Though much of my recreation time was spent at gay clubs and napping in my mom's lawn chairs, I did occasionally still think about dating and heterosexual men.
My ever-mysterious, bum-shaking coworker Jay was still charming as ever and a couple of guys from church were giving me sideways glances now and then. But I couldn't give them proper focus. I've always been the kind of girl who worried about boys a little too much, but at this time in my life there was so much going on in my head that there just wasn't room for extra thoughts about them. I was still coming to terms with the new person I was becoming (or discovering?), which was simultaneously amazing and horrifying.
Say what you want about Taylor Swift, but her description of being "happy, free, confused and lonely at the same time" from the hit song 22 is SPOT ON.
So my time spent with men was a pretty mixed bag. I hung out with Ethan a lot. Once or twice, I went over to Jay's apartment. On one such evening we ended up putting in a movie that he slept through. When it ended, I snuck out quietly. The sideways glances from boys in church turned into a couple of fun game nights with light snuggling. But overall I was without a plan, without a clue and without tons of prior experience to guide me.
Up until this point, I had only kissed two people. One was Alex (my high school dreamboat - there's a series of blog posts on here somewhere all about him) and the other was Jared, my first foray into girlfriend-hood. Jared and I dated for about 6 months before we both got confused and angsty and decided to not date anymore.
That's it. Just the two. When I would have late night gossip sessions with my roommates in college, the talk of the town wasn't how many men you'd slept with - for most of us that number was a big zero - but how many boys you'd kissed. We would giggle endlessly as one girl would brag of her 12, while others were still in the single digits. Sophomoric? Perhaps. Precious memories? Mos def.
I wasn't sitting pretty at 2 because I didn't want to kiss more boys. I certainly wouldn't have minded being a bit more lip-promiscuous, but I never had the sexual confidence that some of my peers flouted as they went about breaking hearts and collecting smooches. Their laundry list of ex-boyfriends always sounded so cosmopolitan. Plus there was the ever-beguiling concept of the NCMO. I never could quite figure out how this worked.
A NCMO (pronounced NICK-mo), for those of you who never attended BYU, is a Non-Committal-Make-Out. It means you're smooching someone you have no intention of dating. I first encountered this concept as a freshman.
Asia: You guys made out?
NCMO girl: Yeah, he just texted me and we met up.
Asia: So is he your boyfriend now?
NCMO girl: Ew, no.
Hearing stories like this perplexed me to no end. It was like trying to put a square peg into a round hole. How on earth could this be a thing?
Flash forward to the new, bar-singing, weight-losing, 22 year-old version of me. I wasn't suddenly a vixen with an appetite for carnality (I was still awkward, Mormon me), but I was more confident than I had ever been and was starting to realize more and more that I was at the helm of my romantic experiences.
This realization came to a head one night at the gay bar with Ethan. We had run into a boy that we both knew from high school. He was cute, he was fun, he was straight, and he was looking at me. We'll call him Robert. Apparently it's not crazy uncommon for straight people to hang out in gay bars (who was I to judge?). Plus he was bffs with the bartender or something. He asked me lots of insightful questions about what I'd been up to and had a nice, genuine smile in response to my fascinating responses.
The following week, he was there again. Our friendly chats began to turn into flirty chats as he offered to buy me a bottle of water (my beverage choices never got much more exotic than that). Then, as per the norm, a David Guetta song came on that Ethan and I could not resist. We headed to the tinsel-rimmed dance floor and shook our stuff. I motioned for Robert to join us.
The fun dancing turned into flirty dancing and before I knew it, Ethan was no longer in the picture and Robert and I were dancing pretty close (not dirty dancing close - I'm not a fan of the bump-and-grind). Then, a second later he was kissing me. I'll admit that it wasn't altogether a surprise, but it definitely wasn't anything I had experienced before. It was a NCMO. I was NCMO-ing in a gay bar. Take that, BYU gossip parties!
After that, Robert texted me once or twice, but we lived on such separate planets that I think we both knew the depth of our connection would have to subsist of a few minutes of smooching in a gay bar.
The next boy I would kiss after that would be my husband.
Looking back at all the gossip sessions where I would marvel at the girls with high numbers and wonder what was wrong with my lips makes me want to go back in time and give myself a hug.
"Don't worry." I would tell 19-year-old me. "It's perfectly alright not to kiss all the boys. Just wait. You'll have a NCMO. You'll kiss a girl. Then there'll be Austin. You don't need to kiss 100 frogs before you find your prince. Remember how Mom always says, 'You just need one?' Well, she's right, as usual."