Friends With Sexual Benefits: Fun at First, But Began to Destroy our Friendship: College Memoirs: Life at Roanoke–October 1992, Part 1

About the song “Give It Away” by Red Hot Chili Peppers, which after a year was still getting a lot of airplay on MTV: Though I still wasn’t so sure that a song that said things like, “Give it to your dog,” “Take what I got and put it in you,” and other such questionable lyrics (questionable because you couldn’t be quite sure if it meant what it sounded like), was something for me, it was fun to play with.  I amused Clarissa by rolling my tongue just right to say “Give it away,” and then transforming that into,

“Put it away, put it away, put it away now!”  I rolled my tongue for both “put” and “it.”  It was surprisingly easy.  So if what he “got” was really what I first thought it was, I was telling him to put it back in his pants and leave us alone.  It was fun to say, and it was fun to make Clarissa laugh by saying it.

(Though, many years later, I heard that “it” was actually stuff you have, sharing freely with others, not what I thought it was.  Whew!)

Each year, Turning on the Heat was the event of the fall.  It usually didn’t happen until October.  Catherine’s roommate Carrie inquired about it.

The administration’s story was that the school’s ancient steam heat system took time and effort to start up each year.  Turning it off again right away because of a return to warm weather would be a pain.

“People would open their windows because it’s warm again and the heat would just be wasted,” they said.  Carrie said, “They said it has to be consistently cold.”

But this was little comfort in late September to cold students wrapped in blankets.  A little wasted heat sounded pretty nice around that time.

That year, a new thing began in the Muskie: weekly open mikes for writers.  The following year, it moved into the Pub, and was opened to other arts as well, such as music.  On October 1, I read one of my Fiction class stories, as suggested by my teacher.  I believe I read other things on other weeks as well.


On Friday, October 2, I had to sit with my Humanities class presentation group instead of my usual group during lunch, for a meeting.  Along with the presentation group, there were others.

At the table were Steve, N., Ned, Melissa, a guy I’ll call J.–and Peter!  Only one empty seat, and next to Peter, of all people!  Of course I had to sit there.

J. handed me the sheet with my part on it.  “We’re thinking about having you do ‘Singin’ in the Rain,'” he said.  (We were doing some modern take on Greek plays.  I was supposed to be a girl pretending to be a boy at an audition because girls didn’t act.)

Shocked, I cried, “That’s weird, because that’s just the one I was thinking about doing!”  I think Peter looked my way as I said this.

Soon, Peter said, “I’m going to take my tray up.”

He was gone an awfully long time for just taking his tray up, and, with a partition in the way, I couldn’t see where he went, or even when he went to the window.  I began to wonder if he’d run away from me.  But he finally came back, a newly-lit cigarette in his hand.  Maybe he got it from someone.

“No, Peter.  Bad,” Ned said.

Peter put it close to an ashtray, and the smoke billowed my way.  And this from the guy who used to complain about people smoking in the cafeteria.  I waved it away, sitting forward in my seat and making exaggerated lunges for it.  Everybody laughed.

“See that?” Ned said.  “Nyssa knows it’s bad.”

“They’re all bi***ing at me for smoking,” Peter said to me, “I guess so I’ll quit.”  He knew it was bad, but it was a long story how he got started smoking.

“Especially since you hated them before,” I said.  Then, with a smile, “Maybe you should try one of those nicotine patches.”

“No,” he said with a grimace.  He tapped the ashes into the ash tray again.  “Just willpower.”  He started blowing his smoke upwards to spare us.

We chatted a bit about my broken jam box; I wanted to know if he could fix it, but no, he could only fix cameras.  Then a short time later, after some more chatting, he said he was going to shoot pool, and left.  (Until my dad could fix that jam box, I relied on MTV for music.)

Once he was gone, I said to Steve, “It’s such a relief to be able to talk to him again.”

“Yeah,” Steve said.  “You know, I didn’t even notice that.”  He raised his eyebrows.  “Hm.”

