My soul was crushed at 15, not by some boy (or girl), but by a game of Never Have I Ever.
I had just joined a new church youth group and the social leader (a high school senior) suggested we play Never Have I Ever. I had never played before (“Never Have I Ever played a game of Never Have I Ever, besides this one”), but the premise of the game (go around and state a thing you’ve never done; all who have put a finger down until someone runs out of fingers) felt like a nice way to get to know these almost-complete strangers.
It was September of my freshman year of high school, and I was still high off the summer loving of male-dominated math camps and social media sites not yet populated by our parents. That summer was the summer of my first kiss (and several more), and I felt so proudly promiscuous that I was sure I would lose immediately at this new
game excuse to brag.
“Never have I ever kissed a boy.” I would put a finger down.
“Never have I ever kissed two boys within two minutes.” I would put a finger down.
“Never have I ever had a three-way kiss with a girl and a guy for an entire minute without spitting out my gum.” You guessed it, I would put a finger down.
Really, I shouldn’t have been so surprised at how spectacularly I won. At 15 I was a hapless virgin whose experience with alcohol consisted of pouring wine for my mother and whose experience with weed was assuming my friends had allergies. First kisses were no longer regarded as remarkable to anyone but me, and no one ever guessed anything as specific as gum-laden three-way kisses.
“Never Have I Ever had sex” broke the ice early on for “Never Have I Ever had a three-way,” “Never Have I Ever gotten kicked out of a movie theater for having sex too loudly in it,” “Never Have I Ever had a three-way with two people of the opposite gender,” “Never Have I Ever given or received road head,” “Never Have I Ever had a three-way with two people of the same gender” and a whole host of other “accomplishments” I’d never dreamed I’d be questioned about in front of my new church group (including the five adult leaders, who were dropping fingers like canaries in a coal mine).
I was devastated. I had built up so much of my identity around jumping the hurdle to sexual adulthood that I refused to accept I had any more distance to cover. A combination of shame and frustration motivated me to stop going to the church group, and I felt isolated from those I thought would become my friends.
In the four years since then, I’ve had many experiences that would have made me less likely to win that game (including one of the more salacious “Never Have I Evers” referenced above), but still I have yet to do many of the things I felt so defective for not doing so many years ago.
I’m sad to say that I sought out some experiences with that very game of Never Have I Ever in mind, as if sordid stories were a booster shot against schoolyard bullies. I know I’m not alone in doing this, building up a sexual resume so that I can whip it out whenever necessary, but in doing so, I’ve realized: Never has it ever been necessary.
The more I checked dumb urban dictionary definitions off my sexual checklist, the more I discovered that sexual accomplishment was less the product of any talent and more a byproduct of coincidence and favorable timing. The checklist also faded in importance over time, eventually mutating into a series of funny stories to toss around in drinking games like Never Have I Ever.
I assume that’s how it was for the older, more promiscuous students at my church, who were completely oblivious to the fact that they were scaring away a timid little freshman with their daunting repertoires of three-ways and vehicular oral sex.
Now, at college, I’ve had drinking buddies with all sorts of sexual backgrounds: from never-been-kissed super-virgins to those engaged to be married, to couples fucking like bunnies (you know them). At a school that makes such loud noises about diversity, it’s important to recognize the depth of perspective that comes from a collection of people with such diverse backgrounds of sexual and romantic experiences.
Our experiences (or lack of them) undoubtedly shape our perspectives but don’t in any way diminish our value as people, friends, or members of the Brown community. In fact, we should use our diversity of experience to learn more about things we may have never known or lost touch with.
Alternatively, you can just use these differences to play a drinking game Saturday night. No shame there, as long as everyone is safe and respected.
Have Good Sex (or nah…),