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A former high school classmate sought me out for lunch to discuss some of the things we enjoyed doing we enjoyed while dating back in 1964.

The conversation started with her bringing up the 1957 Ford I owned in high school.

She asked: “Remember our times in the back seat of that Ford?”

“Yes,” I replied. “I remember them fondly.”

“I don’t,” she said. “It caused me some problems.”

“I’m sorry you feel that way,” I said. “I felt it was consensual.”

“It was,” she said.  “You didn’t force me, but I was a virgin before and sleeping with you brought an end to a marriage I hoped would occur later on.  A guy I met in college proposed but also said he assumed I was still a virgin.  When I admitted I was not, he dumped me.”

“I’m sorry,” I said again.  “As I recall, the night it happened sort of evolved.”

“It did and I enjoyed our times together but I also wondered after we stopped dating if you were just adding notches to your bedpost.”

I assured her I wasn’t.  We continued dating for two months after “that night” in my car and we continued to explore a physical and loving side of male-female relationships.

Of course, we were young.  I had received my first drink of booze, a glass of Cleophus Sowers’ moonshine, and my initiation into sexual activities from an older woman who taught me a lot during our time together. She provided my sexual education.

As a single young man with an apartment in Roanoke during my reporting days at The Roanoke Times, I put that education to work and enjoyed intimate relationships with a number of women.  The Times office on Campbell Avenue sat across the street of the Ponce de Leon Hotel, which had a bar in the basement that was a favorite for reporters and a watering hole for Piedmont Airlines stewardesses on “layovers” from flights to and from Roanoke.  They taught me a lot too.

Virginity was not a consideration when I married the first time in 1969.  My first wife and I lived together for several months before tying the knot. Our shared lack of virginity before marriage did not cause our divorce. Other issues did after we moved to Alton, Illinois, and divorced in 1973.

As a divorced man in what was then called “the swinging 70s,” I enjoyed the company of an enviable number of women over a six-year period of debauchery without shame or regret.

The Amy came into my life. We hope to celebrate our 40th anniversary of marriage in December.  We came into our marriage after first ones that failed, so virginity wasn’t an issue for either of  us.  We lived together before tying the knot.

Amy knew my reputation as a “womanizer” and we discussed it before we decided to spend the rest of our lives together as man and wife.  Few expected our marriage to last, not with my history and fondness for sexual activities with different partners.  We fooled them, and ourselves.

For some, however, being chaste is still an issue.

Writes Jena Jonatis in The Washington Post:

The decision to wait to have sex until my wedding night was entirely my own. Sure, growing up in a Christian household — with a mother who encouraged such a choice — had something to do with it. But my decision was not for God, not for my mother or father, not even for my someday-husband. It was for me.

Yet may couples now remain single and have children with their unmarried partners.  Writes Stephanie Coontz , director of research at the Council on Contemporary Families and author of “The Way We Never Were: American Families and the Nostalgia Trap:

With the rise of cohabitation, most marriages now involve people already living together. On the other hand, many single individuals bear and raise children by themselves. Prolonged solo living is on the rise even among those who will eventually marry, and some researchers believe that a quarter of today’s young adults will reach their mid-40s without ever having married.

During my single time in Alton, IL, I had brief flings with two married women who said they were virgins when they married and now sought a relationship outside of those marriages to “see what they had missed.”

Both divorced their husbands afterwards.  One later told me she had “an active social life” as a divorced woman until the met someone who now is her husband.

“Thank you,” she said.  “I needed what happened between us to bring me a new perspective I needed.”

Should I have avoided intimate encounters with those married women?

Of course.

Am I sorry I did?  No.  Not everyone views sex with a partner outside of marriage as sinful.

“I am not ashamed of my sexual experiences,” says Alicia Cohn, a writer in Denver.

That is a revolutionary statement for an unmarried woman raised in evangelical churches at the height of “purity culture,” when the definitive book for teens to read was Josh Harris’s ‘I Kissed Dating Goodbye.’ I’ve had sex, and I’m not married, and I am not ashamed.

In February 2017, Cohn announced, in a piece in The Washington Post, that she had turned to abstinence, for the time being, after enjoying sex in her relationships.

“I am once again choosing abstinence,” she wrote.  “My church taught me to fear my own desires. By re-choosing abstinence, I am, at long last, learning instead to balance them.”

Has it worked?

She hasn’t said but she has said whatever happens matters if OK as long as she is comfortable with herself.

I also now a monogamous married man.  We hope to remain together for the rest of our lives.  My past life as a womanizer is exactly that — past.

I got to know a number of sharp, intelligent and savvy women during my womanizing days.  Several stay close friends.  Each has a special place in my life and heart.

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