“Sex is the last refuge of the miserable.”
– Quentin Crisp
I’ve made some pretty dumb mistakes on my junket o’er this earth. Actually, none of them were pretty.
I grew up a sheltered rich kid in a home that was mildly Gothic and oddly provincial. Nouveau, the unkind might say. I had to curtsy to guests. I went to a white-glove cotillion. I was forbidden to put any mark of self on my professionally decorated, funk-blue, toile-covered bedroom walls, which were awash with manic farm scenes populated by fat, psychotic-looking peasants. Is it any wonder that some of my judgments were askew?
I married in the ’70s, a child bride, with little erotic experience. I divorced in the ’90s, a Jurassic artifact, with little erotic experience. I was a perky helpmeet through the best epochal orgy since ancient Rome, single just in time to ponder death by fornication. What a putz.
Nonetheless, wild horses would have been offed trying to drag me from my goal: I would partake in the classic, venerable post-divorce tradition. My resolve was dazzling. By hook or by crook, I was going to drown my sorrows in sex.
Roadblocks: I had a toddler. I was working. I was weary, bloat-eyed, spent. My ex was unavailable for child care (and, evidently, support checks) as he’d found his bliss photographing expat quim on Indonesian beaches. I was hermitlike by nature. A day person. Unschooled in the flip, woozy, hair-tossing, ruttish bravado basic to successful cruising. I had been married my whole adult life.
I asked friends to set me up on blind dates. I reckoned that this was a splendid idea — my quest would be time-efficient, with ample lead to arrange babysitting. My friends are evolved, artistic, highbrowish — nicely daft from billions of disco drug-nuked brain cells. They knew my tastes and quirks. How wrong could they be?
Blind date No. 1, described as “hilarious,” was a twitchy, sullen K-Car driver who let me know — right off — that he loved his car like a dog and, despite that, was sure he made much more money than I. When our food arrived, I said, “Your french fries look great. May I taste one?”
“No,” he growled. “I don’t give bites.”
Blind date No. 2 was a hirsute, sweating lawyer who popped two Darvons at the restaurant, swilled scotch and did not eat. He explained that this technique helped his psychic recovery from a suicide attempt, just last month, when he tried to crash his Benz into a school bus.
Blind date No. 3, a self-described “major estates broker,” walked into my house and, ignoring me, yanked on my powder room door. “Microscopic! This used to be a closet. How much you get robbed for this place?”
When Blind date No. 4 walked in — warm, jaunty, funny, with a pop star face, I … Come to think of it, No. 4 didn’t “walk in” my door. I met him at a hillside cafe, an arty, cool one. A waiter was meandering outside, canvassing passersby, intent. When he saw me heading positively for the entrance, he put some contraption to an eye, then ran inside. Through the front window, I could see him jab air with a thumbs up.
No. 4 was standing when I entered. He made an exaggerated “Phew!” gesture. The waiter stood next to him, clapping. I might have realized this was obnoxious if Four had not been so awesomely hot. I smiled like a dog on a ride in the car. The contraption thing was on the table. I guess I stared at it. “Night vision scope,” Four said, picking it up. “Forewarned is forearmed.” He had a low-class British accent, every JAP’s turn-on. My G-string ignited right there.
The waiter poured me a glass of champagne. “You’re gorgeous,” Four crooned. No man under 80 had said that to me since before my marriage, or maybe ever.
I don’t remember much of the dinner badinage, except that we had nothing in common. Four thought Mickey Rourke was a great actor. Oh, “so what,” said I to me, steaming into his eyes in a hormone canoe. I do remember him putting his hand up to mine, laughing, “See? I have very small hands. We all know what that corresponds to.” He sat back in mock mortification: “I’m terribly self-conscious.”
We went dancing afterward. He picked me up, laid me smoothly on the club’s stately bar and jumped on top. The man had a superior sense of occasion. My daughter was sleeping at Grandma’s. OK, I thought: Let’s get this show on the road.
Cut to: Four’s grandiose bachelor condo, an incubus of granite and chrome. He had just unhooked my bra with his teeth on his suede bed’s scratchy, cheetah-print throw. This impressive feat was eclipsed by my horror less at the décor than at the realization that his undulant hair was a half-wig. One edge curled like a bobbing potato peel, and I had a bird’s-eye view. Underneath, his patchy scalp hosted a glue blob.
Transfixed, I was unaware that he had taken my hand and moved it down past his six-pack. He paused, waiting proudly for a response.
I snapped to, inferring what etiquette called for. “Oh. Oh, wow.” I said this as if admiring a Lego fort. His dimensions were of note, but my mescal-amped estrus had notched down to a yearning for tea. “Um … rubber thingys?” I squeaked.
He rose and, preceded by his fleshly confrere, opened a closet. There, in full view, was a large, pawed-at carton with a blue and white generic design. It said: LATEX CONDOMS — TWO GROSS.
“You buy your condoms by the gross???” I honked.
He shrugged. “I buy everything at Costco.”
As for what ensued, let’s just say, on the plus side: I was able to further hone my peerless orgasm simulation skills. I waited till Four got a snore on, then scrambled out — a ghoulish wraith in smeared “Lovin’ Plum!” mascara. My damp, mangled, girly-twee “date outfit” felt like an iron lung.
Yet, driving home, I rallied. I had achieved a goal, after all. Plus, I grew from this encounter. I now truly understood the previously perplexing homily “There is no there there.” And I made peace with the viscous despair I felt on my eighth birthday, when receipt of a yearned-for Barbie Dreamhouse did not cause me to glow as if lit from within, like the girl in the ad.