So I’m coming off of this pretty terrible experience, totally frustrated and angry (and, let’s be real, sad) at men being very disappointing. But furthermore, feeling like if I stick to my guns about respect and physical boundaries, I’ll never be intimate with a man again (this is when I really considered choosing lesbianism. This is also when I again confirmed, ya can’t choose to be gay). I’m mentally wrestling with morality and reality, all while singing Taylor Swift parodies for 3 year olds, when a very unexpected group of employees arrived at Storyland...The Internationals.
The park manager had mentioned the group of international employees was arriving later in the Summer, but I guess I'd forgotten during my misogyny lightbulb crisis. Needless to say, I was absolutely ELATED to see this dark haired, bearded European boy walking towards me later that week. I stopped him to say hello, and when he greeted me with that adorable accent, I could hardly contain myself.
“I am (dramatic pause) *Name omitted for anonymity but if you’ve had a conversation with me in at least the last 5 months you probs know it*”
He reminded me of Zorro. His introduction was so regal I thought he might actually bow and kiss my hand. He didn’t, but sometimes I still imagine this happening. I think he just smiled super big and told me he was from Romania (Romania? Where is that? Rome’s neighbor? Rome isn’t a country? Oh I’m an idiot but get away with it because English is my first language and I have an American passport? Got it). I suggested we (the cast) get together at some point and hang, enduring whatever language barrier for the sake of attempted flirting. They said some form of “absolutely” and I was on my way.
GAME CHANGER. I wasn't going to be in stuck in the mountains alone with only gay boys all summer! Wait, is this a good thing?
Passport to Paris Slash Eastern Europe I Guess
I really wanted to hang out with the international kids because
1. The guys were super hot, and
2. How many acting gigs are you given the opportunity to hang out with SEVENTY OTHER PEOPLE BESIDES YOUR CAST? What a gift from the good Lord (stage acting is a particularly weird career where you are stuck with the same people for a long period of time living, working, breathing the same fucking air. And as much as I could enjoy saying hi at an audition in the future, I start to really hate them for just existing at some point during the contract). Finally,
3. Americans can be real assholes to foreign employees. I was determined to make all those kids feel welcome and have some informed conversations about the 2016 election. I know, I’m a saint.
So eventually, the cast gathered with seventy something students from Turkey, Romania, China, Taiwan, Azerbaijan (still the most fun to say), Nigeria, Poland, The Ukraine, Slovakia (am I missing any?) to play a game where one person stands with their back turned to many, gets hit super hard (or soft) on the hand, and has to guess who hit them. They get hit until they guess right. Foreigners are really great at ice breakers that don’t require words. Who knew? After all of our hands were bruised from that actually really fun hand-hitting game, I got to have conversations with a few students. A lot of questions about Trump and an argument about gay rights with a Nigerian later, Zorro asked if he could walk me back to the cast house.
Oh. Em. Gee. Walk me back to my house? Because it’s dark out and bears are a real fear in New Hampshire? Are we in the 1950’s? Yes, sweep me away, Zorro!
And you know what? He didn’t even try to kiss me! He just told me he looked forward to seeing me tomorrow, thanks for coming to hang with everyone and “To be so patient with ours English.” Lol you’re very cute--I can deal with jumbled pronouns.
I went to bed that night so little girl giddy. He didn’t even ask to come in? He didn’t assume I would sleep with him because we sat next to each other on a couch for 20 minutes? Can I marry this guy now or what.
I loved the anticipation of wanting to see him the next day, the next break, the next meet and greet where he would wink at me. “Am I in middle school? WHY DID I EVER STOP DOING THIS?” Harmless flirting and hard crushing are THE BEST.
He didn’t assume I would sleep with him because we sat next to each other on a couch for 20 minutes? Can I marry this guy now or what.
Divinely Orchestrated Irony
I feel like I’m on a damn episode of Bug Juice falling for some dude at Summer Camp when Zorro asks if I’d like to go on a walk that evening. I agreed despite my very real fear of bears, plus he assured I’d be protected. Which of course was very sweet, but he wasn’t actually Zorro and he didn’t actually have a sword. He was just an Eastern European in skinny jeans, and that bear would eat both of us.
The conversation that ensued was very...funny. It was mostly him saying things, pausing to say “Ummm...it is like...ummmm...you understand?” Then me explaining something and asking if that’s what he meant. It was a really loooooooong drawn out version of this
Zorro: To me, my religion is very important
Me: Oh what religion is that?
Zorro: Romanian Orthodox.
Me: Orthodox, nice! The OG Christians! The Catholics think they’re the originals, but really y’all came first. Yay Byzantine art!
Zorro: Haha. Yeah.
Me: *I really hope that impressed him*
Zorro: So it is this thing about me, that I am not having sex. And I want you to know because I know I am the weird one here, not you. And I just want to make sure you’re okay with this part before we continue...to like each other more.
Me: … Did you just tell me you’re a virgin and you’re not gunna sleep with me? And you just want to make sure that’s cool before we continue hanging out?
And it wasn't his virginity announcement that shocked me (okay. That shocked me a little). It was how he told me. And so soon! The content of his statements were enough for me to respond with
Me: Hahahahaha. Oh I'm not laughing at you. It's just...It's a long story, but basically I'm no stranger to making sexual commitments due to religious discipline so, yes. We can absolutely "like each other more."
