Yesterday I had coffee with a born-again virgin. A friend from Los Angeles, Lillian is a 32 year-old dentist who used to be a true LA party girl in her early twenties. After meeting a cute soon-to-be doctor LA boy, on the eve of her 27th birthday, she parted ways with her pot dealer and favorite bartender to focus on her upcoming engagement party. All was going well, until she found out that her soon-to-be husband did not have a sweet tooth for the cheese cakes he brought home from the bakery in West Hollywood, but rather had a sweet something with the cute shop owner, Darius.
Devastated and doctorless, Lillian decided that church would be a good place to find solace, and hopefully a new date. Lillian insists, however, that she has gained much more than just an-eligible-God-fearing-Engineer by going back to church. She has found a new life, a new respect for herself, a new way of living she says. One that includes church six nights a week, and excludes sex all seven.
As I listened to her logical and rational explanation of her new lifestyle, I could not help but flashback to some of the very hush-hush after-hour parties we had both attended throughout the years. Surprisingly, she still looked the same to me. In those days she seemed like a lost girl who always partied with a purpose, as if on a mission to forget and overrule the emotions that came up from the demons she was fighting within. Yesterday she looked like a woman who prayed with a purpose, as if on a mission to dissipate and deny the same demons she's never been able or willing to face. So I put my therapist-hat on, and I listened.
I tried to give her the space she needed to de-tangle her explanation. She was unaware that her clarifications appeared to be based on her own internal questions and doubts, and not on any that I had posed. In the end she said that it was comforting to know that it was possible to erase her sexual history in order to have a new beginning. The consoling arms of illusions can be a warm and safe place in comparison to the harsh and at times desolate embrace of reality.
I wanted to tell her that life is not first grade homework, written in pencil, ready to be erased. That the idea of erasing one's past is an illusion, one that will not bring any comfort or authenticity to one's life in the long run. I wanted to tell her that not unlike the chicken pox, the good thing about virginity is that you only get it once — at least I think so.
But as I looked up from my frapuccino, the look in her eyes surprised me, as if pleading with me to just go along with it. As if the thought of facing another of life's delusions was simply too much to bear. Suddenly she smiled, shook her head from side to side slowly as she shrugged her shoulders and I realized that she was happier than before, at least more peaceful, which counts for something I guess. I shook my head and laughed. I let my eyes tell her all the loving-but-teasing comments that were pushing against my lips, and I let my heart–not my head lead the rest of the way. On this day, she just needed a friend.
If our friends did not, from time to time, indulge us in our momentary or even lifelong illusions, then none of us would dare venture away from restrictions and preconceived notions. Ironically, it is the love and support of those who truly care that gives us the courage to try out new things, new ways, new thoughts, new loves, in order to find the right fit. It is what gives us the strength to embrace our past, overcome our struggles, and come face to face with our true selves.
“Ok, here is the deal. I draw the line at Sushi! If you ever give up Sushi, our friendship is over!” I said.
The first Thursday of every month, we always have Sushi at this place with the best watermelon martinis, and an even better selection of eye-candy. Apparently, candy she no longer wanted!
She laughed and said, “Sushi? Sushi, I could never give up!”
I shook my head in agreement and smiled. I saw a spark, and things, even if different, were going to be ok.