I am one of those young women who, at the age of sixteen, began to feel that virginity was a burden that needed to be shed. I was tired of reading about sex in all those great paperbacks of the seventies while simultaneously diddling around with my boyfriend while he diddled with me. When were we going to DO IT? 

Honestly, I think I was pretty happy with all that deep kissing and sweet caressing. It did go on for hours, after all, and I never remember feeling all that deprived. But all that changed pretty quickly after my boyfriend left mid-winter to do a three-month service project, and I was left alone with that pulsing libido. 

But leave me he did, however well-intended we were on reuniting in the late spring, and meanwhile, a new fella slipped onstage. Literally. He was my co-star on the big stage of our high school musical, my Dolly Levi’s Horace Vandergelder. How terribly convenient. A real Broadway cliché. 

This guy knew I had a serious boyfriend of nearly two years, but he moved in anyway. And he was cool – ran with a group of seniors (I was a junior) that smoked a lot of pot and had deep philosophical discussions that I could barely grab onto. There was Andy and his girlfriend Shelly, and Leslie, who had the longest hair I’d ever seen and was the daughter of the assistant headmaster (this was a New Jersey private school, after all), and a handful of other hippie intellectuals, mostly males. They were definitely the freaks and not the geeks (which the school had plenty of). Lots of talk about the band “Little Feat” and weird movies that I’d never watched. And after a month plus of absence, my boyfriend still hadn’t written to me. At all. I was pissed and horny. So, when this guy started to pursue me in earnest, I figured, why not? And he was cute, with his long hair that was cut to his shoulders with precision. 

We’d lie on the couch making out, and I remember him whispering in my ear, “We really should sleep together.” His words didn’t so much excite me as challenge me: could I? Should I? Would I? And I knew what he meant by “sleep”! At least that didn’t confuse me. 

He let this question worm its way through my head for a few weeks, repeating it maybe twice. Meanwhile, the idea was forming. Why not? Why the heck not? (I was and still am a pretty good Presbyterian.)

So, I thought about it. For a little while, though not too long. The opportunity soon presented itself. My seducer actually lived within walking distance to the school, and this was long before things like security guards and other forces that keep students within the walls of school if they don’t want to be there, so all I had to do was skip (!) over to his house during my study hall. How long would it take, for real? It was time! I was done with this virginity thing! LET’S DO THIS!

So we did. He knew I was a virgin, and he used a condom. He wasn’t unkind, but it was mostly underwhelming, as I believe it is for a lot of young women basically brought up on the idea that sex was going to be the most sky-rocketing, mind-blowing, transformative thing you could do in this lifetime. Meh. Of course, it was my first time, so I imagined I had a lot of road ahead, and who knows what I might learn along the way, right? So, bottom line: did it, done, and moving on! I now had my teenage “lover” and I was interested in where all this might lead. More sex? Better sex? Maybe even, love??

This was not a boy who “gave love to get sex,” but I was probably a girl who believed I could give sex to get love.” It just didn’t actually work out like that. 

After that fateful afternoon, we carried on, only we didn’t have any more sex. I didn’t know why, and I was too awkward to know how to ask. What happened? We still hung out together, mostly with his friends, but sometimes just the two of us (I think?). Nothing had really changed, but something was off, something was different. Did I do something? Did he not like me anymore? Maybe my greatest fear: Was I that bad “a lay”??

I remember his bedroom was in the basement, and one day about a month or so after my “deflowering,” I was down there looking around. I was alone for the moment, and I don’t remember where he was, but I had a moment when I looked over at this large wall calendar he had hung on the back of his door. I noticed he had made some notes on the calendar, some markers of specific dates, so I thought to check out the date we had “done it.” And there it was! Marked on his calendar with my initials. Ah, how sweet! And next to my initials was a symbol: it was a small circle with a perfect X/Y axis through the middle. Basically, the same thing you see when you look through a scope to set aim on your target. A crosshair. Well, I had a pretty good idea what THAT meant, didn’t I? 

Then I zoomed out of that particular date and swept my eyes over the days, weeks, and months both before and after that occasion. And I saw that symbol again, only this time there were different initials. I knew pretty quickly who they stood for: it was Shelly, and it was Leslie. And it was more than once, way more than once, for both of them. 

But wait a minute! Shelly had a boyfriend! Andrew! And Leslie was just a friend, not his girlfriend! What the fuck (now I’m getting upset) is going on? Did I really need it spelled out to me? Shelly was actually a friend of mine by now, or so I thought. So I called her (not him, of course) and asked if we could meet so we could talk. 

To her credit, she didn’t even try to lie. Yes, they were sleeping together. It was just for fun, it didn’t mean anything, and Andrew didn’t know or care, I can’t remember which. And Leslie was just a “free spirit” and they did it when they were bored. It was all very “The Group” or “Peyton Place” – all very enlightened and free and no hang-ups, ya know? No baggage, no expectations, just plain old fun between the sheets. I didn’t need to be upset about it, after all. 

But of course I was. I was devastated. But not just because he had been sleeping with other girls. The part that hurt me the most was that he’d slept with them multiple times, but only done it with me that one time. I took this as an obvious indicator of my bed-worthiness. Clearly, I was subpar, not only not as cool as the other cool girls, but also – clearly – not as sexy. It was a rejection that cut deep. 

It took me a while to finally confront him with what I knew. He wasn’t very apologetic. It was one of those “I’m sorry you are upset” kind of things. Like “it’s no big deal.” But I couldn’t get over it. What was I supposed to think? And what about the crosshairs? But we stopped seeing each other, pretty much by mutual agreement, I guess. 

Later that summer, we actually went on a school trip together, something we’d planned earlier in the spring, but by the time the trip actually happened, he wasn’t speaking to me anymore. In fact, he avoided me completely the entire time. It was the most miserable two weeks in Europe you could imagine. I remember I just ate bags of candy and stared out the window of the tour bus, wondering what in the world it all meant. I’m still not sure I know. 

But I think about those crosshairs. Maybe it was just a mark, not really significant beyond its use as a code for intercourse, but still – I did feel like I had been a target. That he had decided to bed me, and even though I thought I made that decision free and clear, did I really? And how did this experience inform me of what sex meant, or intimacy, or – even – love? Or was I just an idiot? 

I’m still trying to figure it all out.