For You, The Stars
Chapter Nine: Installment 3
So I had no problem making friends with women, beautiful or not, but getting them into bed was another matter entirely. I remember walking Bella home once from an eating club where we’d been drinking on Friday night to her apartment off campus and teasing her that she felt safe with me because I was no threat. I wasn’t going to hit on her or jump her like the drunken football yo’s we were passing on our way down Prospect Street. Also, she was still going out with my friend Paulie at the time, so she was off limits even if I was inclined to act like a jerk. She didn’t really take the bait. In some way I was probably leading her on, trying to get her to either say that yes on some level she was attracted to me or to say something really cutting and hurtful, like that I wasn’t tall enough or “not her type” or something, so that maybe I could decide she was a bit and stop lusting after her, or lusting “on” her as we said in those days. She was too smart and kind to let me off the hook that way, though, steering the conversation in to something else and ignoring my ham-handed attempts.
I was still in a remedial mode with girls. I’d been to an all-boy grade school and I had stupidly agreed to go to an all-male boarding school as well so when I got to college I found myself playing catchup. I was stuck in the mode of pimply seventh-grader, trying to get girls’ attention by snapping their bra straps (OK, not literally) or dumping their hair in the inkwell (again, not literally). I hadn’t had the years of practice my other peers had. If anything I’d lost ground. When I really was in seventh grade I had a girlfriend, because at least then I was living at home in New York and my friends and I could go to parties on the weekends and meet girls from Sacred Heart and Chapin and all the other schools on the upper east side.
My girlfriend in 1977 was the older sister of a boy in my brother’s class, a sacred heart girl, Margaret Healey. It was a little creepy seeing her brother, James in the hallways at school because he had the same light colored hair, red cheeks and long eyelashes. It wasn’t my fault that he was a very pretty little boy, the spit and image of his sister. Margaret was quiet and clearly saw something in me that she liked, although I never found out what. We figured out how to spin the bottle deliberately so it would land on each other and after taking a lot of turns making out in front of everyone else we were kicked out of game and ended up in another room, lying on top of a bunch of winter coats, just kissing.
I wasn’t even trying to have sex then. I was thirteen years old for Christ’s sake. At best I was interested in maybe feeling a boobie and even that I was a little shy to do. I thought that Margaret, being a good Catholic girl, would probably freak if I tried to sneak my hand up under her shirt and, to be perfectly honest, I was in heaven just kissing. It wasn’t chaste pecks we were sharing but deep soulful tongue kissing. You may forget once you’ve “gone all the way” but at a certain stage, french kissing can be just about all the sex you really need. It has the warm wet intimacy of any other kind of sex and the mouth and tongue can be very playful and intelligence. There’s really no other word for it. You can feel the other person’s mind in there as she taps your teeth with her tongue or sucks gently on yours.
Then, the summer between seventh and eighth grade, Margaret’s family moved out of town - I forget where - and it took me six years to get back to even that level of affection with another girl. One time, when I was in college still, I went into the city with a few friends and we ended up at Studio 54, which was no longer in its heyday but was still functioning as an ordinary disco. I ran into Margaret at the bar, in the city with some college friends of her own. We found a place in the quieter seats upstairs and reminisced about our first experiences with the opposite sex. Both of us agreed that it was kind of nice that we hadn’t felt the pressure to go any further. We both liked all the kissing (ok, “making out”) we were doing and we both enjoyed having someone. People at school would try to tease me: “Daniel’s got a girlfriend!” and it just made smile confidently. I never saw Margaret again after that.
I went through high school without another girlfriend until my senior year then when we started hanging out with girls from a couple of nearby schools. That’s when I established my pattern of becoming close friends with girls I had crushes on but not being able to close the deal. They liked having me as as friend and the ones who were attracted to me - as I’d sometimes find out years after the fact - were themselves so incredibly shy that they couldn’t get me to notice them. I think in general my radar was off and I was being drawn to the girls who were wrong for me and completely overlooking the ones I could have hooked up with, who were somehow invisible. So in a way it was my own fault.
