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Originally published Monday, January 17, 2011 at 9:45 PM

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Nicole Brodeur

She waited; now we must, too

My mother raised me right, so I knew better than to ask when and how Nicole Hardy lost her virginity. But Hardy brought it up — to me, and to the entire country — when her essay about being a 35-year-old Mormon virgin ran Jan. 9 in the Modern Love column of The New York Times.

Seattle Times staff columnist

My mother raised me right, so I knew better than to ask when and how Nicole Hardy lost her virginity.

But Hardy brought it up — to me, and to the entire country — when her essay about being a 35-year-old Mormon virgin ran Jan. 9 in the Modern Love column of The New York Times.

The essay, titled "Single, Female, Mormon, Alone" described Hardy's dilemma over being raised and made secure within the Mormon church, but how its "wait-until-marriage" doctrine — and her not wanting children — made her almost undateable and "a child in a woman's body."

As she got older, Hardy watched her fellow Mormons follow tradition by marrying young and producing children — draining her pool of potential mates.

Since she didn't want children she felt herself becoming "fundamentally bound to an ill-fitting life."

She struggled with two choices: Keep the hope of love alive indefinitely, or face the possibility of spending her life alone as God and her fellow church members expected.

But in her heart, as she wrote, "I'm unwilling to believe that's what God wants for anyone."

So Hardy went to Planned Parenthood, was fitted for an IUD and lost her virginity.

The week since her essay ran has been much like the one experienced by Ted Williams, the homeless man literally plucked off the street and dropped into the national spotlight.

One week Hardy was sitting in Freshy's Coffee in West Seattle, sweating over her poetry, and her essay. The next, she had an agent, a book deal and a mountain of e-mails from people of all religions and ZIP codes, weighing in on her decision.

"It's crazy, right?" she said. "I didn't want to be the poster child for the left or right. I just wanted to tell my story."

As a result, people are telling theirs; their struggle with waiting to have sex in a society that sometimes values sexuality above all else.

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Others related to Hardy's feeling that she had made sacrifices for her church, but was being ignored, made to feel "crazy or frigid or ugly."

"There is something in the piece that is speaking to people, which is sort of a surprise," Hardy said, "because I felt so alone."

Some responders felt like she was attacking the Mormon church, but that was never her intent. She loves it still.

"It's just especially hard when the place where you're supposed to feel hope stops nurturing you and caring for you," she said, becoming overwhelmed. "It feels like there's nothing left."

That's far from true. Hardy is 39, bright, blonde and a gifted poet who has published two books, "This Blonde" and "Mud Flap Girl's XX Guide to Facial Profiling."

She's funny. She waits tables. She also is member of Seattle Arts & Lectures Writers in the Schools program who first read her piece to her fellow writers.

"I felt like I was at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, acknowledging a difficult truth," she said. She reminded herself what her late writing teacher, Jason Shinder, told her years ago: "Write what you fear."

Rebecca Hoogs, director of Education and Poetry Series curator at Seattle Arts & Lectures, encouraged her to send her piece to the Modern Love section, which she did on Dec. 15. Four days later, she got an e-mail: The Times was printing her essay and paying her $300.

"It's every writer's dream," she said. "Giving hope to waitresses everywhere."

So, is she a virgin waitress?

"No," she said, coyly.

Could she say more than that?

"No," she said, citing instructions from her agent. "They'll just have to buy the book."

Hardy knows better than anyone: You don't just give it away.

Nicole Brodeur's column appears Tuesday and Friday. Reach her at 206-464-2334 or nbrodeur@seattletimes.com.

She's got some stories of her own.

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About Nicole Brodeur

My column is more a conversation with readers than a spouting of my own views. I like to think that, in writing, I lay down a bridge between readers and me. It is as much their space as mine. And it is a place to tell the stories that, otherwise, may not get into the paper.
nbrodeur@seattletimes.com | 206-464-2334

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