by Danny Cohen
Scott Farmer is an idealist.Â A romantic, even.Which makes this story harder to tell.
Scott and Katie, both seniors at Glen J. Davis High School outside of Columbus, OH, had been going out for three months prior to their senior prom. It was one of those deep-seeded friendships that blossomed into romance as the end of high school approached. Katie admired everything about Scott: his position as editor of The Draconian (the school newspaper), his starring role in the Spring production of Anything Goes, and his calming smile. While the rest of the class was asleep during the Honor Roll Lock-In, the young couple snuck away to make out in a corner of the gymnasium. They were an item everyone in school talked about.
Prom was held in the large banquet hall of the downtown Columbus Marriott. Teachers and administrators ensured that the evening’s festivities stayed PG, but six blocks away, the La Quinta Inn was booked solid for the night, overflowing with senior after-parties. The topic of getting a room had come up between Scott and Katie. Perhaps it was the social pressure or the young romanticism that pushed Scott to make a reservation using his friend Mitchell’s credit card.
“His mom just remarried so they gave him a credit card”, says Scott. He and Mitchell drove two towns over to buy condoms, fearing they'd be seen. They kept the prophylactics in crumpled Wendy's bags in their bedrooms. Like thousands of high schoolers every year, Scott and Katie fully expected to let the excitement of senior prom sweep them into losing their virginity.
As the final slow dance ended in the basement of the Marriott, Scott and Katie walked the six blocks to the La Quinta Inn and up to their rented room. Almost immediately, the ravenous teens started making out, removing their clothes, and lying together in bed.
Yet, an hour later, they were still lying together in bed, still a pair of virgins.
Through the thin walls, Scott and Katie listened to Mitchell and his date moan. “Do you want to?” asked Scott. Katie said yes. Reaching inside the greasy and stale Wendy's bag, Scott pulled out the condom and slid it on.
Scott asked Katie three more times, just to make sure. Each time she said yes: She wanted to have sex. And then Scott did nothing.
He kept on trying to form new sentences or words as he worked through it all in his head. Is this right? Am I doing this only because it’s prom night? Is she the one? Without a word, Scott removed the condom. The moment was over. They stayed up all night, just talking about the summer and college. After the sun rose, and they got breakfast with their group of friends, Scott took Katie home.
Almost 20 years later, Scott is still a virgin.
I first heard about Scott Farmer, the 36-year old virgin, eight months ago. My boyfriend the caricature artist had just broken up with me; I was heartbroken and confused. We were on The Track. We had met each other’s parents, taken trips together, and even moved into a condo with a shared lease. When it all fell apart, I found myself sleeping on the couch of a friend who worked with Scott's sister. In the midst of a back rub and ”˜things aren't so bad' pep talk, Scott was brought up as a prime example of how much worse things could be.
I was surprised that Scott agreed to let me interview him, but I soon found out that his virginity is fairly common knowledge. “I don’t really tell people, but anyone who talks to Peter or my sister finds out pretty quickly. It’s kind of like saying I’m HIV positive, like ‘keep your eye out,’ but I don’t know if this is worse… I bet people who are HIV positive are happier than I am”.
He stares into space for a moment. “I don’t mean that”, he says, unconvincingly.
Scott works from home as a copy editor for a blog network that he didn’t want named. Suffice it to say, Scott spends his days correcting punctuation and fact checking snark-laden posts intended for Brooklynites, women who like “look books,” geeks, aviation dweebs and homeschooling mothers. His dream is to publish a series of novels about a hard nose detective named Chantilly Rose. A few pages into one draft and its abundantly clear: Chantilly Rose is the anti-Scott. Despite the name, Chantilly is confident, self-assured, even egotistical. “I used to deny Chantilly had any relation to me, but I mean, it’s so clear. Women throw themselves at him, and after a while they’re gunned down so he can move on to the next one.”
Scott began writing fiction a week after prom. He tried to keep in touch with Katie that summer, but she left for Venice with some friends and returned in no mood to deal with “high school boys.” Just before heading off to the University of Wisconsin in the fall, Scott learned that his best friend Mitchell had slept with Katie. Worse, they were going to make it work long distance. He hasn't spoken more than a few cursory words to either of them since, and declined a monogrammed invitation to their destination wedding when the coworker he'd been courting backed out. “I kept on joking that we were going as an item, and eventually it weirded her out. That’s when i started working from home.”
