02/11/2013 12:58 pm ET Updated Apr 13, 2013

What I Know About Sex Now That I'm In My 20s

What do I know about sex? Did I want to have it? Or did I feel as though I had to? Why did I want to? When did I feel ready? Am I any good at it? Why did it sometimes make me feel empty? Or excited? Alone? Drained? Terrified? In love? Alive? When was the right time? Would two drinks make it easier? Or four? Did I do something wrong? Put it where? Should I leave now? Where is my bra?

At 28, I know that for me, sex is an endless series of questions, many of which I can never quite find an answer to. But some I have. Here they are:

1. If you're late to the party, you're not alone. I was a late bloomer, and I liked it that way. For years, sex seemed far too grown up for me, I liked imagining, playing, dreaming and so I never quite understood why girls would take boys to the middle school locker room. When I was teased for not 'going out' with anyone, I didn't care enough to sit next to Michael McClean at the movies, but I cared enough to make up fake ones. This continued through high school and even into college. Even once I started having sex, I still felt completely unprepared to be doing so, because I wasn't in love.

2. It doesn't mean you'll be together forever. I know that few consider love a prerequisite for sex. I realized this when I was still the one waiting to be hit over the head by it. It probably sounds silly, but I have a tendency to romanticize, well everything, love most centrally. I believe so hard in it, wishing completely for a connection that you don't want to look away from. I also am the most stubborn person ever, so I didn't mind waiting for what I believe is out there.

Then it snuck up on me one cold night at a bar. I knew it because I had picked him out months earlier. I had seen him around school every now and then, and though I had no idea who he was, I was certain that if we met, we would have sex, and it would be something. Something was probably too certain.

3. It can awaken a lot of fears. I couldn't even warp my head around being that close. When he held my hand, it felt like someone was pushing my head under water. I needed to drop it to breathe. I felt consumed. I would get close to sex, the first sex I thought could actually mean something, and yet I couldn't bring myself to do it. Then I would sit up in the bed like someone having a bad dream and get up and walk out the door in the middle of the night. No explanation. So eventually the potential something dissolved into nothing.

4. It is about connection. I know now that there isn't much to be said for meaningless sex. I have had a nice buffet of it: from so bad it totally kills the buzz you thought could take you through anything to the kind where all you want is to keep doing whatever it is that you're doing, though it is now 2 pm on Sunday and you should probably go home and rinse off. I know there is something comfortable about this kind of sex. It doesn't interrupt your day-to-day plans, require much time or attention, and comes and goes when it pleases. When it is gone, it doesn't hurt more than a finger prick. There aren't many questions, but that's because because it isn't really anything worth asking about. It is easy to forget this sometimes; after a few drinks, or when you just feel lonely. But when Uncle Jesse told DJ Tanner that sex really meant something, I believed him. I still do, though I have grown up enough to see, it doesn't mean everything.

5. Don't use sex as a mechanism of control. I do this. I will give and then take it away. I'd go home with guys and not call them back. I would try to test them to see if it's me they want or just the sex. I intuitively protect myself because I am terrified of what will happen if I ever let someone in. That doesn't make it okay. But playing power games isn't fair to the other person, it doesn't make you feel any better about sex, and it makes you feel worse about yourself.

6. When you feel something, stay. Maybe that is the best lesson of all, for me, anyways. I know that I am not the very fragile girl who could barely hold someone's hand. I'm over getting drunk before sex so I won't feel how much I'm not feeling. Like it or not, I have grown up, and while maybe it would be hard for me not to bolt in the middle of the night, I would want to try.

7. The meaningful kind exists. I have had bad sex, fine sex, and good sex. I have known the relationship wasn't right because of how wrong the sex was, and I have been deluded into thinking that maybe my intuitions were wrong. And at times I have worried that I have placed too much significance on sex, wanted too much from it. Can it live up to my expectations? Will I be let down? Could I pick myself up if it hurts when it ends?

At 28, I think I'm almost there -- at the point where I can look the connection in the eyes and hold it there. I don't know if I will ever have an answer to some of my questions, and maybe that is the best part about sex. The fact that no one really does. Maybe we are all a little terrified, unprepared, excited, and the unknowns of what it will look like, feel like, be like is bit of the pleasure in it. So I know now that it's not about knowing everything but being brave enough that when something that feels like the real deal -- sex you feel good about -- sneaks up, you just go with it.

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