Is virginity OK?

I'm 22 and wonder if I should wait for the right guy or just grab the next one that comes along.

Published January 3, 2003 8:47PM (EST)

Dear Cary,

I really admire your columns and feel terribly silly for having such a inconsequential problem. I am a 22-year-old Indian girl who, burdened by a conservative upbringing and the increasing "hipness" of losing one's virginity, is very confused about what to do about my virgin status.

I feel very asexual, but that may just be a fallout of never having had sex or even "experimented." What bothers me more is my fixation to look at virginity as a barrier that I must cross. Is it social conditioning, what with late nights at clubs and Cosmopolitan with its covers of women declaring that sexual freedom is "in"? Or is it just a natural sexual curiosity? I also feel more and more that my "frigidity" is because of the (diminishing but still present) prejudice associated with premarital sex in India. Or is it merely a defense mechanism because I am very diffident when it comes to relationships and scared shitless about rejection?

I am a mouse even by Indian standards -- I know girls who have asked men out, and that is something I could never do. Again, I don't know if this is my upbringing or my subconscious desire to stay "virtuous" -- a completely Indian and outdated notion that I am not sure you would relate to. I am reasonably attractive and very intelligent (and not very modest about it!) but not terribly confident when it comes to men. I act either supercilious or evasive -- a bizarre mix triggered possibly by a superiority complex or a self-esteem deficit springing from body-image issues (I was a bulimic for a year and half).

What should I do? Carpe diem: Ask the next cute guy I see out? Or wait till I meet someone who I truly connect with emotionally and mentally as well?

Curiouser and Curiouser

Dear Curiouser and Curiouser,

One quiet virtue of the American character not easily shown in the movies of Hollywood or the policies of Washington is that reliance upon an inner truth residing within the self. As the transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson put it in "Self Reliance," "To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men -- that is genius."

I know it can be difficult for anyone not raised with this tradition to grasp its liberating power, because beneath it seems to lurk the specter of a terrifying isolation from family and society. But if you are used to finding guidance in your society, you are on dangerous ground in America. If you listen to advertising and television and believe that your heart should conform to those images, you are lost. You will be a casualty of the American machine of hunger and doubt, the machine that is meant only to sell you things, to confuse you, to make you open your mouth to its soft drinks and your wallet to its cash registers.

But since you have left India and are here in America, I would like to say that the hedonistic and wild American "freedom" you see in the movies and in America's political bullying is the dark side of that good and true American transcendental ideal, and that you yourself have a deeply virtuous side that you can call on in moments of self-doubt. You have a right to rely on your own feelings and beliefs. Following your inner voice as a guide to action is actually a quite dignified and complex way to live. It is not at all to be confused with the reckless cowboy egotism of an America that seeks only domination.

I say this because you seem to be seeking some guidance and approval from American society in your most intimate matters, and I believe that the best guidance you will find about whether to continue being a virgin is in your own heart. I think that you know precisely what the truth is for you, and I would like to encourage you to follow your own truth. It does not matter what the reasons are. You are holy as you are. Holy, holy holy, as Allen Ginsberg said:

"Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy!
Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy!
The world is holy! The soul is holy! The skin is holy!
The nose is holy! The tongue and cock and hand and asshole holy!
Everything is holy! everybody's holy! everywhere is
holy! everyday is in eternity! Everyman's an angel!"

You see what I mean?

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Want more advice from Cary? Read the column from Dec. 20.

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