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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.

 

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After my sister read part two of “Groping in the Dark,” we had a conversation in which we discussed her recollections of that time period and some of her own early experiences with boys. That conversation left me feeling that I needed to give some clarification. Moreover, there were several other things I wanted to say anyway.

First, although I make no claims for myself as a prose stylist, I’ve been trying to write in manner that might be enjoyable to read. I haven’t clung too closely to the dictum “Show; don’t tell,” but, still, where possible I’ve tried to avoid lengthy exposition in favor of events that illustrate the points I want to make. At the same time, I’ve tried to be true to my recollections rather than distorting the facts to make them clearer illustrations, which limits the effectiveness of “showing.” If I were writing a novel, I could probably jam everything I learned about boys and sex into one, unusually eventful, summer, a sort of Summer of ’79, with a cast of about half a dozen engaging characters and dramatically revealing moments. Instead, my family moves, a whole new set of teenagers come into my life and in each milieu I have more than one romantic interest. As a plot, it’s messy and lacks a good narrative arc.

I also feel as if I should address the explicitness my description of some of my early sexual exploration, which will probably continue. Exactly how I will handle future situations will be bridges I will cross when I get to each of them. It’s not in there for prurient reasons. One of the difficulties I’ve always found in discussing sex is that people shy away from saying exactly what happens or what happened. People fill these gaps with assumptions, clichés, stereotypes and bits of received wisdom. The result is that everyone’s preconceived notions are preserved. The reason I’m writing about sex and sexuality in the first place is because whenever I hear discussions of the subject I feel that my own experiences don’t confirm what people say. Furthermore, one of the reasons I’m concentrating so exclusively on my own experiences is because I don’t want to make statements about what anyone else may have, or may not have, experienced.

The first assumption I’d like to address is the notion, often subconscious, that only certain types of girls like sex. Throughout this time period, I continued to get good grades in school. The biggest black mark on my school record was gym. Eventually, I would graduate from high school early as would Suzy Q. We would both get scholarships to college. Among the others, Cherry Bomb was a reasonably good student, although not one of the top ones. Cat Eyes and Sour Puss were pretty ordinary as far as intelligence went and their grades, as far as I know, reflected that.

If I’ve neglected the alcohol and drugs, that’s because there weren’t any. I never really gave it a lot of thought before, but since I’ve decided to start discussing these things on the internet, which includes some months on forums before starting this blog, I’ve noticed the tendency for references to sex to bring up references to drinking even if it’s apropos to nothing else being said. This occurred in a comment Holly left on an earlier post. I didn’t bother to address the reference to drinking at the time, but after noticing the pairing in some other places I was going to make an entire post about it. Perhaps I never really made the association because alcohol tends to deaden my libido. Anything beyond, perhaps, two glasses of wine and I start to lose interest in sex. In my experience, if affects men the same way. Overeating isn’t great for sex in my experience either.

Now that I’ve written about it, I wish I had asked Sheep Dog how he felt about it, but I was under the impression he was embarrassed and I didn’t want to make him feel anymore uncomfortable than necessary. If it wasn’t obvious from my narrative, I’d like to emphasize that neither of us pushed the other into doing things we didn’t want to do. I’d also like to note that we held back from going further, although I’m sure we could have managed a time and place with a little more privacy if we had put our minds to it, for the simple reason that we weren’t ready for it. We weren’t resisting the impulse to do more. So many times when I hear and read things about teenage boys, they seem to be depicted as a bunch of callous louts that just want to put notches on their belt. My own experience when I was young just doesn’t conform to that. That said, I did tend to find myself drawn to the shy, sensitive boys, not the braggarts and the blowhards.

Finally, my sister couldn’t figure out from the nicknames who all the individuals were. That’s probably good. I’ve been slightly vague with exact names, places and dates in hopes of leaving people a shred of privacy.

I know where I need to go, but I’m not sure how to get there, so I’m going to sit down with a glass of wine and try to set the stage for some complicated social problems that would occur in just a few short months.