He arrived in Madison in the fall of 1993. Tucked amongst the sessions at college orientation was a frank discussion by SASE (Students And Sexual Equality), an on-campus wellness group that, among other things, hammers down the agreed upon definition of rape and consent. At the end of the talk, condoms and stern handshakes are handed out in abundance.
Scott’s response was fear. “I kept on hearing things about consent, unwanted sexual advancements. It felt like if I made any gesture towards a girl at all, I would be kicked out of school. So, you have to be confident, but you can’t be pushy. I still feel trapped.”
Despite his fear of becoming a sexual predator, Scott quickly fell in with Laura, a coed who shared his dorm floor and a statistics class. They gushed over the recently released August and Everything After by the Counting Crows. They saw A Bronx Tale during a Saturday matinee and made out a little in the back row. A week before Thanksgiving break, only one unanswered question remained: when were they going to have sex? Reuniting in December to resume classes, the question still hung cold in the Wisconsin air. Laura, for her part, was trying to answer it: soon.
On nights when Laura would stay over, Scott would feign headaches or tiredness before rolling onto his side for the night. One night he accidentally knocked Laura off the bed, bruising her butt. As winter break neared, Laura assumed Scott’s lack of sex drive more about being uninterested in her, not just emotionally unprepared. The night before Laura was to return to Milwaukee for Christmas, the unanswered question fell out into the open.
“She asked why I didn’t want to have sex with her,” says Scott, “I knew I was going to lose her, so I tried to go for it.” After some over-the-sweater heavy petting, the two landed in bed together, with Scott reaching for one his orientation condoms. He stared at it the shiny wrapper, so easy to peel open. Except, to reach the condom inside, you'd have to rip the word CONSENT right down the middle. He stared a moment longer, then dropped the condom back into the drawer of his nightstand.
Laura stormed out and the two didn’t speak over the holidays. When winter session resumed, the two avoided each other in the hallways. Eventually, Laura transferred to another dorm.Â “I mean, we never officially broke up, so… y’know…” Even now, Scott wonders aloud if he should “maybe call her again?”
“I was worried we were moving too fast, that I wouldn’t be good at it, that I wasn’t ready, that it wasn’t special enough,” says Scott. He pauses, as if he's had an epiphany. “I guess I’ve always wanted it to be special and romantic. Not in some dorm room while my roommate Duane sleeps in the bunk below us.”
Scott spent the remainder of his college years primarily alone, aside from his volunteer work with the campus’ SASE Walk program, where he would spend his Friday and Saturday evenings escorting groups of girls safely across campus. “I admit that I thought I’d meet some cute girl who fell in love with how courageous I was being.” Mostly, Scott met much taller, drunk women that he'd lend pizza money to.
“I have this philosophy that if I am good and stay quiet, people will give me things,” says Scott, “But that’s not how life works. It’s why I don’t like video games. At some point you have to be proactive and go after the bad guy or the reward, and I’d rather cheat at solitaire.”
Scott graduated quietly in four years. He declined to walk during the final ceremony and left Madison shortly after. He doesn’t speak with anyone from college, which isn't surprising when you see the stack of manuscripts on his bedroom floor. During the golden years of most people's lives, Scott completed three novels: “Chantilly Rose: Framed for Regicide”,Â “Chantilly Rose: Doomed from the Chart” and “Chantilly Rose: Bullets & The Mayor.”
Peter Leslie is a bartender and Scott Farmer's closest friend. He's funny, exceedingly charming and almost defiantly confident, thanks to his handsome good looks and an over-abundance of muscles. When I contacted him, he asked that we talk as he did some grocery shopping.
“When I see a woman, the only thing I have on my mind is sex. Nothing before or after,” Peter tells me as he checks melon ripeness. “When Scott sees a woman, he thinks about how to talk to her, their first date, when they’re going to have sex, what happens afterwards, what if they get married, whose house they go to for the holidays, what brand of laundry detergent they’ll use. He’s doing too much math when it’s all very carnal.” Peter holds up a melon to compare to my breasts. “Nice.”
The unlikely pair first hit it off when Scott was in Peter’s bar with a date. Peter noticed Scott’s social failings and tried to throw him a line or two from over the bar. At the end of the night, the date left with Peter; he and Scott have remained close ever since. “I’ve tried to get him laid, ” says Peter, “I have sent the skankiest girls after him. I’ve persuaded the sweetest, most innocent girls, too. He is incapable of closing. I did everything short of having a girl force herself on him. Hell, if I could get him to leave his apartment and go to Vegas, I’d even try that.”