Soon, the presentation group was left, and began rehearsing.  We went through the script several times.  J. was supposed to say at the end, “My sympathies to your father.”

He told me to say my lines in a deep voice, which, he said, would make my “uh-huh” sound like Elvis Presley.  I told Steve I should have an umbrella, and I did a little embellishing of the part I had to sing, trying to remember some of the things Fred Astaire did in the movie and the different ways they sang the song.

At about 12:30, N. had left, and my bosses Arthur and Nancy were the only other people sitting in the cafeteria.  Nancy came up to me and said, “You know, Nyssa, I’m really disappointed in you.  You, of all people, should know better.”

I blanched, wondering what in the world I’d done.

She said, “You should know better than to hold your tray!”

I jumped up, and J. and I took our trays back.

Before Steve came back with our mail and copies of the school paper, J. and I started talking about The Omen, which he’d seen, and the person whose mailbox number was 666.

“We’ll have to find out who it is,” I said, “and kill them for being the Antichrist!”  (I was joking, by the way.)

Steve came back with new, orange directories, and J. and I started looking for this person, who, however, didn’t seem to exist.  We found 665 and 667, but no 666.

You’ll note that the directories didn’t come out until almost a month into the semester.  Every semester, this was a problem, and you’d be stuck without people’s extensions if they changed rooms since the previous year or you didn’t have a copy of last semester’s directory.  You wouldn’t even know how to call the information desk from your room to find out somebody’s extension–if you even knew that you could do that.

Steve lent me a hat, tie, jacket and a dress shirt for my part.  I dropped them off in my room, and began working on a note.


I got the idea for the note from an issue of the magazine Campus Life, in the column “Love, Sex and the Whole Person,” written by Tim Stafford.

I wrote the note before re-reading the column; later on, I wished I’d read it first to get the words just right.  But I still thought (and think) that the note I did write was well-written.  This is the column:

Q: Is it possible for a guy and a girl who were going out once to become friends again–to be just as close, if not closer, than they were before?  I’m beginning to think it’s not.  

What suggestions do you have for two people who used to date, but now, several months later, won’t talk to each other?  

A: It’s possible to reestablish a friendship, but it’s very hard.  The more romantically involved you were, the more difficult it is to find a non-romantic way of being together.  Too many feelings get in the way.

A few months isn’t enough time to deal with powerful feelings.  Often a year must go by before you can let go of anger and disappointment.  Don’t try to force a change.  But keep the door open to friendship.

I thought enough time had already passed, since now Peter was talking to me–heck, chatting with me like a regular acquaintance.

The column went on:

A good way to keep the door open might be a note.  It could say something like:

“Just wanted to let you know I have good feelings about you and hope that we can be friends again someday.  I don’t think we’re ready yet, but I hope to see the day when we can sit down and talk like old times.  Let me know when you’re ready to try.  In the meantime, I hope things are going well for you.”

Then, when you think you’re ready, ask your old friend if you might have a soda together.  Keep it light.  Don’t go over the past.  Just try to talk as friends.  And if things feel comfortable, do it again in a week or two.  Gradually you may be able to reestablish a friendship.

I thought we already had the equivalent of that first soda, that day at lunch.  This is the note I sent to Peter:

Dear Peter,

I want you to know I’m praying for you, and that everyone misses you at the Nazarene church in S– (now known as the “Good News” church!).  I miss our friendship, and I think we should meet for a Pepsi at the Muskie sometime (not a date, dear friend!).

I put “Don’t Panic!” on the folded letter so he wouldn’t think it was a beg letter or anything like that.  I checked with Pearl to make sure it sounded just right.  When I asked if I should say “dear friend,” she said, “If he takes that the wrong way, that’s pretty sad!”

The letter took so long that I had to hurry to Humanities class, though I think I mailed it before or after class.


I changed in a room across from the classroom, putting Steve’s clothes on over my own.  Steve had put a slipknot in the tie, but it came out–one end was too short.  I put my hair in the hat, and came out of the room.  N. did the tie for me, and Steve made an OK sign to me.

