(About a 6 minute read)
Ask nearly anyone to sum up adolescence in a few words and most likely one of those words will be “confusing”. Whatever else it is, that word is just as focused on a key truth as a teenage boy is focused on his friend’s suddenly perky nipples the very first time he espies them by the light of the werewolf moon.
What is often not mentioned, however, is how frequently adolescent confusions turn all manner of relationships into cruel ropes that jerk their victims back when they try to run from a bad situation. Even blind or unintended abuse is magnified by the fact kids bond so quickly and firmly to each other.
In my senior year in high school, I was a cocky cock-hound. I’d arrived at last, winning the election (i.e. popularity contest) for student council president, and thus positioning myself to rack up all sorts of achievements that year, except for any academic ones.
Moreover, I was at the height of a boy’s hormonal onslaught, during which time he is unfortunately more likely to sexually objectify a girl than he is to seek to know and appreciate her as a person.
In my British History class, there sat a sophomore directly behind me. Her name was “Patty”. She was shapely and petite, red hair and blue eyes, with a pretty face.
Though it would take me years — years! — to recall all the clues I was given at the time but failed to figure out their meanings, Patty was one of shyest, but intensely free-spirited girls in the school. She was also, at just sixteen, a real artist, genuinely creative not merely in the visual arts of drawing and painting, but in her thinking and values too.
Beyond that, she was exceptionally kind for a teen, honest, generous, and considerate of others. Patty was, in my view, the sort of person that at the time I foolishly and absurdly felt mild contempt for. Consequently, I would not have noticed her had it not been for my arrogant quest to ever and ever aggrandize my ego.
Strange that I didn’t notice her at all! Today, if a woman like her made herself freely available to me, I suspect my heart might renounce it’s decades long desire to be celibate with significantly greater prejudice than an Orthodox rabbi might marshal against an infant’s foreskin, and faster than a descending zipper on prom night.
As it was, Patty noticed me, and that’s because — as I mentioned — I was on a mission from god to gratify my ego by impressing and frightening people with the book I’d found.
The book was The Satanic Bible, by Anton LeVey. I’d found a paperback copy in the bookstore, and I had bought it solely on the strength of my reasoning that because it had a cool title, it must be a cool book.
But wading into it a mere eleven pages was enough for me. At fifteen, I had begun reading Nietzsche, and he’d thoroughly spoiled me for anything less than him. LeVey just wasn’t a match either for Freddie’s wit or his ideas.
That didn’t stop me, however, from fully recognizing the book’s potential to assert to everyone at school that I was a man of intellectual and spiritual consequence, an important contemporary mind, a dangerous thinker and lad of strange passions and lusts.
So I formed a habit of carrying the book around with me from class to class. And that’s why Patty noticed me. She noticed the book, that is, and she became genuinely interested in its contents. So she asked to borrow it.
We had a very brief conversation and I consented. A week later, when I asked how it was going. I sensed in her shy response that she’d easily consent to sex, and I asked her out for that evening. Nothing in my attitude or behavior alarmed me in the least.
That would come with force years later, come like a 2000lbs bomb dropped on my conscience one late night by the warriors of my memory — but nothing disturbed me about me back then.
That night was a sad one for both of us. Sad in the most profound sense of being a near fated collision of a young girl’s romantic dreams with a young boy’s callous horniness. Yet, we didn’t have intercourse. Patty was too tight down there for that, probably at least in part from clenched fear.
The last time I checked, I was a gentle, considerate lover who put his partner’s needs well above his own. But I was nothing like that, that night. I made no more than a perfunctory effort to know Patty, before diving into rudely hard kisses, and so forth, until it was time to go home.
Today, I have a strong suspicion many self-admiring pick-up artists are about as good in bed as I was.
Whatever the case, Patty and I got together almost nightly for about two or three months afterwards with much the same results as that first night. But I did learn a few things about her — things that, however, I failed to see the importance of.
Things like the extent and scope of her artistic abilities, the depths of her kindness, the considerable heights of her intelligence, and the fact she was kinky — into master/slave roll play.
Some years later, after waking up to how much I had lost with her, I attempted to write a poem about it all. I wanted the poem to be both funny and sad, but it just wouldn’t cook.
Nevertheless, here was the idea. I tell Patty I’m dumping her, she begs for one last night. When we undress I discover she’s painted a perfect copy of DaVinci’s last supper on her belly, only with Judas’ thirty pieces of silver painted in a line down to her crotch — both signifying my betrayal of her, and directing my attention to the one thing she had I wanted.
I dumped Patty of lazy, incompetent fear. The fear she’d get pregnant, and the fear of being too embarrassed to buy condoms for us.
I sometimes wonder what would have happened if I had been more of a man than a boy. I don’t mean in my morals, I mean in my emotions. For the irony is my morals were by themselves ok!
I believed — honestly believed — in every decent value you can imagine. I believed women were my equals, and that they should be treated with respect, kindness, and consideration. But my emotions were lethal enemies of my ideals. I didn’t have a conscience, I had hormones.
Hormones and neither the practical experience, nor the instruction, to know how to handle them. I was lost at sea, a sailor in name only, on a boat fast shipping water, and no captain aboard.
Of course, after that one night decades after the fact, when my behavior all came back to me and I saw what I’d done to another human, I was put to the task of reconciling myself to it all. And I’ve done that.
I have no guilt or shame today left, and almost no real feelings of regret. To my mind, those have been redeemed by the fact I will never treat anyone like I treated her again.
I think if there’s a take away to this story it is the crucial importance and value of teaching kids not only comprehensive sex education that includes how to use birth control, but lessons in how to cope with their feelings, how to keep and assert their values in the face of their own natural hormonal urges and desires.
And what of Patty? She took it hard like so many young women do, following me around for the rest of the year, trying to get me alone in order to beg me to take her back.
Yet. last I heard from a mutual friend, Patty had a young son and had turned happy. So there’s that too. There’s that.