A few years ago, I began trying to connect with my cousin’s on my father’s side of the family. It was something that I had always planned on doing because I knew it would have meant a lot to my grandmother. Before she died, she always talked about how much she wanted me to get to know the rest of my cousins. As a child of divorce, I grew up isolated from that side of my family. My father had the brilliant idea of having his lawyer brother represent him in the divorce hearings thereby making his family’s relationship with my mother tenuous at best. In spite of this, my grandmother regularly expressed her desire for me to get to know my cousins. In a lot of ways, she was the exception to the rule. While my grandparents were still cordial, many other relatives on that side did not try to reach out to me because doing so involved contacting my mother, which in their minds would amount to betraying my father. However, things were different now that my cousins and I were all adults.
One night, I received a phone call from one of my cousins. He had arranged a dinner at his apartment with a few of our other cousins and he wanted me to come over to spend time with them. I had already made plans to hang out with my little brother in Christ (whose video I am still shamelessly promoting), but I figured that my cousins were harmless so I asked my cousin if I bring him to the dinner as well. It’s not like they were strangers at this point. The three of us had gone out a few times after church. Besides, I did not think there was much that could go wrong at a dinner. I had assumed that dinners were safe. My cousin agreed to it and asked me to bring a dessert because he knew that I would not have time to cook. Cooking was not an option because I had literally just gotten back in town from visiting my father in Harrisburg.
My little brother in Christ and I arrived to the dinner after spending some time shopping at a nearby mall. I came with dessert just like I had promised. By the time I got there the liquor was already flowing. For the record, I have no real issue with people drinking around me. I just don’t drink because I dislike the taste of liquor and I am usually driving. In this case, I also could not drink because in spite of his imposing appearance, my little brother in Christ was still under 21. (He’s over 21 now though.) As a result, we ended up being the only two sober people in the room as we conversed over barbecued chicken while watching a few violent movies. I guess you could say this was traditional male bonding, which means that I should not have been surprised by what would happen next.
I am not sure if it was the influence of the alcohol or just bad judgment, but when the last movie ended, my host cousin decided that we should all share virginity loss stories. Before I had the chance to protest, he began telling one of the longest and most disgusting stories I have ever heard. Because I respect you all as my readers, I will spare you the details except to say that the story included vivid descriptions of the most repugnant of odors and I am pretty sure that I was close to vomiting. I began texting friends to vent and to ask for prayer in an effort to distract myself. (I do not mean to be insulting to my cousin who may end up reading this blog someday, but yes, the story was really that disturbing.) It may seem like I was overreacting, but the truth is that as troubled as I was by the story, I was even more concerned about what would happen when it ended.
After what seemed like hours, my cousin finally finished his story and was beaming with pride. I was still queasy from his foul descriptions when he looked over at me and asked “What about you?” The moment I had feared was about to come to pass. I paused in an effort to come up with something creative to say and then finally responded with “You’ll have to get back to me when I’m married.” For the record, men who are celibate or virgins really do not like to admit it—especially in confused, potentially hostile, and drunken environments like this one. It’s not a matter of shame. We just don’t like being singled out for something that is generally private and personal. I could see that he and my other cousins were puzzled, so I knew that I would have to make it plain to them. Finally, I blurted out “It hasn’t happened yet,” in order to put an end to their confusion. There was an awkward silence before my cousin looked over to my little brother in Christ and asked “What about you?” He was slightly more eloquent with his response by saying “I’m waiting until I get married.” I was proud of his boldness, but I felt pretty bad for getting him in this kind of situation so I apologized to him during our drive home.
In the end, a combination of shock and strong liquor prevented my other cousins from getting a chance to tell their stories. I was thankful because the one story had scarred me enough for the night. Truth be told, that story made sex sound so unappealing that it reaffirmed my commitment to abstinence. The host cousin tried to revive the conversation by talking about all the good things going on in my life and suggesting that if I spent more time with him, I wouldn’t be a virgin anymore. At that point, it became clear that he didn’t understand my choices nor did he try to understand me as a person. Instead, he assumed that I was just afraid to approach women and needed his coaching so I could learn to be a real man. Needless to say, we stopped hanging out a few months later because I couldn’t handle his uninvited coaching and he couldn’t handle my lack of interest in his uninvited coaching. It took a few months, but we are on good terms again. Someday, I still hope to make my grandmother’s wish come true and get to know my cousins, but for now, I see that I am better off knowing some people from a distance.