My only truly interesting sexual experience took place while I was in grad school in the mid-1980s. I wasn't having much sex at all during that time, for a number of reasons:
First there was grad school. I was going for my doctorate in chemistry at, let us just say a prominent university in New York City. Grad students take a vow of poverty, hard labor and obedience. Chastity is pretty much left up to us, but it's not much of a practical problem. I was studying and teaching at least 8 hours a day. Another 6 hours were in my lab. It wasn't like the liberal arts, where you could take ten years and your professors didn't give a damn. We had to be out in five years and without our work professors couldn't publish.
There wasn't much socializing in our department and very few women to choose from. I did teach plenty of good-looking undergrads in organic chem lab. Sexual harassment wasn't a big deal back then, but I valued my reputation as a strict disciplinarian. My students knew I wouldn't tolerate cheating, falsification of data or even sloppy lab notebooks. How could I even ask one to dinner?
It wouldn't have been hard. They were almost all pre-med and would do anything to get a grade. I once got a note on perfumed pink stationery from a very cute junior. "Mr. Gordon, is there anything I could possibly do to get the few extra points to go from a B+ to an A-? Please give me a call." She's lucky I didn't let that bit of prostitution affect her grade. I didn't feel very lucky to have missed the opportunity.
Second, it was the mid-eighties. Everyone was terrified of AIDS. I had a friend at Columbia-Presbyterian School of Public Health. He used to entertain me with the latest theories, statistics and gory details. He assured me there was virtually no heterosexual transmission, particularly from women to men. Nobody else in the world believed it. I'd used condoms on two occasions and hated the things. If I wanted to come inside a rubber tube, I could just as well do it alone.
Third, I knew the difference between horniness and loneliness. I knew how to cure one but not the other. I was lonely all through high school. We had a small group of intellectuals who talked a lot about sex but rarely did anything about it, at least not with each other. We thought dating was for jocks, so we socialized as a group. I remember vividly taking Lois Weinstein to Carnegie Hall to hear the Guarneri String Quartet. During Opus 130, right in the middle of the Cavatina, I finally dared put my arm around her. She looked annoyed and took it off. Why do I still remember it? Because it was one of the few times I even tried.
Thoreau wrote, "The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation." For me it was quiet masturbation. I did lose my virginity during my sophomore year in college and piled up a low average scorecard afterwards... I didn't respond well to subtle encouragements. Girls would usually seduce me when both of us were high or drunk
I remember some of their faces, a few of their names and one or two landmark experiences. Mostly I remember the feeling of crawling out of my skin, standing next to the bed and saying, "Wow! Look at that, George! You're really doing it!" Not much to write about, I'm afraid. When did I become confident of my sexual attractiveness? About a year after I got married.
Fourth, I wanted to get married. I'm the youngest of four children. My parents are happily married and so are my two brothers and sister. We had large family gatherings on holidays, particularly Thanksgiving and Passover, with lots of little children running around. Nobody had to say anything out loud. Getting married was taken for granted, just like using good grammar and not picking my nose.
I was serious about dating and foolishly honest about it. I got quite a reputation with the ladies. They didn't need The Rules to make long-term plans for me, which never included sex before the third or fourth date. Trouble was, I never seemed to get that far. You aren't so selective when all you want is to get laid. As they say in the computer biz, all women are "plug-compatible". I was looking for something more and got much less.
Fifth, we couldn't do anything at "my place". It was a mess. No woman would be horny enough to put up with my bedroom. I did remember how to make a bed but don't remember ever making one. I had one set of sheets, cheap, permanent press and (I kid you not) an ugly brown plaid. At least they were durable; they lasted until the day after I got married.
I'd throw my dirty clothes in the closet until I ran out of clean ones. When I was done with my laundry I'd spread it on my bed, usually because I didn't have enough quarters for the dryer. When I went to bed I'd dump the damp clothes on the floor, where they'd begin their journey to the closet.
Fifth, I was allergic to cats. We couldn't do anything at "her place" either. Putting the moves on a girl was hard enough without first inquiring about pets.
Finally, I was getting religious. I was always intellectually conservative. I couldn't reject Bach or Chaucer out of hand as irrelevant. They had stood the test of time, so the burden of proof was on me. I felt the same about being Jewish. I couldn't reject out of hand so many thousands of years of culture and tradition. I started keeping kosher and tried not to work too publicly on Saturdays. I even wore a yarmulke on selective occasions. I called it my "convertible Yid Lid."
