Wednesday, December 17, 2003

So, whence the title: "Rich Inner Life"?

I once had a student who simply wasn't part of the same planet as the rest of us. In discussing him with a colleague, we decided that Angus had a "rich inner life." So said his report card, in the end.

"But those first few posts seem like a pretty rich, if out of date, outer life!" I hear you protest. Well, yes, and I have that as well. But I also get to spend my time wrapping my brain around great questions. A lot of those questions relate to sex and ethics, especially as the whole thing relates to marriage.

I hinted (well, actually blurted) in an earlier post that I'm bisexual. I knew it when I was young, but had no label for it. Either you were "normal" or "gay". My lusting after girls most of the time and occasionally playing around with boys when we had sleepovers were in very separate compartments.

Now I find myself happily-married, but for this: we don't have sex. Well, that's not true, exactly. We do have sex, even together, maybe once a month. But Marie's vibrator gets a lot more of a workout, if mostly as a sedative.

No, this isn't a story of sexual ennui, the standard complaint about long-term relationships. In our case, the sex never was great, even when it was more frequent.

During our mutual 20's, I was married; Marie wasn't. Both situations entailed exactly what you might think sterotypically. My ex and I had a rewarding sex life, even up to the end, but it was limited to one another (to any meaningful extent). Marie, on the other hand, was profligate in college; it wasn't until her senior year that she had a relationship, as she puts it, of "more than one night."

Not only that, but she spent most of her 20's in Japan, teaching English, and having adventures (including being a kept woman by a businessman who bought her a Miata and trips to England). For all that, I was (she claims, and I have no reason to think otherwise) that she had never had an oral-sex-orgasm until me (thank you, Mary!).

Near as I can tell, though, all those years of bad frat boy sex and bedtime masturbation conditioned her. Poorly. So from the start, sex for Marie has never been much more than a narcotic. And, frankly, she has never been particularly good at it.

Believe me, I've tried. We've tried videos, a whole box of toys (it's good living near Good Vibrations!), talking, encouraging...you name it. All to no avail.

And yet, we're happily married. When everything else is perfect, does it matter so much if the sex sucks (metaphorically)? And that begs the question: what does fidelity mean?

Some writers conclude that fidelity is a question of putting the primary relationship first. In other words, the way we in puritanical America automatically equate morality with sex needs to be reconsidered.

In the course of writing about 30 pages on this stuff in the past month, I've read or skimmed upwards of 30 books, and less than 1-1/2 pages has been devoted to bisexuality. In the words of that author (whose name escapes me), bisexuality terrifies the churches because it represents unbridled desire.

Maybe that's what I should have called this blog.

Marie and I have talked about outside relationships. She's torn, frankly, between a blanket ok (trusting me not to do anything pysychologically or physically unsafe) and "don't ask, don't tell." Men are a lot easier to consider in this context, but given both of our enjoyable, even healthy experiences as the "other," it would be hard to now come up with a blanket condemnation either.

So that's me. I hope you're reading this from the bottom up. It's certainly a different sort of introduction than I've ever given before; say, at a staff retreat. But it's a good jumping-off point, and we'll see where this one-sided conversation takes us.
"You know, that's really not doing a thing for me. Try down here. Oh. Yeah."

That, in a nutshell, is how I learned that just rubbing the pubic hair triangle doesn't really accomplish much, except, as in the liturgy of the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch, "Three shalt thou count. Thou shalt not count two, unless thou proceedest on to three." It's a start, but not a finish.

I learned so much from Mary, in a short time. That first night, I learned how to kiss, how to play with one set of breasts (including principles that have served me well), and how to give her a handjob. And the next day, I learned that come didn't come out of her blouse very easily.

We had maybe three weeks before I went off to college. Not surprisingly, I spent a lot of time with Mary; more surprisingly, only a little of that was sex. She tried to teach me how to drive her stick-shift camper (a concept which I didn't grasp until I bought a stick of my own a year later), we co-wrote some pretty pathetic music, and I bought a plywood board to go under her mattress when she threw her back out. And I learned she had one hard-and-fast rule: she wouldn't let me in the bed she shared with her husband.

Mary had only slept with her husband. Ever. She was in her mid-20's when they met, and he was around 40. They spent very little time together, and hadn't slept together much for years, if ever, really. (I learned later that they did split up for a time, she sowed some late wild oats, and they got back together on the condition that she could still have her separate space--how that was defined, I never did find out. But I digress.)

I mentioned the camper. While we fooled around in the front cab, as well as in the back seat of my Pinto (where I was eager for my first taste of pussy, but it was worse than awkward), a couple of nights later, I got an early 17th birthday present. The night before, my present was her, all of her.

It was the first time we were completely naked together, and I loved exploring and being explored. Mary had a "better" body than I expected; maybe due to her weak chin, I had expected her to be more, well, flabby. But while she was a little on the heavy side, she was solid.

I had bought the condoms, of course. In 1984 (if you remember), the only options were the occasional bathroom dispenser, or the drugstore counter. I got up the nerve for the latter, which was easier than I had feared. Of course, I went out of my neighborhood to minimize the chances of being recognized.

A group of us good catholic-boys-high-school-seniors would frequently "sneak" into the nearest adult bookstore, so I at least had some idea of what went on. But I realized I was at home the moment I was face-to-face with Mary's pussy. Her brunet pubes lay close; I'm not sure if she trimmed, but she certainly wasn't shaved. I was more than happy to find my way around, and gladly took direction. Once she had come, it was my turn.