This agreement was followed by a super sexy, romantic first kiss/makeout session, which was great affirmation that Zorro wasn't one of those hyper celibate Christian-weirdos. He probably just didn't have sex but like third base was cool. *praise hand emoji*
And then I fell totally in love with a Romanian Orthodox virgin. Because #irony
Thank God for Real Men
So let’s just break this down for a second, shall we? Zorro and I are hanging out for the second time ever, when he
1. Clearly states his intentions and boundaries, so there’s no confusion
2. Is super upfront because withholding information like that from me would be pretty rude
3. Didn’t shame me for not having the same sexual experiences as him, was just all “these are mine, hope that’s cool with you.”
4. Said all of this IN HIS SECOND LANGUAGE
This, my friends, is called having balls of integrity. American men everywhere, take notes.
Look, I was no stranger to the Walk of Purity/DTR custom. I grew up in Branson after all, and I’d been to The Landing enough during Summertime to witness many-a Kanakuk 2-4 couple walks. Evangelicals teach those who are interested in one another to take things way too seriously by discussing the direction of their relationship before it even starts, complete with a very clear outline of just how far they’re willing to go sexually (Up the shirt? Rubbing outside of clothing? What if I cum...in my pants? Still pure and less messy, right?). Luckily, I had left that custom far behind for the dating scene in New York where there were no rules about literally anything (Which is also totally infuriating).
But this wasn’t exactly the familiar Walk of Purity from my past (i.e., establishing who was more regretful of what sexual activity, agreement on “Biblical” gender roles in the relationship, complete with a salvation story swap). It was simply a really grown up discussion to avoid confusion in a romantic situation, initiated by a man. I was floored.
This, my friends, is called having balls of integrity. American men everywhere, take notes.
First of all, Zorro wasn’t talking to me about marriage and making sure our “dating relationship honors his future wife, whomever she may be.” He was like “Hey I like you and I want to keep liking you, chill?” I know you won’t believe me, but turns out men are mostly terrible at communicating anything, especially how they feel. So, a lot of my dating/engaging with men in New York left me super in the dark and insecure about what was going on. “Does he like me? Are we dating? Are we just going on dates? Is there a difference? We’ve been dating for 6 months and I want to ask if he’s sleeping with anyone else but I don’t want to seem controlling.” Though I hated to admit it, sometimes I longed for the clarity of over-religious guys and the defining of their “intentions.” At least I knew what the hell was going on back in those days! With Zorro I felt like I’d finally experienced a happy medium Purity Walk/DTR called “being an adult with basic courtesy.”
Second of all, admitting something like you’re a virgin over the age of 16 to a woman four years older than you, in a language you don’t speak super well, could potentially be a little, uh, TERRIFYING. But when I asked Zorro if he was at all nervous to have that conversation he was like
“No not really. I am thinking, ‘I really like this girl and I hope she will like me still. But it would be pretty rude not to tell her this thing. She’s older than me and probably more experienced, so I don’t want to keep her from having a good summer if this isn’t what she wants. And this to me, was more important than maybe you thinking I am weird or something.” Yeah, wow. Honesty for the sake of not leading someone into a situation they might not want to be in? Novel idea. For example, if you (guy) aren’t “Looking for anything serious”, maybe lead with that? Don’t wait until after we (women) like you a whole bunch and you’ve gotten to have great sex for three months. Dick.
Though I hated to admit it, sometimes I longed for the clarity of over-religious guys and the defining of their “intentions.” At least I knew what the hell was going on back in those days!
Third of all, and this is the thing that really prompted my ironic panty drop, Zorro did not have this conversation to decide if I was pure enough for his standards. I had never ever had a conversation about sexual boundaries where I didn’t feel like my response had to measure up to some impossible sexual standard complete with a declaration of regret. “Yeah, I made out with this guy when I was 16, but I totally regret it. I should have saved kissing for you.” But Zorro wasn’t shaming me, he was just like “I know I’m the weird one, not you.” He never even brought up my sexual history because he legitimately didn’t care! Whatta man.
Furthermore, him introducing the idea of not having sex meant that he was actually interested in getting to know me. Not that men who are sexually active aren’t ever interested in a woman’s person before her vagina. But at this point in my life, I think I actually needed to take sex out of the equation to be sure. I was sick of being a means to an end, a body to fulfill some sexual obligation by the third date. I needed to be seen. I needed to be known. And I don’t think I had the strength or awareness to navigate "temporary celibacy for the sake of real intimacy" on my own. Zorro leading the way was exactly what I didn't know I needed.
Unbeknownst to Zorro, he displayed enough character in one conversation to assure me he’d be a fantastic human to spend the Summer loving. And I was right. Our relationship was such an exceptionally honest, joyful, romantic one.
So, I guess to answer my own question, all the cowboys went to Romania. And one of them showed up as an Orthodox virgin in New Hampshire to teach a recovering purity ring wearer of the Evangelical Midwest about the importance of emotional intimacy preceding physical intimacy. What’s that thing my mom was right about? God works in mysterious ways? Yeah. Damn.