It’s Saturday night. I’m out and about and it’s spring and I’m horny and it’s late and I’ve had a few drinks and so, while I’m actually cruising someone else, I take the first guy to come along, someone who comes out of nowhere, because, well, he’s there, more or less my type, overflowing with compliments and I figure it’s a slam-dunk. Wrong, wrong, wrong.
Within minutes we are heading down different mental pathways. One minute we’re semi-snuggling, the next he’s telling me I am not a “gentleman.” Why? Because I didn’t buy him a drink. Apparently there’s some code of conduct I’m not aware of. What’s going on here? Is he a hustler? Or is he just doing the macho, guy-pays-for-girl thing? Because we seem to be acting in different movies. He’s got his script and I’ve got mine.
Things get even better when he decides to be “honest” and tell me I’m “cheap.” The warning signs are bigger than the billboards on the Gardiner but somehow we still end up back at my place.
We’re barely in the door when he says, “Can I borrow a T-shirt and some underwear?” Pardon? We’ve barely touched and you’re planning on going to sleep? “I got to be honest with you,” he says, “the sex isn’t everything.”
Well, honey, at 3am on a Saturday with a stranger whose only redeeming characteristic is an ability to generate an orgasm, it is for me.
Out the door he goes. “I can’t believe this is happening,” he mutters. Well, sweetie, neither can I.
I suppose I should just write it off as another bad experience but somehow it reminds me of why I’ve more or less given up on sex lately. We here at sex-lib central like to pretend that all sex is great and more sex is better. But even leaving aside the very real possibility of crabs, warts, STIs, HIV, LGV, dirty sheets, late nights and truly dreadful, boring, just-lay-there sex, the reality, in my experience, is rather different.
Because the thing about sex is that you have to deal with other people and this, as Jean-Paul Sartre observed in a rather different context, can be hell. I often wish I’d kept better diaries when I was younger just so I could list all the weird things people have said to me over the years. Not just the standard, “You look lonely” or “You look lost” comments addressed to an obvious veteran of the bars such as moi, but the real howling inanities.
There was the guy who wanted to fuck me and when I declined said, “Oh, c’mon, I’ll only put it halfway in.”
There are the numerous people who have asked, “Why don’t you have a boyfriend?” as thought I were trying to sell them a defective bill of goods, a suspicious story or an infectious disease.
There was The Most Beautiful Man In The World, a guy I’d long coveted who, when I finally met him, was lounging outside a subway washroom doing a piss-poor imitation of James Dean.
“So Brent,” he said, “Do you want to sleep with me? I’ll save you the trouble of asking.” Words cannot convey the smarminess of his tone. Needless to say, he was lousy in bed.
Then there are the people who ask my most hated question of all, “So what do you like to do?” as though we could create kismet by making out a grocery list.
After you’ve heard a few of these lines, you just want to give up and if I haven’t I guess it’s because you just never know. The oddest and least expected people can be good in bed and finding them is often a matter of sheer luck. Talk to people long enough and you’ll get some indication of your intellectual and emotional compatibility. But talk won’t tell you what they’re like in bed.
Guys watch other guys from afar and say things like, “Oh, I bet he’s good in bed,” but they’re just guessing. It’s not like people give off clear signals. In all the stuff I’ve read about sex over the years, I’ve never yet seen a list of reliable markers.
Good looks are a guarantee of absolutely nothing. Ditto for other popular markers like dancing ability, extroversion, sexy clothing and social skills. Flirtation can be a real red herring; flirts often want attention, not sex. A certain fidgety intensity often indicates a rarin’ urge to go, and a good strong cruise from across a crowded room can sometimes signal sexual compatibility, though I’ve certainly watched that one fade to black the minute my intended opened his mouth.
But basically we’re talking experiential knowledge here. There is no shortcut to sexual truth. You’ve got to bed them — audition them, if you will — and find out what they’re like firsthand. The only shortcut I’ve discovered is The Kiss. (In this respect at least, Hollywood got it right.) If they kiss well, everything else will be all right.
That’s why I should have ditched Mr Saturday Night. Not for his insults or his complete lack of cool, but for his kissing abilities. He was about as limber as a wet plank. He couldn’t even deliver a decent peck on the cheek.