I know 20 is young, but the moment you tell someone you're still a virgin, it's as if you told them you're living with a terminal illness. (Artwork: Tess Emily Rodriguez)
She’s made all the mistakes, so you don’t have to… Ask Erin is a weekly advice column, in which Erin answers your burning questions about anything at all.
I’m entering my 20s with no experience.
So, I’m twenty years old. I think you would agree that twenty is pretty young. But the moment you tell someone you're still a virgin, it's as if you told them you're living with a terminal illness.
For as long as I can remember, I've been a romantic. Although I believe that 'virginity' is a patriarchal construct, I still have always wanted my first time to be with someone I'm close to. We don't even have to be in love. We just have to have a really great connection and like each other a lot.
However, it's always felt to me like I have no luck in the romantic department.
I haven't ever had a serious boyfriend, no one I've ever fallen for has reciprocated my feelings, and, of course, I've never had sex.
Many people have told me that my standards were too high and that I had unrealistic expectations. But I don't want to compromise on this and end up doing something so intimate and being so vulnerable with some random person, someone that I might not even like. I know that there's no "perfect" guy out there, and the person I end up with is probably not going to be what I thought I wanted, but does that really mean I should lower my standards and just give in?
To be honest, I'm incredibly lonely.
There are nights where I just lie in bed staring at the ceiling, crying, wondering why everyone else gets so lucky, and I haven't even found one person. Some of my friends have been in relationships since they were 16 years old. I feel like I'm waiting for this magical thing and the more I want it, the more it evades me.
I've always been a hopeless romantic. I had my first real crush at nine years old, and even then it was way more intense than any of my peers. I've always been in love with love. And it seems a cruel joke that I've still not experienced it.
From the outside, I know I sound ridiculous. I'm only twenty; I have plenty of time. But when you've been fantasizing about being in love since you were nine years old, it feels like you've been waiting a lifetime.
I know it'll happen one day. But this loneliness crawls under my skin and buries itself there, so deeply sometimes that I feel like I can't breathe. I just want someone to love me, and I feel so pathetic saying that. But I'm tired of not experiencing it.
I want to be loved.
I know this wasn't technically a question, but any advice would be so appreciated. Thank you.
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Wanting to be loved is a very human desire.
We all want to be loved, even if we don’t readily admit it.
When it comes to having sex for the first time, you should only be concerned with what feels right for you. If you want sex to be a real connection and not something you do just to get your first time over with, there is nothing wrong with that. There are people out there who feel the same way, and it has nothing to do with religion. Take for example this season’s bachelor on The Bachelor. He’s a 26-year-old virgin. He’s not saving himself for marriage but for the right person and time. I have known many people, of all genders, who have waited for a variety of reasons.
We live in a society that tends to move fast. I lost my virginity on the young side, and while I don’t dwell on it, I sure could have stood to wait a few years when I was more emotionally mature.
I also think there are two things to unpack here — sex and love. Sex and love are not dependent on one another. They can coexist, but they happen all the time without the other.
You don’t sound ridiculous; you sound lonely. But I’m going to tell you something I learned after years of jumping from relationship to relationship… the only person who can cure you of your loneliness is you. I know that may not be what you want to hear. It was a hard-learned lesson for me.
Sometimes you get the thing you think you want — the relationship — and you’re still lonely.
This is not to discount the joy of sharing a connection with someone, to be intimate with them — physically, emotionally, spiritually. But when we learn how to have that connection outside of romantic relationships, we learn how to be happy in a way that is not dependent on another person. Having that foundation with ourselves helps to strengthen the bonds we have with other people.
From reading your letter, I don’t believe the answer for you is just to have sex with someone, anyone. But instead, focus on what you want in a partner and work on those same qualities with yourself.
Rather than worrying about someone wanting to be with you, put your energy towards the life you have ahead of you. I know this can feel daunting when you feel lonely, but engaging yourself with friends, with goals, with activities, can really help to fill that space.
Lastly, as I often do, I recommend speaking with a therapist. Talk therapy is such an effective way to get all of these destructive spiraling thoughts out of our heads. That’s how we change thought patterns, by speaking about them and giving them less power.
Dear heart, I promise you will not be lonely forever.
There were so many feelings that I felt sure were permanent when I was in my 20s, and two decades later I can tell you I was wrong.
None of those feelings last forever. It will get easier. You will find your people.
The information within Ask Erin should in no way be interpreted as medical advice because I’m not a medical professional. But I am here to help — to share with you the wisdom I’ve gained after years of making mistakes. If you have a question for me about relationships, addiction, dating, friendships, depression, parenting, sex, consent, what I’m watching, what I’m reading, Rainforest Jasper, or anything at all, use the contact form below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. As always, your anonymity is golden. Lastly, I’m so excited to share with you my Ask Erin Self-Care Guide, free when you sign up for my weekly newsletter. xoxo