I’d been looking forward to this party for a couple of months already. Puppy and Kitty threw a huge joint party at their mother’s apartment in Manhattan every New Year’s Eve during high school and they continued doing it throughout college. We had known each other as toddlers and our families had taken vacations together every summer until Puppy and Kitty’s parents got divorced and they moved with their mother to New York City. I was glad to see I was not forgotten.

The college I was attending had eight hundred students. We were isolated, a little academic island in a rural area. After two and a half years, the social situation there had become complicated for me. I found myself essentially friendless, except for this guy everyone called Stoneface because he was so impassive. I was frankly elated to be heading to a party where there would be no one connected to the social mess I had made of my life at school. I was looking forward to strengthening my connections to some old friends and perhaps, with luck, making some new ones. If I was going to make it through the next year and a half, I was going to have to expand my social life beyond my school.

Many of the people at the party I’d met before, albeit only briefly. I recognized many faces but couldn’t always put names to them. There were a few exceptions. Hera, a family friend, and her boyfriend, who had, entirely by coincidence, gone to high school with me. Hera was one of those math whizzes who was bad at everything else. She was in the process of turning from a banal suburban girl into a sultry beauty with a vaguely Mediterranean appearance. Her eyes always put me in mind of a line from Homer. I liked her, and always felt that she returned the feeling, but we simply do not have enough to say to one another to be close. All my male friends who see her ask to be fixed up. I don’t know how to tell them politely that she likes really buff guys half her age. Thirty years ago, however, she was still with her high school boyfriend.

Then there was Aussie. Very tall and lanky, he was Puppy’s closest friend. That meant that I saw him at regular intervals of birthdays and visits to Kitty over the years. A year or two earlier, after running into Aussie for the millionth time, I got a phone call from him. I took the bus into New York City and we spent the day together. It didn’t go anywhere romantically, but I got to know Aussie a little bit better and he was warmer and friendlier after that.

Beyond those people, it was mainly a sea of half-remembered faces that filled Puppy and Kitty’s mother’s sprawling prewar apartment. They had moved in back in the seventies when apartments like that could still be had by people who were not fabulously wealthy. There were two entrances, one that led to the kitchen and another that led to the proper entry. Off the entry, which contained a piano and some other furniture, was the dining room and living room. A long corridor led to the bedrooms. Coats were being tossed on Puppy’s bed. The floor of Kitty’s room had some quilts and sleeping bags on it. Hera and I would both be staying over night since neither of us lived in the city and the last bus would have long since departed by the time the party was over. A second corridor going in the other direction wound through a pantry and past a small room that would have once been the maid’s room and terminated in the kitchen.

Each year the party got a little bit bigger and, as we got older, a little more drunken. Their mother would leave for the evening and let them have the place to themselves. The first year, we were all under age and what little alcohol there was was brought in surreptitiously. By the year I’m describing, about half the party was of age to drink and everyone, or almost everyone, would have expected there to be liquor. Although Puppy and Kitty were thoroughly American, this was Manhattan and they had gone to a fancy private school. Their parties frequently had a disproportionate number of foreign-born guests.

After the party was already underway, a small group of latecomers arrived. I was surprised to learn that they had gone to high school with Puppy and Kitty because their faces were unfamiliar to me. Light haired and light eyed with unusually pale skin and very clean-cut, he was not my type and I might not have noticed him except he was taller than everyone except Aussie.

Sometime shortly after midnight, I felt that I had had quite enough to drink. I was tipsy enough to feel that I was floating through the party and I didn’t want to become so drunk that I was stumbling through the party. The rest of the crowd was getting a little rowdier than they had during parties past and I started searching for a small conversation off to the edges. Aussie was unavailable. He had brought his young, sixteen year old sister with him and was being highly protective of her. Hera was in another corner smooching with her boyfriend. I wandered down the hallway that led past the pantry, away from the music and into the kitchen. There, I found a small group of about four people actively debating moral philosophy. I got myself a glass of water. There was the tall man with the pale skin and one of the others from group that came in with him. The tall one sounded as if he was English. The other was clearly American. There were two women, also one English and one American, or so I thought. A bit too symmetrical, I wondered if perhaps they were two couples and that my presence would be disruptive. I paused for a moment to listen to the conversation. The man with the English accent stopped to introduce himself and I took that as a cue that it was alright to stay.

The party elsewhere began to wind down while the five of us talked. One woman left, then the other. Eventually, only the one man and I remained. We sat on the floor and continued to argue in a friendly, cheerful way. His earnestness started looking adorable and I began to think that he wasn’t bad-looking. Trying to make a point, he took my hand. We continued to hold hands has we argued. Eventually he was stroking my cheek and my hair. It had that tension and eroticism that only happens when you can’t do what you really want to do. Kitty came in.

“Are you going to sleep soon?”

“Soon, I guess.” It seemed like the only polite thing to say. I really had no desire whatsoever to stop talking to whatshisname and could have easily stayed up all night with him.

“Okay. Well, I’m going to bed. Stay up as long as you like. Try to be quiet when you come in. Hera’s already asleep.

“Can you let yourself out when you’re ready to go. Kid, don’t forget to lock the door behind him.” With that she disappeared down the hallway.

“Mmm, where were we?” he said, continuing the argument.

With everyone gone, we found ourselves lying side by side on the hard kitchen floor. At the end of the party like that, it must have been dirty, but we were too intent on one another to notice. We kept our clothes on, but did as much as we could given that fact. I don’t know if it was the environment, the circumstance, the argument, or maybe it was just the man, but I found myself entirely intoxicated with arousal. He fondled me until I orgasmed. We embraced for a little while longer. Eventually he left and I quietly went to bed.

Drummer Boy had two posters taped to the cinder block walls of his dormitory room. One was of a man with a saxophone. “Who’s that?” I asked a little bit tentatively.

