Sunday, November 30, 2008

sex ed 101

*WARNING: The following post may contain especially explicit language and adult content.*

Sex. I've been thinking about it a lot lately. Well, to be more specific, I've been thinking about previous experiences and the many lessons I have learned from them.

The First -or- "Introduction to the Penis"

Up until this point, my sexual education had been limited to a health class discussion of the reproductive system and what I had picked up from the trashy romance novels my grandmother kept tucked away in her credenza. Needless to say, the references to "wantonly arching towards his throbbing manhood," a few diagrams depicting the male anatomy and my own limited experience in kissing (that never made it past a few gropes of the fully clothed breast,) left me completely unprepared for my first voyage into the world of sex.

It felt awkward being completely naked in front of someone else. I was even more uncomfortable with someone else being naked in front of me.

I remember thinking, "there's no way that will ever fit!"

That was my first lesson learned. Apparently, if you shove enough, anything will fit.

While I loved him dearly, he was definitely not the best instructor to lead the course on "Introduction to the Penis," having received most of his training from porn.

The course lasted several months. I studied hard and earned an "A" from the instructor. However, I was not at all prepared for my continuing education, although I certainly learned quite a few things along the way.

"Introduction to the Penis" left me fully versed in the art of pleasing a man through sexual acts. While I've added a few tricks to my repertoire since then, that first course pretty much covered everything so I was at least able to continue my education without ever once being referred to as a "dead lay."

I learned during that first course that sex most definitely does not equal love. In fact, I came away from it all firmly believing that the two had nothing to do with each other. Sex was merely a chore, an always painful duty performed to curb the animal appetite of man.

I learned that groaning uncomfortably or short shrieks of pain only encourages the beast and that soaking in hot water helps ease the lingering ache.

I learned that I do not like being commanded to climax. Interestingly enough, I did not actually learn to do that, although I did learn quickly how to fake it to speed up the process.

I suppose the most important lesson I learned from that first course is that it's okay to say "no" and perfectly acceptable to hurt a mother fucker who heard "yes" instead. While that particular lesson would serve me well in years to come, it would unfortunately not be of any use during my second course.

The Marine -or- A Crash Course in Safe Sex

At this particular point in my life, I was what many people referred to as a "bad ass." In spite of my small frame, I could easily bench more than my own body weight and had gotten quite a bit of practice in the "no means no" uppercut to the nose.

I had not only learned how to fight like a man, but also honed my skills in drinking like a man. I was proud of the fact that I could match a man shot for shot and still be the last one standing.

My rowdy nature, and a desire to go to college, led me to sign up for the Army's delayed entry program, a decision I immediately regretted and worked to get out of right up until the night before I was to ship off to Basic Training.

Sequestered for the night with a couple hundred other new recruits and folks looking to enlist, better judgment took a backseat to bravado and a growing despair that I wouldn't be able to disentangle myself from the contract before the bus pulled out the next morning.

"It's our last night before Uncle Sam owns us, let's have a drink!"

Well I'd never been one to turn down a drink and there was a healthy mix of guys and girls waiting to ship out the next morning, trying to re-enlist after a former discharge or trying to make their decision as to whether or not to sign up. Twenty or thirty of us piled into a double room at the cheap hotel where we were stuck for the night. Bottles were cracked open and plastic cups were filled, refilled and filled again. Music blared and a steady stream of people flowed in and out of the room.

Next thing I know, I am coming to a foggy sense of awareness. The room is silent, but I can hear faint whistles, catcalls, and hollering as though they were coming from somewhere far away and I feel the heavy weight of the Marine on top of me. I'm suddenly aware of what is happening, of the four guys standing behind him, cheering him on, but I can't move, I can't even speak.

"If you don't like it, get your pussy ass out of here," someone yelled.

I struggle to take in my surroundings and notice a blonde kid, like me fresh out of high school, sitting on the far side of the room, his back turned, head slumped in his hands.

Lesson #1 in the "Crash Course in Safe Sex," never, I repeat NEVER drink with a bunch of people you don't know!

