We had been kissing for about 15 minutes when Michael’s hand gripped my inner thigh, and I blurted it out before I could think to stop it:  “I’m celibate,” I said in a half moan, half whisper. His face immediately dropped and he put his hands up slowly as if I were a police officer screaming, “Freeze!”

I won’t share with you the exchange that ensued after that.  Just know it was brimming with awkward giggles and ended with him leaving my apartment a lot sooner than he probably expected.

Michael and I exchanged short phone calls and text messages after what I now refer to with my friends as “the incident,” but it became evident that my celibacy was a deal breaker for him … which got me to thinking: Is there ever a right way to tell the modern man that you’re not down to get freaky?

The choice to be celibate has never been an easy one, nor is it popular among the majority of my friends. I’m 26. I’m attractive. I’m single in New York City. By most standards, there’s no question that I should be getting it in. But after hearing horror stories about STDs, baby scares, and men who told elaborate lies just to get into some panties, I decided that celibacy is what’s best for me – whether the men I date like it or not.

Now, when I initially tell a man I’m celibate, I’m searching his face for one of two possible reactions (aside from the obvious shock):

  1. Disappointment.  Normally, disappointment is a bad thing.  But when I hit a man with the big C (not that one, but this one) and he seems a little let down, I’m kind of glad.  It means that he’s attracted to me enough that his mind wandered on down into the gutter a few times.  I appreciate that.  I mean, I don’t intend to be celibate forever.
  1. Relief.  If he seems relieved that he’s not going to take a dive into my pool of womanly goodness, I’m immediately offended.  His relief means that he never intended to have sex with me anyway. Either that or he’s not good at sex. Or he has some kind of body deformity that can only be seen when he’s naked. Or, maybe he’s celibate, too? A girl can dream.

Either response could lead to that ever-dreaded outcome:  me going back to spending Friday nights alone in my pajamas, sipping exotic tea, and watching 20/20.

But to prevent lonely weekends from happening, it’s important to decide when it’s the right time to tell the guy I like that we won’t – not for now at least – be doing the horizontal polka.

My friends say strike early.  A man should know what he’s dealing with from the start and decide from there whether to go forward. I tend to disagree with this theory.  You don’t go into a first date discussing your sex life, do you? (Well, I guess sometimes. But that’s not the point.)  First dates and interactions are awkward enough without the added pressure of discussing whether the two of us will have sex.

I’m of the opinion that I should win my man over with my infinite dopeness and wait to see if he wins me over, too. Then, once I know we’re feeling each other, I can drop the celibacy bomb and let him decide whether he’s OK with sacrificing sex for the chance to kick it with a winner.

I can hear my best friend now, “You’re not realistic, Nadia!” I get it.  Abstinence is not “cool.”   And, if I’m being honest, most days I feel kind of like I’m going against nature.  Horny still happens, even to us celibate folks.

But I’m not saying that I’ll never have sex.  I’m just saying that the man I relinquish my C-card to should be willing to show me that he deserves it. I’m not waiting for a marriage proposal. I’m waiting for someone who will do what few men in our age range can: Be patient and court me. It’s as simple and as complicated as that.

And until then I will continue to break into cold sweats mid-date, wondering, “How do I tell him?”

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  • Reign

    It’s a little late after publishing this article but, I’m glad I read it. I’ve recently made a vow of celibacy for similar reasons and its as if you read my mind. We are around the same age and in the same geographic location. It’s a tough decision to make but, I would say “you’re worth it.” It’s what I tell myself and if you’re looking for someone of substance then I believe it’s the right thing to do. My friends are similar to your friends in their opinions, but I’m sure that setting an example was never an easy thing for anyone to do. I even brought myself a beautiful ring as a reminder that “if he likes it then he better put a ring on it!” It cost me a pretty penny too, but if I’m willing to invest in what’s best for me then whomever I meet and decided to partner with should be willing to do the same! How’s everything going thus far?
    Best wishes,

  • AmbitiousAnise

    I guess I am going to be one of the few women that disagree with the authors actions (although not her premise). The fact that she is going out on dates, inviting men back to her apartment, busting slobs for 15 minutes obviously arousing “Michael” only to then, at that moment, tell him she is celibate is…for lack of a better term… the grand daddy of all mixed signals. Yes, a woman has a right to choose not to have sex. No, a woman does not have to reveal her choice on the first date. But, in this instance it way past a reasonable time frame within which to inform him. As women we ask, beg, even demand that men are upfront with us. If this is your chosen path, albeit admirable, give him the same courtesy of telling him before he is sitting in your living room, on your couch, and his manhood is standing at attention! I’m sorry but the cat should have been let out of the bag before then. At least from what she reveals, the author and I share many similarities; I am a 26 year old female, an attorney, I live in a vibrant urban city (SF), I’m attractive, and … I’m celibate. But where we differ is in actions. I’m not actively dating right now because I am embracing the premise of becoming the reflection of the man that I pray for as well as I have a lot of things taking of in my professional life that require my undivided attention and focus. But when I was dating and celibate, I made it a point to tell them either on the 3rd or 4th date at the latest. I do not want to waste their time but most importantly, I do not want to waste mines.