We waited outside the door for our parts.  While N. was inside doing hers, some teacher came by and smiled.  Then she turned around at about the end of the hall, and came back by us, still smiling.  I finally went in with a smile, and did my part.  J. jumbled up his lines, confusing me once or twice.  N. shook my hand after class.


That evening, as I did some reading for Sophomore Honors, Catherine and her roommate came over. Most everyone had gone home for the weekend, so they were visiting those who still were left.  I asked to go along.

There was no one to see at Muehlmeier, so we went on to Grossheusch.  In between the two dorms were a bunch of guys playing a game, and someone was running a little, red, remote control car around the parking lot.

Catherine said, “Is that Shawn over there?”  I said, “It probably is.”  We got to the door at the same time as Shawn and another guy, cars in hand, and we spoke to him.

Catherine distributed her “HAPPY” signs: signs with “Happy Happy Happy” written on them, and covered with stickers and drawings.  I put mine on my door each year for at least the next two years.  When Elizabeth moved into the suite later that year, she saw my Happy sign and thought I must be a really happy person.

But back to October 2.  Catherine slipped a “HAPPY” sign under the door of Jennifer’s brother, then we went down a few doors to 212.  That person wasn’t there, so she was about to leave, when I suggested we visit Shawn in 211.

Catherine wanted me to visit Shawn by myself, doing her little matchmaker thing, so she tried to talk me into it, saying, “At least one of us oughtta have a guy on a Friday night.”  She didn’t succeed.

She said, “We’ll all visit, then leave you there after a few minutes.”  She knocked on the door.  “I have a gift for you, Shawn!” she said.  How embarrassing!

We all went in, and her roommate sat in the green chair.  Catherine and I stood by the wall for a few minutes, as Shawn did something with his red RC car.

I told Catherine about seeing Peter at lunch, but she said, “Don’t talk about Peter.  Shawn doesn’t like it.”  As if he even cared if I did or not!  Then she said it was time to leave, and Shawn once told us, with a smile, to leave.  I tried to follow them out, but Catherine turned around and said, “You stay!”

“But he told us to leave,” I said.

“He wouldn’t say anything like that.–Would you, Shawn?–You stay!”  She practically threw me back into the room, and slammed the door behind her.

I looked sheepishly at Shawn.  He told me to sit down, so I sat in the chair.  What else could I do?  So we tried to start a conversation.  It was about 7:00.  He asked what Catherine was trying to do, always trying to get him to see me and me to see him, but I didn’t want to tell him.  “Why don’t you ask her?” I cried.

“Because she won’t tell me,” he said.

I wasn’t completely sure myself, but I tried to reassure him that I didn’t think she was trying to get us to sleep together.  Then we started talking about my day, including Peter.

I mentioned the sunset, seen through a crack in the curtains; he told me to open the window so I could see it.  He meant the curtains, confusing me.  He acted like I was silly, and opened the curtains for me.

He lay down on the bed.  I still couldn’t see the sunset with the back of the chair turned to it.  He said, “You can see it better from over here.”  I wasn’t sure if this was an invitation, so I stayed put.

We talked for a bit; it had nothing to do with our makeout sessions or twisted relationship, but was still full of misunderstandings and my hurt feelings; he said, “I’ve interrogated you so much already, that it’s your turn.  Start questioning me, ask me anything you want to know.  Try to see from my answers, just how I think.”

I didn’t know what he meant, but began.  But he wasn’t satisfied.  Finally, he said he wanted me to lie next to him on the bed, so I could see the dying sunset and we could talk better.  So you see I waited for him to give a clear invitation, did not force myself on him.

He kept the lights off as the sunlight dimmed.  I climbed over him onto the bed, and lay against the backrest.  I gazed at a star; he said it was probably a planet, that the stars weren’t out yet.  I said no, it twinkles, and planets don’t twinkle.  He said planets twinkle, too.

He said the best sci-fi comes from stories with a moral; I said we downplayed that very thing just recently in Fiction class.

