The first kiss

Like any red-blooded boy of the age of 13, when I was growing up, I imagined nothing the Almighty had created could compare with kissing a girl. I did the whole deal: making out with pillows, feeling up two slightly deflated footballs… When I started to become comfortable with the fact that my parents knew puberty was beginning to rear its hairy head — well, I’m still not entirely comfortable with it, to be honest — I would cut out all the models from Sports Illustrated swimsuit editions, put them on my walls and give them little comic-strip thought balloons, saying stuff like, “David, you’re hot!” and “David, James Bond has nothing on you.”

In my imagination, I was a torrid lover, a machine, a manly cat the kittens couldn’t keep their paws off… well, let’s face it, guys, I was Shaft. Unfortunately, I was a most private dick; even though a few of my friends had tales of heavy petting debauchery, usually with an older girl, typically in a dark room somewhere and often involving zippers, rubber gloves and mayonnaise, I, at 13, had still never properly kissed a girl (I’m talking about real snogging here, not the quick, stolen pecks on the cheek with Stacy behind the primary school washrooms when I was 11, although, at the time, they were meaningful). The closest I came was taking a girl in to the school bazaar; she ended up leaving with another guy when I told her, no, sorry, I can’t go to hang out the mall afterwards because my Dad is picking me up bang on 6 o’clock, can’t be late. (Emily, I haven’t forgotten you… contact me, if you ever want to talk.)

I thought it was never going to happen. Then, my childhood friend Andy started dating the local football coach’s daughter, and I was lucky (so lucky) enough to accompany him on a few of their dates. Mostly, they would sneak off to a dark corner, and he would touch her breasts (He touched her breasts! He even grabbed them!) and kiss her cheek, and I was off trolling around, hoping neither of them noticed that I was watching.

I mean, what must it be like? You’ve got a girl there… and you can do anything with her! Sure, one time Andy sneaked his hands a little too low, and she let out a shriek and told him to stop it, but I suspect that’s just because they were out in public. When they were alone, who knew what kind of insanity went on? I bet he even kissed her with his tongue.

Imagination was all I had. I was helpless with women, and rather than face the embarrassment of being rejected, I just avoided them. It wasn’t until I joined a local youth club that I finally met a girl who would talk to me.

Her name was Michelle, and I was the first person she’d ever kissed, too. She was a shy, bookish girl, with big glasses that I think also helped the sight of anyone who happened to be standing behind her (within 10 feet). She was a year below me in school and wanted nothing more than to get straight A’s, be a bridesmaid in her best friend Julianne’s wedding, meet David Hasselhoff (believe it or not, there was a time when The Hoff was considered sexy) and not be late to Sunday school. She was a proper sweet straight-laced schoolgirl, and sex was something that would be not be even thought of until her wedding night, and even then only if you’re lucky.

I liked her because she was nice and funny and a good decent girl — this was during a period of my life in which I wanted to be a minister; that might be surprising to you, and probably strikes you as something I should delve into deeper, but I won’t, because it’s not really all that interesting, and besides, it was a very long time ago, and I’m such a sinner now I’d feel guilty even thinking about it — but mostly I liked her because she had enormous breasts and I thought maybe if I was really, really nice and gave her flowers and told her I loved her and took her to movies and made nice with her friends and held her hand, she might let me touch them.

I was willing to wait. Once I finally dug up the nerve to ask her out, we had three dates. The first was to a movie, Teen Wolf with Michael J. Fox. Mum wouldn’t let me go unless I had a chaperone, so Andy, who was a year older, also came along… if only Mum knew the stuff I’d seen Andy do! The second was also to a movie, the name of which I have forgotten.

The third night, I knew it was time to make my move. It must have been a particularly ribald weekend in Hollywood, because all the films at the cinema were rated R, save for one. So Andy and Michelle and her friend Julianne and I marched up to the ticket window, plunked down our cash and headed in to see Back To The Future.

