He didn’t want to do it, but I talked him into it because I wanted to be cool. Nothing else mattered.
I was in the passenger seat, and Danny was driving our friend Ellie’s boyfriend’s big Buick around and around the streets of our little town. Ellie was in the backseat making out with her boyfriend. They were lying down and breathing heavy. I glanced out of the corner of my eye and saw Ellie pull her pink cashmere sweater over her head while her boyfriend unzipped his fly. I wanted to see what they were doing but I also desperately did not want to be a weirdo freak. I had never had sex or let a boy put his hand in my pants or touch my breasts or anything remotely like that. Ellie was much more adventurous and naughty, and her boyfriend, who was from the next town over, was a year older than us and therefore more “experienced.”
Danny was my boyfriend in the way 15-year-olds are boyfriend and girlfriend. We talked on the telephone most nights after we had finished our homework and held hands and kissed but not with tongues or anything gross like that. And sometimes I would sit on his lap like I saw the older kids doing with each other. We went to the prom when we were freshmen; all the kids in the high school grades at my school were allowed to attend because otherwise there would have been hardly anyone at the prom. I borrowed a white dress with a pink sash and a crinoline, and Danny wore a white tux with a pink bowtie and cumberbund.
Ellie wanted us to drive out to my house because my parents were out of town and I was spending the night with her. She and her boyfriend would have sex, she said, and then we could hang out for a while before we had to get back to her house.
That night, as we were getting ready for her boyfriend to pick us up so we could drive around, she said “You should do it with Danny.”
I didn’t really want to do it with him, but I wanted to be like I thought everyone else was – sexual, open-minded, daring, mature. I wanted to be able to brag about losing my virginity because when I finally figured out what it meant, I thought being a virgin made me a total loser.
One of the boys who sat in the way back seats of the school bus once asked me – out loud so everyone could hear – if I was a virgin. The boys who sat in the back, a gang that included my cousins and the Grenier boys, were popular but also mean. They taunted and teased most of the kids and tried to make my brother puke by showing him their pop bottles filled with tobacco spit. They were vile and rude, but I sat close to them because it was dangerous to be on the edge of their scene.
At that time, I had no idea if it was good or bad to be a virgin. “No,” I said, and scowled at them. They laughed.
Later I asked my mom what a virgin was. “You don’t need to know,” she said. My mom read a book to me and my brother and sister when we were younger. It had pictures of chubby, naked cartoon people. I remember it said something like, “When a mommy and daddy love each other, they take off their clothes and lay in bed together and rub against each other until they feel a tickle, and then a baby comes.” I thought the book was absolutely disgusting, but every once in awhile when no one was looking, I would remove it from its hiding place on the shelf of our living room closet and sneak another peek at that naked mommy and daddy and wonder about that tickle that made a baby.
I asked Ellie about being a virgin. She knew about everything that was bad.
I was thoroughly confused when she explained it to me. “It means you haven’t done anything with a boy?” I asked. “I thought only mommies and daddies who loved each other could do that.” She said I was ridiculous. She said she had done it a lot.
Between gasps, Ellie told Danny to drive out to my house. I wished her boyfriend’s car had a privacy screen like a limousine so we didn’t have to hear those two going at it in the back seat. It was exciting but also nerve wracking as hell. I turned up the radio to try to drown out the sounds they were making.
Ellie and her boyfriend went straight into my bedroom as soon as we got to my house, so I took Danny’s hand and led him to the couch in the downstairs rec room.
“Let’s take off our clothes,” I said. I pretended to be confident, like I had been in this situation a dozen times and seeing a boy without his clothes on was no big deal to me. We both took off our pants, but it was cold in the basement so we left our shirts and sweaters on.
Ellie’s boyfriend had given Danny a rubber. He opened the package and removed the round, slippery disc. I don’t think he had any idea how to use it. He tried to put it on, but he wasn’t very erect, so the condom just sort of hung there. I was trying not to look because I didn’t want him to feel more nervous than he clearly was.
He climbed on top of me and we started to kiss. “I don’t know how to do this,” Danny said.
“Me either,” I said and laughed. “I think you just rub against me.” That’s what the chubby mommy and daddy in the book did.
He didn’t want to put his full weight on me, so he sort of hovered over me for a few minutes and then tried to enter me. It was a mess. A fiasco. And none of it felt good.
“It’s ok,” I said, and he rolled off of me and sat on the couch.
I felt foolish but a little bit angry – at myself for forcing him and at Danny for not being able to perform. We waited until we thought Ellie and her boyfriend were finished, and then we went upstairs to watch TV. They finally came out of my room, all red-faced and smiling, so we got in the car to go back to Ellie’s.
Danny and I sat in the back seat this time. “Are you ok?” he whispered.
“My stomach hurts,” I said. He put his arm around me and placed his other hand near my belly. I lay my head on his shoulder, and we sat silently for the rest of the drive.
That night when Ellie and I were getting ready for bed, I told her that Danny and I did it. Word would get around our small school, and he would never deny that it happened even though, officially, we were both still virgins.
Danny was not present at my 25-year high school reunion, so I couldn’t apologize or tell him how I had always felt so guilty for trying to make him have sex with me when we were 15. I pushed him because I wanted to be popular, and he complied because he thought that was what he was supposed to do. There was no magic or mutual pleasure in what we did. It was awkward, frustrating, and embarrassing for both of us.
After reading Molly England’s What I learned from my first kiss, I realized how damaging our early sexual experiences can be when we are naive and simply trying to fit in by doing what we think everyone else is doing. More importantly, I realized that I am part of the culture that has made the “first time” a goal to be accomplished rather than a gift to be shared.