Saving Yourself for The One

May 17, 2007

If there is an exact opposite of having Sex Like Men, it’s saving yourself for The One. People might think this doesn’t happen much anymore–whether or not that’s the case, many adolescent girls, and probably some guys, grow up thinking they’ll wait to have sex until marriage. Not for religious reasons, necessarily, but for idealistic ones. Whenever I contemplate the idea of The One, I can’t help but think of the fabulously bad Marisa Tomei movie, Only You (1994): when she was a little girl, a Ouija board told her she would marry Robert Downey Jr., so she chases him through Europe to make this happen. Or something like that.

Actually, I think the movie mixes it up at the end when you realize he was pretending to be the Ouija-board guy all this time, and also that Ouija boards are a crock. Maybe the ultimate message is that you can’t trust the signs, but love is definitely still written in the stars.

There’s a Facebook group with over 117,000 members titled “Disney Gave Me Unrealistic Expectations About Love.” We were firmly raised on Disney, so we can blame some of it on our trust that Belle’s true love would save the Beast from that last dropping petal (if only to turn him into a much-less-attractive blonde guy). In general, of course, people like to believe in true love and happy endings; and even if we don’t buy that any of this happens in real life, we do want to see it in the movies and on TV.

The happy endings in Sex and the City are qualified and so a little more realistic, but they do firmly reinforce the notion of a One. Miranda and Steve were both with other great people, but it’s always been the two of them, and everyone knew it. Samantha hasn’t opened up this much to a guy in years–only her persistent model boyfriend can get her to hold his hand. And then there’s Mr. Big. We always knew they would end up together–Big is true love, The One. Does that mean they’ll be good together? I’m not convinced that Big has really changed just because he’s now running around Paris, and I always sort of expect that he’ll be just as bad for Carrie as he ever was. But that’s the thing about love; it doesn’t have to be good for you, it just has to be. Sex and the City had enough cynicism to leave open the possibility of unhappiness, but it still firmly believed that each of these women had a One, somewhere out there (Oh, Fievel. Did you know An American Tail was Oscar-nominated?).

We were teenagers at the start of the girly pop star trend, when Britney, Christina, Jessica, and Mandy still played the role of the innocent girl next door. Back then, Britney and Jessica talked a lot about waiting for sex until marriage, so that conversations about their music and their appearance devolved into voyeuristic speculation: is she a virgin, or isn’t she? (Britney wasn’t, Jessica was.) Jessica’s abstinence was grounded in some kind of family values/Christian background, with the added creepiness of an actual promise made to her father. But what I remember about the way she discussed abstinence is the romantic idealism, not the religious principles. Once she got engaged to Nick Lachey, she would speak of the “magical” wedding night, etc. And of course that kind of talk is bound to resonate with her mainstream audience more than a strict religious argument would, but I think it’s interesting that so many girls grow up with similar starry-eyed ideals. There must be the One out there for me, therefore I shouldn’t have sex until I meet him, because it will be so special when we finally do.

Then what happens to this girl? She enters into her first serious relationship and realizes she wants to have sex now, and/or she receives outside pressure to have sex. She has a couple relationships, falls in and out of love, and realizes there really isn’t going to be a One. And if she ever does meet the One, she knows, he definitely won’t have spent all this time saving himself for her.

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