The scene was toward the end, when the band is playing “Earth Angel” and Marty McFly is starting to fade from existence because his parents-to-be aren’t getting together on the dancefloor as they were destined to in 1955. The tension was high; would this be the end of our hero? Michelle gripped my arm. I touched her hand. She looked at me. I leaned in. She leaned in. Closer. Closer. I puckered up (this was fucking it! Oh man oh man oh man!) and planted my lips on hers, where they remained for about, oh, half a second. We were in a cinema, but I could still see her blush. As did I, when Andy, sitting right behind us, began to giggle.

And that was my first kiss. Years later, at Julianne’s wedding, I gave a toast. I saluted Jules and her husband, and made a joke about initially spending time with her to get closer to Michelle, my first kiss, someone I’d never forget. Michelle blushed then, too, though I think she might have been drunk. She ended up marrying a grocer or something, and I think they have a couple of children, both shy and bookish with enormous glasses. Curious to see how their breasts turn out.

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Sex musings at midnight

Here’s a question for you: How important is sex?

I don’t mean how important it is to a healthy relationship. Sex is a vital part of any relationship, and usually when a couple has a poor sex life, you can tell after hanging out with them for about 20 minutes. The air’s a little thicker, more dense, there’s a certain level of tension… and people keep accidentally crushing wine glasses in their hand. Here’s a tip for fellow people-watchers: When a woman walks across the room and punches her boyfriend in the face, their sex life is not working. Or, perhaps, it has reached a level that you and I just don’t want to think about.

I’m speaking more specifically of the amount of sex we individually need. How important is it to us? Is it all relative?

Let’s take two people, for example:

One is a female friend of mine. She lost her virginity when she was about 16. She is pretty, smart, sociable, and is a serial monogamist. No matter what, she always has a boyfriend — I’ve never known her to be single. Then, about six months ago, she had a long-term relationship end and, in a first for her, there was no one else waiting in the wings. She’s hardly the type of girl to sleep around or just pick up guys at clubs so, suddenly, something that was a regular part of her life just ended. She’s now gone six months without sex. According to her, the longest she’d gone without sex until this six-month hiatus was 32 days. Imagine that: something that had just been a part of your life… just gone. Emotional attachments aside, when something you’ve lived with on a reliable basis since you were 16 is taken away suddenly, that’s a definitive change. (Of course, I know the guy she was just dating quite well and… let’s just say that I doubt she’s missing too much.)

The other is a male friend. Whatever the opposite of a serial monogamist is, that’s what he is. Dates? Ha! He never dates. Ever. He went on a few dates with one girl and never even got her winter coat off. Other than that, zilch. Six months without sex? Try six years. At this point, he’s almost asexual. It’s not that he doesn’t want to have sex; it’s just that he’s got used to not getting any. He doesn’t even really think about it that much anymore (though when the 40 Days, 40 Nights movie first came out, he did bash his head against a wall repeatedly for about a week and a half). He doesn’t even try to go after girls anymore. What’s the point? Sex is something on the Internet or late-night telly, a spectator sport far more than a participatory one. Someday he’ll have sex again, I’m sure. But at this point, there’s no rush.

Which person would you rather be? Neither is having sex right now. Both are human beings, and both need it. But the girl is having a far more difficult time with it than the guy. He’s accepted his lot. To put this another way, paraphrasing: Is it better to have had some play and lost it, than to have never had any play at all?

Another friend is getting married later this year. From all accounts, he seems to have a happy, moderately healthy sex life. Nothing to complain about. But, like all relationships, sometimes circumstances dictate performance. Occasionally, he’ll go a week or two without having sex. No big deal when he was a single guy; essentially, his life was just a continuous string of a week or two without sex. But now, when that week or two takes place with a hot girl sleeping next to you, and you start to itch and squirm, suddenly a week seems a lot longer.

I spoke with him about this some months ago. Specifically, I spoke about a little, um, dry spell I was going through myself. He looked at me like I’d just peed in my pants: “Man, stop being a dickhead! No sex for how long? Seriously man, there was a point a few years ago I was tempted to screw the dog!” (Trust me, that’s not an image you want in your head at midnight!)

