Seattle's Nicole Hardy never imagined herself as a 35 year old virgin. But up until six years ago, that's what she was.
"I grew up Mormon and I was really happily Mormon. I just grew up thinking, well, I'll be Mormon forever and I'll get married and I'll have kids and do what you're supposed to do as a Mormon lady. Then the older I got, I realized I don't like doing any of the things that Mormon women do. I mean, they're just really encouraged to be homemakers and to be mothers and none of those things sounded interesting to me."
So that made it pretty tough to date within her community.
"On the first date it's always like, 'Well, how many kids do you want?' First date. So if you say that you don't want the thing that everybody wants in this community, it's really difficult to get very far in a relationship."
Nicole imagined a life as a writer and a traveler. So she started dating outside of the church.
"But I couldn't really get past the second or third date because the issue of sex just became troublesome. I'm not sure there are many straight men who are going to date a woman for six months or a year or two years, or whatever, and not pursue sex. At least that was not my experience."
She had grown up imagining her life going one way and now that was turned upside down. She felt like she didn't fit in anywhere and she didn't tell many people about her predicament. But when a friend heard her story, she encouraged Nicole to write about it.
"I just didn't feel like anyone else in the world would be able to relate to my story and I was a little bit afraid of being seen as, you know, a freak. I was just nervous and I didn't know if I wanted to go public with a story that included my sex life or lack of it. I'm a private person, just like anyone else."
But she finally got up the courage to read her story at a writer's event and she got such strong, positive feedback that she took her boss' advice and submitted it to the New York Times Modern Love column. It was accepted immediately.
And at the end of Nicole's story, she is no longer a virgin.
"I was well into my 36th year and I started dating someone and he was really sweet and we really cared about each other and then, you know, it happened."
Nicole started all of this feeling like she was the only one in her situation, that no one could relate. But after her article was published she was flooded with mail.
"What is surprising is I've also heard from a lot of men. I've heard from gay people and straight people and Muslims and Catholics and Baptists and Orthodox Jews and so many people who are in the same boat I am now. [People who] have struggled, at one point or another, with leaving their faith and trying to navigate that. And people who are still in the faith, and feeling very stuck and isolated and judged, and they are not quite sure how they're going to reconcile that. A lot of people have just written to say, 'Thank you for talking about something that nobody talks about. Thank you for making me feel less alone.'"
She stresses that this has nothing to do with Mormons in general, it has to do with her. And she recognizes the subject is still a bit taboo for some.
"Controversial, you know. You talk about Planned Parenthood, you talk about virginity, you talk about religion, you talk about when the life that you have planned for yourself doesn't work out, what are you going to do? I think that aspect of the story is something that a lot of people can relate to."
Nicole is currently single, but she's totally OK with that.
"The other thing that was really cathartic is to realize that my life doesn't have to revolve around that anymore. I don't have to get married. And that feeling is pretty darn amazing. If it happens it happens and if it doesn't, I'm fine."