If you had asked me back when I was fourteen if I liked music, I may very well have said, “No.” I can vaguely remember liking music as a child and I would learn to like it again in college, but my high school years were something of a musical wasteland. Furthermore, music wasn’t about music for my peers. It was a complicated declaration of social alignments and identification. We had entered the years of “Disco Sucks.”

Like a lot of middle-aged people, I’ve become a little out of touch with the current trends in music and totally out of touch with any social scenes that are attached to them. Still, when I glance around me, I don’t see anything that is accompanied by the vitriol that accompanied the rise and fall of disco. Our white ethnic, lower-middle-class town was the territory of “rock.” Not rock-n-roll, and most certainly not r-n-b. Rock, white boy music in active denial of its origins. A beat that was even vaguely danceable was banned. Despite the girl I’d met over the summer, punk was something happening in another country and I wouldn’t see hide nor hair of it again for another couple of years. It’s only in retrospect that I can look back and see how narrow my exposure to popular music was. Journey, Boston, Rush, Foreigner, Kansas. These bands still leave me cold today. Yes, Genesis, ELP, Jethro Tull. Musical choices were highly limited. I liked my father’s old swing records more.

This particular teenage subculture went with a style, and I have to say it was far more gender neutral that it is easy to imagine in our current climate of exaggerated gender differentiation in fashion. A pair of jeans, a waffle weave “thermal shirt” with an unbuttoned plaid flannel shirt over it, a pair of sneakers or work boots. It was virtually a uniform.

My new friend S had friends of her own, three girls who dressed in exactly this manner. It’s tempting to refer to them as tough girls, but how tough can you be at thirteen? Two of them had boyfriends who lived in the next town over. The boys would ride over on their bicycles, we’d sit around M’s living room and play records and just “hang out.”

One day, shortly after the boys had gone, M looked out the window after them. “Okay, they’re gone. Let’s go to my room.” In M’s bedroom, we stood around while she bent down and reached under the bed. She pulled out Michael Jackson’s Off the Wall like it was a secret vice. And here I was worried that it was going to be marijuana.

S’s secret vice was Bruce Springsteen. Bruce occupied a neutral zone in the battle between pop music and hard rock. He was most certainly a working class white kid from New Jersey, and that was a plus. However, he wasn’t hard rock. Somehow, he was regarded as just a bit lowbrow compared to the overblown art rock that held the most respect among the teenagers in our town. My sister was another devotee of the Boss and we had in our basement all the records he had recorded up until that time. S and I would go down to the basement. Her favorite was Greetings from Asbury Park. She’d sing along and dance around, acting out the stories. I can still see her now, miming flipping her collar up as she sang, “I could walk like Brando right into the sun,” then she’d take a step forward jutting out her bony preadolescent hip. “And dance just like a Casanova.” We were on opposite sides of that divide. If I had a body that looked like a young woman’s, S still looked like a child. She bemoaned many times that she hadn’t yet started to menstruate. “Really, don’t be in a hurry,” I’d tell her. “It’s kind of a drag, if you want to know.”

S’s parents were immigrants from China and by far the most strict. They liked me. I got good grades and if S said she was with me, they would let her stay out longer than they would if she was with anyone else. My parents were teachers and telling her own parents that mine said it was okay worked like magic to get approval for almost any outing. However, S’s parents didn’t approve of the other girls quite as much and more and more I found myself hanging out with M, SY, P and those boys from the next town over.

The kitchen was softly illuminated by the indirect sunlight which filtered through the tall trees in the shady backyard. I had never been in this particular kitchen before, yet it was familiar. The boy lived not far from me. The town had been built in stages, mainly of by tracks of speculative developments. Although the town claimed Dutch origins from the seventeenth century, few buildings in the town predated nineteen-twenty. In large plots, the houses had been built according to a narrow variety of floor plans. Since the boy and I lived in the same neighborhood, I was familiar with the layout of his house. It was not the same as ours, but it was the same as the homes of many of my friends since nursery school.