“You don’t know Bird!” He said with evident surprise. For a moment I was afraid he was going to run me down for being lowbrow. I’d gathered from the picture that the man was probably a jazz musician and my experience with jazz lovers was that they were a bunch of snobs. Much to my surprise, Drummer Boy gestured for me to sit down. “Well, you’re in for a treat” and with he slapped a record on the turntable. He was more interested in sharing what he loved than in playing a game of one-upmanship.  I’d only met him about a half an hour earlier and he was already throwing my stereotypes out the window.

We sat on his bed listening to records for much of that afternoon. Mainly we just listened, but sometimes he pointed out something he liked about a particular piece. Eventually, I asked about the other poster, not what it was, because I could see that it was the text of the Bill of Rights, but where he had gotten it.

“My father works for the ACLU.” Drummer Boy would turn out to have two passions, music and civil liberties.

A few days later we were lying in the grass in sloping field outside of some classrooms. By that point, we had both become aware that our acquaintance would remain platonic. Still, I enjoyed his company and continued to spend time with him. He was telling me about an older musician he knew growing up in New York and how he was a role model for him, not only as a musician, but he saw him as a role model for what it meant “to be a man.” It was a difficult thing to for me to relate to. I couldn’t think of anyone teaching me what it meant “to be a woman.” I couldn’t even conceive of the concept. So I encouraged him to talk.

He fumbled for words a bit. I don’t think he had ever had to articulate exactly what it meant. It had a lot to do with ethical behavior. How to treat women was part of it. He put it in terms of gallantry and chivalry that seemed a bit out of step for someone whose politics clearly fell to the left of center. I questioned him a little about that, but the conversation remained friendly. Another matter was taking care of any children you may have. As someone who had grown up in a more sheltered, suburban world, I don’t think I understood the context from which this was emerging. I had grown up always being told, by all the adults around me, that my biological parents had done the right thing in putting me up for adoption. In fact, I would venture to say that I had never heard a contrary opinion. Certainly, no one had ever so much as suggested to me that there would have been anything virtuous in two, terribly unprepared, young people trying to raise a child. No one ever suggested that biological father should have “been a man.”

Then, considering the passion he felt for civil liberties, he shocked the hell out of me. “If I were to get a woman pregnant and she wanted to have an abortion, I’d file a lawsuit to force her to go through with the pregnancy.” As he saw it, he had rights and the law did not acknowledge those rights. We argued about this until we were interrupted by another of his friends. At the point we let it drop, neither of us had made any headway in convincing the other or our positions. He did impress upon me the strength of his feeling on the subject. In the discussions about unwanted pregnancies that I’d had throughout high school, most of the focus had been on the pure horror of the idea. It was taken for granted that a man always wants to escape from the situation. The notion that a man, in that situation, might actually want the child, and not simply oppose an abortion but actively want to raise a child, had never occurred to me, at least not seriously.

After that conversation, I canvassed a few of my male friends and acquaintances about their feelings. I was quite surprised. Although Drummer Boy was the only one who would want to go as far as forcing a woman to continue with a pregnancy against her will, several of them did say that they, too, would want a child. Every single one of them said that they would want to know and would like to at least be consulted before the woman made a decision. This really presented me with something of a quandary.

In many ways, I feel that being raised without a religion forced me to think deeply about ethics starting at a young age. I don’t mean that people who are raised in a religion don’t ever think about it, but I didn’t have a ready-made set of behaviors that I could fall back on, no one to tell me what to think when I couldn’t figure it out myself. In the end, I had to acknowledge that Drummer Boy had made an important point. Although I didn’t, and still can’t, see how it could be practically implemented from a legal stand point, I did conclude that, from an ethical standpoint, a woman should consider the man’s desires and take them very seriously.

Goody Goody lived a few houses away from us when we were very little. She was my older sister’s age, but she was also a little immature and I was at least as close to her as my sister. Closer, perhaps. Her mother was divorced, with two children, didn’t work and had a live-in maid. She came from a wealthy family. I wouldn’t understand this for many years. She was different from the neighboring adults, but her children didn’t seem any different and I was far too young to see adults the way they saw one another. Why she lived in our lower-middle class neighborhood of small houses, I will never know. She didn’t stay very long. Soon, husband number three came along. This one would last. The first was a handsome, womanizing actor. The second was a mad genius mathematician, and the third was a grumpy accountant, a widower with three children of his own. They married and moved to nearby town where the houses were bigger and which had a reputation for snobbishness, anti-Semetic prejudice and academically excellent schools.

Despite the move, Goody Goody and I remained friends. Since she lived in another town, when we’d go to visit we’d usually stay over night. Her mother was always very welcoming and encouraging. Now, they were a family with five children, all in their teens except for the oldest who was about twenty, living in a sprawling house with many bedrooms and many parties. (Just to be clear, since the parents were welcoming and usually around, although the parties were lively, they weren’t the out-of-control parties some kids have when their parents are away.)

One weekend when we were staying with Goody Goody, she wanted to go see a movie at a theater in a town some distance away, at midnight. Her eldest brother would have to drive us. This struck me as unusual. Being a night owl since the day I was born, I didn’t care about the hour much, but why were we driving so far? She tried to explain to me the plot of the movie.

“These people go to this castle that makes everybody inside it horny!!!!” She balled her little hands up into even littler fists and pulled them into her body, her elbows held close to her side, and shook them excitedly.

“What does ‘horny’ mean?” I asked.

Goody Goody, with her large blue eyes and limp, wavy, dirty blond hair bore a faint resemblance to Susan Sarandon, a coincidence I was about three hours from noticing. “It means you want to have sseeexxxx!!!!!” She waved her hands back and forth even more excitedly, squeezing her tits into surprisingly ample, and quivering, cleavage in the process.

So Goody Goody, Sis and I piled into the back of the car and Goody Goody’s eldest brother, a cutie pie I haven’t yet named, and another person sat in the front as we drove some distance to see this Rocky Horror Picture Show.

