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.
.... There is more of this story ...