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Vijai Nathan - "Like A Virgin"


From PRX and NPR, welcome back to SNAP JUDGMENT LIVE!, the "Encore" episode, already in progress.


WASHINGTON: That's right. Get ready for our next guest, Vijai Nathan. She spent her entire career getting on her parents' last nerve. And today you're going to find out why they're kind of proud of her. Please put your hands together, Vijai Nathan.


VIJAI NATHAN: When I was little, I loved riding in the car with my mom 'cause she always let me control the radio. That station wagon was my personal disco. And I became Madonna. "Lucky Star," "Material Girl," "Like A Virgin" - that was my favorite. One time, I sang the song extra loud to see if my mom knew what the words meant.

>>NATHAN (Singing) Like a virgin, touched for the very first time. Like a vir - was as far as I got. One hand on the wheel, the other at my throat. She said, (imitating Mom) Vijai, are not like a virgin. You are a virgin.




NATHAN: My sisters and I weren't allowed to talk about or think about sex. According to my mom, (imitating Mom) sex is only for the Americans.

I mean, every day she would tell me that I would get an arranged marriage and that I would never date and that I would be pure and perfect on my wedding night. And I believed this - until I went to college. There, I met girls who were so care-free and liberated. They consumed men like pieces of cheese. So at 20 years old, even though I was the youngest girl in my family, I decided that I was going to be the first to lose my virginity. But I was going to be smart about it. I wanted a man who would be great in bed, but never break my heart. I found the perfect specimen at my summer job waitressing at the Woodmont Country Club - Kevin Williams, 23, 6' 2'', sexy, athletic body, IQ of a mango.


NATHAN: No chance of falling in love. So after weeks of making out in his car, I was ready to take the next step. Friday night, I went to the Safeway in the Orthodox Jewish neighborhood so I wouldn't run into anyone that I knew. There, I bought condoms, spermicide, K-Y Jelly and a Snickers. I didn't want to look like a total deviant to the checkout girl.


NATHAN: Saturday night, I went to Kevin's house, and we did it. And I could have been anyone to him. And he could've been anyone to me. And I didn't feel so liberated. Nothing had changed. I was still me. Afterwards, we shared the Snickers. But I decided that I'd wait for love or marriage before I ever did it again.

Now, quality time in my family is Sunday brunch at my dad's golf club. He doesn't know how to play, but he insists (imitating Dad) it's good for business contacts. After the meal he says, (imitating Dad) let's take a walk just me, Shanthi (ph), Indu (ph) and Vijai. And immediately, I know something is up because my father never, ever physically exerts himself. I start to panic as we stumble past those happy golfing families onto a quiet dirt path. He motions for me and my sisters to sit at a picnic table, turns to my oldest sister and says, (imitating Dad) Shanthi, are you having sex?

Dad, I'm a third-year resident. I'm too tired to have sex.

(Imitating Dad) Good. Good girl. Indu, are you having sex?

Dad, I'm 26 years old, still living at home, and thoroughly repulsed that you're asking me this question. No, I'm not.

(Imitating Dad) Good. Good girl. Vijai, your mother has found something that leads her to believe that you are having sex.


NATHAN: I had gotten rid of everything. There was nothing at home that would give me away. So I decided to stay calm, poker-faced, play the reasonable adult. Daddy, I don't know what you're talking about. What did she find?

(Imitating Dad) She won't tell me. She said if she tells me, I will kill you.


NATHAN: (Imitating Dad) Look, Vijai, I am a liberal guy, not like Mommy. You can tell me, yeah? I know you kids, you go to college, you smoke, you drink, you have sex. So tell me, Vijai, are you a virgin?

I didn't want to lie to my dad 'cause I never directly lied to my parents before. Well, Dad, I think that's just too personal to discuss.

(Imitating Dad) Well, then you've answered my question.

And in that moment, I could see that he was no longer looking at me, but through me. And I was losing him, losing my family, losing my place. I had stopped being good, being the baby, being Indian. I was becoming something different, foreign, American. And I had to make a choice. Daddy, of course I've never had sex. I'm still a virgin. I'm still good.

(Imitating Dad) I knew it. Your mother, she's crazy.


NATHAN: (Imitating Dad) I told her, my daughters, they're not loose like the Chopra girls, but they are from Bombay, what do you expect?

And as he chattered on, I felt the fragility of my life and relief as I saw those shattered pieces moving back into place. I felt so loved, safe, whole. I felt like a virgin.

(APPLAUSE) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.