How does a person describe a revelation? I wouldn’t have a similar experience watching a movie until I saw Scorpio Rising. (Is there anything hotter than a guy’s denim encased crotch with the song “Blue Velvet” in the background? – But I guess that’s another post.) How do you describe something that isn’t so much a matter of introducing new ideas as taking inchoate ideas that are already in your brain and giving them form?

When worlds collide

How does a person begin to explain living in a small, self-contained, suburban world and suddenly realizing that there is something more out there? “You are not alone.”

There’s a light, a light

In the darkness of everybody’s life

Truthfully, I wasn’t yet old enough to know much about life’s darkness, but if darkness can be a metaphor for ignorance, then certainly The Rocky Horror Picture Show was a light.

The first real jolt in the movie is when Richard O’Brien appears as Riff Raff.

I remember doing the Time Warp
Drinking those moments when
The blackness would hit me
And the void would be calling

This is where the oh-so-famous Time Warp begins. It’s just such a beautiful build up of tension and release.

Next we have what might be one of the most notable performance in film history, Tim Curry as Frankenfurter.

Don’t get strung out by the way I look
Don’t judge a book by its cover
I’m not much of a man by the light of day
But by night I’m one hell of a lover

That is fine advice for any young woman, and probably most young men as well.

Later in the movie, the sweet ingenue, played by Susan Sarandon, is making love to the “creature” created by Frankenfurter. Watching, on close circuit teevee are two female characters, Colombia and Magenta. This is the first that I recall seeing two women in a sexual situation with one another. It put ideas in my head. The ideas didn’t go very far as of yet… yet.

From the day he was born
All he wanted
Was Rock and Roll porn
And a motorbike

Where do I even start. I’ve described elsewhere how during my early adolescence, “serious” popular music had become a narrow genre of stultifying art rock. I’d seen some glimpses of other things around the edges, but they were not yet mainstream by any means. The music in this movie was a breath of fresh air.

The, ahem, if you will pardon me, climax of the film is a sequence called the “floorshow.” Four of the characters perform in corsets and feather boas. Finally, Frankenfurter takes the stage and sings,

Whatever happened to Fay Wray?
That delicate satin draped frame
As it clung to her thigh, how I started to cry
‘Cause I wanted to be dressed just the same

What could be more normal than that?

Give yourself over to absolute pleasure
Swim the warm waters of sins of the flesh
Erotic nightmares beyond any measure
And sensual daydreams to treasure forever

Then he jumps into a pool.

Don’t dream it, be it

I may have taken this part a bit too much to heart.

In the end, after the aliens have returned to their home planet, we see our protagonists lying on the ground.

And crawling on the planet’s face
Some insects called the human race
Lost in time, and lost in space
And meaning

That evening, I learned that men could look really hot in women’s clothes.  I learned that women could look hot in women’s clothes. The movie was fascinating for me in that it treated men as sex object. It definitely went a long way to making my sense of sexuality and gender more flexible.

And it would resurface in my life later.

Everyday through my adolescence, my mother would scream at the top of her lungs to wake me up in time to go to school. As a young adult, I would eventually find myself with six alarm clocks. I sleep soundly and I wake up slowly. One morning I woke up and I had a vague awareness that there was liquid leaking out of my vagina and seeping between my buttocks. My pubic hair was matted together. He’d done it again. I should have felt pissed, furious, enraged. Instead, I only felt tired, burdened. This was the third time in about as many months.

I pulled myself out of bed, walked through the windowless middle room and then through the kitchen, where the vinyl flooring, which covered the entire apartment and could never be cleaned because its shiny coating had long since worn off, was worn entirely through in patches. I crossed the long narrow hallway that ran the entire length of the apartment, where the tin ceiling, black with mold, had been ripped open in search of a leak that was never found by a school teacher friend of the landlord who moonlighted as a handyman. I probably coughed as I walked. As long as I lived in that apartment I had asthma, a disease I had never before had and which mysteriously disappeared after I moved. Three or four years earlier, when we had first arrived, I made enthusiastic attempts to make the place cheerful. Now, it all seemed just like so much wasted effort. The bathroom was carved out of the hallway and was two and a half feet, or seventy-five centimeters, wide. From the beginning, the bathroom seemed like a physical impossibility. Going into the shower, which was so narrow that I could barely raise my arms, to wash off the semen from between my legs, I had the distinct impression that my life was swirling down the drain.

I got out of the shower and toweled off. Stoneface was at work. I worked weekends at a call center and my days off were in the middle of the week. The phone rang. It was Luscious. It was barely half past noon, that was early for her. Something must be up.

“How are you,” she asked.

“Um, okay, I guess.”

“Bullshit. I don’t even know why you try to hide stuff from me. I can always tell. What’s wrong.”

She hated Stoneface. They hated each other, although they both refused to admit it. I was dreading telling her, but I hadn’t told anyone about what had been happening.

In a normal relationship, I would have had a fit the first time it happened, but Stoneface and I had never had a normal relationship. He tried having sex with several women before me, but he lost his erection every time. He tried having sex with men with the same effect. Finally, I came along. He did start to lose his erection the first time, but I was so patient, understanding, sweet and non-judgmental about it, we were able to fuck. However, our entire sexual relationship became about him. I could never be anything other than absurdly gentle, never speak above a whisper. If I did, he would become impotent for a time. I was the strong resilient one and he was the delicate flower. So, the first time it happened, I confronted him, but as quietly and gently as possible. The next time I wasn’t so gentle and I thought we had settled it. Predictably, he was unable to have sex with me for a few weeks after that, and now there was this.