Peter confides in me that he's hopeful Scott’s detective novels become successful and maybe get optioned into a film franchise. Of course, Peter himself would get cast as the star. “I am Chantilly Rose. I’ve got the build and the attitude.” Listen to this, he says, before assuming a smoky air. “’Listen, darling, you hear anything, you give me a call. My name? Oh, it’s Chantilly Rose.’” He drops the character, clearly pleased with his performance. “See? Nailed it.” Peter may not have the chops to play a leading man, but he is the absolute definition of a ladies man. I was almost taken in by his offer to ”˜lay it on [me]' at his bar, but the mystique wore off once I began to hear all of his sordid tales for myself. “I actually wanted to challenge myself,” says Peter, over a late lunch. “I wanted to see if I could tell you exactly how I operate and still have you go home with me. Oh well.” Within ten minutes, he's talked our single-mother waitress into a date.
“Peter is amazing. He’s incredible.” I’m with Scott at Peter’s bar, watching him operate on the female clientele while serving drinks. “I wish I could have one moment in my entire life where I wasn’t afraid to proposition a girl…Like, propose something…Not propose to her, but, like, make an offer for her…I mean… y’know?” Scott exhales and takes a sip of his free vodka Coke, courtesy of the man behind the bar who just snorted a Jell-O shot off of a blonde's chest. “I wish I had one moment where I wasn’t afraid of women.”
Scott opens his wallet and pulls out a dry, cracked square of plastic. Stamped across the front, in all caps, is the word CONSENT. He tells me that he's been holding onto the same condom since college not only as a reminder, but to use victoriously when the time comes. He'll be vindicated, he says. When I point out that it's expired, he crumples.
At my tipsy suggestion, Scott and I go to Walgreens to get condoms, which he has never actually purchased himself. Back in high school, it was Mitchell at the register; in college, he never moved past the handful that he was given at orientation. To Scott, the entire process is overwhelming. It takes four minutes to enter the condom aisle, and another six to get him in front of the display.
“I hate condoms. Not like that. I look at them and they’re just staring back at me saying ‘not for you, you don’t need us.’ It’s like an illiterate person browsing books. They’re insulting me.”
A year and a half ago, Scott was miserable. After a two-week relationship with a friend of his sister's that included (in order) coffee, lunch, dinner and the movie “For Colored Girls”, she had stopped responding to his text messages.
“I know she knew my situation when she agreed to go out with me, and it didn’t bother her. I think she could tell that I kept on wondering if she was the girl it was finally going to happen with, and the whole thing just turned her off. They can all tell. I’ve been out with six women since college, and it doesn't matter if they know about my situation or not, they can all tell that’s what I’m thinking. Women already know that guys are always walking around, thinking about sex, but with the added layer of being a virgin, it's just too much.”
Feeling “rejected by the entire world,” Scott didn’t leave his house for two weeks. He resigned himself to the notion that not only would he never have sex, he would never be with anyone in any romantic capacity. “I’d rather be alone than be with a woman who doesn’t want me. And I don’t think I’ll be able to get a women to want me because I come off as such a loser.” When Scott finally emerged from his emotional cocoon, he left his house in a chocolate stained pair of Hanes Beefy sweatpants. Scott believed he had hit rock bottom. Yet, for him, there was one more step to go.
After 36 years as a virgin, Scott knew that all of his relationships had teetered on the notion of sex. All of its questions and presumptions made everything so complicated. Was it going to happen? When? How? Would he do it right? How long should parts stay wet for? It was too much for him to handle, and he decided to seek help from a professional.
Across town at the La Quinta Inn, Scott arranged for a female escort. In the room, with the money on the nightstand, Scott dove into the details. “I wanted to know how many times…'it' … could happen, because I figured I would need a few times to figure it out”, he tells me later. He paid up front for two hours, unlimited “times”. Yet, despite the business-like nature of the evening, Scott began to shut down. The escort, sensing Scott’s struggle, took it upon herself to get things started. She stripped and lay her naked body over the bed. Across the room, Scott sat in the desk chair in his boxers, looking at her, wide-eyed. She suggested he have a drink, but didn’t want his first time to be “under the influence”. After ten minutes of slow, silent gyrating, the escort turned on TNT and began an episode of Law & Order. One hour later and Scott had not so much as swiveled in his chair. Half of his time was gone. Part of him wanted it all to be over, wishing he could just get drunk and finish the ‘solution’ he had paid for. But the other part of him, the big, burning part of him, was scared.