Part of the attraction was social, especially the Friday nights and Saturday mornings. It was a great way to meet women. A West Side synagogue called Lincoln Square became known as "wink and stare" because of the singles' scene. For some reason, there were many more women than men. Sometimes I felt like a cat in a salmon cannery and sometimes I felt like one of the salmon... It was like living inside a Yiddishe Jane Austen novel. Pride, prejudice, sense, sensibility, and in the end everyone was supposed to get married.
There were loads of young Jews moving somewhere up and down the ladder of observance. Some of the Orthodox were looking to get out and a lot of the secular were trying to get in. It was hard to know where any individual stood on "how far to go" during dating. Premarital sex was understood and tolerated but never openly accepted. It was like eating matzoh the day before Passover. Hey schmuck, what's your big hurry? According to Jewish law, you were not supposed to even touch a girl until you got married. Some of my friends actually followed that rule, and if they didn't they didn't advertise the fact. It did lend a frisson of the forbidden to kissing and holding hands.
Most of my dates were set-ups. Don't knock it. You wouldn't have thought of it, she didn't think of it, but at least one other person hoped it would work. I went out on a lot of dates, had a few relationships for weeks or months and got dumped a lot. As part of her parting critique, one woman said, "You've got such beautiful big eyes. I wish I had your eyelashes. Why do you wear those ugly glasses?" I had my pride. I waited a full two days before getting contact lenses. I only wore them part-time, because it was dangerous to wear them in the lab. They were never all that comfortable, especially when I was on a date.
There was a time when the woman I was dating would suddenly get engaged to some other guy. That did wonders for my ego. Why did she go out with me if she were so serious about somebody else? Did she take a look at me and figure she'd better settle? Some women had the good grace to dump me by setting me up with a friend. Ladies, I recommend it highly—it takes out a lot of the sting. Maybe I'm not good enough for her, but at least she doesn't think I'm a complete loser.
That's how I met "Lisa". I won't use her real name, not to protect her reputation, not to prevent a lawsuit, but because I've forgotten it. I was told she was an Ab.D. (all but doctorate) in comparative literature. She was a couple of years older than I, also from a secular home, "geographically desirable" and "physically compatible". That meant she lived in Manhattan and wasn't grossly fat or too tall.
I took her out to a restaurant. It was expensive for me but the best thing for a first date. You got a chance to talk and, if all else failed, ate a decent meal. She surprised me. I'd had blondes, brunettes, one Chinese girl even, but she was my one and only redhead. Long dark red ringlets and hazel eyes, sort of Pre-Raphaelite were her complexion more pale. She wasn't gorgeous but had an interesting face with high cheekbones, one I wouldn't get tired of. She wasn't skinny—I hate skinny women—and very well distributed. One thing great about marriage—you can eat again.
On our first date we talked for maybe three hours. She wasn't afraid of interrupting my canned first-date speeches, which I didn't mind one bit. I showed off how cultured I was, considering I was a scientist, and she at least pretended to be impressed. I didn't understand much of her thesis topic—something about Ariosto's influence on Goethe—but I kept my mouth shut. I kept my discussion of organic conductors to five minutes. She didn't look bored and even asked an intelligent question. We came from similar backgrounds, although she was an only child. Thankfully neither of us claimed we wanted to live in Israel. Hell no, we won't go! I went through my mental checklist and she no doubt went through hers.
Something about her caught my eye. She was a violinist! Elementary, my dear Watson. Callouses on her left fingers could indicate a guitar, but the slight bruise on the left side of her throat is characteristic only of the violin or viola player. Just when I was about to impress her with my deduction, she came out and volunteered the information. (My Muse, alas, will permit invention only in the absence of fact, and I remember embarrassments much better than triumphs.) She spent a year studying violin in Italy with a student of Arthur Grumiaux and still practiced regularly. A career was out of the question since she'd have to perform on the Sabbath. (That last delivered with a meaningful look.)
My favorite violinist and my favorite fantasy! I still dream of having written the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto and making its Carnegie Hall debut. The only thing standing in my way was a complete and utter lack of talent. I was passionately fond of music and wanted to hear everything about her erstwhile career. Details, details! Is the Mendelssohn really more difficult than the Tchaikovsky? Yes, half an hour of vibrato is much worse than those few impossible fast passages.
I waited for two days to call and make another date, and for once I was certain she'd say yes. We went to another restaurant called Moshe Peking, expensive and kosher Chinese. All I remember is when I took out my MasterCard she pulled out her American Express Gold Card, saying "high card wins". Wit, mercy and solvency!