Lesson #2, while you may be able to hold your liquor, you are not immune to extra shit tossed into the liquor which may render your ass completely unable to move and barely aware that you are alive.

Lesson #3, only one in five bystanders will even think to come to your rescue and odds are good he'll be too damn scared of the other guys and the 240 lb. Marine to do anything other than turn away and cry.

"Hey let me get some of that!"

I struggled to overpower the sense of paralysis, begged my mind to make my mouth work, to scream, to bite, anything. Suddenly I was swept up and tossed onto the bathroom floor where the assault continued.

Then it was quiet. Dark. Everything hurt. A light tap at the door before the doorway flooded with light, the shadow of the blonde kid. He was holding my clothes and crying. We were alone but he hurried to get me dressed and back to my room.

The blonde kid stayed in my room that night, holding me close, afraid he would have to go off to war, even more afraid of what he'd just seen. He was a good kid, from a good family in a small town. He'd never seen a naked woman before. He kept telling me over and over how sorry he was that he hadn't done something. He'd been afraid of the Marine and his cheering section. Fortunately for me the Marine was a stingy bastard and had refused to share. Neither of us slept that night, we talked instead. He stayed close to my side the next morning until we parted ways as he headed to his bus and I headed to the phone trying to find a way home, having convinced the CO to not make me go.

I was too ashamed of my own stupidity to ever breathe a word, a decision I regret to this day. I hitched a ride with a recruiter to a town close to home. I leaned my pounding head against the glass, refusing to cry or look at the Marine as he got into the same car for the 2 hour ride home.

The blonde kid wrote me a few times from Basic. I always answered his letters. I still have the picture he sent me of himself in full uniform and wish I could remember his last name. When I pray for our troops, I always offer up a special one for him.

Lesson #4, always get the tag number of the bus that hit you so you can send someone to demolish it when you finally recover from the shock.

Lesson #5, get tested regularly and wear a condom...the son-of-a-bitch gave me chlamydia.

My First Husband -or- The Difference Between Having Sex & Making Love

My first husband married a young woman who had been well trained in the art of pleasing a man yet herself found no pleasure in the act of sex.

My previous courses had left me with a number of sexual hang-ups. Patiently he began to debunk many of the lessons I'd learned.

Lesson #1, you should never, ever fake it.

The fact that we could communicate so well was always the glue that held us together. Having been friends for so long before we ever became lovers, we had an easy way of being together, perfectly comfortable saying whatever came to mind. It's no wonder that I once blurted out, "I hate sex," which led to a long conversation about why (most of which he already knew) and what we were going to do about it. The first step was for me to stop faking it.

"How else am I supposed to figure out what you like and what you don't?"

I didn't have the heart to tell my husband that I doubted I would ever like sex.

Lesson #2, our bodies are beautiful.

I particularly disliked sex during the day or with the lights on. Despite being slender and shapely, I was ashamed of my nakedness. I was ashamed of his nakedness. I did not want to see my naked body sprawled out there before him and I certainly did not want to see his penis coming at me. The penis repulsed me. I viewed it as a weapon, an angry appendage with a mind of its own.

I was also of the general opinion that I could never be clean enough. I sleepwalked a lot in those days and my husband would often find me in the middle of the night, semi-awake in a bathtub of scalding hot water, still in my pajamas. Sex itself was a major bathing ordeal. I felt as though I needed a firm scrub down beforehand and another immediately after.

My husband opted to make the best of the situation and began joining me in the tub. It became our special play time, as we splashed and bathed, giggling with the innocent curiosity of children.

"Look what I can do," he would boast as he hung a towel on his fully erect penis, sending me into a fit of laughter.

"Ha, that's nothing, check this out," I would return as I blew bubbles into the water doing Kegel exercises.

We decided we were both immensely talented and spent hours walking around the house naked. Before long, I loved the familiar sight of our bodies and enjoyed the many moods he set with candles, black lights and colored light bulbs.

Lesson #3, sex should never be painful, unless of course you're into that sort of thing.