“I waited so long, built it up so much, that it just couldn’t end that way. It was like I drove my virginity out into the woods and was going to shoot it in the back of the head. I didn’t want to execute my virginity, I wanted to set it free.”
Eventually, the escort left. Scott waited around for a few more minutes, provided his own solution, then headed out. A few days later a $45 charge appeared on his credit card from the hotel for sheet cleaning and accessing one of the ”˜premium’ video options. Scott hasn’t been on a date, flirted, or been with a woman since. He has resigned himself to the notion that he will always be a virgin.
Back in the condom aisle, I finally help Scott purchase a 3 pack of name brand condoms. A little tipsy from the vodka Coke, he expounds on what a waste of money it is for him to have condoms, which only worsens his mood. I help Scott back to his apartment, and he lazily lets me in. I was curious to see how a 36 year old single man decorates, and I was surprised. There weren’t superhero figurines or movie posters everywhere. Scott explained everything is from a single page in a Crate & Barrel catalog. He wanted the apartment to look nice to any girl that may come back, but he never uses any of it, no one ever comes over but Peter. Scott’s bedroom is sparse: A bed in the corner with a single pillow. “All I do in there is sleep. What?”
I go through Scott’s DVD collection while he stumbles back and forth. “I cannot imagine any scenario in the next fifty years of my life where I will be really happy,” says Scott. “I have fleeting moments of happiness, and then I remember this huge hole in my life where I should have someone’s love.”
After some digging, he pulls out a manuscript and begins to read from ”˜Chantilly Rose: Dames & Doom'. It's his latest draft, where the detective, after a passionate night with a widow, implies that they’ll never meet again, despite the fact that he's inseminated her.
“This guy, he doesn’t care. He doesn’t want a wife and a family, and I want it all. I want to make breakfast for people who love me. I want to book plane tickets for a family and wake up in the middle of the night because someone had a nightmare. And I’ll never have it because, God fucking damn it, I can’t even make whoopie with a hooker!”
It occurs to me, sitting on a couch that was purchased for the implicit illusion of maturity, that I haven't had sex in over six months. This living, breathing story, Scott Farmer, so consumed my post-break up life that half a year passed and I hadn't so much as sat on a working dryer for the thrills. Listening to Scott say “whoopie” grates on me. I'm slightly irritated, a little drunk, suddenly horny, and staring at a 36 year old intoxicated virgin rambling on about wanting a family. I make a move.
Looking back on it now, I guess I wanted to snuff out the torch that Scott had been holding up to the ideals of romance for nearly two decades. I thought, if anything, I could help him move forward. But, most of all, for me, it had been six months.
It's been three weeks since my night with Scott. In the morning, I woke to a full chocolate chip pancake breakfast, with a wedge of grapefruit and a glass of milk. I wore one of his Oxford shirts, but not because it happened to be laying around. It was folded over the headrest of the only chair in his bedroom, freshly pressed and with a note pinned to the sleeve that read “for you”. As I made my way into the living room, it became apparent that my detached, journalistic curiosity was no match for my pure desire to not talk about what happened. I dressed, he kissed me on the cheek, and I left. We talked on the phone that night, but we kept pausing intermittently and then falling all over each other's words to fill the empty space. Eventually, I stopped answering his calls or returning his text messages asking to see me again.
Sex is not a test. Rather, it's an expression of oneself, like dancing or painting or drawing those big-headed caricatures on the boardwalk. We all have the potential to be great at expressing our emotions, but it takes many failures for that greatness to show up. The first time you have sex, it's special, but not as satisfying or important as once you figure out how to dance beautifully or paint like a master or really nail that delicate forehead on one of your caricature drawings.
Scott waited too long to fail at sex. Like adult braces, it’s something that should’ve been taken care of long ago. Eventually, the fear of failure steamrolled his every romantic move. Scott Farmer is a 36 year old former virgin, but romantically, he's still 17.
The last communication I ever received from Scott came in the form of a Facebook message:
“I haven’t been able to stop thinking about our night, and I realized that I must’ve done something wrong. Please let me know what I did wrong and I will fix it. Whatever you want done differently, I will do it. We never officially split up, so I really think we can make this work. I think we could be something very special. I can change whatever I did wrong, if you just tell me.”
Two hours later, he asked to add me as his girlfriend on Facebook.
Then I deactivated my account. ♦