TLC’s new series Virgin Diaries stumbled upon a very real, viral goldmine with the young couple Shanna and Ryan. If you’ve been on the Internet this past week, you’ve likely seen the clip of these two gnawing each other’s faces off in a voracious kiss at their wedding, showing the world what it can look like when two people on either side of 30 wait until the altar for their very first kiss.
Holding off until the wedding night to consummate a relationship is certainly not a newfangled idea, but Shanna and Ryan’s decision to hold off on everything but nuzzles and cheek kisses is what helped turn the two into certifiable web-lebrities by the end of the week. That, and the fact that they apparently didn’t watch too many kissing scenes very well in the lead-up to their big, on-screen moment.
Virgin Diaries focuses on a few other chaste individuals, though none of them will stand up to the pitch-perfect weirdness of Shanna and Ryan and their Kiss Heard Round The World. There’s 35-year-old Carey, who is rather sadly labeled as “Maryland Virgin” at the bottom of the screen. He’s meek but able to laugh about having made it to 35 without sex, explaining that it wasn’t on purpose but more from lack of opportunity. All this insight while he’s shown playing with his cat and cooking up a delicious-looking, homemade lasagna to later eat with his mom.
Then there’s the virgin roommate trio, Lisa, Tamara, and Danielle. This curious bunch are all smiles and bubbly personalities, though their motivations for remaining celibate until 29 and 30 remain less clear than Shanna and Ryan (who gleefully describe meeting each other at a Christian Halloween party). Also, while Lisa and Danielle are virgins who’ve kissed only a handful of people, Tamara explains that she’s a “reclaimed virgin,” who “feels like it will be like I never had sex before” when she re-loses it because of how differently she feels about sex these days. Even inexperienced Lisa knows the logic is a little smudgy and admits, “I don’t think it quite works like that.”
TLC makes great pains to show these people in embarrassing and intentionally patronizing light, whether they’re playing on swings and a see-saw (Shanna and Ryan), sharing a bottle of wine with their mom (Carey), or sitting on a bed in a suggestive shoulder massage train (Tamara, Lisa, and Danielle). Carey and the thirty-something virgin gals come across as innocent yet ultimately self-aware of their somewhat unique sexual situations. Yet, Shanna and Ryan are fixed inside a bubble of giddy inexperience. They’re all too happy to parade their clunky, cringe-inducing PDAs past the camera, over and over again.
If it felt awkward at the altar, hold onto your chastity belts for what comes after the vows. Shanna and Ryan, in all their nervy, breathy glory, do what few reality TV subjects are capable of doing: They remain totally and completely clueless to the insanity of their situation. Even after wedding guests have gasped and shielded their eyes from the infamous chomp-kiss, they soldier on with more and more open mouth slurps and licks. It’s as though a floodgate has opened after the priest says, “You may now kiss the bride.” Shanna and Ryan have discovered the joy of open-mouthed human contact and can’t squeeze enough in, whether in the middle of the dance floor or while trying to give an interview to the cameramen. Even Ryan seems overwhelmed at moments by his bride’s insatiable need for tongue-filled smooches, saying, “I can tell she’s been holding back, and… now she’s not.” Also, we learn that Ryan likes to keep his eyes open while he and his blushing bride scoop out each other’s mouths with their tongues, only adding to the overall ugghhh-factor of it all.
Meanwhile, Carey’s dating prospects and the trio of older virgins are, unsurprisingly, vastly overshadowed by the virgin newlyweds. It becomes difficult to focus on Carey’s unsuccessful blind date and awkward night out at the bar attempting to get laid. Or, when the trio go out for a mini-golf blind date and discover the three men they’ve been set up with are—gasp!—all virgins, too! (Well played, producers!) While these would normally be compelling stories in any other reality series, they become mere footnotes in this premiere episode of Virgin Diaries.
Beyond the wedding kiss to end all wedding kisses, there’s also the looming realization that Shanna and Ryan actually have to navigate more than their mouths to one another. See, they also have to have sex on their wedding night. It's reasonable to assume any video evidence of that experience would have dwarfed their kiss video in viral views. Yet, it’s respectfully left behind closed doors and only summed up the next day when the two share some drippy ice cream cones for the camera. Shanna says, “It wasn’t really like the movies. They make it seem really simple.” To which Ryan flatly responds, “It was good, but not quite as good as I was expecting.” It was inadvertent, but the goofy twosome might have countered decades of gorgeously lit, impeccable-looking screen kisses with their heartfelt lip-gnaws. So raise a glass and cheers to the happy, slurpy couple!