Luscious knew that I was not happy with my sex life, but she didn’t know the details. Many people seemed to think we were both gay and attempting to have a heterosexual relationship despite our natural inclinations. As dysfunctional as that sounds, it would have been a million times easier than what was going on. I never found out what was at the root of Stoneface’s discomfort. I tried to encourage him to go for therapy, but he refused. We probably wouldn’t have had the money if he had wanted to, anyway.

“I woke up this morning with semen between my legs.” I finally blurted out over the telephone.

“You’re saying that like it’s bad…”

“Yeah, well in this case it is. I was asleep.”

“You’ve been raped.” She said, her voice rising with outrage. She was one of those anarchists that was good at being about outraged over anything, so it was more annoying than meaningful.

“Is that the most helpful thing you could think of to say?”

“Well, you sound as if you didn’t know, so I thought someone ought to tell you. If you didn’t consent it was rape.”

“Thank you, but you fucking well know that I know that.”

“I don’t know why you stay with him. Just leave him.”

She didn’t really need to say that. It was pretty clearly going in that direction, but for the time being I was stuck because of a lack of money.

“Do you still use a diaphragm?” She asked.


“You didn’t have it in, did you?”

“No. Why would I?”

“Well, that sucks.”

Well, here we have another memory out of order. I really didn’t want to write about this so soon. There are certain events which I prefer to put in their proper order so they have a context. So often women and their sexuality are cast as two alternatives, directly opposed. The Madonna and the Whore is how these opposing images are usually named. Not only are they positioned at the extreme ends of sexual behavior, they have other characteristics that accompany the bare fact of sexual activity. The frequency with which a sexually active woman is portrayed as a party girl, a poor student, probably unintelligent and certainly unintellectual and sexual behavior is portrayed accompanied by drug or alcohol use and general loutish behavior is tiresome at best. It offers a false choice. We all know it’s a false choice, but our lives have been so saturated by these images we sometimes we link these unrelated activities together in our minds despite knowing better.

If you’ve been following along with my memories, you may already realized that I was in the process of turning from a nerdy girl into something very different. It is important for me to communicate that I never entirely shook off some of my characteristics that made me a nerd in the first place. I remained a little bit bookish and a good student. I followed my parents’ directions. I didn’t smoke pot or take any other drugs and I didn’t drink alcohol until I got to college. It seemed to me that my intellectual and sexual awakening went hand in hand, along with a social awakening. There was yet one more aspect to this period of my life and that was a spiritual awakening.

Paarsurrey left a question on my About page. I was at a loss about how to answer it. This is only the beginning of the answer.

The penthouse condo was dark when we walked in. I could see that hallway opened up into rooms a few yards away, but there were doors in the hallway starting only a few feet from the front door. We entered the first one on the right. The lights were out but the city lights filtered through the large modern windows and filled the room with a soft twilight. The bed was a platform placed directly under the windows. The top of the bed was almost flush with the window sill. We sat on the edge of the bed and kissed. He fondled me and I found myself hoping he would not leave it at that. I had made the decision to have sex with him that night and I feared that he might back out at the last minute.

He whispered in my ear, “Suck my cock.”

I think I first tried something awkward, like bending over from the waist. He took off his pants and he guided me onto my knees on the floor in front of him between his spread thighs. This was an incredibly intimidating moment and it would be a long time before I found fellatio to not be intimidating. There I was, confronted with his penis. Inches from my face, it and his abdomen filled my field of vision and I had barely a clue as to what to do. I’d heard the usually crude jokes about girls who tried to blow on it because the were confused by the word “blow job,” so I knew not to do that. I went with the other obvious word and tried sucking. He stopped me. “Have you done this before?” I shook my head no. “You’re not feeling pressured, are you? You’re okay with this?” I nodded my head no and then yes. He placed either hand on the side of my head and talked and guided me until he ejaculated into my mouth. It was a strange taste, entirely unlike anything I had tasted before, bitter but not unpleasant.

He pulled me back on to the bed with him. He took off the rest of his clothes and then undressed me and we lay on top of the bed embracing. He got a condom at the ready. He performed oral sex on me. After I had had my fill of that particular pleasure, he asked me to put the condom on him. I frankly told him that I didn’t know how and he showed me. Then he entered me. We fit together easily and moved through many different positions. I orgasmed several times and finally he ejaculated again as well. I lay there beside him on the damp sheets, my body feeling supple and soft. My mind was enveloped by a pleasant haze.

Eventually, he was ready again. He stroked me and petted me until I felt as pliable as kneaded butter. He rolled me onto my stomach, straddled me and began massaging my back. My head faced the window and I could see the lights of Honolulu below. He tried to enter me. When he met resistance, he kissed the back of my neck and whispered for me to relax. He told me to trust him, that he would be gentle.

It is difficult to describe what happened next because it all happened in my head, but it felt no less real for that. As I tried to relax and give into his movement the boundary between our bodies seemed to dissolve. I felt as if I was catapulted forward into the street lights which turned into stars and I rose up into space, but it was no longer me, it was we, and not just him, but an ever-expanding we. I felt as if I had become one with the universe and I was lost in a sea of stars, carried away on a rhythm like endless waves. Then he finished again and collapsed on top of me.

Eventually, as I felt as if I might drift off to sleep, I roused myself, cleaned myself up, dressed and left.

This was the first moment since I first felt at the age of eight that religion was a man-made sham that I entertained the notion that there might be something more to the universe than the material world. It was one of the deepest, most profound and most moving experiences I had ever had. It seemed so profound that I couldn’t believe it was just a simple emotional response. I didn’t launch onto a non-stop spiritual quest, but there was a new idea in the back of my mind, that maybe something else was out there. However, there was one thing of which I did feel certain, that this beautiful feeling was good and any religion that said it was bad or sinful had to be in error. The very experience that caused me to ask questions about spirituality ruled out orthodox versions of the Abrahamic religions as possibilities.

It would be nearly fifteen or so years before I started calling myself an atheist again, and that is too convoluted a journey to summarize here.

