The ballad of Kath and Nigel (Part 1)

Published January 21, 1998 8:00PM (EST)

Kath was 18 when she lost her virginity. Her boyfriend, Rory, had been pressuring her steadily for a year and though they'd been going out since they were 15, she knew she did not want to do it with him. It wasn't that she was a good Catholic girl -- she couldn't give a toss about the pope or the Church. It was just that sex sounded not very interesting, and not very nice.

And so she surprised even herself when she found herself at a party in the wee hours of the morning groping, kissing and ultimately having sex in the laundry room of her best friend Bridget's house. Bridget's family had gone home to Ireland for a funeral, and the whole gang was there -- by midnight some of the boys were throwing up outside, and many of the couples had slunk away to various rooms in the spacious Glasgow home. But Rory had been felled that week with a cold, and so it was that suddenly she wound up going to the party with his best friend Blackie, and ultimately ... well, yes, flat on her back, on the cold tile floor.

And it wasn't that it was bad. She liked kissing Blackie, and she liked his hands up her thin shirt, the way he slipped his fingers underneath her nylon Marks & Spencer bra, fondling her pert nipples. But suddenly his trousers were down around his ankles, and her skirt was bunched up around her waist, with her tights and knickers locking her feet together. They were kissing as he clumsily tried to find her hole with his fingers, and suddenly his penis was inside her. But it wasn't that bad. And after a quick stab of pain, she began to feel herself relax a little, knowing how excited he must be. Then Blackie suddenly came (all over her stomach, even getting some goo on her skirt) and it was over. Just like that. It wasn't terrible, and it wasn't painful. It was just ... nothing. Maybe this was what happened when you had sex with people you weren't supposed to have sex with. Maybe you had to love someone the way her parents did to find it really wonderful.

Rory never found out and she and Blackie never did it again. No one knew. It was as if it hadn't happened at all. When she at last had sex with Rory, it was the same thing: pleasant, a little damp, then nothing. Obviously she didn't love Rory either.

It was three years later that she met Nigel, at a party in London sponsored by the magazine where she worked as an editorial assistant. Rory had long since fallen by the wayside, and Blackie, well, who knows? She'd snogged a few men in London when she was drunk, even slept with two of them. Kath knew she was pretty and lively and that men liked her. She discovered it didn't take much to make them want her in that way. She had only to sit back, laugh and be silent and they all chased her, panting like overexcited dogs.

Nigel was no exception. Initially, she hadn't the slightest interest in him: He looked like an overfed schoolboy, with his blond curls and jumpers that stretched over his protruding tummy. And he was old: in his mid-30s, at least. But there was something sweet about him, and the way he looked at her incredulously, like he couldn't believe his luck. He reminded her, actually, of her father, who was the kindest and most decent man in the world, and who loved her mother to pieces. Even now, her father waited on her mum hand and foot, while she gently shooed him away and told him not to be so silly. Dad adored Mum. It was the best marriage ever -- everyone said so -- and Kath was determined to have the same.

So when Nigel began to pursue her, sending her flowers every week, she knew to just wait. She let him think she was dating other men (she wasn't), she never phoned him, she even stood him up a few times, just to let him know who was boss. Nigel was so used to having his own way that she could tell this really confused him. Later, when they were together, the trick was to let him think he was having his own way when in actuality it would be Kath who was controlling the relationship. But that was later.

Then one night, she was supposed to meet him in the West End at Mezzo with their little group (Kath had become quite friendly with the girlfriends of Nigel's friends), and Nigel simply didn't turn up. She rang him on his mobile, she phoned his flat, his office -- he was nowhere to be found. Nobody knew where he was. She began to grow panicked. Throughout the evening she kept ringing, ringing, ringing from her mobile. Had something happened?

Finally, the next morning at 7, Nigel answered his phone. After determining that he hadn't been in an accident, Kath let him have it. How dare he? How dare he just come home and go to sleep, without a word to her? At that point, having been up all night, she'd worked herself into a frenzy and was bawling down the phone, pleading with him that she wanted to skip work and just come to the flat, just to see him. Gently, Nigel said that was ridiculous. He'd fallen asleep after work, he was sorry and he'd see her later. He seemed genuinely bewildered by her reaction.

But nothing seemed right after that incident. Somehow, the balance had shifted, and Nigel grew more distant, more unavailable. Why did he not like her anymore? She began to phone him more often, and decided that her tactics had been all wrong. It was that Yank book "The Rules," she decided: She should have known it would work for those brutish American men, but not her Nigel. No, now she'd shower him with love and affection. That's what he needed, that's what most men liked anyway. She'd kiss him more, be nicer to him, maybe make love with the lights on or in the morning. But Nigel had never really seemed that interested in that part of the relationship -- Kath thought maybe he was one of those sexless men, which was fine with her anyway.

When they had sex, Nigel would have this funny look on his face, like he was somewhere else or thinking about something else -- a book he'd read, a movie they'd seen. But he was gentle with her, and their lovemaking was soft and nice. She felt cuddly in his arms, and magnanimous, like she was giving him a little present, a treat that she knew he liked. This must be what it means to have really wonderful sex, she thought, and when asked by her girlfriends, she always said how lovely it was. Though she'd never had an orgasm, she lied and told her friends in serious tones that she always had many with Nigel. They all looked at her with what seemed like envy: silent, wide-eyed nods.

A week after the oversleeping incident, Nigel suddenly broke it off with Kath. Kath knew it was coming, but she nevertheless lost control completely when he told her at his flat that evening. He handed her a box of her things that he'd packed up and said rather coldly that he was sorry, that sometimes these things happened and there was no reason for it.

Weeping uncontrollably, Kath fled in a black cab back to the south London flat that she shared with three girlfriends from Glasgow. That night, they sat up the rest of the night around the kitchen table, smoking and drinking tea, plotting. Because Kath had to get Nigel back. She had to. He was the one. She would get him back and she would marry him, because he was the right one. And then they would have a marriage as good as Mum and Dad, who were, after all, the envy of all their friends in Glasgow.

(To be continued)

By Courtney Weaver

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