Sonali Chandra says she is proud to be a virgin at the age of 35.
She refuses to submit to societal pressure to have sex before marriage.
This is Sonali’s story, as told to Jane Ridley.
This essay narrated is based on a conversation with Sonali Chandra. It has been edited for length and clarity.
My colleagues will often talk about their various connections. I never join the conversation.
I am 35 and hold my V card with pride. I need a ring on my finger before I lose it to my only one. I would be devastated if I betrayed my principles and had a one-night stand.
It’s not because I’m afraid – although I know that first time sex can be painful. But “friends with benefits” and no strings attached relationships are not for me. I’m looking for my soulmate.
As a modern, first-generation Indian American, I am happy to uphold the traditional values of the country where my parents grew up. Sex before marriage is taboo in India.
Mom and Dad never talked about sex when I was growing up. My sister and I loved watching Bollywood movies in the 1990s and early 2000s. The films would not show a couple kissing, but the actors were allowed to hold hands.
There were no tank tops, no cleavage, no make-up and no socializing with boys when I was in secondary school. I was at home for the junior and senior ball. The only time I dressed up was for dance concerts. I had been doing Indian dance for years and performed in high school talent shows. People would be shocked because I was the class nerd who wore glasses and braces.
I lived with my family during my years at Rutgers University, where I majored in finance. My dad said, “What happens in colleges? Kids sleep around.”
He told me about his plans for my arranged marriage on the drive home from graduation in 2009. I was 23 and thought, “You never even let me have a girlfriend.” He said, “I’ll find you someone. There are all kinds of Indian matrimonial sites online.”
I said no thanks.
My father wanted me to post my dating profile on sites for singles of Indian origin
Father decided to find someone in America who had strong Indian values. He would try to introduce me to doctors and lawyers in our home state of New Jersey. But I have never met them. I didn’t trust my father to choose a husband for me. He wants someone who is like himself. My parents’ marriage – which was arranged in India – was challenging.
I didn’t want to post my profile on places like Bengalimatrimony.com. I knew that would only lead to more pressure to make things work, even though I didn’t feel anything for the person.
I hated the idea of instant gratification. It was a culture shock to date in Manhattan, where I worked on Wall Street in my mid to late 20s. Guys would develop an attraction to me, but I would realize that all they wanted was to take me to bed. If they were to use me for sex and disappear the next morning, I would be horrified.
I had my first kiss at the age of 26 and it felt amazing. Things didn’t go any further. I think the romance went nowhere because of my faith.
Four years ago I met another guy I really liked. One night we had a drink in a hotel bar and he wanted to rent a room. I told him it would be my first time. He said, “You deserve someone who will always be there for you, but I can’t be there for you.” He didn’t return my phone calls or texts after that. It reinforced my theory that I couldn’t have sex with a guy who could prank me.
All 9 men I’ve dated in my life have turned out to be jerks
In 2017 I moved to Los Angeles, where I work as a front desk manager at an Equinox gym. I said to myself, “I’ve had enough of these games – I’m going to marry my career.”
I’ve been with nine guys in my life. Each has proven to be a jerk. They asked me out based on my looks, but after I told them about my high standards and morals, they disappeared. Three of them proposed to me because they needed visas to work in America. I thought it was pretty funny and it gave me material for the stand-up comedy I’ve been doing since January. I wonder about the fact that I’m a millennial and still a virgin. I would joke that in India they say, “How you dance shows how you love.” I’m an excellent dancer so I know I’ll do well.
Still, I want company. I have cried tears of loneliness. I have spent every birthday and holiday for the past decade on my own. I wonder if marriage will ever happen because men are so afraid of my values. I don’t really understand why. When I was growing up, virginity was a virtue.
As for my father, he is ashamed that I still don’t have a husband. We had a family reunion in March at my grandmother’s funeral in New Delhi. Dad lied to everyone and said I got married in the US.
People like me are teased and ostracized, but I would like to inspire and motivate not only young women, but also men. They should not have to submit to an arranged marriage – or social pressure to have sex.
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