Mr. West Coast came to the East Coast to visit his family. My outfit probably bordered on the costume of a cartoon hooker, but I wasn’t going to let what happened to me the last time happen to me this time. My dress was a fire red stretch faux suede number, backless, with a halter neckline  and mid-thigh hem. On a hot summer day with a pair of flat sandals it might have looked a little bit sexy. In the evening with a pair of black patent leather boots and fishnets…? I wasn’t pushing good taste the way I usually did, I catapulted right on over it. The outfit screamed, “Please, fuck me,” which was fine by me because that was exactly what I wanted to scream. Admittedly, it would have been less tasteless on my part if his family hadn’t been there.

I saw the ever so brief surprise on his mother’s face when I showed up, but she smiled and was welcoming and hid it well. She had given me some big hints that she wouldn’t exactly cry if wedding bells were in the future. After all, she was the one who had given me Mr. West Coast’s email a few months earlier and had more or less arranged for both of us to be here this evening. Mothers always loved me and were trying to fix me up with their sons, and I’d known his mother since before I knew him, so I wasn’t too worried that one tasteless outfit would hurt her opinion of me. When we spoke on the phone earlier that week, Goody Goody, seemed to be oddly surprised that her brother was flying all the way out from California to see her in a play. “Gosh, he never did that before,” she’d said. She even suggested that I see the play on a different night so she and I could spend time together. “I don’t know why my mother got the two of you tickets for the same night! That’s going to be so awkward.” In fact, now that I think about it, Goody Goody’s mother had been quite shrewd. One of her best friends from high school would be there as well, which meant shortly after the play was over Mr. West Coast and I could take a powder without attracting too much notice.

As we sat side by side in the theater waiting for the play to begin, I said, “I had such a crush you when I was fourteen.” This shouldn’t have been news to him since I snuck into his room once in the middle of the night to fuck him. That usually gives a guy a hint, but still I wanted him to know that I hadn’t forgotten.

“I’ve had a crush on you since I was four,” was his reply.

“Huh? Your parents weren’t even married when you were four.” His family was a composite family. His mother and father each had children from previous marriages, like the Brady Bunch.

“No, but they were dating. We would go with my father to visit Mom and I remember always hoping that little girl from next door would stop by.”

I pretended to remember this because it only seemed polite, but in fact I didn’t. I had no memory of Mr. West Coast until he hit puberty. Then, all of a sudden, there he was, Goody Goody’s little brother.

He rested his arm on the back of my chair. I felt his fingers lightly brushing my bare back. The outfit started feel a lot less ridiculous.

After the play, Goody Goody said to me, “Westie is so sleazy. Don’t think you have to be nice to him for my sake.”

I almost laughed and I thought to myself, “Oh, don’t worry, this entirely for my sake and I plan on being very, very nice to him. Nicer than you can imagine.”

Back at my apartment, a few hours later, we sat on the sofa and talked while touching. I don’t know how we got onto this subject, but at some point he made a comment indicating that he believed that I had had too many sexual partners. “What do you think is normal?” I asked.

“I don’t know. The last woman I dated, I asked her and she said…”

I interrupted him. “Let me guess. Three. There was her steady boyfriend in high school. They dated for several years. After a number of months together, maybe a year, they had sex. It was very serious and they were very much in love. Of course, it didn’t work out. They were far too young. Then in college… she had a steady boyfriend throughout most of college. It was very serious. They talked about marriage. Eventually, after dating for a long time, they had sex. Of course, it didn’t work out. They were far too young. Then there was a they guy she dated for several years in her twenties. She really, really thought they were going to get married. They were very much in love, but it didn’t work out.”

He was taken aback and didn’t try to hide his surprise. “Yes, how did you know.”

“That’s the socially acceptable answer. If we were still in our twenties, the answer would be two. Now, we’re in our thirties and saying she hasn’t had sex for over a decade doesn’t sound believable, so she has to add one more.”

“But maybe,” he said, “it’s the truth in her case. Maybe so many women say that because that really is the typical behavior.”

“Really,” I said. “First of all, you think girls don’t talk to each other? Secondly, let me ask you, how many months did it take her to go to bed with you?”

He looked uncomfortable now. “Not months. Weeks, maybe. About three dates.”

I reminded him that I’d had a crush on him when we were young. “So, I don’t think you’ll take this as an insult from me, but do you really think you’re that much more seductive and charming than all the other men she dated?” In fact, I was being polite. I didn’t state what he and I both knew. Being short myself, a man’s height isn’t an important characteristic to me, but I know what other women say to me about height and I know what my short, platonic male friends have been through. At five foot five, Mr. West Coast probably had more difficulty with women than the average man, not less.

“I’m not that much more promiscuous than the average woman, but I’m a lot more honest.” I said, finally. I climbed on his lap and straddled him and gave him little kisses on his face. “If I have to be someone I’m not to please a man, then I don’t want to be with him.” With that, I lifted my dress up over my head.

He put is hand between my legs. “I’m surprised,” he said. “I expect that you’d be shaved.”

“Huh?” This was the first time I’d heard of this.

“Or at least trimmed. Actually, I’m glad you’re not completely shaved, but I like women who are trimmed, and maybe shaved a little bit.”

“What on earth are you talking about?”

“Most women shave their pubic areas. You look like you haven’t done anything.”

“That’s because I haven’t.” I said. This was a weird conversation, because I’d never heard anything like this before and I didn’t exactly consider myself sheltered. I’d had sex with dozens of men over twenty years and no one had ever before taken an interest one way or another in my pubic hair. “Are you telling me that Miss I’ve-only-ever-slept-with-three-men was shaving her pubic hair? God, you’re naive. When I’m not expecting to wind up in bed with a man, my legs might not even be shaved.”

