I put my finished plate to the side and looked at her from across the table. “So, what do you think about…when I get back Sunday…that you and I…you know, hang out?”
My bag was packed to go away for the weekend with a bunch of other college first years, but it lay on the floor along with the rest of my priorities. This girl, lets call her “Mandy,” looked back at me in the cafeteria. “Hang out, huh?” she said with a grin. She and I both knew that “hanging out” probably meant more than just “talking”, which is all we had done to that point.
“Sounds good to me,” she finally said with an intent stare.
“Cool,” I said as I picked up my bag. “I’ll see you when I get back then.”
As I walked to registration for the trip, thoughts about Mandy made me forget why I signed up to go away for that weekend in the first place. Was it an impulse inspired by an attractive girl with the clipboard at orientation? Or did I see this as a chance to be a different man, maybe even a better one? I threw this idea to the back of one of the buses I boarded along with 250 other college students. “Let’s just get this weekend over with,” I said to myself.
Friday night was subpar with group discussions, talks, and sleeping on cots that squeaked the entire night. The only thing I remembered from the day was the director’s words to all of us before we went to bed, “Each and every one of you were meant to be here.” Whatever that means.
The following Saturday afternoon, they separated the guys and ladies to talk about sex. About 100 first year men crowded in this small room facing a brick fireplace in the middle while about 30 of the upperclassmen sat around us. I didn’t get much from the actual talk —yawning through what I thought was a giant waste of time —until an upperclassman named Drew, a man I respected and looked up to, stood up.
“All right guys, let’s put something out there,” he said to the other upperclassman in the room. “I want to ask anyone who is not having sex until they are married to stand up.”
This got my attention. I assumed most guys were like me and already had sex, so I doubted anyone would stand up. I looked around, expecting maybe to see a handful of weirdoes get off their feet. But I was wrong, and what happened instead totally changed the trajectory of my life story. They all stood up. All 30 upperclassmen rose with confidence. I looked around at these guys I had just played ultimate Frisbee with; they were funny, good-looking dudes, they were men I looked up to and wanted to be like. These guys were on their feet, and I was stunned.
Up until this point of my life, I didn’t know any man under the age of 40 who didn’t want to have sex until they were married. I mean, it was a large reason why I didn’t wait in high school— I figured everyone did it. But here were 30 guys, guys that I respected, who didn’t.
As many of the men voiced their reasons for holding off, I remember staring into space. I thought about the times I had sex in high school, I thought about what I was hoping would go down the next day with Mandy, and then I thought about my conversation with Anthony, and his challenge to not wait on being the man I know I wanted to be.
We all broke off into smaller groups to discuss what we had just heard. I told the guys what was going on in my head. I even talked about Mandy and our plan to “hang out” tomorrow. Then I added, “And I think…I think I’m not going to have sex again…I’m going to hold off until marriage.”
The people in my group were just as surprised as I was when I blurted that out. But, I knew the timing of hearing a talk like that—literally the day before seeing Mandy again— was no coincidence. This alone drove my decision.
When I got back Sunday, I texted Mandy and told her that I couldn’t hang out. The following week we grabbed lunch again. I told her about the talk with the guys and finally about my resolution. She was surprised at my change of direction and doubted my resolve.
“OK, well good luck with that” she said as she picked up her backpack. “Find me when you change your mind.” That was the last time she and I got together just the two of us.