In the meantime we talked freely. I relaxed with her, taking out my usual conversational filters and restrictions. She laughed at my jokes and ignored my bad puns. She could even smile and eat at the same time. I noticed a lot more about how she looked, moved and dressed. She was exactly my height in modest heels, so we looked each other straight in the eyes. Good skin, not too much makeup, and a long tight skirt. My hormones approved. Not a remarkable rear end, but it moved delightfully and unselfconsciously. She didn't mind how close together we walked, except once when I gestured too widely and hit her on the arm. I apologized and, without even thinking, touched her arm once more. (Relax, Gentle Reader, we'll get to the redeeming erotic importance. I'm writing as fast as I can.)
We walked all the way to her apartment on West End Avenue. Would she ask me upstairs? I thought of the old tricks, like needing to use her bathroom. I even really did need to use a bathroom. There was no awkwardness, however, when we finally said goodnight in front of the doorman.
Our third date was on Saturday night. We didn't make any plans in advance; we were just going to meet at her apartment. I put on a real cotton shirt and a recently pressed pair of suit pants. I decided to take her some flowers. I knew roses weren't appropriate just yet, so I got ten bucks worth of something else. If she were going to make dinner I could have brought wine, but I didn't want it to be taken the wrong way. I didn't want to take any chances at all.
I stepped into her apartment and was instantly overcome with lust. Not for her, silly! For the apartment. A big three bedroom plus a maid's room facing West End Avenue! With ten-foot ceilings, original moldings and a doorman. It would be worth nearly a million bucks today. Rent-controlled and going co-op! She said she used to have a roommate but the rent was so low, she really didn't need the money.
I was ready to be her next and final roommate, starting that night. You must understand New York City. Real commitment isn't marriage. It's giving up the lease on your apartment.
She seemed nervous as she showed me around. She kept apologizing even though it was spotless. The Danish modern furniture was her parents', wasn't too comfortable and didn't really go with the place, but she didn't feel like buying anything new. There were two dishes in the sink, but she hadn't time to clean up after lunch with a friend. She was especially uncomfortable showing me the enormous master bedroom with its king-sized bed. Such beds do not exist in Manhattan. I did notice it was freshly made, with the corner turned down on very nice sheets. They probably even had a thread count. No cats or stuffed animals.
After our tour, I sat down on the couch and she in a chair all the way across the living room. There was plenty of room beside me on the couch. Something was not right and I started feeling uneasy. The seating arrangement did give me a good look at her legs. She noticed I noticed and pulled her skirt back to the tops of her knees. This definitely wasn't going the way I'd hoped.
My left contact lens started bothering me so I asked to use her bathroom. She told me to use the one down the hall on the right. (In my apartment you didn't need directions.) I took a leak, washed my hands, took out the lens and realized I'd forgotten the little bottle of saline. I took a look in the medicine cabinet and found a bottle of Bausch & Lomb. Next to it was an open, empty diaphragm case.
The wheels stopped spinning and the third orange dropped into the slot. I'd hit the jackpot. That's why she's so nervous! What if the case is some kind of relic from her roommate? Nope, there's the tube of Ortho-Gynol. A diaphragm can be in one of two places. If it's not in the case it will dry out and be ruined. I knew where it was, nice and moist and safe. My dick was going to pay it a little visit tonight. Guaranteed!
For once I was confident and in control. She was all ready for me with no messy interruptions, a nice zipless fuck on the third date. I had other things in mind. I decided to take the zipper in hand and pull it down tooth by tooth. (Her blouse actually closed with six buttons, but no point in being literal.) She didn't know how far I was ready to go! Maybe I really was religious. Maybe I'd be offended. Maybe she couldn't get me to take the hint. I knew and she didn't. For once I would take my time. I was going to play her like a violin.
I ducked my head into the bedroom. Half a dozen fresh roses on the table next to the bed! (Room for a table next to the bed). I went back to the living room and sat once again on the couch. She hadn't moved from her chair. I knew I couldn't relax just yet or she might guess something was up. I picked up the conversation about I don't remember what, and then planted a few seeds of doubt. "You know, we really shouldn't leave the door closed. We're not married." She started a bit at my religious stringency and said, "I think it's OK. People can see through the windows." She looked worried. I looked her right in the eye and smiled. "Guess we'd better leave on plenty of lights."
What would we do that evening? Neither of us was hungry. Would I like something to drink? What did she have? Seltzer, Diet Coke, skim milk and--could I offer you some wine? That sounds just fine, thank you. I watched her walk towards the kitchen. She glanced back over her shoulder. I lifted my eyes up from her ass rather more slowly than necessary. Her expression was pleasant but inscrutable. I heard her open the refrigerator and then pop of a cork. Lisa, you're well prepared. Nice to know I rate a fresh bottle.