I was definitely not into the pain, which worked out well because he hated the thought of hurting me. He was so very gentle in his lovemaking. He would often stop for reassurance that my whimpers weren't those of pain. I soon realized that sex was fun when it didn't hurt. I still didn't understand all the hoopla about it and certainly didn't feel the "earth falling out from under me" as described in the books hidden in my grandmother's credenza, but I could enjoy it for what it was, a demonstration of our love.

It was so hard on both of us after my son was born and for years, for the rest of my husband's life actually, I was plagued with contractions that would eventually cause me to undergo a hysterectomy. Sex was again painful. I denied it, but he knew. It all seemed so unfair.

Lesson #4, when you completely trust the person you're with, it's okay to give up control.

Previous experiences had taught me that it was safest to be in a position that allowed me on top. From there I could be in control. The panic attacks that came when someone was on top of me soon subsided and we began experimenting with a number of different positions.

Lesson #5, yes, the earth really can fall out from under you!

"Holy shit, I think you gave me a stroke," I panted as we both collapsed in giggles. The books were right about everything, that whole creeping, flushing heat suddenly exploding into a billion stars as the earth falls out from beneath you, leaving you clinging tightly to one another.

We laid there for hours, neither of us wanting to break the spell as we shared whispered conversations about what the future held for us. For the first time in my life, I didn't jump up to go scrub down after sex, choosing instead to fall asleep in the safety of my husband's arms. That was the night our son was conceived.

The next nine months of my life were filled with constant, passionate, all-consuming love-making. Even after the birth of my son and the pain that seemed to dampen every aspect of my life, I enjoyed a sex life that was both sweet and satisfying.

Lesson #6, a sense of innocence can sometimes be regained.

The Rebound Boyfriend -or- The Joys of Sex

After my husband died, I settled into a deep depression and longed for something, anything to ease the loneliness.

I soon found myself in a relationship with a man who loved life more than I had ever thought possible. He found joy in the simplest of things and was more than happy to share that joy with me, letting a bit of sunlight into my world, in spite of the fact that we both knew the relationship would never last.

He stayed by my side for several years, patiently and gently nursing my shattered heart back to some sense of normalcy, teaching me to find joy in the smallest of things.

One tremendous source of joy for him was sex and he particularly took pleasure in pleasing women. He was a skilled, artful lover and treated my body as some sort of prized treasure worthy of great care and attention.

Lesson #1, there is nothing wrong with enjoying sex.

Despite overcoming so many sexual hang-ups, I was still filled with the notion that sex was not meant to be enjoyed, that somehow my experiences with my husband had defied all natural laws and the notion that "nice girls" didn't like such things.

Rebound boyfriend was one of those guys that could sell ice to eskimos so he had very little trouble charming me. He immediately recognized that I had more of a desire to please than to be pleased, a fact he used against me during this particular lesson.

"But I can't stand being told to climax," I argued.

"I'm not telling you, I'm asking you to do it for me, just relax, you know I'm not going to hurt you."

I did indeed know that. While he had a volatile temper and easily doubled my weight, with a crushing strength that allowed him to easily pick me up with one hand, I trusted my heart, and my body, completely in his hands.

Months of patience and long hours of submitting my body to him without us ever actually having intercourse, eventually crumbled the remaining hang-ups and I soon found sex to be an absolutely fascinating, pleasurable experience.

Lesson #2, you are not dirty and sex does not always require bathing beforehand.

It's hard to argue the point when you're being swept up the moment you walk in the door from work and melting in his hands. I still prefer to bathe immediately beforehand, but it's no longer a necessity.

Lesson #3, it's okay to initiate and take the lead.

Now that I was fully enjoying sex, I had to learn that it was okay to make my needs known.

"If you want it, you're going to have to come to me," he told me, vowing that he would no longer be the one to initiate.

True to his word, for months afterward, if I felt that urge, I could no longer hope he would start something. Instead, I was the one luring him into the bed, and once there, if I wanted anything more than for him to lay there, I would have to tell him what I wanted, tell him what I enjoyed.

Lesson #4, batteries not required, but highly recommended.

Rebound boyfriend was a firm believer that every woman should know how to please herself and have the tools needed for the job.

"It'll keep you from doing some stupid shit."

