Almost all my friends had told me that their boyfriends/ fiances hadn’t ever taken well to the fact that they weren’t virgins. The fact that they could have lost their virginity and had sex with another man before them seriously irked them. Even if they accepted it - because what else could they do - it came up in some fight or another and always made matters worse. So naturally, when my parents hurriedly got me engaged to the guy that they thought was right for me, I was afraid to tell him this - if it should ever come up.
Varun and I had barely met once - our families had met a few more times than we had - when we got engaged. The only conversation we had ever had was over a very nervous cup of coffee. So there was hardly much interaction there. And now here I was, engaged to be married to a man I barely knew. His interests, his hobbies, his work, his passions and dreams - I knew nothing about him. And he knew nothing about me. What I also didn’t know was how he would react to the fact that he wasn’t the first, or even second guy to come into my life. But, of course, he would be the last!
As it goes in any arranged marriage setup, Varun and I started talking on the phone often after our engagement. We planned to meet every now and then, and whenever it was possible, it was pleasant. We weren’t in love with each other yet - how could we be? We barely knew each other. But the time we spent with each other was definitely nice. He was easy to get along with, and just a few meetings later I began to realise that our thoughts and perspectives were actually quite in sync. He seemed like a very level headed, calm and collected person. He knew what he wanted and was very clear about what he didn’t want. Very similar to the kind of person I was, I thought. What I liked most about him actually, was that he liked me just the way I was. From the very beginning, I didn’t feel the need to pretend to be something or someone else.
Even though it was an arranged marriage and one is expected to act slightly more formal, Varun let me feel no such pressure. In very little time we became good friends. Something I thought was very important for me and my life partner to be. We were very open about what we could and could not do, how we would live and what we expected from the other person. He respected my opinions and I respected his. Things were going well for us - and I was happy.
After about three months of being engaged, I had finally begun to think that I was falling in love. It was a great feeling. He was a wonderful guy, and I loved his family too. We would talk for hours every night, and my days had started to feel incomplete if I didn’t get to hear his voice. On one of our many long phone conversations late at night, he asked me about my past relationships. I wasn’t surprised, to be honest - it was bound to come up someday.
“So tell me”, he said. “Were you seeing anyone before this?”
I was a little nervous to answer that question. I knew he was a great guy, but I didn’t know how he would react to this. Plus, my friends and family too had specifically told me not to say anything about this. “People don’t take well to such things,” they had said. “You’re going to ruin things for yourself.”
But I couldn’t lie. And so I said, “Yes, I was.”
“Ah, okay.” he said. “Why did that end?”
“We realized we weren’t right for each other. We grew up and grew out of the relationship,” I responded.
“Oh, so you were dating him in school?” he asked.
“No, I was dating someone else in school. I was talking about my college boyfriend.” I said - and immediately I wanted to slap myself. Why did I have to say that?!
“Oh! So how long were you with your college boyfriend for then?” he asked.
So many questions! I was getting worried now. Should I just have stayed shut? Were my friends and family right? Was this a big mistake?
“We were together for two years. We were living together in Bangalore,” I said - and this time I wanted to KICK myself.
That was it. That was his response. “Oh.” I was getting a panic attack! Why did I give out all this extra information? Was I a fool? He was going to tell his parents everything and his parents would tell mine - and this whole thing would be one big disaster!
“So you guys must have been physically intimate then?” he finally said.
“Yes, he was the first guy I ever slept with,” I said, very hesitantly. Damn my morality issues and the need to be honest all the time.
What were these monosyllabic responses? Why was this happening? I needed to do some damage control, so I said…
“Varun, you have to understand. I was a child then and this relationship meant nothing. I was 18 and I barely knew what I was doing. You...” And that’s where he cut me off.
“Pri,” he said. “Why are you getting so hyper?”
I closed my mouth, not sure how to respond.
“You have a past. We all do. I have no problem with anything you did before you met me. It’s your life, and you couldn’t have stopped living it thinking that one day you would meet me. What we do after today is all that matters. The life we build with each other. I really respect and appreciate you being honest with me. You could have lied, and I would have never known. But you didn’t - and I respect that. Can you please relax now?”
I was stunned. I wanted to jump right through the phone and give him one big kiss.
“I love you,” I blurted out.
“That’s the first time you’ve said that, you know? I love you too,” he said. And I could almost hear him smile.
“No, really, I love you!” I said, a little louder than before.
He laughed his super cute laugh, and I melted a little more.
“Why were you asking me all these questions then? You had me really worked up!” I said.
“Arre, I just wanted to find out if you had any experience, because I barely have any! Maybe you could teach me a thing or two...” he replied.
We both laughed, and for the first time in the entire time that I had been engaged, I wanted to thank my parents for choosing this guy for me. I also wanted to tell everyone just how wrong they had been about guys always reacting badly to something that was a part of one’s past. There must be men like that, but there are also the good ones - the understanding ones. And I am lucky to have found one of them.