“Okay, okay. Let’s not talk about her.” He pushed me back onto the sofa. My legs were dangling over the edge. He slipped to the floor onto his knees, spread my thighs and put his face between my legs. I was expecting any second to feel his tongue, but instead I heard, “Where do you keep the scissors?”

“Huh? I don’t know. There’s a pair of small scissors I use for trimming my nails on the first shelf of the medicine cabinet.”

“I’ll be right back.”

He returned with the scissors and a small comb that I also kept on that shelf. He knelt down between my knees again. “You don’t mind, do you?”

“Hey, whatever turns you on.”

Never let it be said that I’m not nice.

A few weeks later I got an email. Mr. West Coast had just finished a short stay at Esalen. “You were right,” he wrote. “Most women were au naturel.”

Generally, I find that my memory is pretty good, surprisingly so. I’ve tried to cross check facts with my sister and, to a lesser extent, with my mother, and this cross checking has left me with the feeling that my memory’s pretty reliable. That’s a good thing since I’ve never been able to keep a diary for more than about a week. I guess this blog is the closest thing to a diary that I’ve ever had. Sometimes, I remember entire conversations or sequences of events, but mostly it’s spottier, more like a series of snapshots and the occasional sentence. If I have enough of these snippets, I can usually string them together into a coherent, readable narrative. Unfortunately, there are some events I need to cover where my memory is not good. This is one of them. I’m going to try to make it as easy to follow as possible. I also behaved very badly, and I’m going to try to not whitewash my own behavior. That’s difficult. We all want to hide our faults a little.

In the days following being slapped by Lanky Joe, the other girls behaved in a way that I can only describe as cool. No one said anything, at least not openly. The other girls, of course, continued to date their boyfriends, and Chuck E and Hazy Davy remained friends with Lanky Joe. The result was that they would all continue to get together and I became alienated from the group. There was no consequence for Lanky Joe for slapping me, but instead I was the one who was socially punished. No one thought this through, I’m sure. It was just a chain of human weakness and self-interest. The exception was Suzy Q. She was beginning to develop something of a feminist sensibility, although I’m not sure whether or not we would have called it that at the time. We were aware of feminism, but only in a childish way. The tennis player, Billie Jean King, was probably the most well-known feminist among children. Since I wasn’t athletic, I felt that it didn’t have much to do with me. Suzy Q, however, saw the idea of me being alone while the boy who hit me continued to be invited as an unjust situation.

One Saturday shortly afterward, Suzy Q and I went to the shopping mall. We went there, in part, because the others rarely did, although it was a common enough destination for kids our age. The shopping mall was laid out around a central atrium. All of the stores were on the first floor and on the second floor, ringing the atrium like a great big doughnut, was a food court. In the center, was a double height waterfall landscaped with potted plants. In my provincial little mind it was quite snazzy. Behind the waterfall were several staircases. They twisted and turned and opened out into areas with benches and then narrowed again. When the shopping mall first opened and I was still quite young, I loved these staircases. They were like a labyrinth. As I got older, they became partially hidden places to hold hands with boys and maybe even exchange some kisses. There were escalators and an elevator going to the second floor, but I always took one of the staircases and I preferred the path with the greatest number of turns.

Suzy Q and I headed up to the second floor to get something to eat. We passed a landing with a nook where I once sat with a redheaded boy whose name was the masculine version of my own and we held hands and giggled, too young to even yet understand why we wanted to do that.  Further up, there was a larger landing where another staircase joined the one we had taken. As we passed by, I heard somebody call my name. I turned to see Lanky Joe. Behind him were Chuck E and Hazy Davy. He said something. To this day, I’ve never been able to recall what he said. Suzy Q was a couple of feet behind me and didn’t hear it, neither did Hazy Davy. Chuck E would later tell me that he heard but wouldn’t repeat it. I am entirely clueless about what he said. Entirely. All I know is that I flew at him. All reason entirely left me. I have no idea what I would have done had I actually managed to reach him. There was no thought, only action. I charged like an enraged bull. Chuck E lunged forward and grabbed me. So did Hazy Davy. I caught a glimpse of Lanky Joe and he was smirking. The smirk sent a chill through me and I started to calm down. I saw that Cherry Bomb and Cat Eyes were there. Cherry Bomb was angry, “You scratched Chuck E!” Indeed, Chuck E had a faint red line across his cheek, although I didn’t remember doing it.

My mind was foggy and I felt confused. Chuck E turned to Cherry Bomb and said, “Calm down. It wasn’t intentional.” Then he took me by the shoulder and led me around the corner. I started to apologize for scratching him.

“Don’t think about it,” he said. “I know it was an accident. Look at you. Either of us could have overpowered you without even trying. It was only because I was trying not to hurt you, so I was grabbing you in a funny way. You didn’t scratch me. Your hand brushed against my face. That’s all. I don’t know why Cherry Bomb’s so upset. I’m sure she’ll calm down and forget about it.

“Do yourself a favor and keep far away from Lanky Joe. I wouldn’t care if you hit him. You’re too small to hurt him and he probably deserves it. He’s looking for an excuse to hurt you and you don’t know what he’s capable of.”

My mind was still spinning, trying to believe what had just happened had actually happened. Had I really done what I just did? Why? Can your body just go without your mind’s consent? I asked Chuck E what Lanky Joe had said. He was taken aback that I had no memory of it. In fact, my memory is spotty of everything between hearing my name and seeing that smirk. Chuck E shook his head, “Then I’m not going to tell you. Forget about Lanky Joe. Forget about everything.”

Cherry Bomb wouldn’t forget, however. She would repeat later to me that I had scratched Chuck E. If the other girls had distanced themselves from me before due to circumstance, now it was intentional. A few days later, Chuck E would seek me out after school. He emphasized yet again that he felt it was an accident. He told me that he’d be perfectly happy to have me hang out with them again and would ask Lanky Joe to not come by. He said that he tried to make it okay again with Cherry Bomb, but she wouldn’t have any of it. He seemed to feel really awkward and bad about it.

