us had gathered in an empty field near our old mansion (which I made sure to tell everyone used to be ours), and someone set up a mini bonfire and brought beer, wine coolers and cigarettes, so it seemed like a set up for a perfect night. There were a few cars there, one of them being my Suburban and one being Drew’s maroon and tan mini Ford Bronco, and I have no idea how the other 10-12 people arrived. I wasn’t drinking; instead I was just enjoying the scene and taking any chance I could to have some alone time with Drew, who at this point knew I liked him, but we hadn’t gotten any further than that. No one was monitoring how much Drew had been drinking, but we all thought it was so funny and cool when he got into his car and began speeding across the field doing wheelies. It was funny and cool until we watched Drew’s Bronco flip over several times and land upside down, with smoke coming from the engine, and Drew still inside. Not good. Chaos ensued among our little illegal hangout of underage drinkers after that because we all simultaneously realized the magnitude of what had just happened and how deep of shit we were all going to be in separately when our parents found out about this, especially Drew’s.
Everyone came together and helped pull Drew out of the car, and he was visibly shaken up but not seemingly injured. The Bronco on the other hand was demolished, and even seemed like it was going to blow up, so we all got as far from it as possible. From there everyone dispersed quickly, 911 was called to handle the smoking Bronco, and I was elected to take several humans home, many of which I didn’t know, but that didn't seem to matter.
I couldn’t talk with my parents about what had happened because I was supposed to be asleep in my bed when all of this unfolded. So that night after dropping off 3 strangers at various locations around Highland Park, I settled into bed and stared at the ceiling wondering what had come of Drew, and my unofficial plan to lose my virginity to him.
I waited a few days until everything has settled down before reaching out to Drew. I drove past the field and saw the Bronco was no longer there, and Carol said he’d gotten home safely but she hadn’t heard anything since. I had Drew’s phone number but hadn’t had a good reason to use it until now, so I got up the courage to call his house, politely asking for him when an adult answered. When Drew got on the phone and I asked how he was feeling and what had happened, he was very grateful for the phone call, as no one else from that night had followed up. I don’t think it was that no one cared, I think everyone was just in shock, and no one knew how to reach each other. After all, the gathering had popped up rather spontaneously and had gathered people from different age groups from different schools.
After my phone call with Drew that day we had a line of connection and communication open, so a few days later I received a call from him asking if I wanted to go to a movie. That’s what you did in 1993 when you felt awkward, didn’t have much to talk about, but still wanted to hang out with the opposite sex. Drew said he’d pick me up early evening at my house and I wondered about his car, but my question was answered when he pulled up in a beige pick-up truck. He said it was one of his father’s extra work vehicles, and his parents were waiting a few months to buy him a new car. Did he tell them what happened I wondered? Did they know he was drinking? I doubted it. If his parents were anywhere near as intentionally uninformed as my parents were as to my comings and going’s and what was actually happening, then for all I knew they’d been told the Bronco was stolen and found wrecked in a field. I didn’t dare ask.
Now it was summer break of 1993 and my family was preparing to move to Park City, Utah, a town that I didn’t think people really lived in all year round because we’d been going on ski vacations there since I was about 2 years old. So I had 1 foot in the door of Park City, Utah and the other foot in Dallas, but I somehow convinced myself that giving away my virginity to a man from a wealthy well known family, who I hardly knew, was a good idea. I wanted something (or someone) to keep me connected to Dallas and give me a reason to visit often. I even thought that after I gave Drew my virginity he’d want to fly me back to Dallas with all his father’s beer money. But that of course is not what happened.
I remember feeling completely overwhelmed and out of my element when I walked into the sex shop in Dallas that was on a street called Hillcrest. It was far away from the house my family was renting, far enough away from the neighborhood where my extended family of aunts, uncles and grandparents lived, far enough away from anywhere I knew friends lived and far enough away from where Drew lived, so I was confident I could shop in secret. I’d found the listing for this shop in the yellow pages and followed the street numbers until I found it on the first floor of a 2 floor building, and the entrance was tucked away behind the stairs to the second floor. What do you buy when you’re about to lose your virginity? Do I wear special lose my virginity clothes? Definitely sexy underwear I thought, so I bought those. And I knew I needed a condom, but which one? It was confusing because there were several on the rack to choose from. Ribbed, smooth, colored, big, small, flavorless, thick, thin and flavored. I shyly asked the guy at the front desk for some assistance, and he gave me a few complimentary ones from the check-out counter and told me I needed some lubricator and maybe massage oil, so I got that stuff, and then ran out of the store with my white paper bag and felt completely terrified but prepared for what was coming.
