In one of his monologues, Garrison Keillor describes the sudden efforts of his family, when confronted with unexpected guests, to give "the appearance of a neat home" by shoveling junk under beds and into closets before the door is opened. "I believe in that," he says, "I believe in pretense. ... I believe there are times you have to look reality in the eye and deny it."
He's right, of course. There's always something in life that you know is pure crap, but you have to call it roses, at least until you can hold your nose and get past it. This simple, practical denial seems to be the idea behind "reclaimed virginity," a quirky little trend that has blossomed in recent years like so many cherry trees. The thrust is this: You had sex but regret it; and so, by deciding not to have sex again until marriage, you can claim a mental purity and hang on to your (alleged) virginity like a sci-fi geek who never unwraps his or her Xena action figures, figuring their value will increase with time. Teens naturally are the target of the pro-virgin movement, despite the fact that if these same kids purchased a car without test driving it, their parents would kick themselves for raising idiots.
Practice makes perfect
This is not to say I am opposed to virgins. Far from it. Practicing virgins cut down the competition so that old spider women like me have a cleaner shot. You also acquire bragging rights when there's something you've never done. "I've never been on an airplane," you say, and people reply, "Really?" agog over your inexperience. There's fun in that attention.
Sex can be emotionally tiresome and physically dangerous if you are kept ignorant of how to care for yourself. It's also the most fun you can have while you're stuck in this life with a biological drive stronger than the need to eat, sleep or repeat all the good lines from a movie the minute it's over.
It's all well and good to want the first time to be a big deal, or at least to have it happen with someone you won't later on be mortified to admit you even knew. But the reason people describe things as "better than sex" when they want to convey something powerful is because that's the pinnacle, the yardstick by which all other pleasures can be measured. Plus, it's cheaper and more easily accessible than airplane flights.
Some might say that staying a virgin is looking reality in the eye and denying it. Looking reality in the eye and denying it, though, seems like the very definition of reclaiming your virginity: You consider the sex you've had and decide it was a mistake. Which means some of us qualify as reclaimed virgins by accident. Anyway, you decide that none of the sex you've had was any good, persuade yourself or others that it never happened, shove the cork back in the bottle, and -- bang! -- the raisin goes back to being a grape.
I've decided that, since it thumbs its nose at reality (and I'm all in favor of that), the movement is a good idea. Not that I want to reclaim my virginity. But I figure that if you can reclaim it the first time, you can reclaim it lots more times as well. If that's the case, I'm sure we can all think of a few episodes we'd like to strike off our lists. Maybe a couple of those one-too-many-drinks moments; maybe a time when you emerged in some slinky outfit you really should have bought in your own size; maybe some time you recklessly said, "I love you," when what you meant was, "I love this."
And as long as we're playing It Never Happened, maybe the concept gives us carte blanche to reclaim other things. I can think of some mid-'80s haircuts that I'd like to disavow without having to kill any of the people who have the photos. I'd like to reclaim about 45,000 drinks, mainly those that were claimed by someone's flower beds or the bathroom sink before currently being reclaimed by me.
I'd like to reclaim all the time I've wasted sitting on the hood, waiting for AAA to come because I thought it was more pressing to buy clothes than to spring for car repairs. Mostly I'd like to reclaim any time I spent doing something that seemed really moronic because someone said, "Oh, come on, it'll be fun" (probably the reason a lot of people want to reclaim their virginity), and any time I spent making extra work for myself when I could have been having a good time.
In sum, I think the idea of reclaiming all kinds of activities, not just sex, is preferable. In taking back many of the aforementioned, I've already added a good two years to my life. If we just reclaim our virginity, we are probably only getting back about 20 minutes. If you're going to look reality in the eye and deny it, might as well do it with a bang.