I’m so stoked to introduce you to my friend Kelsy! We went to school together, so it’s no surprise that some of my biggest “me, too” moments have come from reading Kelsy’s story this week. I’m so, so glad I’m not the only one who “reread the more tantalizing sections” and made up fantasies that every boy in youth group was into me because they…couldn’t avoid proximity to me? These are the kinds of stories that make me want to hold a huge meetup in a cabin. with a fireplace. over wine.
(New to the sex + shame series? start here.)
Fifteen-year-old me furtively looks around at the few others currently in my church’s library. Maybe if I pretend to look at the bible study section, nobody will notice my real browsing intentions: teen dating and love. For some reason, I was mortified by the idea of anyone knowing I was interested in the taboo topic of dating. Youth group life (which as a homeschooler, WAS my life) was all about kissing dating goodbye until marriage, something that seemed like a far distant dream for when I was older (like maybe 21 or something)—so nobody could ever know my secret. I devoured anything I could about dating, even secretly rereading the more tantalizing sections of the “Your Body, God, and You” type books my parents had given me as my main source of sex education.
Those dating books became my Bible. Everything those authors wrote became my truth. Boys would say anything it takes to have sex with you? Men are liars and led only by their primal urges? If you have sex before marriage (or date, as some books insisted,) you are giving your worth away? All became absolute truths. I pledged that I never wanted to get my heart broken by a boy; I wanted to be the one who broke hearts.
Granted, I had nothing to worry about. I had crushes on basically any boy who said hi to me and practically got a pHD in over-analyzing body language (“Wow, he sat in the chair behind me in worship service. That really means that he likes me.”) Around that same time, I started reading Donald Miller (fantasizing that I would marry him one day, of course) and his writings became my new truth. My two obsessions, romance and “living the right story,” became one as I went to college.
I longed to fall in love or experience my first kiss (the trend in high school had been to save it for marriage), but my fear that my story might contain heartbreak or anything above a PG rating kept me from doing just about anything. “How could I tell my future kids/grandkids that my first kiss was making out with some random dude? They would be so ashamed!” I would rather be inert than somehow make the wrong romantic choice and ruin my “love story.”
I didn’t have my first kiss until after college, at the ripe old age of 23. The story I was so longing to be picture perfect? Yeah, my first kiss was with a stranger in a hot tub after drinking a little too much. It was great and I wondered what took me so long to actually do anything fun. Soon after, I went a little wild. My dating life went from famine to feast and I made choices that were immature (because I WAS immature in that arena).
The hardest part was/is realizing that the person I spent my entire adolescence becoming was not me anymore. I made choices that(while I found I didn’t regret them and viewed them as learning opportunities) didn’t quite align with my 15 year old self’s life strategy. I wasn’t married at 21; at the time, I didn’t even know the last name of the guy I kissed, and I certainly didn’t marry him. I don’t even want to have kids, so there goes the “tell your story to your grandkids” idea.
But I can tell you: I am living a story full of grace, redemption, and a hell of a lot of fun. I’m in a relationship with a fun, kind, unconditionally loving man who is patient with all the things I am still unlearning from those Christian dating books (although he is not interested in reading my old “letters to my future husband” from that same era because he thinks it’s a little creepy). I feel happy in my body and sexy, unafraid of the power of womanhood that once held me back.
For so long, I lived in fear of making the wrong choice and fear of my own sexuality. Now, I am just trying my best to live my best life now and let the stories come afterwards.
Did you ever conflate some other idea with your outlook on dating and sex, like Kelsy’s “story” obsession?
Have you ever realized you would have a lot to explain to your younger self?
Is there a way to become mature in the dating and relationship arena without dating?
Update on the sex + shame series: I will be back to writing more often in a couple of weeks, but so many people have found this to be helpful that the series will also continue as long as I receive submissions. Most authors have chosen to remain anonymous. I’d be glad to hear your story through the contact form on this site or at lyndseymedford[at]gmail.com.
Meanwhile, you can catch up here: