Sunday, January 08, 2017

Taking a Ride to the Top

"Discouraging premarital sex is against my religion."

Barney (Neil Patrick Harris)

When it comes to losing one's virginity, it is possible to make sweeping generalizations about the attitudes of both genders and be certain that they are mostly true — allowing for the relatively few exceptions.

Most girls want their first time to be with someone special, someone with whom they could see spending the rest of their lives — even if they won't, and most of them don't. Most guys just want to do it.

That, essentially, was the heart of the episode of How I Met Your Mother that premiered on this night in 2007 — "First Time in New York." Native Canadian Robin (Cobie Smulders) was excited about a visit from her younger sister Katie (Lucy Hale) — until Robin and Lily (Alyson Hannigan) saw her passionately kissing a young man as they got off the airplane. Katie explained to Robin that she and the young man had been dating for a couple of months and had decided to sleep together while they were in New York (he was there to visit a cousin).

It was to be Katie's first time. I don't recall if it was ever said whether it was to be her boyfriend's first time. Robin was against the idea and tried to enlist the help of her friends in preventing the tryst. They agreed to help, but the males showed a decided lack of enthusiasm. Marshall (Jason Segel) and Ted (Josh Radnor) had no prepared remarks for talking a girl out of having sex, and Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) argued that it was against his faith to discourage premarital sex.

Thus, the stage was set for the regular cast to get nostalgic about their first times.

Lily and Marshall, for example, had wanted to make their first time special, but they ended up having sex in Marshall's dorm room minutes after agreeing to wait — with Ted sleeping in the upper bunk. Marshall had been under the impression that he and Lily had only slept with each other, but in the conversation it was strongly suggested that Lily had slept with someone else — by implication her high school boyfriend Scooter.

And that created something of a crisis for Marshall — even though Lily insisted that it didn't count because they fooled around but never went all the way. As this conversation was taking place in the lobby of the Empire State Building, Lily used it as an example. She told Katie that she had wanted to come to the Empire State Building for a long time, but she had chosen to wait until she could do so with the right person.

For her part, Robin couldn't stop seeing her sister as the child she had once been, which made it hard for her to talk about other aspects of sex — especially since she was having trouble saying "I love you" to Ted.

That was something Robin had never told a boyfriend before. None of her previous relationships had lasted that long; there was always a deal breaker. Consequently, her relationship with Ted was taking her into uncharted territory.

But her sister thought it was hypocritical of Robin to not want her to lose her virginity at the age of 17 when Robin had lost hers at the age of 16.

Robin said she had just barely had sex — her boyfriend decided that night that he was gay — but it still counted. When asked what she meant by just barely, Robin replied, "He didn't dive all the way into the pool, but he splashed around in the shallow end."

Lily said that didn't count, and that is when it was suggested (and more or less confirmed by Lily's silence) that Lily had been with someone else before she was with Marshall. It bothered Marshall because, in his words, "it rewrites our history."

Lily didn't agree. "Have you been in the Empire State Building?" she asked. "You've only been in the lobby. People don't buy tickets to get in the lobby. They buy tickets to get to the top. Scooter only got in the lobby, and the lobby doesn't count."

Marshall's lawyeresque response was to ask a passerby where they were. He was told the Empire State Building.

As things turned out Katie decided not to lose her virginity to Kyle. Robin told Ted that he had been the one to persuade her with a little conversation they had. Ted told Katie about his first time. "I told her I loved her, but I just wanted to have sex," Ted said. "I would've said anything to make that happen, and that's exactly what I did."

Then he said perhaps the truest thing ever said in a TV sitcom. "I'm not telling you what to do. I'm just telling you what all 17–year–old boys are like — even the nice ones."

So Katie chose not to take a ride to the top with Kyle.

Robin was so grateful that she, perhaps impulsively, told Ted she loved him. She said it felt right.

"You lost your I–love–you–ginity," he told her.

"I was just waiting for the right guy," Robin replied.