DEAR HARRIETTE: I’ve been dating this great guy for about five months now. He has recently expressed interest in taking things to the next level, and I would love to. However, there is one problem: I’m a virgin. It’s not that I’ve never had the opportunity to have sex, but I was just more focused on my education and ensuring my financial stability than in dating. I know most people my age are out of that phase where they are experimenting and figuring out what works for them or teaching their partner how to do what they like. How can I break this to him? – 32- Year-Old Virgin, Racine, Wisconsin

DEAR 32-YEAR-OLD VIRGIN: Given how long you have waited, you should by all means take your time now. In a nonintimate setting, talk to your boyfriend about what it means for you to take the next step. Absolutely tell him that you are a virgin – and explain why. You need to be clear why you feel comfortable walking through that door with him. It’s OK for him to feel nervous about the prospect. Do not take this step lightly. When he learns your history, he may want to slow down. That is great.

Becoming sexually intimate with someone should be considered one of the most sacred experiences – at least from my perspective – and should not be entered into casually.

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DEAR HARRIETTE: My son will be going off to college in August four hours away from home, and I am nervous. Not because my child will be away from home for the first time, but because I know I can no longer avoid talking to him about sex. Now, it’s not that my ex-husband and I never said anything about sex to him, but we never had a formal conversation about it beyond making sure he wasn’t having it.

Getting him to campus without having this talk would be ideal, but I know this would prove pretty dangerous, given what goes on on campus. I am tempted to ask another family member to talk to him about this. Should I do this if I can’t handle having the conversation? Or do I just need to overcome my fears of my child growing up and get it over with? – Your Typical Overprotective Religious Parent, Buffalo, New York

DEAR YOUR TYPICAL OVERPROTECTIVE RELIGIOUS PARENT: Now is better than never. Your conversation needs to be about more than sex, though. Talk to your son about relationships, about how to recognize someone with integrity and goodness. Don’t let your being religious turn into a wall that is impenetrable. And, yes you have to demonstrate courage to speak openly with your son. You can do it, and you must. Ask him how he feels about going away to school and if he is nervous about the social scene.

You also should definitely find someone else who can be a confidante to him who shares your values. Since you have not been in an ongoing conversation with your son about sex, intimacy, relationships, etc., it is unlikely that he will naturally open up to you. Please find someone you think he trusts who is willing to stay in touch with him as he navigates his life.

— Lifestylist and author Harriette Cole is president and creative director of Harriette Cole Media. You can send questions to [email protected] or c/o Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.