Wait, what? This went far beyond any sexual lesson I had learned thus far. What do you mean I can please myself? That's just sick. I was never the curious teenager when it came to my sexuality so I only knew sexual pleasure as arising from things someone else did to you.

"Wait, trust me, check this out," he replied, placing the new slender toy he'd bought for me for Valentine's Day on a very sensitive area.

Needless to say, I became very attached to my toy, especially after the two of us parted ways after nearly four years. And yes, it did indeed keep me from doing some pretty stupid shit.

Moving Forward -or- Practical Applications

Thanks to the many lessons I've learned over the years, my current husband has married a woman who is completely comfortable in her sexuality.

My nakedness is no longer a source of shame. Instead I view my body as a playground that I'm willing to share with someone I love and trust to care for it. The male body is now a thing of beauty to me and I am no longer repulsed, but amused by the subtle actions and reactions of the penis.

I still remember all my lessons in how to please a man, yet I also remember the lessons in refusing to neglect my own pleasure as well. I know what I like and I'm not afraid to ask for it. Nor am I ashamed to sneak off with my toy to give it to myself.

My husband is sometimes taken aback by a woman so secure in her sexuality. He cannot appreciate the torturous course of study required for me to reach this point, or his good fortune at not having to deal with my previous hang-ups and false notions. However I'm sure he can at least appreciate my desire to retain all those hard-fought lessons through my firm belief that practice makes perfect!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

they say you never forget your first

I saw him yesterday.

That old familiar grin and the twinkle in his eyes - the one I always wondered if he saved just for me.

I was reminded of that first day we spent together, so much bubbling beneath the surface, giddy and nervous, afraid we'd say the wrong thing.

The familiar strength of those arms, where I spent so much time.

I remember the bruises that lingered along the inside of my thighs and I wonder if he ever learned to be gentle.

Sitting there talking, it all seems so familiar. I remember that feeling so well - spinning dreams, enthralled by the movement of his hands as he strummed his guitar - a couple of kids discovering a connection.

He jumps up to check on his kids. I'm reminded of the baby I never had, the one I never even knew for sure existed although I felt certain it did. I remember his disappointment when I told him I had started. It was my only lie, I needed more time - time to think, time to sort out all I had learned. When the blood finally came I cried, telling myself it had all been in my mind.

I turn to leave and remember I never got the chance to tell him goodbye.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

when the light shines through

Someone reached out to me this week, with words that brought far more comfort than they probably could have thought possible.

I am referring to two anonymous comments left on my last post.

Reading the two comments was like receiving a phone call from an old, familiar friend.

The first brought tears to my eyes simply because its tone was so familiar, its words so closely aligned to those spoken long ago.

My comment of thanks to the unknown person who managed to say exactly what I needed to hear at exactly the right time, was followed up with a second comment, presumably from the same person.

Again, it was exactly what I needed to hear at exactly the right time.

"Sometimes we forget that, it wouldn't be possible to feel such pain if the joy weren't there," the comment began.

My mind flew back to countless conversations regarding that exact notion, and to the day I followed the ambulance to the morgue.

That was the day my absolute, unwavering faith in the existence of God was cemented. Gripped in the clutches of the most heart-wrenching pain I have ever known, I was suddenly surrounded by an intense calm. The colors of the world around me were a bit brighter and I began to chuckle, in spite of the tears, as I realized what I should've known all along — such heartache could only be present in the face of an all-consuming, endless love and such encompassing love could surely only exist in a world created and ruled by God.

I know there is truth in the words, "the joy is still there." I am reminded of that joy every time my child offers some dry remark or random observation, every time he makes a goofy face for the camera and yes, even every time he offers some lame excuse as to why he didn't do his homework. I am reminded of that joy every time I hear the chords of a guitar, smell the salt of the ocean or eat a tomato sandwich.

Yet I haven't managed to reach the point when the reminder of that joy isn't accompanied by a shadow. Oh it's not always such doom and gloom, although I realize this blog tends to serve as the dumping ground for my darker thoughts and moments, most likely because those are the ones most necessary to release. There are often times when the joy nearly outshines the shadow, yet the shadow continues to linger.

