The room vibrated with awkwardness and tension. Or was it just me?
As teenagers, we weren't accustomed to hearing the word "sex" without being overrun with a fit of nervous giggles, as if a single mention of that word made us instantly aware of exactly where our hands and legs were placed, conscious of even our facial expressions, scared of how we might look as we sat and listened to this talk. Nobody looked at each other, but we all felt like everyone was staring.
The man at the front of the room commanded our attention easily. His linebacker-like build, bald head and booming voice instilled just enough fear in each of us. His voice wound through the hall, impossible for any of us to look away or even think of anything but his words.
Next to me, I heard a sniffle. From across the table, our guidance counselor passed a tissue box in my direction. A hand to my left reached out to grab one. I didn't have to look to know whose hand it was.
"See now, there is a sea of distance between why we all engage in certain behaviors. And I know this is especially relevant in your lives at this moment. Seniors in high school, applying to colleges thousands of miles away. Knowing you're leaving all of this behind for greener pastures, a blank slate and clean start. But let me make this clear: what you do or don't do now will mark you for years to come. So pay close attention," he said to all of us.
On the edge of our seats, we waited for the bomb he was about to drop. And drop a bomb he did.
"Boys and girls. Soon-to-be men and women. Different species. Different motivations. And I want you to make informed decisions. So, here it is."
Someone coughed. My hands gripped in a knot. This dramatic pause was lasting a lifetime.
"Guys give love for sex. Girls give sex for love. I’ll let that sink in for a moment.”
At this point, the hand to my left reached out and grabbed the entire box of tissues. My heart ached for her. A late-bloomer myself, I’d never even had my first kiss, and I realized at that moment how lucky I was. I'd escaped that maze of teenage hurt and hormones unscathed. I'd make my decisions grounded in self-worth and understanding, not a longing for love that wouldn't come. My decisions wouldn’t mark me for years to come, as he’d said. I was scot free. But what about those who weren't?
"Now, do with that information what you will, but I've done my part. Now you know the truth. Guys give love for sex, and girls give sex for love.”
I'm still not sure why we received a talk of this nature at a high school leadership conference, but God sends us wisdom in strange ways, right? All we can do is capture it.
There are exceptions to this rule about sex, of course, but I'm still glad I was there to hear this.