(About a 7 minute read)
Guys, I apologize for a bossy post title, but I just could not resist the alliteration. A good phrase has so often been my undoing in life. Twice, for instance, I said, “Make it happen!”, at the worst possible moment.
“Make it happen” is one of my favorite phrases. I stole if from my younger brother. My bro is superb at making even seemingly impossible things happen. But twice, I’ve said it when I should have thought before I said it. “Do you, Paul, accept this woman as your lawfully wedded wife…”.
“Make it happen!”
“I’ll take that as an ‘I do’. You may now kiss the wench.”
I confess this post is mostly for the young dudes and dudettes among my readers. You know, you good folks who are typically afflicted by the insufferable onslaught
of my blog posts of hormones not many people can or will tell you how to handle — without also perhaps throwing in a bit too much unnecessary guilt and shame for being human.
They call mere judgementalism “wisdom” these days, you know. But that is the eternal joke that every generation loves to play on the ones coming up after it.
“Please be so kind as to feel guilty about being you and being alive. It’s for your own good we don’t want you to be you, you see. Alas! If only you were wise enough to see how it’s for your own good to be someone else and to be dead.”
But I digress, dudes and dudettes, for I wanted to tell you about Melanie, the woman’s karate champion of my home state, who once upon a time, phoned me up one night out of the blue — only days after we had met…
“Hi Paul! It’s me, Melanie, Alan’s little sis. Remember? I’m at a frat party and I need you to kick your roommate out and into the student lounge tonight. You see, I’ve been drinking, it’s honestly my birthday, and I have decided that you are my gift to me. I’ll be over in half an hour to unwrap you. Kick Dan out or die!”
Ok, I added in the “or die” part. The rest is only dressed up a little to have it read more smoothly than her actual words. Have you ever been seduced by fifty words or less? It’s quite the experience to go from not liking someone to willingly sleeping with them in fewer than 50 words.
Melanie’s red hair was naturally the intense brightness of red chili peppers fresh off the vine, and before they darken into burgundy. She had a lethal double kick that had won her the State Championship the year before we met. She was as emotionally poised as her physical sense of balance was unfailing. She was as self-confident as a blue-eyed mountain lion. She was bright enough to be earning her degree in ceramic engineering. Her body, of course, was taunt and fit — the velvet softness of any woman laid over muscles like steel.
To say she was physically beautiful and free spirited would be to criminally understate her attractions. And she bored me.
It wasn’t about her, of course, it was about me. As a British Lord one said, “There are no boring speakers, only bored audiences.” Melanie bored me for no better nor more remarkable a reason than I was going through a time in my life when just about everyone who did not share my four major interests bored me.
I liked to drink. I liked to fuck. I liked to philosophize. And I liked to fight.
In short, I was a bore.
The semester after Melanie, the 82 other guys on my dorm floor nicknamed me “Liquid Paul” in honor of my drinking, and then printed my new nick on the back of a navy blue football jersey that they gave me in honor of my being nearly unanimously elected “Floor Whore”.
The hold out vote was Dan, my roommate. He hated sleeping in the student lounge.
As it happened, Dan was to die young. You can read about him here. He was nothing less than extraordinary. Among the truly bravest men I have ever known, and I have known brave men.
I was inexcusably rough with Melanie that night. I did not care enough for her — or even for myself at that age — to try to be at least a little less selfish. There was absolutely no physical communion between us.
To give her credit, she was too polite to protest. To give me credit, I held her afterwards, rather than role away. But it sucked for both of us. At least it was brief.
I woke up early, slipped out of bed without waking her, and went to my window to watch the dawn. I had never before felt so bad after sex that I had to think — really think about it — to figure out how I could feel so bad.
I still recall the naivety of some of my thoughts, especially this thought: “I’m a man, how can I feel so bad about having sex without any connection? I thought it was only women who ever feel this bad.”
I turned to look at the sleeping Melanie, but she was awake. She was looking at me with an expression of dismay — possibly bordering on shock. In an instant I realized my face was contorted into a look of disgust. The first thing she was seeing waking up was someone she’d had sex with looking at her in disgust.
As you might imagine, she got dressed almost in silence, and left quickly after that. She was not in tears, she did not cry, but the half dozen or so words she spoke to me, she spoke in a tone of voice that said her heart was breaking.
Have you ever spontaneously sworn a wordless oath? A promise that comes from so deep inside you that it hasn’t yet been clothed in words? That is exactly what happened the moment I realized what Melanie was seeing that morning. Later that day, I would tell Dan I had decided never again to “sleep with someone I would not want as a friend the next morning”.
It’s been 40 years since I spontaneously swore that oath. I have never once broken it. Perhaps you can imagine how grateful I am that I have never broken it.
Dudes and Dudettes, let us be frank with one another. Will Rogers once said there are three kinds of people. Very few of us can learn from books. Some of us can learn from observing other people. But most of us “must pee on the electric fence for ourselves”.
I have no illusions — and I hope you don’t either — that reading my story will surely save you the pain of discovering for yourselves the wisdom of sleeping only with friends, or at least people you would want as friends. I only hope that reading my story will someday help you make sense of what you are feeling some morning, and what lesson to draw from your feelings, if you do not wish to feel that way again.
Thank you for listening. Now, if you like, please go read about Dan. I cannot imagine you will regret the four minutes it will take you to feel for yourself his courage.
This post was inspired by the young but accomplished Marysa Storm, author of The Four Stages of Poetry, and bestest virtual drinking buddy, who in an email to me yesterday said, “Share with me some of your wisdom”. Typical, timeless Marysa. Demanding! Demanding! Demanding! The kids these days! She blogs here.