But he’s right. I suppose my major neuroticism about sex and relationships is that while I know some women might find me attractive, sexy even, I often can’t quite figure it out myself. (Well, other than the minor man-boobs!) Do I think about this more when I’m in a relationship, or when I’m not? I figure I’m probably the worst at the start of a new relationship. If I go without sex for a while, I can pretty much just convince myself that it’s only because I haven’t found the right woman yet. But put a woman in my bed every night for a week and, until I get used to it, I’m convinced she’s really dreaming of the guy in the kebab shop up the street, the one with the mole shaped like a penis on his cheek. She wishes she were in bed with him right now; I just know it!

And what is it we really get out of sex anyway? Is it strictly orgasm? If so, there are some guys (and girls) who have the most functional relationship I know with their shower heads. Shit, the shower doesn’t even mind if they bring in pictures of other girls! Or do we just need the closeness? Or, lo, could it be, that we have sex because we’re actually in love? How much less is it when we’re not? And, after six years without sex, does it even matter?

I think we have the best sex when we’re in love, because we’ve got the other person more or less figured out, and because it’s a legitimate sharing process. But then this logic makes me think that a good wank can trump sex, and I don’t really believe that. Do I…? Whoa! Perhaps I should just get off this logic train!

Of course, ideally, someone is just single, without commitments, and still having sex on a regular basis, with no ebbs and flows — just something new all the time. I don’t think those people actually exist though. Well… maybe in the Premier League…

Kill them all!

Ex-boyfriends are loathsome creatures. They are soulless monstrosities, spawns of Lucifer, with fiery tentacles sprouting from their foreheads and coarse, hairy scales blanketing an ember, callous skin. Their minds are black clouds, electric storms sending out noxious currents of malignancy. When they look deep inside, they see a pit of foul nothingness, rancid, rotting nether. They are not exclusive or solitary. They are all worthless faeces, not content to flounder in their own detestable filth, instead spreading their wretched disease to anything they would deign to soil with their wretched presence.

I find it quite astounding that, somewhere out there, I’m actually considered one of them!

I hate them all. I hate the musicians, the footballers, the sensitive art students… I hate the childhood friends who unwittingly grew into something more and the one her parents just loved and it’s-a-shame-it-never-worked-out. I hate the ones with brown hair, blonde hair, ginger hair, floppy hair, short hair, no hair, glasses, contacts, laser surgery, post-grad degrees, stock options, work permits, tattoos, nice eyes, nice shoes, geographic proximity, happy home lives, positive future with this company, ability to laugh amiably at life’s peculiar peccadilloes. I am not specific.

Some in pop psychology would call this the virgin/whore complex. All men want a woman who is a hellion in bed but has never been with anyone but them. That’s shit. How clichéd. It is not that simple. It is not a matter of emotional irrationality. I am not talking about me here, or what goes on in my head. I am talking about the fact that all ex-boyfriends are evil demons who must be vaporised, preferably in a violent, tremendously painful way. (Perhaps ripped apart by wolves, or surgical vivisection without the benefits of anaesthesia. That might be nice.) I give you nothing but facts. I am a writer. I did nothing to facilitate this truth. I simply report it. Please, don’t blame the messenger.

Perhaps they once did something nice. Perhaps they came at the right time in her life, perhaps they transitioned her to the grownup world, perhaps they were sweet and caring and not-the-right-person-but-sweet-nevertheless-and-they-are-wished-well. These are ruses the ex-boyfriend uses to draw you in, to make you feel that they are harmless, that they can be trusted. They are not to be trusted. They are evil. Did I mention the tentacles? I think I did. In case I didn’t, they have tentacles — fiery ones.

Perhaps they even wish you well. Perhaps they are happy she is with someone who cares deeply for her. Perhaps they hang around merely to hold onto a friendship, cherishing what made her special, happy to just have a part in her life. Perhaps they don’t even think about her, except to hope she is happy. Again, more shit. This is how they get you. Their nefarious ways know no bounds.