A stream on a snowy day.His family had moved to the town a couple of years ago, and somehow, despite having gone to elementary school together, I did not know him well. He was a quiet boy who did not stand out and I had little opinion of him one way or another, but he had asked if I would come over to his place after school. Although I was far from friendless, I was not so overburdened by popularity that an overture of friendship would be anything other than very welcome. Not knowing what prompted this invitation, I accepted as a matter of course. After all, this was not an odd thing. We were a little too old for someone to use the word “play,” but going to someone else’s house after school and playing cards or tossing a ball was a common way to pass the afternoon.

The walk from the junior high school was long and after a while his silence seemed odd. He was, as I mentioned, a quiet boy, but he was not friendless either and there had never been an odd quality to his silence, but that afternoon I took note of it. Although I can be quiet and timid in a crowd, in a one on one situation I’m quite chatty, however my attempts at conversation petered out after a sentence or two. Eventually, it was more comfortable to just walk in silence.

When we got back to his place, we entered through the back door directly into the kitchen. The kitchens in our neighborhood were not large. The small wooden table was set against a wall. He asked if I would like something to drink and then poured us two glasses of milk. We were young enough yet that milk was still the most common thing to drink. He sat in one chair and I sat in the other, facing him. More silence. At first I wondered why he asked me to his house if he didn’t want to talk and he didn’t want to do anything. Once we were seated, he seemed supremely contented to simply look at me. It would have unnerved me if it hadn’t been for the fact that he was so calm. It began to dawn on me that this was all he had wanted. He didn’t want to play cards, or draw, or show me a newly acquired pet, or any of the other things for which children typically wanted the company of other children. Rapidly, we were becoming something other than children. Six months earlier or six months later this scene could not have taken place. It occurred to me that he wanted me there because I was female, and I had the gratifying realization that he probably thought I was cute.

His calmness and sense of satisfaction evidently came from the fact that he had taken a risk when he asked me to spend the afternoon with him and I had said yes.

Over the course of the next few months, I would observe that other boys would begin to pay attention to me in ways that they hadn’t previously.

Two titmice perched in an azalea bush.

The birds…

Two bloggers over at Patheos Blogs, Libby Ann and Daniel Finke, have started a project that they call “Forward Thinking.”  In Libby Ann’s words:

It is our hope that this series will serve as an invitation to readers and fellow bloggers big and small to participate in forming values and grappling with thorny questions. 

Like many other bloggers, I spend most of my time criticizing the ideas of others – toxic religious beliefs, patriarchal gender roles, the elevation of virginity, and the agenda of the religious right – and comparatively less time building positive alternatives. While it’s critical to contest values and ideas we find harmful, it’s also important to build up positive alternatives, and it’s that understanding that birthed Forward Thinking.

They describe it as a “values development project.” I already went on at enough length about Alain de Botton for any regular readers to know that I’m not jumping for joy at a “values development project.” I’ve had, as it has turned out, quite a few reversals of fortune in my life, enough to have questioned all the received wisdom I’ve ever heard and to make me scoff at people like Alain de Botton. Yes, I’m one of those miserable people who did all the “right” things and everything still wound up wrong. Are the well-intentioned bloggers participating in their project any wiser than the people they hope to advise? And once the values are developed, what are they going to do with them?

The exterior of a topbar beehive.

the bees…

Besides having my doubts about the project in general, I also didn’t participate because I didn’t feel like I had anything relevant to say about the first subject: civic responsibility. Sure, I could have blathered on for at least five hundred words on the topic, but who am I to tell anyone about civic responsibility. I have no special insight on the subject – at all. I’d just be another person thrusting my ill-considered beliefs on other people.

This month’s subject, however, is one that I feel strongly about, “what would you tell teenagers about sex.” Sex is right up there in my tag line. It’s a subject I’ve spent a huge amount of time thinking about. I really got very little guidance one way or another about sex and a tremendous amount of things people told me were self-evidently incorrect. My mother felt that everything she had been told about sex was infected with the shaming beliefs of the Catholic Church and tried hard to not pass them on to her daughters. The moment I lost my virginity, I discovered that sex is my single greatest pleasure. Period. Nothing even comes close. When I was younger, I spent a very large amount of time trying to develop my own ideas about how to think and act on the subject of sex. One of the primary reasons I started this blog was to talk about sex because I am in such strong disagreement with much of what I read on it. When I was in my early twenties, I wished there was a career option such as sex guru, that’s how strongly I felt about the subject. Now that I’m going on fifty, I have some perspective, I believe, to see what has gone right and what has gone wrong.

