Ah, sweet mystery of life.
My name is Maven and I've been thinking about romantic fumblings, and how it was that I learned about love and sex. So what follows is a series of defining moments and childhood memories.
It all started when I was 5 and in kindergarten and my best friend Julie and I manufactured and then cherished our joint crush on a kid named Kent. Later, when we had graduated from high school, I asked Kent if he'd ever "thought about it," meaning had he considered that he might like me as more than a friend and he replied that yes, of course he had thought about it, itís only natural when youíre good friends with someone of the opposite sex. But that was that and now Kent is married and a father and I havenít spoken to him in at least 10 years. He was a good correspondent, that Kent. I used to get fat letters from him when I first started college, always with some comical return address like "Chi P. Hore."
Well, I suppose after kindergarten I knew how the system worked: you were supposed to like a boy, or he liked you; you chased each other at recess, or you ignored each other, or you passed notes. When I busted my chin open in first grade, a boy named Donny wrote me a get-well note on that soft gray lined paper that said "I think you are sexie." I was certain my parents were not supposed to see this, though I couldn't stand Donny. Once, he grabbed me from behind on the playground and I yanked him right over my shoulders and flipped him into the sand, karate-style.
I didn't "go with" a boy until 5th grade, and even then, what did anyone do? The transactions were always effected with an intermediary, a grade-school yenta who said "he likes you do you like him he wants to know if you like him do you?" and then you said "yes" and this was communicated to the boy, and then perhaps a "will you go with me?" note followed. The few times this happened to me, I was freaked out by the whole thing. Finally, social validation! but with the odd sense that it was all stupid, and what were we doing, anyway? I broke it off after a day, two days, a week.
I had my first kiss in junior high. That, too, was short-lived. Ryan was a skate rat and he wrote my name on his jeans in black marker. On the phone, he told me he loved me and I said it back automatically, aware that it was a lie and I shouldnít be saying it if I didnít feel it, and not counting it as my first love in any case. We were together about two weeks, and in that time I donít remember spending any time together other than a night when we sat on his skateboard on the porch and he kissed me and said, "well, that was easy" and I laughed and he said, "I had to say something to break the tension" and I said "what tension?" like I was reading a movie script. Lord only knows how much my visions of romance, of first love, of first sex were shaped by movies.
Later that night, Ryan cupped my butt with one hand and said "ass" in a cutesy voice. I broke up with him the following week. When friends wanted to know how far Iíd gone with boys, I fabricated a camp boyfriend and glossed over the details.
I constantly thought about having sex when I was a teenageróprobably not as much as I think about it now, at 31, but still. It dominated my thoughts. It was fraught with mystery. I thought about it when I was at church and supposed to be paying attention to the sermon. Sex and church have remained tied up in my mind, I suppose because of some perverse thing where I thought about sex in church specifically because it seemed like the exact wrong thing to be thinking about. I can remember jilling off on lazy Sunday afternoons and then feeling a sort of nauseated ennui about everything, especially my nonexistent romantic life. Tell that to your analyst.
And then when I finally did get some fumbling teenage action, and supposedly fell in love, I knew I would never have sex with the guy. Ben was the one I'd wantedóI'd had a crush on him for months before he was finally available, and then voila, he asked me out. That's still one of the most date-like dates Iíve ever been on in my life, except for the part where he was driving his momís mini-van. I mean, he took me to a PLAY at an actual THEATER.
Making out with him was exciting, I'll admit, but he coddled me, he drove me nuts, he was Mr. Sensitive. He was a sensitive ponytail man in tie-dyed t-shirts. The first time he felt me up he later asked, tenderly, "were you okay with what I did back there?" and I joked that I probably wouldíve yelled or something if I hadnít been okay. But really, I wanted to yell "just GET DOWN TO IT and stop being so goddamn sensitive all the time," not that I had quite formed the thought that coherently. *I* wasn't going to make any aggressive moves, because I didn't want my inexperience to be evident. *He* wasn't going to make any aggressive moves, because his mama had raised him right. It was a vicious cycle.
If Ben had taken the reins, in our relationship and in our waterbed fumblings, I probably would've gone right along with him. That's something to think about: how would things have been different if I'd started bonking people in high school? But no, I dumped Ben the week before prom. We went together anyway, and it was as awkward as you please. After the stupid dance, at 3 AM, I was jumping on his friend's backyard trampoline in my bikini, freshly hot-tubbed, perfectly sober, and uninterested in boys. God. What a scene that must have been, what with my wet jiggling nubility flying through the air.
Predictably, between grades 7 through 12 and on into my first year of college, there was also a series of extraordinarily painful crushes on unworthy oaves that ended in nothing, though Peter once titillated me by boasting that he could undo a bra one-handed and then later expertly sliding his hand up the back of my shirt and proving himself as good as his word. Alas, we never dated.
I did get lucky, though: when I was 19, I fell in love with someone who knew what he was doing. It was fearless, that time in my life. I had a man who adored me, who knew I was smarter than he was and who worshipped my brain, who got me off a million times before I ever laid a hand on him. And once I started doin' it, I was knocked on my ass by desire. I can't believe I still had friends or had passed any of my classes when that school year ended.
After that relationship, I suppose I felt like I knew what I was doing, finally, finally, FINALLY. But all the ignorance and fumbling and discovery of being with someone else never actually ends. You just get much more comfortable with it and there's less note-passing, fewer playground chases.
Love and booty,