Out there somewhere, there are ex-girlfriends. They are in my past, no longer applicable to my life, obviously… duh! I am certain they all think of me as the selfless, amiable, spirited imp that I naturally am. I contributed something to them. I made their life appreciably better in some small way. I am a fond memory. This makes me decidedly different from ex-boyfriends.

They are bad. They molest children and dropkick kittens. They ignore Mother’s Day, love Limp Bizkit and often, when no one is looking, commit acts of such carnal degradation that Satan himself would frown in disapproval. I’ve heard rumours that they know goats in the biblical sense and have killed men simply for snoring too loud. These are rumours. You know what they say about rumours. They are to be believed. They are to be accepted as gospel. Retribution shall be ours.

I am not like them. I am pure and intend only well. I have a soul and vitality that cannot be suppressed. Their ilk is not like me. Thank God. Thankfully, I am different. Thankfully, I do not share their vile ways. That I am excluded from them, I feel so fortunate.

Please, take this column not as a bouncy lark, or a whimsical commentary on the state of human interaction. These are serious matters. This is not a time for irony, or humour, or even complacency. Our long national nightmare is not over. If we are not vigilant, they will infiltrate our institutions. They will take over our society and all we hold dear. We simply have no choice. Extermination is our only option. These are not criminals who can be rehabilitated. They are worthless scum, barnacles feasting on our nether regions. We must take them out, without prejudice. It is essential that you, reader, join me in this quest.

I have made it very easy for you. I have compiled a list.

Steve, Andrew, Frank, Scott, Duane, Mike, William, Eric, Tim, Matt, Amir, Alan, James, Chris, Brian, Jamie, Dennis, Sanjay, Ken, Tom, Karl, C.J, Jason, Ryan, Jeff, Ravi, Travis, Kyle, Troy, Robert, Jonathan, Ian, Neil, Patrick, Wayne, Garth, Phil, Paul, Rick, Charles, Tony, Jeremy, and David. Those are, to the best of my calculations, the names of the men who have ever dated anyone I have ever dated. I do recognise that many of these are quite common first names. I have allotted for that. If you come across an individual with any of these monikers, it is imperative that you dispose of them on sight (except the David that is me, of course), by any means necessary. It is possible that you will not be executing the exact right individual. Some of them, I may even call friends. But that is fine. In the face of this menace, certain sacrifices must be made.

In fact, in case I’ve missed a typographical error, it is acceptable to dispatch anyone with a variation on one of these names; say, Bryan rather than Brian. It is also satisfactory to terminate those whose names rhyme with someone on this list, just in case I remembered one incorrectly. If you happen to find a woman with the name of someone on the list, it’s best to do her too; modern surgery can do wonders for those fearing the full brunt of my wrath. Actually, while we’re on that topic, if you could, would it be possible for you to castrate them before they die? If you could take care of that, it would be greatly appreciated.

Join me, my warriors. We are common decency’s last hope.

The 2nd Law of Thermodynamics: Sooner or later everything turns to shit

Earlier today, I got a phone call from my friend Nicola. Now here’s the thing about Nicola: There are times when it appears she is the most intelligent woman on the planet. At other times, she seems like some kind of alien, or saint, or mutant. It is not beyond the realm of possibility that she is all of these things.

Nicola, who lives in Brighton, does not date. She does not have one-night stands, meaningful fortnights or month-long affairs. It is not that she does not like men; it is not that she’s a lesbian, and it is not that she can’t find anyone. She simply chooses not to. She has weighed all the dating options, lifted them one way and the other, tested their density, volume and surface area, put on gloves and checked them for lice, asked them to cough. And she’s just decided that this dating world is not something she wants to be a part of, thank you very much, next caller.

Nicola has been through the wars. She’s been through all the blood and piss and shit and mud and pus and grime too many times, and enough is enough. She’s retired.