Condom on, we took our time, trying every position we could think of, given the inherent limitations of the camper. I was on top, she was on top (both forwards and backwards), we tried some sideways stuff; but she got on top and finally made me come. It was good.

Well, I have to be honest...it wasn't great. I've had great sex, and this wasn't it. On the other hand, it was considerably more than simply a chance to get it over with. I was ready to go off into the world...and wait a full year through a virginal freshman year at college before I would sleep with anyone again.

But Mary was a great start...and I need to mention the best part. After we finished fucking and lay there, talking a little whiler, I got the question "Do you know about anal sex?"

You know how Bugs Bunny's eyes sometimes bug out at a beautiful woman, with sound effects and all that? I was Bugs.

"Um, yeah." "Well, would you like to do it?" "Um, sure."

I'm sure I was no more articulate than that. But out came a bottle of hand lotion. Thanks to my voracious illicit reading, I knew one thing: use lots of lube and make sure she's relaxed. That's when I learned my next lesson...

"Yikes! That's cold!" And I discovered the courtesy of warming lube in your hands before using it on your partner. A kindness I've not only practiced myself, but taught to others in the meantime, I'm proud to say.

But I was pretty much a pro, even that first time, at least once things warmed up. Her backside opened to my fingers, one at a time, and we were ready. Lying on my side behind her, Mary told me to let her open up to me, and, more quickly than I had expected, I was in.

If condomized fucking was good, bareback anal was great. The friction, the pressure, the intimacy: it lived up to its billing. And while I've only been inside one other lover's ass in all these years, it's a treasured part of my experience.

Mary was good to me. She was a good, naturally-knowledgeable lover, and I've counted myself lucky to have had and been had by her. I have no fantasies about "what we could have been," or anything like that. We had a little contact over the following year, and tried to rekindle the sexual spark, but it just didn't happen. Almost a decade later, I was visiting home and looked her up for dinner. That's when I learned about Mary's divorce, life as a country-western drummer, libertininsm (with abortion) and remarriage. She had a bigger, better camper, where she could spend time off and alone.

And no, she didn't offer.
Let's call her Mary. Someone I knew, a long time ago. This is for my convenience as much as anything; you see, my wife's name is, well, let's call her Marie.

When I first met Marie, it took me a good while to get up the nerve to speak to her, because I couldn't remember which name was hers, and I wanted to get it right. Eventually I did, it seems. But I'd rather think about Mary just now.

I met Mary the summer before my senior year of high school. We were playing in the same community orchestra for a community theatre production of "Camelot" that year, in a local high school's amphitheatre. You'd think that a reasonably-attractive, if rather geeky and chubby, 16-year-old would have some luck hanging around theatre people for endless hours. Alas, no.

Mary and I ended up working closely together in a combo that summer, and in various shows through the next year. I was more-or-less on her way back and forth, so in my carless days, was glad to have a ride that didn't involve my mom. Of course, when that happens, you get to talking (especially as a closeted-bisexual sensitive teenage musician) about all sorts of things, especially girls, or the lack thereof, in my life.

So what of Mary? Why the candor? She was off-limits. 36 and married, she was 5 months older than my mom. Not unattractive, but hardly the girl of my high school dreams. Nevertheless, the following summer, we got ever friendlier. Being summer, we would stop at 7-11 for some Franzia, and head down to the beach to take it all in.

Things changed when, in mid-August, we were eating a picnic lunch in the middle of an all-day rehearsal ("Annie Get Your Gun" by this point, if you're keeping score). Mary reached over and started playing with my nipples through my shirt. Wow. I had been kissed exactly once up to that point, a good-night kiss on my prom night. This was different.

Later, back at the theatre, she bought me a Coke, but only if I would retrieve the quarters she dropped in her bra. When she took me home that night, we parked in the shadows of the neighborhood Catholic girls' high school walls, where I had spent much of my young life. It seemed only appropriate to make that the place of my first handjobs, both giving and receiving--and it didn't take the promise of caffeine to get me in her bra, needless to say.

When I went off to college a few weeks later, I went through mixed feelings about all that happened with Mary. Eventually, though, those feelings unmixed; I was lucky to have an older lover who knew what she wanted, and wasn't shy about getting me trained.

Next: only a few occasions, but very good sex, by any standard.
I kept a journal once. Only once. Whether this blog counts remains to be seen.

England, August 1997: I was there, on my first trip, and fully prepared to return and file for divorce from my first wife (about whom more later). It seemed like a good time to keep a journal, which I did, copiously, for those two weeks. I questioned my marriage, my career, and pined for at least two women with whom I spent time across the pond, but to no avail.

To the surprise of my wife and myself alike, I returned after 16 days, having celebrated my 30th birthday in grand style, and decided to give the marriage (in its 11th year at that point--you do the math!) yet another "last chance." (I did finally file, the next spring, but it was a long time getting there.)

That book (a handsome blank red hardbound volume) pops up every so often, but I haven't looked since, nor have I kept any others in the intervening time.

I now find myself in quite another world. Remarried since 2000, still with no kids, in grad school rather than actively pursuing my career, sharing a house with 1-1/2 other couples. Much of my work this fall has been in sexual ethics and marriage, which has, naturally, caused me to think more directly about my own marriage, and all the concomitant questions around sex and relationships in modern America.

Hence, this blog: a chance to reflect on past experiences in light of the present, or vice versa. Some people may find me an amoral libertine, others hopelessly conventional. Who knows, I may even blur the lines a bit--history is, after all, written by the victors, or at least the survivors.

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