So when I got to college and was surrounded by healthy attractive young women I was like a kid in the candy shop without a nickel. I was succumbing to one crush or infatuation after another but my skills were still arrested at an early adolescent level, and I was still going after the wrong people. I did finally meet a girl the summer after my freshman year, again back in New York where I seemed to still have some residual coolness. Diane and I were working at the same summer job. She was in from the midwest, going to college at Wellesley. We got talking at a party in a friend’s brownstone while his parents were at the shore, went up on the roof to look at the stars, and before I knew it were kissing. In fact, I think I very awkwardly asked her “may I kiss you?” terrified of her answer and she said yes. Like I said, I had no skills.
Suddenly I was back in that realm I had missed for all the intervening years, kissing a pretty girl who liked me. We ended up spending the night to gether in a spare room, not making love (I was still a virgin at this point) but fooling around a little: what my parents might have called heavy petting. I was instantly infatuated. I sent her a dozen roses at work the next day and we were inseparable for the rest of that summer progressing eventually to oral sex but holding off on the intercourse since she said she only wanted to do that if she was in love. I started working on being in love.
When we got back to school we were both sophomores and we were suddenly dealing with a long distance relationship. That was no problem for me. It took me out of the game on campus and sort of solved my girlfriend problem in a way I didn’t have to deal with most of the time. Sure, I missed her and without her around I was getting no action at all, but I hadn’t been having any luck and none of the new crop of freshmen girls seemed especially interested me. So we wrote letters to each other and I told her that I thought I was falling in love with her. I told myself this too and if anything I made it true because I needed it to be true. Plus, why not? She was smart and funny and pretty and she liked me. She didn’t party and she was athletic, so those were minuses, or at least areas of incompatibility, and she liked pretty sappy music. Apparently “our song” was “Longer Than” by Dan Fogelberg, but these were problems I could live with.
Every few weekends I’d either go up there or she’d come down to visit me. We were making progress on the actual sex front. She told me she’d gone to her school infirmary to get a diaphragm. She didn’t want to go on the pill. She’d been on it before and hadn’t liked the way it made her feel. She wasn’t a virgin. She’d had a boyfriend in high school, like a normal person, and they’d “done it” a few times. It hadn’t ended well, which was one of the reasons why she was being so cautious. She had been in love with him, though, she told me. I hated not being her first. I couldn’t compete with these previous guys, these first loves who were always so perfect or had been at the time. I had the same problem with Cecilia. She was always going on about her previous boyfriend who looked like that guy on the TV show “wise guys” and was taller than me and darker and more athletic. You can’t compete with memories.
Finally, I went up to Yale with the rugby team. I was on the third-string squad but I got to play a little and then a bunch of us continued on to Wellesley. That weekend I finally lost my virginity. I had told Diane that I was in fact not a virgin, either because I was ashamed or because I knew she wasn’t and I didn’t want her to know how desparate I was to pass that milestone and get it behind me. I realized quickly that this was idiotic but then I couldn’t see a graceful way to tell the truth. Unfortunately this meant that she wouldn’t know how momentous our first time was going to be for me. Or maybe it wouldn’t matter that our first time was my first time in general, since it was clearly a big event for the both of us.
That weekend, she told me she was getting her period but that she still thought we could do it. I was sleeping with her in her narrow single cot bed and her roommate agreed to spend the night somewhere else. Her roommate was otherwise not friendly with me. She acted suspicious, like I was going to hurt Diane somehow when really it was the other way around. We made love that night to a mix tape Diane had made with our song on it, along with “Little Red Corvette” and “Fire and Rain.”
I was elated and let down at the same time. The moment of entry felt far better than I ever would have imagined. No hand or lotion or silky fabric could compare to a sheath that was designed for this exact purpose. Slippery tight and warm, I almost lost it right there. The letdown was that she did not climax. At the time I didn’t realize that women won’t just automatically come from intercourse the way men pretty much will. I’d gotten too much of my sexual education from Penthouse Forum and the equivalent, in which women spontaneously explode with orgasm after orgasm at the touch of a man’s hand or tongue or penis.
Also, when we were done she cried. Why do women always cry after the first time you make love to them? It’s sort of discouraging.