How to Spot a 41-Year-Old Virgin
They stand out to find a way in
I saw The 40-Year-Old Virgin at a theater in Houston with my cousin in 2005 when I was newly twenty-four. I laughed and winced the whole way through. Steve Carell remains one of my favorite actors - my TV Dad - and the film worked because his character was human and funny, with nuance in between.
Now that I'm a year older than the title of the film, I think about those two versions of myself: the one who saw it at the Edwards Theater and the one at present. Both alive and thriving. Both, undoubtedly, still virgins.
As I ease into a new decade, how do I reconcile my age with being a virgin at my age? What does it look like? What does feel like? Can I describe it to a sketch artist so that someone could eventually pick me out of a crowd?
As it turns out, I've got an idea of what I "look" like. An emotional one at least. I'm still settling into my lead role, but I've made it my own as I journey toward something that, in my lifetime, has no sequel.
1. He assumes nothing
When you meet a 41-year-old virgin, you may not know it, yet. He may be quiet, he may be loud. If he's the latter, he's less loud the longer you know him. He's got some observing to do, and it's best to do it in silence.
What he's observing is how the world moves around him. The mechanisms that operate it. The stagehands - be it friends, strangers - that lift the curtain and join him on the stage of life. The vulnerability that accompanies relationships. He takes his time getting there because he travels from a hidden destination on the map.
Dry land is shaky when you've been floating for a while. He arrives to Isolation Island, where almost every adult he meets is statistically a non-virgin. They have had sex, correct? They have already had sex and lived to tell about it.
Someone who is still a virgin does not assume the above about people, and they don't stop at sex. They live by this code because they're hoping people don't make this mistake with them: thinking they have sexual experience because their age says they should. That they play by the rules. That they are the same as the person standing next to them.
Being on the outside looking in allows for greater capacity of curiosity, of acceptance, of what is needed to bind relationships together. A 41-Year-Old virgin retired from creating stories about people long ago. He wants to learn about you in your own time, trusting people moment by moment as they tell him all he needs to know.
2. He has experience to share
Life as a 41-year-old virgin is wonderful, but it is strange.
Some days, it's uncomfortable. Others, it's ordinary with just a dash of annoyance. It's painful because when the conversation turns sexual, you feel a tiny drop of water dripping slowly down your neck. You become nervous. They may break you under the cross as you're forced to confess.
What is there to confess, anyway? That you've never done it, not once! He's never been with someone all the way like that. He's never penetrated a vagina with that part of himself. Never been inside a woman and felt her pull him further. He's been close, but never been inside. Since he came out of one, he's been trying to get back in.
Often, as you might imagine, there is trauma. There is religious shame, indoctrination. There is born of a difficult past and isolation. There is a history of bad parenting, off addiction, recovery, and ownership. There is erectile dysfunction. There are odds stacked, and how he chooses to respond to them.
There is healing. There is renewal. There is room to become a better version of what his past told him he could be.
A 41-year-old virgin may not have sexual experience, but he'll be damned if he doesn't have experience of life. It's true he missed opportunities, and he accepts this. But he does have something to offer, to bring to the arena, more valuable than anything penetration seeks to educate, reveal, or advance upon him before he is ready.
He has learned to keep going and this is what keeps him alive.
3. He is a lover of life
A 41-year-old virgin has not had many relationships, but that does not mean he is not in relation with himself. He has learned, so far in life, to take care of himself in both simple and complex ways. This kind of commitment prepares him to one day take care of others.
Being curious, he explores seduction, taking himself on as pupil. He learns what he likes and what he does not. He pursues himself. He becomes, somewhere in his mid-thirties, the object of his desire and although, begrudgingly at first, sweeps himself off his feet.
In doing so, he becomes unexpectedly romantic. He listens more and complains less. He buys books. He reads them and begins to dream. He understands that intimacy is a moment that dies if not watered. He sustains himself. He finds balance between the dreaming and the one fulfilled.
Though he is not a lover in the bedroom, he is a lover in other spaces. In a kitchen. Around a table. Wherever people gather, he is spreading it, forward and back. While travelling. While fixing things. While calling someone he hasn't spoken to in years. There is love in the air when he's around, and he's the one to claim it. He has storehouses full of it, he has at last discovered. There are sitting there, growing slowly, just waiting to be shared.
If you get to know him, he'll ask for your address. You'll receive something from him, something of value, an example of the harvest. You can discuss it the next time you see each other. Though not admitted, this is the self-love he passes on.
Though he hasn't practiced sex, a 41-year-old virgin has practiced love many times. He has built his life around it. He is visionary and patient. He is the life he wishes to see.
4. He's just like you and me
When you're a virgin, you think about sex. When you're a 41-year-old virgin, you finally develop a sense of humor about it.
You also develop many other things: a sense of wonder, a sense of compassion, a sense of taste. Like a superhero, your tragedy changes you. You build an identity around it that is powerful and sensitive at the same time.
If he's lucky, a 41-year-old virgin leans into his powers and uses them for good. To connect with people. To inspire them. To become one of them and lead them toward a better understanding of themselves.
Being a 41-year-old virgin is painful, but only for a moment. Then, the next moment comes, and one afterward. Days string together and eventually, there is a familiar moment for sex.
A date is planned. A woman is involved. She meets him at a bar, and they compliment each other. They enjoy each other and mentally spar as patrons leave, but they stay seated. As with most attraction, it is gymnastics - Who will tumble? Who will compete? and as the evening continues, there is a moment she lets herself enjoy the thought of him naked, even relishes it while she assumes he has the right credentials, is up to the task, and he tries not to focus on his lack of training, his inexperience, or the times he came so close to coming home.
She studies him. Tries to label him. She realizes, in looks alone, he is just as every other man she's been with. He wonders, Can she tell that I'm a virgin? Is it written on me? There's so much written I forget what shows and what does not.
A 41-year-old virgin is not afraid to lead himself down the path ahead of him. But not by rushing himself. In the end, as he leaves the bar with her, it is perhaps what gives him away the most.
If you want to spot a 41-year-old virgin, remember one thing: he's been every place you've been, except one.
Now, he is moving again. He walks slowly toward someplace new.
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