Cherry Bomb, Cat Eyes and Sour Puss didn’t stop at simply avoiding me themselves. They started putting pressure on Suzy Q to not be friends with me. Suzy Q, however, stuck by me.


You know that day when you realize that your period really is late? I didn’t keep track of things on a calendar or anything like that. There was just a sense that it had been a while and I was mulling it over and trying to remember what I was doing the last time I got my period so I could peg a date on it. Was it three weeks? A month? I’ve always been absurdly regular. So I got off my ass and headed down the hill to the nearest drugstore. Walking back carrying the pregnancy test kit, I was calculating how we would make it all work out. I’d taken a year off from graduate school. Maybe that would turn out to be a good thing. Certainly having a child would rearrange our previous ideas about who would go to school and who would work and when. Cheri working while I went to school and took care of a child would make sense. Then, by the time I was done with school, the child would be old enough for daycare or nursery school. Without a graduate degree, I wouldn’t earn more than we’d spend on daycare anyway. On the other hand, could I manage school and a child at the same time? Maybe there was a way I could take on extra work during the next few months so we could save up a little money for the future. What a shame Quebec scrapped the baby bonus only a year earlier. It was hard to figure out an ideal plan, but it seemed to me that there were at least two or three workable plans. I wasn’t quite sure exactly how we’d handle it, but I arrived home with the home pregnancy test feeling pretty comfortable with the notion that we could handle it.

Cheri was home when I walked in the door. I went upstairs and put the bag on the platform next to the tub. I don’t remember if Cheri was already upstairs or if he followed me upstairs, but I remember sitting down on the edge of the tub as we talked. I told him where I had been, what I had gone out to buy and why. He raised his eyebrows and gave me the sort of look a parent or a teacher gives a child who has done something wrong. “You’re going to have an abortion, of course.”

The phrase “of course” came crashing down on me. Of course seemed like such a strange thing to say. And why the declarative sentence? At least if it was an imperative it would have had some honesty. When we married we discussed having children and we both agreed that we wanted them. It was odd for me because, before meeting Cheri, I never really wanted them, but he loved children and wanted them. With him, for the first time in my life, I could see having children and I changed my mind. We were still trying to get on our feet, still trying to get our careers launched, so children were not part of our immediate plan. At the same time, over the years we had gone beyond being imperfect in our use of birth control. We had essentially abandoned it. True, we were not trying to conceive, but we were doing nothing to avert it either. We were married and we wanted children, or so I thought.

Had he said to me that this was an especially bad juncture in our lives to have kids and could we talk about whether or not it was really what we wanted to do, I would not have been so startled. Ironically, I probably would have agreed to whatever he wanted anyway if he had approached it in that manner.

“No, not of course,” I said.

He raised his eyebrows again.

“I thought you wanted children.”

“I changed my mind,” he said.


He shrugged. “A while ago.”

“And when where you going to tell me about it?”

He shrugged again.

“You could have at least put on a fucking condom then.”

“How likely do you think it is that you’re pregnant?”

Now it was my turn to shrug. “Not very, but I figured why speculate.”

“Then there’s no reason for us to discuss this until we know.”

The next morning the test came out negative and a few days later I got my period. The ultimate confrontation was deferred, but it was another crack in the foundation of our marriage. How could he make such a major life decision without consulting me, or even informing me after it had been made? That he could go on having unprotected sex with me seemed to display a callous disregard for my general well being.

“Of course.” I kept hearing his voice saying “of course” over and over again in my mind.

It was the end of  this past December. A friend had invited me to a “First Night Celebration” in New Hampshire. At first, I was eager to go. I had no plans for New Years Eve and I was happy to be invited anyplace at all. I tried to push down the fact that I was ideologically opposed to the concept of “First Night.” I am a firm believer in the importance of the Dionysian impulse as an integral part of the human experience, and there are few opportunities we have for fully exploring those impulses. The trend away from “New Year’s Eve” celebrations to “First Night” celebrations strikes me as a puritanism as misguided as Prohibition. The only reason I considered it at all was the source of the invitation. I hadn’t seen my friend in a while, someone I’d known since I was sixteen.

Meanwhile, some exchanges on the internet put me in mind of a band I hadn’t thought of in a long time. I typed the name into a search engine and came up with a list of videos. One was of a song I once knew but hadn’t heard in a long time. The video that’s online for the song “40 Shades of Blue” has footage of the East Village as I remember it when I first started spending much of my time there at the age of eighteen or nineteen and into my late twenties. The video opens with a shot of the Bowery Mission, only a few blocks away from where my boyfriend grew up in the housing projects on Pitt Street. His bedroom window faced north and from there we could see a line of buildings along Second Street that were nothing more than shells. My boyfriend told me about how one summer in the seventies he felt that he watch building after building going up in flames, usually a result of arson. That big bad New York of the past wasn’t in the past yet. Crime was still at an all time high. Those shells of tenements feature prominently in the video and I recognized many of the other locations. I even remembered some of the graffiti. I started feeling, not only nostalgic, but homesick.

Part of the East Village was a Ukrainian neighborhood and Luscious’ parents were living in a building on Tompkins Square Park when she was born. By the time I knew her, her mother had died and her father was long since living out on Long Island and she lived in Chelsea. Sometimes we’d end a night of bar hopping at Veselka Coffee Shop, or another place whose name I’m forgetting, and argue about the right way to make pierogi. She was, as I mentioned before, a rock and roll obsessive. She would phone me dramatically declaring that there was some band we “had” to go see. She was tall, beautiful and flamboyant and I felt it was almost a privilege to be her little sidekick. I was very aware that without her I would not be half so aware of what was going on.

