Great Britain

‘I'm 21 and I've never been kissed’: six people on big experiences they haven’t had

‘I have never been kissed’

Lauren, 21, Michigan

I’m a very introverted, shy person. I don’t like to be hugged or touched. I think it has to do with my parents – they’re not touchy-feely and I’ve never seen them show each other any physical affection. My mum didn’t say “I love you” to me until I went to college. I was so shocked I forgot to say it back.

I hung around with a lot of Christian girls in high school and they were adamant about not dating anyone. I didn’t drink or go to parties and none of my friends had boyfriends. Since getting to college, I’ve been on dates with guys, but I’ve dodged kissing. A year ago I was on a date with a guy and we were at his place watching a movie and he put his arm around me – I immediately said I had to go. It freaked me out so much that I haven’t been on a date since.

I don’t really know why it scares me, but when it comes to fight or flight, I’m flight all the way. I think it’s anxiety – I don’t like going to the grocery store by myself or things like that. I wish I could just get my first kiss over and done with, but I can’t let it be some random guy. I’m excited to find the right person, but I think movies make relationships look too perfect. In real life, they can be pretty toxic. I don’t want that for myself.

I don’t go out of my way to tell people I’ve never been kissed, but all my close friends know. Everybody thinks it’s fine. Up until a couple of months ago my best friend who I met in college hadn’t been kissed either. I was happy when she got a boyfriend; they’re perfect for each other. It doesn’t bother me, because it’s not my time – everything happens for a reason.

For now, I’m playing it by ear. I believe in the butterfly effect – once you do something, it sets you up for a different track in life. I don’t want to put too much pressure on myself – I know it’s eventually going to happen.

‘I have never read a book as an adult’

Helen Upshall, 29, Somerset

I come from a family of bookworms. I remember a lot of Saturday afternoons spent with my brother and parents going in and out of bookshops when I was a child. For me, it didn’t spark any interest. Mum used to sit next to my bed and try to encourage me to read the Harry Potters, but I just wasn’t engaged.

When I was 13 I read the whole of Anne Frank’s diary, but I didn’t read my GCSE English book, Lord of the Flies. I actually went to university and read English language and linguistics. I had to read, but I wouldn’t read a complete book; I’d only read enough to get through the course.

I work in the food industry now and I’ve tried choosing novels and nonfiction related to food and cooking, but even those don’t engage me. I’ve taken the same cookery science book on holiday for the past six years, but still haven’t finished it. I’d rather sit still and look at a view than read a book.

That’s just how it is – some people don’t bake, some people don’t paint. I don’t read. When I was growing up it might have stalled my vocabulary a little, but there are other means of learning things. Other people may think I’m missing out, but I know no differently. I don’t feel as if I’ve deprived myself. I had a decent education and I don’t feel like it’s hindered me at all.

My main interest is cooking – I feel the same escapism in the kitchen that I imagine a lot of other people find in reading a book. I love being outside, walking, sitting in the garden, painting, drawing and photography. It’s not like I’ve lost the ability to read, but I’d definitely rather spend time baking a cake than picking up a book.

‘I have never been abroad’

Chris Tierney, 33, Blackpool

I’ve never left the UK. Never. I’ve never even had a passport. I’ve not even travelled much inside the UK – many, many years ago we went to Wales when I was a teenager, but I haven’t been on holiday since. In my adult life I haven’t done any travelling at all.

The main reason is because I don’t have anyone to go with – I don’t have a wife or kids or anything like that. If you’ve never travelled before, it’s quite a big thing to do on your own. I don’t feel as if I can just hop on to a plane to the Middle East, because I’ve never done it before. And as I’ve never done it, it’s not something I’ve ever really missed. In my mid-20s I started to realise I was unusual, because that’s when people were going on gap years. I’ve worked since the age of 16 and never went to uni, so I’ve never had that “me time” to go and travel.

I work in the civil service and don’t do a lot with my annual leave – in the past, I’ve not taken some of my holiday days and I’ve just let them expire. It’s probably not the healthiest way of doing things, but I’ve gone to work because I haven’t had anything else to do or anywhere else to be. A few times, I’ve allowed other people to take time off in my place. I’ll always work at Christmas, because I know there are people with families who want the time off.

