The other weekend, I was pressured by multiple women in my family to share the age I lost my virginity. They were playing a game of 20 questions and I’d sat down unknowingly. This was not a group I’d choose to tell all to.
When they first asked, as an “initiation” question, I said I’d rather not say. To encourage me, they all eagerly went around announcing their answers. It was back to me. “I’d rather not say,” I told them again.
It’s a safe place, I was assured. It didn’t feel very safe.
We won’t judge you, they explained. I didn’t care if they did.
We told you ours. I didn’t ask.
It wasn’t my age. It was the story. And what they didn’t know was that I’d lost a lot more than my virginity at that age.
But this isn’t about that story, it’s about five women in my family making me feel pressured into sharing.
Today, women are able to enjoy sex and acknowledge it publicly. We’re no longer forced to feel ashamed of our sexuality. And while we’re still fighting sexism and inequality, we’ve made broad strides.
I’d like to think that’s where this pressure was coming from, the false promise of a supportive group of women. But when my discomfort was dismissed for their entertainment, they lost all credibility.
We need to do better
I recently watched Mindy Kaling’s commencement address to the Dartmouth class of 2018 and was both inspired and ashamed. Toward the end of her speech, Kaling speaks directly to the women in the graduating class and encourages them to lift each other up.
We need to do a better job of supporting each other.
And she is so spot on.
I know I need to do a better job of supporting all the women in my life—professionally and personally. My inability to do so has distanced me from family, my best friend and colleagues. It’s inhibited me emotionally and paused me professionally.
While acknowledging this shortcoming is easy, it will take a lot of effort to do. It will take forgiving myself for past mistakes, saying goodbye to a friendship I long for, letting go of the past and looking toward the future, and allowing myself to feel inspired and vulnerable. It means starting over, feeling better and moving on.
I’m not sure how I got here from when I started this draft last week, but I’m glad I did. And I’m ready to start trying.