Listen to your instinct, that’s where trust starts
When I was 16, a guy in his 30s got on the bus I was on, stared at me for an uncomfortably long time, struck up an inane conversation, and gave me his address. Because I was 16, and incredibly stupid, as well as depressed, disoriented, and lonely, I chose to visit his home a few evenings later.
He rented a room in a large house, and that was the only private space to talk. I sat next to him as he ate dinner in front of the TV. My social awareness was underdeveloped at that time; I did have a vague sense that I didn’t know why I was there. I wanted friends, but this felt artificial. He went on with his dinner, asked me questions, and as he made a random remark about my watch, he let his hand rest too long in my lap.
I didn’t say anything. I had no sexual experience; I had never even kissed anyone. I also had no clear idea of what was allowed. When his hand pressed on my fly, two trains of thought sped through my head, one said: This is what I’ve wanted ever since I discovered I liked guys, the other said, wisely: But I don’t like this guy.
He noticed my lack of excitement, took my hands and placed them on his shirt. He made me touch him several places while I continued to wonder whether or not I wanted to. I looked at his face, and his smile, and asked myself if I would feel more confident if I kissed him. And I realized no part of me was willing to kiss him. I simply didn’t find him attractive.
So I said, “You don’t arouse me.” And he was OK with that. And I left. When I got home, I told my parents I had been working late.
To this day I marvel at my luck. This was a grown man, more experienced and stronger who could have been a rapist, kidnapper, organ trafficker or serial killer, and I had willingly gone to his room and let him touch me. I still don’t know what prevented me from seeing the danger signs. But, I was 16 and naive, and only by absurd random luck did I not become a statistic. Maybe we were both just desperately lonely.
Many years later, when I told this story to my therapist, he said not listening to our desires was the cause of many sexual dysfunctions. While he agreed I had been lucky that night, he commended my decision to listen to my gut when I left.
A few weeks after I ended therapy with him, I met another stranger on the bus. This time he was near my age, and more to my liking.
My heart had been broken by a prospective girlfriend who decided to date someone else. By this point, at 28, I was sure I was bisexual, but had still not had sex. When I sat next to this guy, he returned my gaze and discreetly locked his fingers with mine. I was nervous, but eager. He gave me his number before I got off the bus, and I later texted him. We met at a cafeteria close to his house. I was still not sure what to expect. He invited me to his home, and I was able to say yes.
This was new territory for me. No one I had liked had ever liked me. I felt I was walking blindfolded into danger. Possibilities flashed through my head: rapist, kidnapper, organ trafficker, serial killer? But he didn’t seem dangerous, and a big, hidden part of me strongly wanted this to happen. We talked for several hours, and then he invited me to his bed. He approached me slowly, gently, and with respect and understanding. I will always remember this.
The randomness of this still surprises me. My friends all knew me as a hopeless romantic who would never attempt a one-night stand. I’d always defended romantic love and lifelong commitment. Now look at me, I thought, sleeping with a complete stranger who is admittedly cute, but whom I’ll probably never see again.
This story may confuse those more experienced than I. In our century, being a virgin at 28 sounds like something one would have to willingly pursue. I never wanted to wait so long; it had just never felt right. I would have liked to have enjoyed sex earlier, but I’m glad that, of the few times I have had sex, not a single one was a hurtful or negative experience.
A few of my friends know the second story; almost no one has heard the first. It is the second one that tells everything meaningful there is to say about me. This is not about how I didn’t trust the first guy and did trust the second one. Rather, it is about how I have consistently trusted myself to discern when it’s time to be vulnerable. And so far, it has paid off.
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