Five years, five months and six days. That’s how long I went without sex. Until May 2019 when I hopped on a plane and headed for Belgium to meet my boyfriend, Tom, in person for the very first time after dating online for four years.
Telling people about my five year “fast” was usually met with shock followed by a stream of questions revolving around how I was surviving without sex. Well, self-service was not in short supply and people came to that conclusion pretty quickly.
I could never stomach the whole one-night stand situation. In order to enjoy physical intimacy, I needed an emotional connection with my partner. By the time I was 23, I had been with a total of five men. Although sex was fun, it was not satisfying. I wasn’t planning on being celibate in that first year before I met Tom. But I wasn’t going to continue sharing myself with just anyone.
Like everyone, I struggled with my appearance and self-esteem because I have always been on the chubby side for as long as I can remember and I didn’t like the way I looked. But I liked me. I enjoyed the person I was and I never compromised myself in order to impress or attract. I was a beautiful person on the inside and I was happy with that. Unfortunately, it cast me in the role of the good friend, “sister from another mister” and “one of the guys”. And I got used to it.
In order to enjoy physical intimacy, I needed an emotional connection with my partner.
But everything changed when I met Tom in 2015 on Nearby, an app where you could chat to people nearby or overseas. He lives in Belgium and at the time I was living in Fiji. I was looking to make new friends from other countries, not a relationship. Tom’s profile caught my attention. I thought he was so adorable; black shaggy hair with glasses and he looked so tall.
We talked about everything from our interests, family life, what our childhood was like, and our favourite foods. There were a lot of commonalities and we fell in love after being friends for four months.
He saw right through the fog. I was entirely myself and for him, that was enough. I was certain beyond all doubt that this was the person for me and I couldn’t wait to meet him.
My one year of celibacy turned into five and during that time, I was still being bombarded with questions about my sex life (or lack thereof). “How?” was the main question. Abstinence is not without its struggles. I had survived one year, so I thought going a while longer wouldn’t hurt.
The memory of physical intimacy had begun to fade. I couldn’t remember what it was like to have someone’s soft fingers trace my back. Even the feeling of a simple kiss had escaped me. What did sex feel like again? I definitely knew it didn’t feel the same as masturbation. Had the rules changed since 2013 when I last had sex?
Had the rules changed since 2013 when I last had sex?
I turned to my friends and cousins to help fill in the gaps. Although grateful for their assistance, advice on what I should wear and how I should set the scene was not what I was looking for. I watched porn to study the mechanics of sex just to refresh my memory but it wasn’t the mechanics that was the problem to begin with.
My issue had always been the absence of affection. There is a level of vulnerability you’re exposed to when you open yourself up to someone that way. You’re giving a piece of yourself to this person.
Building my relationship with Tom, we created a safe space to share heavy and delicate experiences we kept to ourselves for so long. It wasn’t easy but we eventually trusted each other whole heartedly. Being children of divorce was something that brought us closer.
In May, when I landed in Brussels, I got on a train and headed for my hotel in Hasselt, a city close to where Tom lived. I checked in, went up to my room, had a hot shower, changed into my PJs, jumped in bed and I put on an episode of Bob’s Burgers. I had arranged for Tom to pick up a key from reception and come straight to the room. My nerves were on and off but I abandoned any sort of expectation of our first meeting being perfect.
Then I heard the door open, I turned around to see a suitcase then the back of a tall, slender man in jeans and a rain jacket. From under the covers I said, “Hey baby,” he turned and smiled at me and my heart felt like it was about to explode. Tom jumped into bed with me and we held each other for what felt like forever. “Hey honey,” he said. I was here with him. No screens, headsets or chat boxes.
Five years, five months and six days was nothing. This was everything.
Laryssa Fiu is a freelance writer.