When people hear I haven’t been abroad, they’re very surprised and find it a bit weird. There are loads of places I’d like to go, but it’s not a huge priority. If I meet somebody and it gets serious, then I’ll definitely go away then. I’d like to go to France, Germany, America – and would love to see the Northern Lights. But while I’m on my own, I can’t envisage myself jetting off to the other side of the world.

‘I have never been to the cinema’

Muhamad Masare, 20, Birmingham

People generally don’t believe that I’ve never been to the cinema – it seems kind of unreal. I’ve seen pictures of cinemas online, but I haven’t actually been inside one. As a child I just never really had the opportunity; my family was interested in other social stuff. We went to lots of museums.

People think that because I don’t go to the cinema, I don’t watch movies, but I do. I don’t feel like I’m missing out because to me, watching a movie is a personal experience. If I’m in the cinema, I might not react to a movie the way other people react to it – I feel as if it would take away from the individuality of the experience.

I also really like watching movies with subtitles and I don’t think they have them in cinemas. I can’t really keep up with a movie’s plot and characters unless I’m reading along, just because I’ve always watched things that way.

When I was about 12, I first realised it was weird that I’d never been to the cinema. I felt unique – it was something different from everyone else. Still, once the coronavirus situation changes then hopefully I’ll go as life is too short and I should experience it. I’ll probably see a sci-fi film or something like that. I’m excited for the large screen because it will be completely different from anything I’ve ever experienced – the closest thing I’ve done is go to a football game.

‘I have never ridden a bike’

Brian Wood, 72, Leicestershire

One Tuesday in June in 1956, I fell down playing cowboys and indians in the school playing fields. I was eight years old, and I broke my arm so badly that I was in hospital for two weeks. For the next 18 months after that, I was in and out of hospital having physiotherapy. Because of that I never got on a bike. I was scared of breaking my arm again, it was that bad. I was always nervous playing football, too.

I don’t feel like I’ve missed out, though. Around here lots of people ride bikes, but it’s not for me – I like playing chess. After I passed my driving test I was able to drive all over the country, and I go everywhere by car. The fact I can’t ride a bike doesn’t come up in conversation, people never ask that sort of thing. There’s no chance of me ever trying now – I’ve got severe arthritis and last year I had a hip replacement. I use a breathing machine at night. I’m falling to pieces.

I also never learned to swim. I hated the water, it made me cough and splutter. They used to take my class at school and I stayed behind and did schoolwork – I just didn’t want to go. As a kid I wasn’t interested, but when I got older and was in my early 20s, I did feel like I was missing out. I used to sit on the side watching as people splashed about with their girlfriends in the water. I missed out on a lot of fun.

‘I have never seen the sea’

Loren, 18, Ontario

I’ve always been really fascinated by the ocean, ever since I was a little girl. When I was five, I had a game for the Wii called Endless Ocean and it was like a swimming simulator – you would learn about different marine animals, like dolphins. I was amazed by it and I always wanted to go to the ocean.

But my parents just don’t travel – I’ve only been out of the country once and that was for a school trip to New York City. My dad is out of the picture and my mum works as a youth worker 9-5, so we’ve never had enough money saved to leave home or go to the coast. We live fairly close to a lake, so in the summer we go there and nowhere else.

I was around 10 when I realised my experiences were strange – I remember listening to my friends talking about going to Florida for vacation and saying it was weird I’d never seen the sea. Nowadays I have friends who’ve moved to the coast and they say they don’t even like the ocean, which sounds crazy to me.

Seeing the sea is a goal that I strive towards. I want to see it by the time I’m 25 – I want to get a job first and save up some money to move out, and then I want to go on a big trip. My friends say I should just get it over with and go to Nova Scotia, but I don’t want to settle for a random coast – I’m expecting warm weather, cool water, nice sand. It’s going to be magical.

It’s frustrating when people don’t understand that there are so many people who don’t have the opportunity to travel – they take it for granted. I know people who complain about going on vacation. They don’t appreciate the opportunities they have.

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