Meanwhile I got up and scouted the room. The lights were definitely too bright. There was a nice candelabrum on the sideboard with long white candles. All I needed was matches and a bit of nerve. Too late! When she came out with the wine I was between the sofa and the sideboard. I still remember the look on her face when she realized I wasn't moving out of her way. We took about two steps together and kissed. I felt the wine bottle cold against my back.
It was the kiss of my life, the one perfect kiss, the Byronic embrace of Haidée and young Juan. No tongue, I told myself, and don't take forever. We disengaged. She took two glasses from the sideboard, set them on the coffee table and poured. I said the brocha for wine and she answered "amen". (A sort of brief word from our sponsor.) We drank. I raised my glass and said "to us". We drank again and moved together to the sofa.
She was glowing now. I can still see the glass of white wine raised to her lips, framed by her dark red hair. I leaned back with my arm up high on the back of the sofa. She leaned into my arm and collapsed against me. We hugged each other for a long time. I could feel her every breath and even the pulse in her neck. She was wearing perfume, fortunately not Chanel #5. That's what my father bought for my mother, probably the only brand he knew, and it would have quite spoiled the sensation.
We went back to kissing. I'd had a lot of practice in long necking sessions the last two years, but this one was exceptional. I didn't want her to know how exceptional it was, not yet. I touched her cheekbones with my finger—did I say how her cheekbones were exceptionally fine? —and moved my hand down to the curve of her jaw. She was busy with my hair and the back of my neck. We went on to playing with our tongues. I started moving my hand in a circle on her back, pausing meaningfully now and then on the outline of her bra.
I could describe everything she was wearing that night, down to the number of pearls around her throat (19). Her blouse was loose but thin, a pale grey silk. Her skirt was dark blue tweed, with the zipper on the right. (My father was in the ladies' garment business, so I appreciated these things.) I started kissing her throat and toying with her pearl necklace. I hesitated, and she said, "Don't worry--they're not real." She laughed quickly and added, "The pearls, I mean. The rest of me is very real." Provocative comment, that.
I took off her necklace and started playing with it, moving it across her face and neck and then between her lips. She flushed and made noises low in her throat. She glanced once or twice over my shoulder at the unshaded window. Let her worry for a while, I thought. There was really nothing to worry about. I happened to be an expert in gauging visibility through neighboring apartment windows.
I put her necklace on the coffee table and poured the last of the wine. Next round I went down just a bit past her waist and pulled her close to me. She gently moved away, said just a minute, kissed me and left in the direction of the bathroom. I figured it was time to empty her bladder and get a refill on Ortho-Gynol. I got up from the couch, adjusted my erection and went looking for matches. None by the fireplace (wood-burning, working—at least $950, 000.) I went back to the sideboard and opened the top left drawer. There were my matches, from the kosher restaurant of our second date. Was it a sign? At this point I didn't need any more signs.
By the time she came back the lights were off and the candles lit. She had put on more perfume and opened one more button on her blouse. She still wore a bra—she would have been downright indecent without one—but it was now lacy, soft and low-cut. Her skirt moved less smoothly across her thighs. I verified with a glance and a very discreet touch—she had taken off her pantyhose. What about her panties? I couldn't feel any through the skirt, but I couldn't before either. There would be time yet to find out.
I concentrated on her neck and my thoughts wandered as she kissed my eyes, ear and throat. Perhaps she was an amatory specialist, a what's the term? Otolaryngologist? George, concentrate on what you're doing. You've almost reached her bra.
Here, Gentle Reader, I must request your honest cooperation. If you are under 18 or easily offended or have any idea who I really am, please stop reading. Thank you.
"Hail, Muse! et cetera." I finally unbuttoned her shirt and ran my fingers over her still-clad breasts. Her nipples were hard and my touch made her gasp. I pulled the straps down over her arms, trapping them against her sides, and abruptly moved away. "Lisa, let's be careful. Don't think you have to do anything you don't want. I want this to work out." She looked astonished, a bit ashamed, perhaps a bit annoyed? I may as well admit it. I didn't know what she was thinking. She mumbled something about not being afraid, that she'd let me know, that she trusted me.
We made rapid progress. I let her take off her bra and she let me take off my shirt. It's a wonderful moment, when you first touch breast to breasts! We moved apart and looked at each other. How her breasts rose and fell in the candlelight! Her back presented my hands with a new world of bare skin to explore, and I resolved to kiss every inch of her chest and belly. I felt her hands on me, but they did less and less as I did more. I felt them clutch the back of my head and direct me back to her nipples.