He said we now know humanoids could never have lived on Mars, that we know too much about it for successful sci-fi set there; this upset me because of my Martian stories.

I told him that I asked a girl in my high school Astronomy class about this, because I wanted to publish my Martian stories, but we now know they’re not plausible.  She said not to worry, that my stories are just the sort of thing people want to read about.

I asked him why he was voting for Bush; he said he’s the best candidate, and on the right side.  He said, “That’s politics, go deeper!”  I couldn’t figure out what more he wanted; these were indeed the things I wanted to know.  Wasn’t that what he told me to do?

Finally, when I asked why he kept dismissing me as being “as mature as a 19-year-old,” when I was 19 and for years people called me mature for my age–he revealed what he wanted me to probe for.  With only a little provocation, he opened up his heart.

I won’t reveal his private thoughts, just that it was about his time in the mental institution (which was no secret at Roanoke anyway), and that he only told people what they needed to know about it.  Obviously he felt I needed to know far more.  The feelings came pouring out, and the tears.

At the end he said, “I guess this is what I wanted you to find out about me.  I seem to have a gift for finding out how people think, from the simplest replies, without them even knowing.”  He turned to me.  “But I’ve overwhelmed you, haven’t I?  They say not to do that.”

I agreed, but did not answer.  I didn’t know how to react, so I said and did nothing, thinking that might be best.

Then he began asking me to do things, some I was fine with, but some which made me uncomfortable, so I did not do them.  The conversation became more intimate as he tried to get me to experiment.

I followed his lead, though I kept trying to stop him when he wanted to do things I did not want.  He was persistent, however, and I finally let him do some things he’d been begging to do for months, admitting I did actually want them, too.  Things got more heated and…

The phone rang.  It was his parents.  At almost midnight!  He told me to be very quiet, but I couldn’t help snickering now and then.

It was a very long call, with all his parents and siblings, so eventually I got hungry and thirsty and had to go to the bathroom.  As I tidied my hair before going out, he told someone that Heidi called him way too analytical, even more than her!  It was so true that I could barely keep from laughing.

Then Samuel, Anna’s friend, began going up and down the hallway, yelling, “Fleeee fornication!  Fleeee fornication!”  That made it even harder to contain my laughter.

When Shawn hung up, saying he wanted to get up for Saturday breakfast for once, he scolded me: “You were noisy.  I could hear you!  But it’s all right; you were still quiet enough.”

This may be when I went to find the women’s little bathroom.  I tried to get enough information from him that I would not get lost, but he said the dorm was so simple that “if you get lost, then you’re not as smart as I thought you were!”  But I kept having trouble finding that little bathroom that year, depending on whether the sign was on the door.

I was feeling melancholy about Peter, and expected to now move to the guest room in the suite to talk and cry about that.  But Shawn kissed me “goodnight” a few times and that plan was set aside.

I even fell asleep for a time; as he tried to wake me up, he said, “You know, I could take advantage of you now, really easily.”  I said, “But I know you won’t.”  He said, “No, it’s really tempting right now.  Really tempting.”  So I quickly roused myself and got up.

He said, “I thought we agreed this wasn’t going to happen again.”  Which was maddening, because he’d been driving the whole night.

Eventually, we began talking again, about old love interests, then he walked me home.  I said something I should never have said: Somehow, after all this, I was thinking of Peter!  “Reality hits at 3am, so I know what I really feel for who,” because I felt strong love for Peter, and not much of anything for Shawn.

I just want to go back in time and slap myself for that.  Here Shawn could very well have been falling for me, with all he did and said that evening, and I said I was still in love with Peter, who didn’t care two bits about me anymore??!!

Sometimes I think I sabotaged my own relationship with Shawn by talking too much about pining for Peter.  But eventually that did end.

But I was definitely attracted to Shawn, always had been, or I would not have fallen so easily into temptation with him, again and again and–as the following school year would prove–continuously until he left Roanoke for good.