Perhaps it is merely my melancholy way...or maybe I've somehow failed to properly let go, although I still struggle to determine how to separate the joy from the shadow so as to let go of the one without losing the other.

I don't know. I know that his face passes through my mind a thousand times a day, most often accompanied by that warm glow that always seemed to surround us. I know that the recent barrage of dreams ceased after I cried in the darkness on the bathroom floor. I know that even while in the midst of the darkest of shadows, I wouldn't trade one ounce of that joy or a single moment of that warm glow.

And I know that I am thankful to that anonymous someone who somehow offered the words I needed to hear.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Just out of reach

There's a reason I don't drink very often these days. Especially when I'm alone.

More often than not it ends up the way tonight did...with me sobbing on the bathroom floor and sitting here at my keyboard shaking.

It all started with a fucking cake.

A Winnie the Pooh cake. The last time I made a Pooh cake was for my boy's 3rd birthday. That was the last one his daddy was here for.

I guess it wasn't just the cake. Who knows, I've been dreaming of him I lot lately, nearly every night over the past few months. It makes it awfully hard to go about the business of living. And I must admit, the pint of whiskey I've consumed tonight makes it awfully hard to go about the business of typing.

It's been eight years. It shouldn't be so fresh, shouldn't still hurt so do damn much.

You would think that anyway.

Yet every time I close my eyes, I can see that trailer, feel myself standing at that stove cooking his dinner, putting my hair up for work in that bathroom — the bathroom he died in. Sometimes it seems like just yesterday, like I've just woken from a dream and have no real comprehension as to how I got here...other times it feels like an entire world away, another life that only exists in my mind.

Tonight was just my own stupid fault. I haven't drank in a few months and decided I wanted to do the cake decorating (for my best friend's son's first birthday) old-school style, meaning I'd drink heavily while decorating the cake.

I know it sounds crazy, but cake decorating is much more fun when drunk. The combination really got me through the year or so immediately following his death. I'd get completely trashed while baking and decorating 4-tier wedding cakes. It was a sort of therapy — it gave me something to focus on while I ignored the ache in my heart, trying my best to drown it with Crown.

As depressing as it may sound, those were some good times. Several friends would be over at the house, my kitchen homey and warm as I baked and decorated and drank.

My mom came over tonight. She drank her vodka as I shot down my whiskey. I really enjoyed myself.

Right up until she left and I found myself alone — standing in our kitchen every time I closed my eyes, waiting for him to come home from work.

It's times like these that threaten to drive me crazy. I can close my eyes and see everything just as it was. I am aware of his scent and sense him standing just behind me, just out of reach. And no, this isn't merely the result of consuming too much still happens when I'm completely sober. I just have a much harder time pushing it to the back of my mind when I'm intoxicated.

So there I am tonight, the cakes finished, my mother gone home, the pint husband and son had gone to bed hours beforehand and suddenly it hit — the racking, silent sobs that leave me in a helpless pile on the bathroom floor.

I close my eyes and am heart-broken because my soul's sight is filled with what once was...I open them, and I'm angry at the world surrounding me — one I barely recognize as the one in which I belong.

I can hear Dr. Hook from the other room...

"Sometimes I still think about you
Sometimes I wish that you'd call
And sometimes I feel like
You're lying here with me
And it's still the sweetest of all"

...and I crumble, my heart and mind trapped in a time that is no more yet refuses to recede into the past.

I hug the toilet, urging myself to's gotta be the alcohol — that's why my heart is racing and I can't seem to catch my breath, the knot in my chest growing tighter every time I blink, seeing his face...just out of reach.

But I haven't drank enough to be sick...and I certainly haven't drank enough to not remember it in the morning.

No, I've drank just enough to open the flood gates...but not nearly enough to ease the pain the inundation causes.

I am trapped between that which was, that which is and that which awaits me in eternity — intermingled...a giant clusterfuck of all I've ever loved, my only sense of home. It alludes me, always just out of reach...the memory of it haunts me, the promise of it taunting me, as I cry out to God, "please, just let me have him back!"