A three legged squirrel in a tree eating a peanut.

and a squirrel called Tripod.

Although they’re often written with a tone of voice that implies an objective perspective, in reality there’s always a personal bias in these sorts of advisories. So I want to acknowledge up front that my own personal experiences have informed my ideas, as well as things I read or was told by people in authority when I was young, though more often than not those authorities were wrong, whether they were teachers, preachers, moralizing parents of friends (I got a lot of this!), or feminists. Being female, at first I thought my statements applied to girls, but after thinking about it a bit, I realized that they apply to boys equally as well. In either case, take it where it comes from.

First, know that you have a right to your own body and your own thoughts. Sexual feelings are normal, healthy and natural. Pleasure is a good thing. We should enjoy pleasure without guilt. Many people will try to tell you otherwise. Some will tell you that any sexual thoughts are bad. Others will try to tell you that some thoughts are bad and some are good. Know that we cannot influence reality merely with our thoughts alone. We do not enter the realm of ethics until we start to act on our thoughts and involve other people in our actions.

It is important to get in touch with your feelings and your thoughts, to not be alienated from them. We are especially inclined to be alienated from our sexual thoughts because we are told from so many sources that certain impulses are good or bad. However, it is really important to be in touch with your thoughts. Consciously acknowledge your thoughts. Work on accepting them without feelings of guilt. Know that you are in control of your own actions, and thought and action are not identical. You can act, or not act, on your thoughts. That is a separate question. Do not feel uncomfortable for simply having sexual thoughts.

Accept that we are animals. We have desires and needs like food and shelter. These desires and needs are, in and of themselves, morally neutral. Before we can make good decisions about how to behave sexually, we need to acknowledge those desires, frankly.

Don’t let anyone tell you what you should feel.

If you are a young person, congratulations, you have years of fun times ahead of you. There are ecstasies in store for you of which you have not yet dreamed. All portrayals of the pleasures of sex, whether written, drawn or filmed, pale in comparison to what you can experience in real life.

For most of us, our desires involve other people.

First, you need to find an appropriate partner or partners. Unfortunately, all sorts of received wisdom, from religious prudes to people who think they’re being politically correct to people who think they’re saving you from disease by grossing you out and scaring you, will bombard you. It can be hard to find a partner who has not had his or her mind polluted with this nonsense. Try to engage with partners who are comfortable with their own sexuality. If you find yourself drawn to someone who isn’t, encourage him or her to become more comfortable. If that person tries to burden you with their own brainwashing about sex, you need to move on. Anyone that makes you feel uncomfortable with the fact that you are a sexual being with sexual desires is a bad partner. They will make you miserable in the long run.

Find someone with whom you can engage in sexual exploration. You must find someone with whom you feel comfortable being naked, someone who you feel is not sitting in judgement on you. You should try to empty your minds of preconceived notions of what sex is supposed to be. Try to explore one another’s bodies so you can find what is physically pleasurable to you and what is physically pleasurable to your partner. It may or may not  be what you expect.

Sex with another person needs to be about mutual pleasure. I like to think it’s called intercourse for a reason. Try to be generous with your partner and insist, really insist, on a having a partner who is generous to you. If your partner doesn’t have a genuine interest in giving you sexual pleasure, find a new partner. If you are a generous lover who treats his or her partners well, there will be a lot of potential partners out there for you.

Now that I am older, I can look back and say that my main regrets regarding sex when I was a teenager are all the times I didn’t indulge when I coud have. If I could go back, I would have lots more sex. Lots. Actually, that goes for just about any period of my life except when I was married, because we had tons of sex when we were married.

So take advantage of your youth. It’s going to be fun. Savor the moment. Most of the reasons to say “no” to sex when you’d like to say “yes” are fatuous. At fifty, you won’t give a damn about your high school reputation, but you can feel good about not have wasted your youth trying to live out someone else’s notion of what your life should be. You’ll never get these years back. Have all the fun you can manage.

