(an epic coming of age story)
BACK IN DECEMBER I GOT UP ON STAGE AND TOLD THIS STORY at The Moth, one I’ve told any times through the years, and since the crowd at The Moth was 200+ people, I figured I might as well post it here, too. It is epic, it got a lot of laughs, and lord knows I’ve spilled much private stuff at this blog anyway! Seriously, though, it was a definitive and formative experience.
IT’S SUMMER, 1984 AND I’M A FEW MONTHS SHY OF TURNING 17, and working in a supermarket. At that point, just before the start of my senior year of high school, I previously only had one girlfriend. So when a short, round cashier at the supermarket I worked at took a liking to me, I was just happy any female was interested at all. Then she told me she was 22 years old. Whoa. An “older” woman!
I quickly found out she was pretty experienced at making a guy’s pants get tighter. We were quite the talk of the supermarket; she was called “cradle robber” on more than one occasion from several older stock clerks. It was also quickly obvious that I wasn’t the only stock clerk the she took a shine to, perhaps very recently, possibly simultaneously.
After about two or three weeks together and with things moving in a much more physical direction, she gets the idea that we should drive to New Jersey and go to the Six Flags Great Adventure amusement park…and stay in a hotel. Whoa. And, uh-oh..
After not-really-convincing-my-mom that I was only going because I wanted to ride the new Lightning Loops roller coaster, my round girlfriend and I ambled off in her small, rusty 1975 Mustang II with a four-hour drive ahead. As if the relationship wasn’t emasculating enough, we took her car, and she drove the whole way. I remember the drive just dragging on and on because of traffic and I quickly ran out of things to talk about, getting dizzy from a mix of anxiety, exhaust fumes and her perfume. Anxiety? Yes, due to the fact that what was probably going to happen that night was very likely going to happen, i.e., “holy shit this is finally going to happen!” I was getting increasingly nervous with each passing, rattling, mile.
We get to whatever motor lodge we got to and it’s nearing 11:00 pm and despite me suddenly becoming very talkative it quickly became apparent any conversation was going to be very limited and clothes were going to be removed. Of course, being sixteen, I was just excited to be in a motel room. For a minute, while she was in the bathroom, I had to resist the urge to jump up and down between the double beds.
Looking back, the whole scenario was playing out like a mafia hit in a movie. I’m a nervous, sweating guy in a crappy, late-model car, on a long ride to a seedy hotel in New Jersey – followed by panicking and crying in the bathroom (o.k., the crying didn’t happen but for the sake of the joke, go with me here).
As things started to quickly progress I realized we had left the TV on and Friday Night Videos was playing “Purple Rain” by Prince. I wish I could tell you that steamy, passionate song inspired a steamy, passionate sexual experience but it was all over about the time I heard Prince sing, “I only wanted to see you laughing in the purple rain.” If you’re familiar with “Purple Rain” that line is the fourth and last line of the first verse.
Afterwards, as the blood and cogent thoughts came back to my brain there was some post-coital chit-chat, which essentially consisted of my short, round paramour reassuring me that I did “fine.” The whole thing made me feel like I couldn’t wait to get out of that hotel room. Which was part of the reason why what happened next made history for my entire gender. Because about twenty minutes later she said, “how about we do that again?” To which I replied, without a moment’s hesitation:
“No, I’m kind of tired and I want to get to the park early so we can ride a lot of roller-coasters.”
Let that sink in for a second, and just in case you didn’t hear that right, let me repeat that:
“No, I’m kind of tired and I want to get to Great Adventure early so I can ride a lot roller-coasters.”
Like most teen boys that age my singular goal in life was to have sex. As quick as possible (and indeed, it was quick. See what I did there?). That was all that mattered. Instead, when you think of it a bit, my refusal of a second go-round was historic. Think about it: if you were able to look back at the entire recorded history of man, you would likely not find anyone, who, when asked after their first time if they’d like to knock one out again, said the equivalent of, “no thank you, I’m tired.” O.K., I wasn’t really tired, after all, but just saying that – a 16-year old male, human being, declining sex because he was TIRED? Historically, was this unprecedented? Go all the way back to the Neanderthals – I guarantee that after the first time a male got deflowered he did not grunt their language’s version of “no thanks, I’m tired.” Go back to Shakespeare’s time and imagine Juliet saying “oh Romeo, oh Romeo, would doth now like to enter me again?” Upon which Romeo replies, “No, my sweet, nubile Juliet, thou is exhausted and has a big day tomorrow.”
ARE YOU KIDDING ME?
Needless to say, my oompa-loompa-resembling pseudo-girlfriend was not happy with that answer and let me know about it. In truth, after that first time I wasn’t tired, and I didn’t care that much about going on a lot of rides the next day – actually that’s not entirely true – I really did want to go on Lighting Loops. I said no because I just didn’t feel good about the whole thing and I learned that I was not attracted to her, emotionally and physically. As soon as the deed was done, I felt like crap, and the harsh light of reality (and later, hilarity) beamed thru the fog of horniness. Sixteen years old, a horny teenager, and I had a conscience!
That put a nice dark cloud over the weekend, despite those roller coasters. As if the conversation wasn’t stunted the day before! That cloud kept getting bigger during and after that trip. Because I wasn’t attracted to her we never did have sex again – though we tried. It was obvious to everyone that there was only one reason she wanted to be with me. There was the weird shamefulness I felt plus later learning that she fooled around with another stock clerk at that grocery store – that growing cloud grew and it all led to her breaking up with me. In fact, when she did break up with me, she explicitly referenced the…sexual performance issues. That’s emasculating for any guy at any age, let alone a teenager, and it…ahh…affected my next two relationships, too.
The whole experience formed a lot of how I handled things in many relationships for several years – namely, unless I really liked the person I was sleeping with, I had a lot of trouble seeing them again and actually sleeping with that person. I wanted to leave not longer after all was…said and done. You get a very confused look when you insist on leaving at 3:00 in the morning. It took awhile to get past that and as I’ve gotten older it’s not something I’ve had to deal with for a number of years. Plus, I usually fall asleep like a bear that got hit with a tranquilizer dart.
So, looking back, like hopefully all the biggest events in one’s life, I learned a lot, though I didn’t realize it until several years later. At the time, the only positive that came out of the whole experience was I discovered how great Prince’s guitar solo is in “Purple Rain.” It still might be my favorite guitar solo by him.