I love women. Always have, from a tender age, when Sally Ann’s grandmother caught us under the bed kissing and washed our three-year old mouths out with soap. I’ve had a girlfriend pretty much since that day.
By and large I have always preferred the company of women. They say I have a highly developed anima, which suggests, among other things, that I am capable of understanding women’s thoughts and feelings better than your average Joe. That this sensibility engenders trust is its own reward. That I came by it the hard way I am about to demonstrate.
‘But have you really had a girlfriend since you were three?’ you may ask. To which I would respond that, while there may have been momentary gaps, the answer is yes. From Sally Ann (pre-school) to Sarah Porter (kindergarten) to Julie Feeney (1st grade) to Donna Davis (2nd grade) to Rena … now what was Rena’s last name? (3rd grade), my life has been a more or less unbroken chain of liaisons.
Not all of these relationships were what one would call serious. The idea of spending my entire life with the same girl didn’t set in until I was about nine. But when it did, it arrived with a vengeance. If anyone had tried to convince me that I would not marry and live happily ever after with Margie Chase, I would have thought him very foolish indeed. Never once in all of fourth grade did I throw a football for a touchdown or belt one out of the park that I didn’t do so in the name of Margie. She was my sun, my moon, my firmament -- even if the other kids did call her Alfalfa because she had such wild, frizzy hair.
Our parents tried to come between us, shipping us off to summer camps in different states. But our star-crossed love endured. I wrote to Margie every day, sometimes twice, and was first in line for mail call every afternoon.
The day of my camp’s first social with the girls’ camp across the lake I remember writing only once. And then I never wrote again.
To have done so would have been unfaithful to Mary Ellen: the girl of my dreams, the girl from across the lake, the girl from Connecticut; the scent of whose hair, the warmth of whose cheek, the touch of whose hand I had come so instantaneously to know and love. Granted, a long distance romance would be difficult; but I would have my driver’s license in seven years. I promised faithfully to visit her at Thanksgiving. Until then we would count the days.
Thanksgiving came and off to Connecticut I went with a song in my heart… Was it my imagination, or had Mary Ellen put on weight? And since when had she started snorting when she laughed? I didn’t last the weekend. Farewell, sweet, tubby, chortling Mary Ellen. Farewell.
When Linda Levin learned of the Connecticut debacle, she propositioned me, suggesting that if I was in the market for a girlfriend, I could do a lot worse than her. Linda? My girlfriend? She was six inches taller than me and the fastest runner in our class. But now that I took a good long look at her, it all fell into place. Here was the most beautiful girl in the world, ripe for the picking. “Do you like to kiss?” she asked. “I do,” I answered. “I like it a lot.” “Good, come over after school and we can do some kissing.”
Après school kiss fests are pretty much all that I remember about fifth grade. We were discreet. I would only go over to Linda’s if her parents weren’t home, a circumstance that she signaled by running her training bra up the flagpole that was attached to the front of her house. I lived for the sight of that tiny undergarment flapping seductively in the breeze.
Linda turned out to be a slut. But at least she was an honest slut. About mid-way through the school year she announced that henceforward I would only be welcome on Tuesdays, Thursdays and alternate Saturdays, as all of her other days were to be committed to kissing Mark Olson. A bitter pill. Still, half a loaf was better than none. It was only when I met Martha Schaeffer that I relinquished my Linda-days to Mark.
Martha said she liked me; and that Tina, her best friend, also liked me. Would it be o.k. with me if they were both my girlfriend? It was a novel idea, but I must admit that I took to it like a duck to water.
Things got immeasurably worse in junior high; but it wasn’t until high school that I came into my own as a complete idiot. Like the much-envied sailor with a girl in every port, it became my mission in life to have a girl in every school system – banking on the notion that the girls in Providence, Rhode Island didn’t know the girls in Barrington or Bristol or Portsmouth.
Here I proved to be entirely wrong; and before long I found myself ostracized by the entire female population of our rather small state. Or at least so it seemed, as getting a date became increasingly difficult.
There’s a certain poetic justice, I suppose, in what happened next – college, the Sixties and free love. Free love, with its square dance approach to relationships. Ironic that the very behaviors that had rendered me a leper just a year earlier had become, in a word – groovy.
One might have thought that the concept of free love would have suited someone with my confused orientation to relationships to a T. But nothing could have been further from the truth. By the time the now-“liberated” members of my generation had started bedding each other with frenzy, damning monogamy and fidelity as cheap forms of indoctrination by a repressive Establishment, I had decided that I wanted out.
Out of one night stands. Out of group sex. Out of my generation. What I wanted was a partner; a soul mate; a one and only. Sounds kind of like fourth grade.
Well, I would have to wait. Wait until my peers were done screwing each other’s brains out, and would come to the realization that what they were involved in was a hollow exercise, an utter and vacuous waste of their romantic lives.
Oh my aching anima.