So one day she called me and the band we “had” to go see was named Black 47 and they were playing at some bar I’d never heard of with an Irish sounding name. She knew it, she said. Of course, she knew every place. When we walked into the place we were early, which was unusual for us, and it was crowded. An older man in his mid-thirties, looking like he had taken off his jacket and tie before leaving the office so he wouldn’t stand out too much, asked Luscious if he could buy her a beer. She smiled slowly and broadly. “I’ll allow you to buy me a drink only if you buy my friend here a drink,” she said gesturing to her faithful sidekick. She took the beers from his hands, passed one to me, and promptly turned her back on him. She was a bitch and I loved her for it. She spun me around and pushed me toward the stage.

Black 47 was based in New York and played pretty much all the time. We went to see them a few more times. A few years later I moved out of New York. Eventually, I drifted back, but by then I had no idea what had become of Luscious. The friends I was still in touch with didn’t go out that much anymore. Some of them did things like jogging on New Years Eve. As everybody knows by now, a few years ago I left New York yet again, pushed out by rising rents and stagnating income.

As I’ve been writing down my memories, one challenge has been to figure out when certain events happened. Usually there’s a clue that places it in a window of time. Sometimes larger, sometimes smaller. I probably would have put that night with Luscious down a couple of years too early. But I poked around the internet some more and I found out the, much to my surprise, Black 47 is still around but they’re planning on disbanding on the 25th anniversary of their first performance. I also saw that they were playing on New Years Eve. I thought to myself, “What the fuck,” and bought a train ticket to New York.

At the last minute, I began to wonder if it wasn’t a dumb idea. Perhaps they wouldn’t be as good as I remembered and I’d feel let down. I needn’t have worried. I don’t have the knowledge to make this a review of the show. They have a hell of a lot of energy for guys their age… um… I mean my age. They have a lot of time under their belts playing live and it shows. There’s nothing on earth that I enjoy more than a live band in a small place, except the obvious. It felt good to be back in New York.

So, apparently they’ll be around until November of this year. They’re really good live. If you’re in New York you should consider seeking them out.

[Some of these memories are out of order because I want to get them down when I think of them and I’m in the mood to write. I’m putting links to the posts on the page titled “Memories” and I’m trying to put them in the proper order over there.]

So, I was the new kid in school. I was more than a little bit nervous having been bullied, and essentially run out of, my previous school. Add to that the social conflicts of the months before and I’m surprised I wasn’t more of a wreck. Was I calm or was I just pretending to be calm? It’s hard to know. One thing I did know was that human beings are like sharks who can sense blood in the water. Show vulnerability and you’ll be attacked. Show power and people suck up to you. Pathetic, but all too often true. The night before, I spent a long time thinking of what to wear, erring on the side of the bland. Once I got a feel for the school, for its cliques and social circles, I could perhaps dress in a more flamboyant manner. For the first day, however, bland, but not too bland, was in order. Don’t look rich. Don’t look poor. Look up-to-date, but not cutting edge. Did girls there wear make-up? I didn’t know. A little lip gloss, a little mascara. No heavy eye liner, no visible rouge. The song “I Don’t Like Mondays” played on the radio as I got dressed.

My mother dropped me off at the back of the school. There was a steep hill and I sat on the grass waiting for school to start. It was quite a long wait. Finally, students started gravitating to the school and congregating around the door. There were some glances in my direction, but I was waiting far enough away that I didn’t attract much notice. The bell rang, the doors opened and I began to descend the concrete steps. As I neared the other students, I heard whispers. “Who’s that?” “Is she a new student?” Those whispers followed me down the hallway, up the staircase and into the classroom. Because I’m slightly near-sighted, I prefer the first row in a class because then I don’t need glasses. However, sitting in the first row has social implications, so I couldn’t sit there until I had an established reputation or else I’d get the reputation of an ass licker. I sat in the middle, slightly off to the side, near the windows but not next to the windows, the most socially neutral spot in a classroom by my estimation.

I settled in my seat. I placed my notebook on my desk, but slightly angled, off to the side, ready, but not too ready. See, everyone, I’m not a nerd but not a goof-off either. Suddenly, splat, something fell on my desk. I looked down in front of me. On the imitation wood-grain laminate of the desk was the unmistakable, square outline of a condom still in its wrapper. Laughter went around the room. Adrenaline made my thoughts speed up and time stand still, just as it might during a car accident or an emergency. I’m sure you’ve had this experience. It will take you far longer to read the account of my thought process than it took me to think it. It all happened in a few seconds. This was the moment I against which I was bracing myself all morning. The moment I would be tested. Fail this test and you could be sent to social hell for a month, or, in a worse case scenario, for as long as I was at the school. Responding correctly was of the utmost importance. The laughter told me that everyone had seen the condom land on my desk, so brushing it off and pretending I didn’t know wasn’t an option. I knew why it was a condom. I may have been developing my own ideas about sexuality, but I still had to live in a world where people held very different beliefs. The desired reaction on the part of the person who tossed it was that I would yell “Eeew” and make a big fuss. Everyone would laugh and proclaim me a prude or a baby. Socially, I could probably live that down, but there had to be a better response. I toyed with the idea of calmly pocketing the condom, but then they would call me a whore or a slut. Now, that might never be lived down. I needed to turn the tables on the prankster, put the focus on him, not me. I picked up the condom between my thumb and forefinger, stood up and held it aloft above my head like I was the Statue of Liberty. I turned around and slowly and scanned the room. “I believe someone has lost something,” I said, loudly and clearly, as if maybe, just maybe, I was being helpful.

There was some poking going on among several boys a couple of rows behind me. One of them came forward, “Um, yeah, it’s mine.” I handed him the condom and he slunk back to his desk. Everyone burst into laughter. I had turned the tables. I sat down as if nothing had ever happened. I heard a whisper, “She’s cool.”

After everything I’d been through, I was feeling more than a little pleased with myself. “You got that straight, man,” I thought. “Butter wouldn’t melt in my mouth. Now don’t fuck with me.”