Sex Can Wait
Jessica Simpson's music career may be on the fast track, but there's one area where the singer prefers to take it slow. In a Teen People exclusive, the 19-year-old--who dates Nick Lachey from 98 degrees-explains why she's saving sex for marriage.
By Jessica Simpson as told to Linda Friedman
When I was twelve years old I made a very important promise: I vowed that I would wait until my wedding night to have sex. My dad, Joe Simpson, a former youth minister, gave me a ring that I would always wear-it's gold with a cutout cross-and when I put it on, I promised God, my father and my future husband that I would remain a virgin until I got married. One day, my husband will take the ring off my finger and replace it with my wedding ring. Until then, it's there as a constant reminder should I ever find myself in a difficult situation.
And yes, there have been times when I have been tempted. Hel-lo! I mean, I'm only human. This is a hard commitment to keep. Especially when you're with someone you care about a lot and you're caught up in the moment and everything's racing. Believe me, I love kissing and being close with a guy-that's like a hobby of mine. But all I have to do is envision myself walking down the aisle, looking right in my husband's eyes, and it makes it all worth it.
I guess it's obvious that I'm a total romantic. My mom, Tina, was a vigin when she married my dad at age 18. I remember her telling me and my 15 year old sister, Ashlee-who has taken the same vow-how happy she has been her whole life because she held out. I just always knew it was something I wanted to do too.
My relationship with God helps me keep my promise. I grew up in Dallas as a member of the Baptist church, and I sang in the choir. As I've gotten older, I've become a really spiritual person. My feeling is, God has given me so much, and saving myself for my wedding night is one of the things I can give back to him. Hopefully, I'll set an example for others at the same time. For me, being able to help people or encourage them to move in a positive direction is so much more important than selling millions of records or being No. 1 on the Billboard charts.
There's another reason why I'm waiting. I think having sex too young can really tear down your self-esteem, especially if you do it to try to get or to keep a guy. I can remember walking through the halls of my high school and hearing guys verbally bashing the girls they'd just slept with. I've had friends weep on my shoulder because they regretted having had sex too early; a few felt obligated because they'd been dating a guy for a long time. Some have since stopped having sex and "started over." That's what I call a secondary virgin, and I really respect them for it. In high school, you can think you're in love, but I believe you have to know yourself completely before you can truly fall in love and be loved back by someone else. And that's not even mentioning the risk of getting pregnant or being exposed to a sexually transmitted disease. My dad's also a psychologist, and I can remember seeing some of the girl's he counseled who were distraught over being 16 and pregnant. Even at age 12, I knew that was something I never wanted to have to deal with.
peer pressure cooker
Please don't misunderstand, though: I don't mean to push my beliefs on anyone. This is a promise that you have to want within yourself or you're not going to keep it. There's no way. I don't judge people who do have sex before marriage. And I'm not trying to make anyone think that I'm such a good girl or such a holy person. I'm a regular girl; I like eating pizza and gabbing on the phone just like anyone else. I would hate it if another girl who didn't believe the same things I do felt like she couldn't talk to me because she couldn't relate.
Sadly, I've had some firsthand experience in this department. When I was growing up in Dallas, everybody in school had heard about my ring and knew I was a virgin, that's for sure. Though some of the guys would be like, "That's so cool," there were also the ones who were like, "You're such a prude." They'd call me a tease behind my back because they knew they couldn't sleep with me.
Then there was the group of girls in junior high school who just despised me for what I stood for. They egged my house. They keyed my car. They spread a rumor that I was a lesbian, and it went from school district to school district. They had even wrote vicious insults in shaving cream on the sidewalk in from of our house, which left a mark you could never totally erase. It was awful. Thankfully, I managed to get through that time with the support of family, friends and teachers.
Fortunately the viciousness stopped when I got to high school. Most of my classmates liked and respected me. I was even voted into J.J. Pearce High School's Homecoming court two years in a row. And I had a group of about 10 friends who were a lot like me. We didn't just go with the flow. We liked being different. We didn't drink or do drugs. We'd always hang out and go to movies and just be stupid together. We preferred being outside of the "in" crowd.
the dating game
Predictability, I have had a little bit of trouble in the boyfriend department. I've been in situations where guys were just like, "I can't do this. There's no way. You're otta here." You have to be ready to face that, and I am. Two years ago my heart was broken by a guy in the entertainment industry whom I met on a visit to Los Angeles, where I later moved with my family to pursue my music career. He couldn't handle the fact that I wouldn't have sex with him. We went on a few dates, and for a minute I thought, "Why don't I just do it? He's everything any girl would ever want." But ultimately he wasn't hard to resist: He actually said he wanted to come back to me when he was ready to settle down and get married. I was like, "I don't think so!" I didn't date anyone for a whole year after that because I was afraid of getting hurt again.
Then Nick [Lachey from 98 degrees] came into my life. This is the first time I've ever talked about this publicly: The moment we saw each other in Los Angeles at the Hollywood Christmas Parade at the end of 1998, something just clicked. It was the weirdest. We just met each other and talked about music or whatever, and I went home and told my mom, "I'm going to spend the rest of my life with this guy." He told the other guys in the band and his manager the same thing. We didn't get to see each other again until TEEN PEOPLE'S first anniversary party in January 1999. That night we fell in love, and I haven't given much thought to the guy who broke my heart since.
A couple of days after that, Nick and I stayed up until five o'clock in the morning talking (I'm a talker) on the rooftop of a Los Angeles hotel. It was then that I told him that I was a virgin, and he was immediately supportive. It honestly makes me get teary-eyed sometimes because he loves and respects that so much about me. He knew it was going to be hard, and it is.
a song from the heart
But in the end, we both know it'll be worth the wait. I know I sound sickeningly gushy, but there's just something about the wedding night that's so special to me. I've been writing my future husband letters since I was eight-they're sort of like journal entries-and I've kept them all. I've always had the image of the man I'll marry. That has made it easier for me to keep this promise, because I feel like I'm already committed to him. I started developing a relationship iwth him a long time ago, even though I hadn't met him yet. If I were tempted to break this vow, I would feel as if I wasn't being loyal.
One of those letters to my future husband turned into a song on my album, Sweet Kisses. It's called "Heart of Innocence." (That song and "Where You Are," my duet with Nick, which was inspired by my cousin who died when she was 17, are the most personal songs on my album.) On "Heart of Innocence," I didn't want to come out and be like, "Yeah, abstinence!" I didn't want it to be some cheesy song, so I said it in such a way that you really have to listen to know what I'm talking about. The chorus goes: "I have a gift for you/Something I've held on to/Waiting for your sweet caress/No ribbon has been untied from all that I hold inside/And only you will possess this heart of innocence." The wedding gift I have found for my husband will be a heck of a lot more valuable than a big-screen TV, let me tell you!
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