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August 29, 2018

Unraveling Shame: Confessions of a 34-year-old Virgin.

I’m 34-years-old, I’ve never been in a relationship, and I’ve never had sex.

I’ve never even come close to it.

The last time I kissed a guy, I was 21-years-old—bringing my overall kissing expertise up to three times, with two men.

In a world constantly blasting us with images, stories, and fantasies about sex and relationships, my journey hasn’t been easy.

Understanding how I got here, and how to free myself from this burden, this shame, is my hope.

In my 20s, I was in love with a guy. The one time that we kissed, the one time it could have been possible to start exploring each other in a more physically intimate way, I froze. I was completely petrified.

Far from feeling the desire that everyone else seems to find natural, all I felt was terror—so I shut it down. I shut myself down. The walls of my heart sealed up and I can’t even say that I know exactly what I was protecting myself from.

For the past decade, I’ve been carrying this awful shame of failure and an inability to heal around me like a heavy cloak.

I’m 34-years-old, single, and a virgin. 

It doesn’t feel like I’ve chosen to cut myself off from romantic love, although I know subconsciously I must have.

Sometimes I think there’s something fundamentally unlovable, unworthy, or undesirable about me. I know this isn’t really true, but it’s a thought I can’t shake off so easily.

Other times, in an effort to rally, I tell myself that I don’t need anyone or anything, that it’s so much better to be alone because look at how complicated relationships are.

Right. And endless inner turmoil is so easy?

One of the more painful and confusing parts of this is that for as long as I can remember, I’ve had a heightened fear of rape, physical abuse, and violence haunting me. And along with the agony of trying to work through my intimacy concerns, I’ve also felt guilt—but as far as I know and can recall, I’ve never been in an abusive situation.

So why this terror? Why this self-victimization? There are so many people who have survived actual violence—how could I ever share my own disembodied “imaginary” fears?

For these reasons, I’ve kept silent.

It’s taken me years to unpack and embrace this deeply-traumatized aspect of myself. The trauma could have come from a number of places: from childhood, genetic lineage, past lives, social conditioning, misaligned empathy, or other unknown sources. In a way, that doesn’t even matter anymore—I’ve done my healing work, and now it’s time to move forward.

What’s important now is to recognize where I’m re-traumatizing myself.

Every time I judge myself for feeling afraid, and every time I talk myself out of expressing my vulnerability, I drive that wedge in deeper. It’s as though I’m telling myself that I should feel ashamed for being exactly as I am.

One of the qualities I admire most in people is their uniqueness. I love it when others dare to look different, act different, or sound different. When they dare to be themselves, I’m in awe of their fearlessness.

I am not fearless. No, I’m fear-full.

But now I’m cultivating my courage.

I’ve thought about writing this article for years, and have always managed to come up with too many convincing reasons not to expose myself—and this shame I carry.

I’ve never openly admitted that there have only been a handful of men that I’ve even been physically attracted to in my entire life.

I’ve never shared that I started exploring my sexuality through gay male fantasy novels because, for whatever reason, I just couldn’t connect with female characters.

I’ve also not confessed that I felt very fearful about launching the next evolution of my work, called Voice Tantra, because I worried that people might associate tantra with sex—and think I was a fraud. 

My usual operating mode until now has been to use the full strength of my thoughts and beliefs to keep me safe. Contained. Controlled. So, breaking free from this pattern feels a little bit like a part of me is dying.

It’s only through the grace of compassion and the loving kindness that I’ve developed for myself on my spiritual path that I’m able to now step out of this prison of shame.

I wish that I’d been able to read something like this years ago because I’ve often felt so alone in my wounded places.

This is another reason I’m writing now:

Maybe you have something in your life you have felt deeply ashamed about and unable to talk through.

Maybe you’ve been haunted by your own fears and feel stuck in a loop you can’t find your way out of. 

Maybe you have been single for ages and feel a heavy load of frustration and despair about it.

You are not alone.

I don’t know the words that will set you free. I wish I did, my friend.

But maybe it’s time to stop hiding together.

Maybe it’s okay to let ourselves feel, love, and ultimately show our true selves.

Last year I met a man and for the first time ever, I felt my body completely open up in his presence. I felt my heart begin to find its wings. It was only a brief encounter and I don’t think I made quite the impact on him as he did on me—but he showed me, or rather inspired me to show myself, that healing is happening. That there is a possibility of sharing who I am with someone in ways that feel beautiful, and organic—and safe.

I don’t know what my future holds, if I’ll find my man, or if I’ll ever completely move past my longing to be in a loving partnership when I’m not. But I do know that I’m ready to be fearless. To find my courage. To shatter the boundaries of who I think I am.

To become shameless.

Please, please join me if you need to do this for yourself too.

We’ll do it together—one word at a time.

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Ana Cristina Caelen

author: Ana Cristina Caelen

Image: Claudia Soraya / Unsplash

Editor: Julie Balsiger