I'm a 35-year-old virgin and I won't have sex before marriage. The 9 men I've dated so far have been jerks about it.

Sonali Chandra is a virgin at 35 and intends to stay that way until she gets married.Courtesy of Sonali Chandra

  • Sonali Chandra says she's proud to be a virgin at the age of 35.

  • She refuses to submit to societal pressures to have sex before marriage.

  • This is Sonali's story, as told to Jane Ridley.

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Sonali Chandra. It has been edited for length and clarity.

My colleagues will often talk about their various hookups.  I never join in the conversation.

I'm 35 and hold my V-card with pride. I need a ring on my finger before I lose it to my one and only. I'd be devastated if I betrayed my principles and had a one-night stand.

It's not because I'm frightened — though I know that first-time sex can be painful. But "friends with benefits" and no-strings-attached relationships are not for me. I'm looking for my soul mate.

As a modern, first-generation Indian American, I'm pleased to uphold the traditional values of the country where my parents were raised. Sex before marriage is taboo in India.

My mom and dad never spoke about sex when I was growing up. My sister and I loved to watch Bollywood movies in the 1990s and early 2000s. The films wouldn't show a couple kissing, but the actors were allowed to hold hands.

There were no tank tops, no cleavage, no makeup, and no socializing with boys when I attended middle school.  I was home for junior and senior prom. The only time I dressed up was for dance recitals. I'd been doing Indian dancing for years and performed in the talent shows at high school. People would be shocked because I was the class geek who wore glasses and braces.

Sonali Chandra's parents - who had an arranged marriage - sit, cross-legged, on a cushion. They are both wearing traditional Indian clothing.
Sonali Chandra's parents at their arranged marriage in India in 1983. Their daughter was brought up in a conservative Indian American household.courtesy of Sonali Chandra

I lived with my family during my years at Rutgers University, where I majored in finance. My dad said, "What happens on college campuses? Kids sleep around."

He told me about his plans for my arranged marriage on the drive home from my graduation in 2009. I was 23 and thought, "You've never even let me have a boyfriend." He said, "I'll find someone for you. There are all kinds of Indian matrimonial sites online."

I said no, thank you.

My dad wanted me to put my dating profile on sites for singles with Indian origins

Dad decided to find somebody in America who had strong Indian values. He'd try to introduce me to doctors and lawyers in our home state of New Jersey. But I never met with them. I didn't trust my dad to pick out a husband for me. He'd want someone just like himself. My parents' marriage — which was arranged in India —  was challenging.

I didn't want to post my profile on places like Bengalimatrimony.com. I knew it would only lead to increased pressure to make things work, even if I felt nothing for the person.

Sonali Chandra, a 35-year-old virgin, poses in a gray hoodie with food and drink inside a plan bound for India.
Sonali Chandra flew to India this year for a family funeral. She said her father lied to people that she had married in the U.S.Courtesy of Sonali Chandra

I hated the idea of instant gratification. It was a culture shock to date in Manhattan, where I worked on Wall Street in my mid-to-late 20s. Guys would develop an attraction for me, but I'd realize that all they wanted was to take me to bed. If they were going to use me for sex and vanish the next morning, I'd have been mortified.

I had my first kiss at the age of 26, and it felt amazing. Things went no further. I think the romance went nowhere because of my beliefs.

Four years ago, I met another guy I really liked. One night, we were having a drink in a hotel bar and he wanted to rent a room. I told him that it would be my first time. He said, "You deserve someone who will always be there for you, but I can't be there for you." He didn't return my phone calls or texts after that. It strengthened my theory that I couldn't have sex with a guy who could ghost me.

All 9 men I've dated in my life have turned out to be jerks

In 2017, I moved to Los Angeles, where I work as the front-desk manager at an Equinox gym. I told myself, "I've had enough of these games — I'm going to marry my career."

I've dated nine guys in my life. Each has turned out to be a jerk. They asked me out based on my appearance, but after I told them about my high standards and morals, they disappeared. Three of them proposed to me because they needed visas to work in America. I found it quite funny, and it gave me material for the stand-up comedy I've been doing since January. I poke fun at the fact I'm a millennial and still a virgin. I'll joke that in India they say, "How you dance indicates how you make love." I am an excellent dancer, so I know I'll do great.

Sonali Chandra, wearing traditional Indian dress, performs a Bollywood-style dance with five other women.
Sonali Chandra, front right, said there's an Indian saying, "How you dance indicates how you make love."Courtesy of Sonali Chandra

Nonetheless, I crave companionship. I've cried tears of loneliness. I've spent every birthday and holiday over the past decade on my own. I wonder if marriage will ever happen because men are so scared of my values. I don't really understand why. When I was growing up, virginity was a virtue.

As for my father, he's ashamed that I still don't have a husband. We had a family reunion in March at my grandmother's funeral in New Delhi. Dad lied to everyone and said I got married in the US.

People like me are teased and ostracized, but I'd like to inspire and motivate not only young women but men, too.  They shouldn't have to submit to an arranged marriage — or societal pressure to have sex.

Do you have a fascinating story to share with Insider? Please email jridley@insider.com

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