Several elementary schools fed into our junior high, and that is where the sifting and sorting began. For our main academic classes, I found myself grouped with the same students. These were the students who, two years later in high school, would be funneled into the college preparatory classes. Another new development for us was the introduction of choice into our eduction. We had “electives” and we were granted the grand choice of deciding between French or Spanish.

An oversized chess set built from found metal objects on a painted cement floor in an empty warehouse building at the American Visionary Arts Museum.There were pros and cons to each choice, all relating to my twelve-year-old self’s petty social life. My two closest friends were set on Spanish. However, my older sister had taken Spanish and I wanted to distinguish myself from her and cease the constant comparisons between us that always fell unfavorably on me. “Your sister has such a good disposition. Why are you so moody?” was a refrain I heard from every elementary school teacher. I wasn’t a particularly troublesome child, nor was I especially unpopular. I was a touch shy, but not pathologically so. Yet, adults who had met my energetic, popular, cheerful older sister first, could never control the urge to tell me what a disappointment I was. I adored my older sister who was, in fact, cheerful, easygoing, popular and all that, yet I felt like something of a misshapen dwarf living in her shadow. Even my mother, I felt, adopted me with the expectation of getting another happy, bouncy bundle. Instead, she got a quiet, pensive, brooding, inquisitive child who could not be trusted with a screwdriver because I was exceedingly curious about the insides of things. I wasn’t troublesome, just different.

So taking French class instead of Spanish was my first opportunity to differentiate myself from my sister and that weighed at least as heavily as any desire to keep company with my two closest friends. However there was a third factor about which I told no one at the time. For now, I will just call him J-.

People are always referring to “hormones” as a veiled reference to sexual desire. Yet my body was evidence that those “hormones” had been running through my body in adult proportions for several years. Yet when I think back on my thoughts in fifth and sixth grade, I can’t find much evidence that I had any interest in sex. It wasn’t until seventh grade, when boys were starting to express an interest in me and other girls were starting to giggle about boys that I had any relevant thoughts that I can recall.

So, I not only chose French, but I succeeded in spending the next year seated next to J-. French class had wide tables that seated two people at each and J- and I shared one in the first row near the window. He made me feel slightly agitated in a way I didn’t quite understand. I want to say that I was too nervous to look at his face, but nervous isn’t quite the right word. He had always been nice to me and he never made fun of other students, which was common behavior at that age. There was nothing I feared from looking at him. However, I can recall wanting to look at him yet not doing so because I didn’t want him to ask me why. It was a question I couldn’t have answered.

What I remember most clearly was the sight of his forearms resting on the desk. They were noticeably different from those of other boys. His arms were covered with a light layer of dark hairs and they had a shape formed by his developing muscles. He was an athletic boy, a competitive wrestler who, in later years, would place second in a state competition. The shape of his veins were visible under the skin, and when he grasped his pen or turned a page, I was hypnotized by the movement of the muscles under the surface. His hands looked strong in a way other boys’ didn’t.

We sat shoulder to shoulder, close enough that I could detect a faint scent. I’m not talking about the foul body odor that comes from being unclean. J- was, as far as I could tell, as tidy as any of the boys with his person. It was a distinct sent, one that in later years I would come to associate with men, and it hit me between the eyes. It was a heady experience, almost like being a little drunk or a little high, although I wasn’t yet familiar with either of those states.

I had no idea what I wanted from him, but I wanted something.

Wanting him to notice me and like me, with all the grace a twelve-year-old girl can muster, when the teacher would return a test to us, I’d punch him in the arm and say, “What did you get!” He’d show me his paper and, as often as not, I’d slap mine down on top and say, “Beat you!” I thought my good grades would cause him to admire me and he would regard me as highly as I regarded him. He was a good student, and it took quite an effort to beat him on tests.

I never did learn what he thought of me. Other boys would grab my attention soon enough, but I would never forget the feeling I got sitting close to him. Predatory.