Sonali Chandra says she’s proud to be a virgin at 35.
She refuses to submit to societal pressures to have sex before marriage.
This is Sonali’s story as told to Jane Ridley.
As said, this essay 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’m 35 and holding 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 scared – although I know first sex can be painful. But “friends with benefits” and casual relationships are not for me. I am looking for my soul mate.
As a modern day first generation Native American, I am proud to uphold the traditional values of the country where my parents grew up. Sex before marriage is taboo in India.
When I was growing up, my parents never talked about sex. My sister and I loved watching Bollywood movies in the 1990s and early 2000s. The films would not feature a kissing couple, but the actors were allowed to hold hands.
When I went to middle school, there were no tank tops, no cleavage, no makeup, and no boy company. I was home for junior and senior prom. The only time I dressed up was for dance nights. I did Indian dance for years and performed in high school talent shows. People would be shocked because I was the class freak wearing glasses and braces.
I lived with my family during my years at Rutgers University where I studied finance. My dad said, “What’s happening on college campus? Kids are sleeping around.”
On the drive home from my graduation in 2009, he told me about his plans for my arranged marriage. I was 23 and I thought, ‘You’ve never allowed me to have a boyfriend.’ He said, ‘I’ll find you someone.
I said no thanks
My father wanted me to put my dating profile on Indian descent singles websites
Dad decided to find someone in America who had strong Native American values. He tried to introduce me to doctors and lawyers in our home state of New Jersey. But I never met them. I didn’t trust my father to choose a husband for me. He would want someone like himself. My parents’ marriage – which was arranged in India – was a challenge.
I didn’t want to post my profile on places like Bengalimatrimony.com. I knew that even if I didn’t feel anything for the person, it would only lead to increased pressure to make things work.
I hated the idea of instant gratification. It was still culture shock in Manhattan to this day, 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 to do was put me to bed. If they used me for sex and left the next morning I would have been embarrassed.
I had my first kiss at the age of 26 and it felt amazing. It didn’t go any further. I guess the romance didn’t go anywhere because of my beliefs.
Four years ago I met another guy that I really liked. One evening we were having 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’s always there for you, but I can’t be there for you.” After that, he didn’t answer my calls or texts. It reinforced my theory that I couldn’t have sex with a guy who could ghost 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’m done with these games – I’m going to marry my career.”
I’ve dated nine guys in my life. Everyone turned out to be an idiot. They asked me out because of my looks, but after I told them about my high standards and morals, they left. Three of them suggested me because they needed a visa to work in America. I found it quite funny and it fueled the stand up comedy I’ve been doing since January. I make fun of the fact that I’m millennial and still a virgin. I joke that in India they say, “How you dance shows how you make love.” I’m an excellent dancer, so I know I’m going to do great.
Still, I long for company. I cried tears of loneliness. I’ve spent every birthday and holiday alone for the past ten years. I wonder if there will ever be marriage because men are so afraid of my values. I don’t really understand why. When I was growing up, virginity was a virtue.
My father is ashamed that I still don’t have a husband. We had a family reunion at my grandmother’s funeral in New Delhi in March. Dad lied to everyone and said I got married in the US.
People like me are teased and ostracized, but I want to inspire and motivate not only young women but also men. They shouldn’t have to submit to an arranged marriage — or societal pressures to have sex.
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