“But Nicola,” I ask her, “don’t you ever get lonely? Don’t you miss having someone who will listen to you talk about your day? Don’t you miss that close contact? Don’t you ever just want to throw somebody down and rip his clothes off?” (This last question was not a come-on, I swear.)

She manages a smirk. “Listen… I have my own life to live. It’s just too much trouble… and it usually ends up badly, anyway.”

The difference between Nicola and me is that she is honest, and she is smart.

Nicola sees what happens when you give yourself up, when someone gives himself or herself up for you, when the balance is tipped one way, when it’s tipped the other. You end up hurt, or you end up hurting someone else. Someone ends up sad, or bitter, or just changed. She’s been there before.

Alas, I agree with Nicola, but selfishly, foolishly, I choose the other path. I simply opt to ignore the logic and try anyway. I know it’s stupid, and I know I’m a danger to others and myself (and them to me)… and nevertheless I just keep forging blindly forward, like a Godzilla-sized baby, waddling around aimlessly, causing destruction.

My old friend Karen, whom I haven’t spoken to in about a year, once explained to me what she called the “cool quotient” of dating. According to Karen, no matter the relationship, no matter how healthy or happy it seems, each partner deep down knows the inherent inequality. One person is always “cooler” than the other — that is to say, one person always considers the other somehow in a different league, Premiership compared to Championship — in some social way. It doesn’t mean that they can’t get along or that such things are even all that important. Just that they’re there.

Karen always used this analogy to describe my relationship with ex-girlfriend Laura, who she felt was above me on this unscientific scale and therefore was destined to leave me (Karen never pulls her punches). Therefore, it was counterproductive to be involved in any relationship whatsoever because, regardless of the circumstances, one partner was either going to feel woefully inferior to the other or think that they were slumming. Hence everything was doomed. I believe Woody Allen’s line was, “It’s the Second Law of Thermodynamics: Sooner or later everything turns to shit.”

You waltz into these relationships, and everything seems happy and fresh and new and clean. You’re flattered someone you admire will even talk to you, that they don’t dismiss you out of hand. You see problems, but you’re convinced this time such little things won’t matter. It’ll all be good this time, promise; the fact that you don’t really like pop music and she doesn’t get Woody Allen, that she’s too young or too old, that you don’t like her cat, that she’s your cousin, none of it will make a difference. Why should such silly matters get in the way of us?

Then you find yourself worrying. You find yourself thinking that she is right, and that you are wrong, and that you are stupid for not being more like her. A little pop music never hurt anybody. You think that she should be with someone better, someone not so cynical, and this thought invades you, and you sabotage everything, and you drive her away. Because she is better. They are all better. And she is sad… yet you’re convinced she’s better off without you. Thing is, you’re right.

And yet, and yet, and yet, we keep trying. It should go without saying that my friend Karen, inventor of this injurious theory, is now in a serious, allegedly happy relationship. And off we go.

I think about how my parents did this, how my grandparents did this, how their generations pulled it off. Was it that much simpler? You just got married, you started a family, and if you had problems, you just dealt with them. Stop your bloody whingeing. No self-loathing, no twisted sabotaging of your own happiness. You paid bills. You went to the store and got milk. You attended parent-teacher conferences and grounded the boys for getting into fights after school.

I think of the line from Arthur Miller’s The Ride Down Mt. Morgan, in which an elder man tells his young wife, “The difference between our generations is that we got married young to prove we were adults, and you do the exact opposite for the very same reason.” I think the older guys might have had the right idea, though.

But whinge, whinge, whinge, bitch, bitch, bitch. Enough!

So I look at Nicola, and I see that she’s right, and I look at Karen, and I think she’s right, too. Yet I continue to search, sleepwalking into a mess, hoping the ground doesn’t turn to shit beneath my feet.

Oh, I almost forgot, I started this piece with that phone call from Nicola earlier today: “I just met this really cool guy,” she started excitedly.  And off we go. Sigh.