As we passed Chase, we saw a kitten, but it ran away from us.  I said, “I want so bad to pet something warm and furry and cuddly.”  Shawn said, “You’d better not say that to your friends.  They might misunderstand.”

He said, “Maybe you should tell Catherine that we had a big fight and you hate me.”  He left me at the door.  He said he was going to bed, but there were lights on in the Beta suite, so he went there instead.  He missed breakfast.

The next day, at dinner, I wanted to tell him a couple of intimate things relating to the night before.  I hung around him in the Campus Center lounge waiting for my chance; once, at the information desk, the worker there asked me, “Can I help you?”  Shawn said, “She’s just hanging around.”

Then he headed back to his dorm, and I went with him part of the way.  He said, “No, you’re not coming with me.”  I was miffed because I didn’t plan to; I just wanted to tell him those two things.  Which I did, then left.


So you see how I tried to be good when Catherine shoved me into his room, but he called me over, confided in me, made me his toy for the night, exhibited quite a bit of passion for me, then scolded me as if I had started everything, and treated me with scorn and derision the following day, trying to push me away from him.

He would say I was beautiful and pretty, but didn’t want to be my boyfriend.  Once or twice, later in the year, he even said he wasn’t attracted to me–but his behavior belied this claim.  What he got from me, he could’ve gotten that and much more every weekend from the easy high school “pop tarts” who came around the guys’ dorm looking for college boys; he didn’t have to come to me.

He was always completely sober, because he never drank or did drugs.  He didn’t do this with anybody else, and neither did I.  So you can’t blame it on inebriation.  If he didn’t find me attractive in some way, then why did he keep lusting after me?  Why did he call me pretty?

(I was also thin and curvy, and kept myself clean, so there was nothing to turn him off physically.  After him came several boyfriends, all of which considered me beautiful and sexy.)

Why did he come over every weekend, or ask me over, looking for some more?  Why did he seem to want me so intently?

If I was so unattractive to him, then why didn’t he just stop coming over, cut me loose, only talk to me on the phone or at mealtime, and pursue some girl he actually liked, leaving me to pursue other guys who might like me?

In fact, before Christmas Break he insisted it was all going to stop and we would get to know each other as friends, only to–as soon as we got back to school–start asking every night for me to come over, until I finally did.

Even now it makes no sense, because usually you hear about guys either getting drunk first, or one-night stands, if he’s not attracted to her physically.  Neither applied here.

And we ran in the same circles, so it would be impossible to avoid each other; why do something you’d regret–over and over again–while in full possession of your faculties?

He wasn’t some handsome, muscular stud–No, he was an ordinary geeky guy, getting pretty flabby around the middle, who seemed to annoy a lot of people, was considered obnoxious by my friends, and had an awful time finding dates.

I believe one or two of my friends didn’t like him at all.  They especially didn’t like him coming over all the time, behaving like I was his girlfriend, and then telling me he didn’t want me except as a friend.

Other than two girlfriends in high school, there had been nobody else, and would be nobody else for quite some time after he left Roanoke; I was the only girl at Roanoke known to be interested in him.

Some guy saw a picture of his ex and said, “How did you get a girl like this?  You’re butt-ugly, man.”  But I thought he was cute: He had dark hair, glasses, and big, Irish blue eyes I could get lost in.

I had a huge crush on him, which is why I kept taking him in every week.  That, and I liked doing what we did.

We kept going farther and farther, but did not want to lose our virginity through vaginal sex (that would be sinful).  However, we were extremely naïve to think that what we did eventually do was not “sex.”

It was, according to medical definitions, and far too many Christian kids are going too far because they think only one thing (vaginal) means “sex” (or that it’s the only way to get pregnant).  I write about this here, with links to various articles.

Such things as we did are meant to lead to a certain end point, and stirred up our passions to boiling.  And according to Wisconsin law, what we did qualified as sexual contact and intercourse, so legally, we were mistaken that we were still virgins.

The following year, I let my fiance Phil lead me into more things with this idea that only vaginal penetration=sex and only sex=sin.  He made me feel silly and uneducated in sex for thinking otherwise.

