Monday, June 28, 2010

In which we talk about The Number

I will tell you the rest of the story about Stan, but first I want to talk about what Michelle Z said:

Okay, no more beating yourself up for what you did in your 20's and 30's. It's called the learning curve of life. Instead look back and chuckle...honey, it could have been worse. You could be our age doing the same darn stuff.

I know! Thank goodness I am not making the same mistakes I did in my 20s. And my 30s. Hmm. Maybe my early 40s. But writing about them is kind of fun, at least anonymously. I am not so sure that I would expose myself like this if my mother read this blog. My other option is to talk about my cats and they just are not that interesting to other people. Primo and I think they are fascinating, but we don't get out much.

But part of the reason I am so hard on myself is because I failed to meet my own standards over and over again, even though I knew I was making a mistake. It's one thing to screw up (ha) because you don't know better. It's another thing to dive in with your eyes open, a history behind you already, well aware of the consequences.

Then you are in the realm of pure-D eediot.

What are we talking about?


The Number.

You know what I mean.

The Number that looks bad when it is high for a woman but not so bad when it is high for a man.

I was convinced, until the day I broke up with my college boyfriend, that my Number would be One.

It would be One because we were going to be married and that's why it was OK to you know.

I had been raised to believe that sex was for after marriage. Mostly. My mother, who married three days after she turned 20, didn't fool around before her wedding. I was born eight and a half months later. My brother took this as evidence that my parents had to get married. Shotgun.

When I told this to my mother, she laughed. She and my father had gotten engaged eight months previously, then she had not seen him again until the day before the wedding because he was at officer candidate school out of state. "Tell your brother I spent four months making my wedding dress," she said. "And that babies don't always take exactly nine (ten) months."

Then she told me that I was a honeymoon baby, conceived between "Gunsmoke" and the pizza delivery. Oh, a February honeymoon in northern Wisconsin.

My father did not value virginity so highly, though. (Actually, I'm not sure my mother did, either. It's just that the lack thereof had far worse consequences for women than for men.) At a church youth group campout, at the campfire, I challenged my dad: Is it important for a woman to be a virgin when she marries?

He thought about it, then told us that no, it was more important that she be able to bake a good loaf of bread.

I pressed him further: Was Mom a virgin when you married her?

He answered that he did not know and did not care.

A year and a half later, when my dad and I were in the garage packing the car so he and my mom could drive me 200 miles to start college the next day, he casually said, "If you're going to get laid, use protection."

I was shocked.

I mean, wouldn't you be?

"Dad!" I exclaimed, scandalized. "You know I don't believe in premarital sex."

He rolled his eyes, shook his head, and answered, "It's going to happen. Don't be stupid about it."

Oh, I was so sure. It is easy to Remain Pure when nobody has tried to separate you from your purity. I had kissed some boys, but you can't go very far when you are necking behind the chemistry building during lunch. You really don't go far when your "boyfriend" is gay, whether he knows it or not.

My dad was right.

I was wrong.

My college boyfriend and I succumbed to the availability of an empty dorm room, passion, and the justification to each other that we were going to be married when we graduated anyhow so it was OK.

We did not marry.

So. Now I had to decide. Was this status a binary condition where either you are or you are not and once you are not, it does not matter? Or can there be shades of gray from One to Infinity?

I went with the shades of gray option, thinking, "Well, I won't do this again unless I am Serious About A Man and the Relationship Is Moving Toward Marriage."

In my defense, I will say I have had several marriage proposals and an invitation to move to California to live together.


I had several relationships where I let myself be talked into things. Or where I knew it wasn't going to go anywhere and would never want that man to be the father of my children, but still increased The Number.

Not all of my relationships were like that. I dated some really nice guys, which you probably won't read about here because 1. I wouldn't want to hurt them by writing about something intimate and 2. there really wasn't any drama so there's nothing to write about anyhow.

But there were some Bad Choices Made By Me. (Do you like how I become the passive acted-upon, not my fault in that sentence? That's an English major trick.)

I regret them. I wish I had never met those guys (except to the extent that they gave me material). I wish that even if I had met them, I had never gotten involved because they were not worthy of increasing The Number.