"How much of this experience do you remember?"
"Oh, all of it! I couldn't forget it if I tried. I did try, a little. But even though a lot of the party seems murky to me, what I did afterwards is too crystal clear."
"And this makes you uncomfortable?"
"I'm a little confused by that. Yes, I'm very uncomfortable. I feel guilty, but…"
"I think I feel guilty for not feeling guilty enough." Taylor raised her eyes, making full eye contact for the first time since the session began. "It was a mistake. I can't let it happen again."
"But you think maybe you want it to, perhaps?"
Taylor nodded, looking down again.
“And you did decide on this plan of action before you got to the party? Do you feel as though you took advantage of him?”
Up to this point, Taylor had appreciated the even, detached manner of her therapist Lisa’s speech. She now detected a note of something more. It wasn’t judgmental, precisely, but it sounded different, with a slight edge, maybe. She replied with care.
“No, I don’t believe I took advantage of him. I mean, I’m new at this. But I’m not a teenager; I was considering his feelings, that is, if he had expressed any deeper ones, or...” Taylor stopped herself. “I knew he was interested in me, but he isn’t interested in serious relationships. He jokes about his brother being tied down. And that’s why I chose him, yes, before the party. Before I had three vodka tonics, before I flirted with him and then brought him home to my apartment. And after I decided it was time to stop, after all these years, being a virgin for someone I’ll never even meet.”
Lisa nodded. “Good. Because you have to own the decision as much as you have to own the consequences of following through on it. Taylor, once you realize you’re ready for mature adult relationships, you get to stop thinking of yourself as a symbol of purity for someone else to take, and start thinking of yourself as a person with sexual desires, with the ability to enjoy a healthful union with a partner who wants to meet your needs just as you’ll want to meet his.”
Taylor sat quietly for a long minute. Then she spoke. “I’m not a symbol anymore, at least.”
“What did it mean to you? Do you believe you’ve given something up? What did you gain?” Lisa’s voice held less tension now, her expression remained placid and receptive as ever.
“It’s been ten years, almost to the day, when I committed myself to this idea. Maybe I shouldn’t feel guilty for breaking my vow to myself, and I know it was silly, but it stood for something important to me. Something I could honor in myself, and be true to.” Taylor stopped, reflecting.
“Why don’t you tell me how it all began?”