“What are you, The Virgin Mary?” she asked, staring right through me, as if she was actually waiting for me to reply, “Why yes, I am.” I picked up my lunch tray and moved to another table.
I wanted to wait to have sex until I was married – no one told me I had to, I just thought it was a romantic idea. My ‘friends’ didn’t get it. “Not even first base?” they would ask me. They had all, “been there-done that-got the t-shirt.” Pretty much everyone had… Except the ‘church’ kids, the geeky kids, and me – the ‘Virgin Mary.’ I was 15-going-on-16 years old, and apparently I was already way behind in my ‘experience.’ The girls I hung out with teased me a lot, and they could be mean. It was very clear that I was the black sheep. By my Sophomore year of high-school, I was starting to feel pretty alienated and weird about the whole topic.
That’s when I met him. His name was Jason, he was a Senior – and he was perfect.
On our first date, he picked me up at my house (OMG – he had a convertible!) and met my mom. She LOVED him – he had such charm. Perfect. It was also on our first date that he put his arm around me and leaned in, looked sweetly into my eyes and kissed me. I thought the way he did that was so romantic. “He must really like me!” I thought. Perfect. From that point on, our relationship moved forward really quickly.
We went straight to full-on make-out sessions in a matter of two weeks. Then one night after a fancy dinner, we went for a walk on a private beach. There were very few people around, so I knew we would probably end up making out again. Sure enough, we found a hidden boardwalk in some tall grass and got down to business. That night I let him go to first base for my first time ever. I liked it because it was dangerous and scary – but I felt safe with him. I let the excitement wash over me completely. I told myself, “This must be what love feels like...” And when I told him I loved him, he said it back to me, too.
Within two months, we had done everything there was to do just outside of actually having sex. I had turned 16. I wore pretty bras now. My boyfriend had seen me in my underwear. I felt like a woman – an adult – mature, responsible, in love. Jason and I talked a lot about moving in together in college and getting married. Everything about us was perfect – except for the guilt I felt. It was nagging, but dull. I told myself that I just felt ‘weird’ because it was my first relationship like this and I was just inexperienced. I told myself that the guilt would go away. Then we began to talk more about having sex.
We’d had the conversation in the beginning when I had told him that I was a virgin and that I was going to wait to have sex until I was married. At the time, he said he, ‘really admired that’. But by now our relationship had become more serious, and sex seemed like the next logical step. I started to ask myself, “Why wait? He loves me.” I didn’t want him to think I didn’t love him back. I didn’t want him to get bored of me. I wanted to act mature. One day I decided, “The next time we make out, I’m going to let him go further…” And so I did.
The first time I had sex was the most humiliating and painful moment of my life.
It’s hard to describe that moment because I felt so many things all at once. It was embarrassing because I had told him I was ready, and then immediately regretted it as soon as it happened. I shoved him away from me, hard. He got really angry and yelled at me. It’s funny how it’s such a popular idea that wearing a condom or taking birth control makes sex “safe” – they don’t tell you what it can do to your heart. There was nothing safe about what we did that day. What we did was dangerous and harmful and I knew it – one second too late. I didn’t feel safe anymore, I felt completely unprotected. I was scared, and no matter what I told myself, nothing about it seemed right. In a matter of seconds, I knew that something had left me that I could never get back. Something that made me special. Something that made me whole. Something that made me, ME.
Worst of all, I knew that somehow that part of me was now also part of him – and I hated him for taking it. I felt tied to him and I absolutely hated it. My heart was scarred.
Yes, I had decided I was ready. No, he did not rip my clothes off and force me into bed. But when he saw me upset and he became angry at me – I knew the romance was over. This was far from ‘perfect‘. The facade came crashing down. “This was all he wanted from the beginning!” I heard the words racing through my mind. I felt stupid and used. On top of all this, it hurt like hell. He was not gentle or careful. It was as if he knew he’d have to get it over with quickly or else he’d have missed his chance. I rolled over and began to cry while he left the room. 20 minutes later, he came back and told me to get dressed so he could drive me home. On the way he apologized and said he loved me and that he hoped we could stay together.
And we did – for a whole year. But from that day on, I began to die inside.
I was consumed by shame and guilt every day. I felt dirty. I was angry. I felt isolated and unloved. I was keeping all kinds of secrets from my parents. I barely had friends other than Jason – and he didn’t understand me. I couldn’t talk to him about how I was feeling because it just made him angry. We fought all the time, but we continued to have sex. He called me a b*tch and told me that he understood why I didn’t have any friends and that if I didn’t have him, no one would even talk to me. “Everyone hates you, Ashley – you’ve changed.” He said. I missed my period a couple of times and was so scared I was pregnant, that I drove to the other side of town and took a pregnancy test in a gas station restroom. He started to have sex with other girls. We broke up and got back together all the time. I hated him, but I also hated myself and thought that the only way I could try to salvage that piece of me I’d given away was to stay with him. I was miserable.
And then one day, it ended. I went to one of his friends’ houses for what was supposed to be a party. Instead, I walked in to find 3 guys and a girl sitting together watching a Porno. I was so grossed out, I left the room and told him to take me home. But he said no – he wanted me to “just relax” and hang with his friends. I reached for my phone (to call my Mom to come get me) and started to walk out of the room when he suddenly grabbed me – his arms around my waist – and threw me to the floor. After landing, I spun around and looked up at him. We stared at each other for a second, and then I got up and left. That was it. After that, I broke it off.
I was relieved, but I still believed my dreams were dead. I was dirty, worthless. I had given the one thing I said I’d never give away to a guy who didn’t care about me at all. I had no real friends. “How can anyone love me now?” I thought.
I found my first Lovely Group when I moved away to college, and it changed my life. Now, for the first time in my life, I have real friends. They don’t pressure me or put guilt on me about things I don’t want to do. Instead, they genuinely care about my thoughts and feelings. They care about my dreams, and they encourage me to make difficult choices so that I can work towards them. In my Lovely Group, I have been able to watch other girls who thought they were broken live out a fresh start. My new friends have shown me that although I made some big mistakes, I can still change.
And I have. I forgave Jason and I forgave myself. My heart is healing and I’ve started to dream again. Now, I wait with confidence for the man I will marry one day. I know that when we meet, he won’t steal my kisses. Instead, he will fight for my love and he will wait for me, too. And when the time is right and the battle is won, I’ll wear white as I walk toward him, knowing it’s safe, knowing it’s right, and I’ll let the excitement wash over me. Because that is real romance. That is true love. And it’s worth waiting for.
I used to be damaged goods.
Now, I’m Lovely.