Now Drew and I had never really talked about what was going to happen; I’d told Carol that I wanted to have sex and she’d told Drew's friend who told him. So it was a rendezvous we’d agreed to without any official talk between us, which I can see in hindsight is pretty strange. I’d planned for this rendezvous to happen after my parents had already left for Utah, and it just so happened to be on my 16th bday, so I hoped that would add some romance to the encounter. But things went quickly south when I called Drew's house the morning of, and found out from his mom that he’d taken a short overnight trip to Oklahoma to see his ex girlfriend, because her mom was sick and she needed his help. Not the romantic day I had envisioned and I was devastated. I think word of my disappointment reached Drew because the next day, after my birthday and before the moving trucks arrived, he was at my house apologizing and bringing me a gift to unwrap. He said it was a birthday gift and going away gift, and I opened the box to find a ring. He answered my question before I asked, saying it was a "promise" ring. I had no idea what that meant, but it was enough to buy my virginity that day, and so we did it, and it was over in less than 2 minutes, and I was incredibly underwhelmed.
Drew left my house quickly that day and I remember rinsing out the condom in the sink, wrapping it in a paper towel and returning it to the white paper bag with my other sex tools. Was I trying to be sentimental? I have no idea. I stuffed the paper bag in between the two mattresses in this room that was about to be packed up and I never saw the bag again. Perhaps a mover found it, but I didn’t care. I was relieved to have the pressure around losing my virginity be over with and now I could tell my friends I’d done it and I had a ring to show for it. But I had no idea what this promise ring was promising me.
After I was settled in Utah I spoke with Drew on the phone every other week for about 10 minutes, and somehow over those short awkward phone calls we thought it was a good idea for him to come and visit me in Utah in October, which was over 3 months after our sex exchange. I was excited about the idea of seeing Drew until I saw him in the baggage claim and I felt nothing for him. I didn’t feel excitement, I didn’t feel attracted to him and I didn’t even want to be around him. It was awful. Drew slept in my brother's room that had bunk beds, and my brother spent the weekend at a friend’s house, and I killed time with Drew by driving him around my new home town, I took him on a hike, I took him to a football game, and I took him to a pep rally where he made fun of a friend who had an old beat up Saab that we had all gotten together and graffitied, and had so much fun doing it. Drew thought that was stupid, and I thought he was stupid.
I’d changed. And I felt it. And Drew had stayed the same.
I wasn’t impressed by Drew’s money anymore and the more he talked about it and bragged that his dad owned the Budweiser distribution, the more I was repelled by him. But it was also strange to think that what I loved about him 3 months ago was what I detested now. No one had told me not to like this aspect of him anymore; it just happened naturally. I also noticed that Drew didn’t fit the me from this environment and that he was a little mean towards those he couldn’t identify with and didn't like that. By the end of drew’s long weekend in Utah we were both ready for it to end and I ordered him a taxi to take him to the airport and gave him back his promise ring. I felt grateful that I could feel myself growing out of some beliefs and into new ones, and though I hadn’t landed on who I was becoming, I liked that money wasn’t the only thing I found as valuable anymore and I liked that the people I wanted to spend time with were kind, accepting and interesting.
Now 25 years later thanks to Facebook I see that Drew seems to have a happy life & family in Texas, and I have no idea nor do I care whether it’s related to Budweiser or not. And yes, I did give Drew the sacred gift of my virginity, but he also gave me the sacred gift of seeing that I didn’t know any better yet, and the realization that I was growing and changing into a better version of myself, and that’s a trend I seek to continue.
And if you read this and reflect upon your own virginity, know that however you lost it and whoever you gave it to happened exactly as it was meant to for your highest growth. And also know that it doesn’t need to mean a thing unless you want it to. You’re in charge of who and what you give your power and significance to, and every chance you make love is an opportunity to reclaim that sacred gift of power.