The Exorcists (Part 3: Sex)

[Note: This is the last of a three-part series on the years 1974–’75, when I learned about sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. Some names have been changed to avoid pain to the living, but not necessarily to the writer. Last photo, below, taken late summer 1975.]


Saturday, May 24, 2008, I awoke the happiest I’d ever been in my entire life—a full-body happiness, oozing contentment, satisfaction and wholeness.

Two nights before, on Thursday, I’d been on a date with AJ, my girlfriend of a month and a half. After a supper out of salad, chicken, salmon and wine, we stopped in at Café Latte and had a chocolate Kahlúa truffle each, then walked back to our condo, taking a back alley that passed by my favorite old cottonwood tree in Saint Paul.

It was under that tree, near blooming lilacs, as we sat on an old sofa left by a garage door, that we kissed for the first time.

That Saturday morning I had two phone messages, one from my brother, the other from Dad. My brother’s wife had been previously hospitalized with dangerously high blood pressure, so I called Brian back only to get his voicemail. Heading outside, I called Dad as I walked to my car. He picked up right away, his voice cracking as he tried to speak.

“Michael … your mother passed away at 9:20 this morning.”

I stopped stock-still, cell phone to my ear, shocked. I recall looking up at the sky—it never looked bluer, nor had a breeze smelled sweeter than on that morning. I told Dad it was time for him to sell the house in Florida and return to Minnesota. He dismissed it right away. “Call your brother and make plans to get down here,” he said. “The memorial service is May 31.” After I got off the phone, I couldn’t move. I didn’t know what to do. I called AJ and she immediately answered. “My mom just passed away,” I barely squeaked out.

“Where are you?” she said. I was standing by my car, I told her, about to leave for the gym. “Don’t go. I’ll be right out.”

Later, in my journal, I wrote:

“I want to say this for all posterity: she flew out of her back door, her long hair waving in the wind, wearing blue jeans and a gray flannel pullover, and the look on her face, as she hurried toward me, arms out, was something I’ll never forget—she was so beautiful. We hugged and kissed on the sidewalk, then went inside where she made tea and we talked for another hour or two.”

Mom was dead. And I was never more in love with a woman.


Back to 1974. At 14, I only knew elementary school puppy love and a persistent confusion about just what adults did together when they were engaging in “Love American Style.” I certainly didn’t learn about sex from other girls, and I definitely don’t recall ever getting the “birds and bees talk” from Mom and Dad.

My parents had their own issues. Nosing through Mom’s paperbacks, scattered on the headboard shelf of their bed, I slowly figured out exactly what Irving Wallace’s The Seven Minutes really were clocking, and Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Sex had more head-scratching illustrations than answers to everything I ever wanted to know. I recall opening a drawer in the the folks’ bedroom to reveal a long, beige plastic thing that resembled a banana. It had a switch and vibrated!

From what I could guess, the folks had an active sex life, but it was never overtly displayed. They were very private and not openly affectionate to one another. Dad was always a gentleman around other women; I never saw him leer at, or heard him make a sexist remark about, any woman.

So, if not from girls at school, or from a parental “talk,” I learned about sex in a way I suspect many men have done, but would be ashamed to admit—from other boys.

If you think about it, it just makes sense. Boys spend more time with other boys than they do with girls, who we thought were stuck up, or crazy, or both. But we were still fascinated by them.

In the fall of 1974, winter 1975, there were … changes. Morning erections went from stiff occurrences to oddly wet inconveniences. With some coaxing, things felt really good down there. I learned how to get friendly with pillows, cushions and anything remotely shaped like a woman’s body. So, when Derek and I were cracking beers, we were also figuring out the sex thing. The lessons came from the questions; from the questions came the actions:

  • Lesson one: Ask for what you need. And be open when you get it.
  • Lesson two: Your body is yours. When it feels good, you feel good. When you share feeling good, others feel good.
  • Lesson three: There is no such thing as free love. Always payment due for nookie rendered.

Between pleasuring each other, Derek and I speculated that, if our parents weren’t telling us about this, it must mean some sort of surrogate teacher would step in. “Could it be one of your Mom’s friends? Maybe she’ll teach you what to do?” I could only think of one such friend, Mrs. Hansen, who bore an uncanny resemblance to my TV crush Susan St. James and who wore tight-fitting tops that revealed bronze-tanned cleavage. Maybe she was sending a message that my lesson was soon to come!

On the first weekend of November 1974, Mrs. Hansen picked up me and Brian for a stay with her and her husband while our parents visited Maryland again on business. The timing seemed too good to be true. Derek was sure that was the weekend of “my lesson.” “You are so, so lucky, man.” It was also at that point that I got into a bitter fight with Derek when he defended another friend, Evan, from a spat that he and I were having. But I suspected it was about more than just Evan.

Over at the Hansens, Brian and I were treated to pizza and bowling on Saturday night. Later we watched TV and, just before bedtime, I’m checking out Mrs. Hansen for clues about when I was going to get “the inside scoop” on women and girls.

Don’t hold your breath, kids. The folks picked us up at 7 that Sunday. And I was none the wiser.

~ by completelyinthedark on June 12, 2011.

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