claudia is a principled kinda gal, the type who sends money to the ASPCA, uses the correct spoon for dessert and handwashes all her lingerie. She writes thank-you notes. She pays her electricity bill on time. Her apartment, while not tidy, is always scrupulously, hospital clean.
Claudia is one of my more frank, loquacious and downright refreshing female friends. She eschews the false posturing and tut-tutting that's so prevalent in sex talk nowadays. She also has a profound streak of showmanship, which dovetails nicely with my chosen profession. We try to meet weekly at Starbuck's a deliberately reactionary choice of venue. Claudia hates bowing to political correctness.
Over her nonfat, double decaf latti, she'll expound on her latest encounters. With Claudia there's never any shortage of dates, but rarely La Grande Passion. She has a series of reasons why this is so: they're too young, too ill-read, too ambivalent, too short, too tall, too uptight, too easygoing. Unsuspecting males have always been attracted to her gift of gab; like a politician, Claudia can sniff out some common ground with every individual she encounters, and often engages in some deep debate whether in the middle of a crowded party or a tjte-`-tjte in some dark bar.
Another reason it's interesting to talk to Claudia is that she likes sex quite a lot. She likes to have a steady partner, however it's too dangerous to have multiple partners in this day and age, she says languidly. And so, she gravitates toward Mr. Too-Sweet; suspecting that she'll want to dump him, she chooses someone who'll give her the least amount of trouble. After all, she says, "I'm just dating him. It doesn't mean I have to marry him." Claudia is nothing if not brutally honest.
Where do Claudia's principles end, apart from patronizing Starbucks? I'll tell you where: in bed. She's one of these women, like myself, who, from the moment she feels that warm tingling wetness between her legs, loses all grasp of reason and ethical behavior.
People well, women talk a lot about how a man's sex drive devours their capacity for reasoned thought. The aphorisms run along the lines of "the prick has no conscience"; "he thinks with his dick"; "an erection is due to all the blood draining from the brain." (This latter gem of physiological wisdom seems to have actually gained the stature of an urban myth.)
But really, women are no better. The difference is merely in the timing. Our corresponding members being more deeply recessed, it won't be in the middle of a bar that we'll lose our heads and want to shag the cute blonde with the nicely shaped buttocks although, of course, that has been known to happen too. No, it'll be in the heat of the moment, when there's no condom, no birth control, and no hope of a relationship; amidst all the intertwined tongues, the tights around the ankles, the skirts up over the hips, that we'll think, "oh why not? Just this one time ..."
"Listen, I'll just cut to the chase," said Claudia, glancing at her watch. "John and I were in his bedroom on Saturday night. We hadn't had sex before. We'd only gone out three times, but that night, I don't know. Maybe it was the holidays, maybe it was the oysters. I'd thought to myself, well, we'll just make out. We'll roll around on the bed, we'll touch one another, and then I'll go home. I didn't have any condoms, and neither did he. He was on top of me, naked, and I'd kept my tights on some stupid attempt at a sheath. But it just made it worse."
I nodded sympathetically.
"He put his hand between my legs and that warm rush just ... I don't know ... enveloped me. I found myself counting the days in the calendar: When was my last period? How safe was I? Could I get away with it just this once? Could he just put himself inside me, just so I could feel him, just for one second? 'Come on,' I said to him, 'let's do it. Just this once. I think I'm safe. I almost know that I am.' I was practically begging him. You know, where was my brain?"
I knew where her brain was: in that same purgatory with all the other brains, coaxed there by just the right stroke on the clitoris or the skillful grasp of hardness. Welcome to the land of drugged, forgetful euphoria, where nothing matters except to get there, get happy and get off.
In the end, she said, John rolled off her and said he couldn't risk it. They had to make do with oral sex not such a bad compromise, but one that "always makes me yearn for the real thing, anyway," sighed Claudia.
I said, "We've all done it. Except now no one admits it."
"Women are just as bad as men about sex," she said. She sighed and fingered a lock of hair. "Even worse when we hit thirty, that sexual peak and all. We're all irresponsible in the face of a great orgasm. It's worse than heroin. You'll do or say just about anything to get off."
I reached in my knapsack and handed her a condom. "Don't be so hard on yourself. At least you pay your taxes on time."