The 25-Year-Old Virgin

The 25-Year-Old Virgin

Today, Heather Taylor published a post in which she comes out as a 23-year-old virgin. She explains why, and she points out that Tina Fey was a virgin until age 24. Well, I’ll see your 23 and raise your 24: I was 25, ladies and gentlemen. That’s right, 25.

Fear not, family members who haven’t stopped reading yet: this is not going to be one of those my-first-time accounts, and I’ll spare you all the details. This is more about why my intimate inexperience lasted roughly eight years longer than the average American’s.

I won’t pretend it was a matter of being resolute and principled between the sheets, like Taylor describes being. It was more a matter of not being between the sheets with anyone in the first place. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to be: I wanted that very badly. I really just didn’t…well, I didn’t get it.

For me, dating was like a grown-up version of that shiny green-and-yellow banana seat Schwinn I was given when I was in kindergarten. It looked so cool, and I could so vividly imagine myself zooming around the neighborhood on it at illegal speeds…but I couldn’t manage to actually get up on the bike and push the pedals. Because what if I fell? Ouch.

At an eighth-grade party, I remember boys and girls pairing off and going for “walks” together. I sat on a lawn chair, listening to Roxette and wondering why I was so unlucky. Then, a pretty girl actually came up and asked me to dance. What did I do? I said no, of course: I just assumed she was making fun of me. She couldn’t seriously want to dance with me, right? Jason Gabler?

I saw the look on her face as she walked away, and it suddenly dawned on me that maybe she hadn’t actually been joking. But did I go after her? Nope. I awkwardly apologized later, but by then it was too late.

Most people would have probably figured out around that point that they needed to take some more risks if they wanted to get smooched up on—but not me. I made it through high school without going on a single date, despite having agonizing crushes on any number of girls and actually being asked out a few times—for example, by Naomi Bougie after she beat me in the spelling bee. But I said no, no, no. I still couldn’t take myself seriously as boyfriend material. I could imagine myself whisking one of my crushes off her feet in a space opera, swinging across a vast chasm under fire from Stormtroopers, but I couldn’t imagine myself actually holding the actual hand of an actual girl in actual life. So I didn’t.

Then, college. Still with the crushes, still with the datelessness. By this point I’d figured out how to tell when girls were interested in me, but I mentally dismissed them all. Too weird, too pale, too boring, whatever. I’d keep setting my sights on unattainable girls—ones with boyfriends were best, since propriety absolutely demanded that I make no attempts whatsoever to actually communicate any affection to them. I could safely pine away. There was something of a watershed when I was a senior, studying abroad: this time, I actually told the girl that I liked her. However, she did have a boyfriend, and I did choose to express myself via a 20-page handwritten letter that ended with “I love you.” Mutual tears ensued, but no canoodling.

Then, grad school. Finally I reached the point of being confident enough to actually ask women on dates, and the dates went okay—but still, there would be this or there would be that, and nothing ever progressed past fairly chaste kissing.

Finally, by the time I was 25, I started to get strategic. I realized that I was better at getting to know women over long periods of time than meeting them via quick conversations at bars, so despite my general aversion to the outdoors, I booked myself on a weekend-long hiking expedition hosted by the Graduate Student Council. Of course the problem with that approach is that it will result in meeting women who enjoy hiking—but never mind that. Over the course of the weekend, I hit it off with a philosophy student visiting from England, and on Sunday I asked for her number. Success!

Well, success went to my head. The next day, I was so excited that I actually couldn’t concentrate on my academic work. I ran around the house, laughed to myself, and organized my classical CDs by composers’ birth dates. I was downright manic, and finally it clicked: no person you’ve just met should have this much power over how happy you are.

Right? I had a great life: I loved my academic program, I had a lot of good friends, a supportive family…so what did I need a girlfriend for? Well, obviously, that…but I mean more fundamentally. I talked about it with my housemate Dave, who had been in a relationship for several years. I remember what he said: “If Erica and I broke up, I would be devastated. But I wouldn’t stop being me.”

So there it was, the realization: I didn’t need a girlfriend to validate the fact that I was a person who might be a good boyfriend. I could just be that person. And, suddenly, I was.

Things didn’t work out with that philosophy student—we never really went out on a real date, and certainly never hooked up, though we did remain friends. But then the following summer I went back to Minnesota, and one day at a sweltering party I found myself huddled over an air conditioner with the woman who was about to become my first girlfriend. I just asked her out. It was easy. Everything was easy.

And you know what? You might not believe this, but I swear, I’m telling you the God honest truth.

She was a 25-year-old virgin.

Jay Gabler