I never did this stuff with Peter, because Peter and I felt it was going too far.  They were all Shawn’s idea, and it took him months of convincing to get me to start giving in to him.  And Phil found it a lot easier to break through my reserve because Shawn had done all the work before him.

Even Christian boys can be just as persistent as non-Christian ones, so if you’re dating only Christians expecting to never have this problem, think again.  Don’t be naïve like I was; know what you’re getting into.  And if you’re under 18, be warned that what you’re doing could be illegal.  At least we were 19.

Once Shawn got it in my head that these things were not sinful, I only wanted more–and we got deeper into trouble as we went.  Then afterwards, he would tell me in a long lecture why he didn’t want to go out with me and criticize everything about me.  He’d also tell me about other girls he was attracted to–who included some of my friends.

The problem, as we discovered later, was that he knew my body but he didn’t know me, my soul, how I thought about things.  All he knew was what other catty people thought, people who weren’t even my friends.

When I think back–especially now that I’ve been married for years, those youthful indiscretions were nowhere near as satisfying as what I do with my husband, and I haven’t actually been haunted with disturbing “memories” which church leaders always warned teenagers would follow them into their marital beds–I don’t really regret it so much anymore.

It feels like I regretted it for so long that it just got tiresome to keep thinking so negatively about it.

It seems like, after many years, continuing to beat yourself up for past sins becomes overkill and unhealthy, especially if those sins did not really hurt anyone, have now been set aside through marriage and never had negative impacts on that marriage.

Hubby doesn’t seem to care that I did these things before him; by the time he came along, what I did with Shawn was overshadowed by Phil, and Hubby sure wasn’t innocent, himself, putting us on an equal footing.

Rather, I’ve just put it into my past as something that happened and shaped who I was.  In fact, I don’t find the memories disturbing at all; I’m supposed to, yet instead they are pleasurable reminders of a colorful past, not promiscuous but monogamous.  Even my “friend with benefits” was monogamous.

What I do regret is that Shawn did all these things with me but kept insisting he didn’t care for me the way I cared for him, that our friendship was damaged by it.

If he had not been so disgusted in May 1993 by what we did, seeing it as a grievous sin and an impure relationship, while I was not disgusted, maybe he would have been kinder to me.

Many of my readers will say I was an adult and did nothing wrong.  That’s fine, especially in this day and age.

But if you want to save yourself for marriage, don’t do what I did, because one thing leads to another, and Shawn and I both felt that our “impure” relationship damaged our relationships with God.

And in any case, this story is meant to show two things: 1) how easy it is to get out of control with lust if you want to save yourself for marriage, and 2) how adding “benefits” to a friendship can destroy it.

I have no regret over the first ten months, which were a lot of fun.

But things began to take a very dangerous turn in January 1993, not just taking away any innocence and purity that might still have been left to us and our relationship, but damaging our friendship almost beyond repair.

It’s a miracle that things finally turned around eventually, long after the sexual aspect was removed–but more on that later.

Cast of Characters (Work in Progress)

Table of Contents

Freshman Year

September 1991:

 October 1991:

November 1991:

December 1991: Ride the Greyhound

January 1992: Dealing with a Breakup with Probable NVLD

 February 1992:

March 1992: Shawn: Just Friends or Dating?

April 1992: Pledging, Prayer Group–and Peter’s Smear Campaign

May 1992:

Sophomore Year 

Summer 1992:

September 1992:

October 1992–Shawn’s Exasperating Ambivalence:

November 1992:

December 1992:

January 1993:

February 1993:

March 1993:

April 1993:

May 1993:

Summer 1993: Music, Storm and Prophetic Dreams

September 1993:

October 1993:

November 1993:

December 1993:

January 1994:

February 1994:

March 1994:

April 1994:

Senior Year 

June 1994–Bits of Abuse Here and There:

July & August 1994:

January 1995:

February 1995:

March 1995:

April 1995:

May 1995: