"Hello?" I said. I heard nothing. "Hello? Hello? OK. Goodbye." I hung up and was about to replace the phone on the charger when it rang again in my
hand. "Yes?" I was just about to beep the phone off again when I heard a
distant sniffle, then a choking sound, followed by an unbridled sob.
"C-c-c-c-c-courtney ..." the voice wailed.
"Maureen," I said instantly. "Oh, no.
What's going on?" A death in the family. A tax audit. A bicycle accident. A
firing from a beloved job.
"He-he-he ... heee ... he broke up with me," she managed to choke out.
Instantly I felt a wave of relief. Breakups are manageable; they are
finite. Distressing yes, heartbreaking of course, but they're like a
terrible illness: Once it's faded from memory, it's hard to recall
the actual pain involved.
"Yesterday," she cried. "I can't believe it. One minute he was in bed
saying, 'Move closer so you can be nearer to me.' The next minute he was
lying there saying, 'I love you but I'm not in love with you.'"
I groaned. "Oh, no. That's terrible. I really am sorry." Breakups are
hard enough without being handed a chestnut like the "love/not-in-love"
distinction. "If I had one wish for our society," I said, "it wouldn't be
world peace. It would be to forever wipe that phrase from our lexicon."
"Yeah, well, there you go," she said shakily. I paused as I listened to
her sob some more, feeling angry at this guy I'd never met and could never
really take seriously, based on Maureen's stories (mostly having to do with
his preposterously large member) from the very beginning. He was young,
frisky and, from what I could glean, a little too starry-eyed too soon. I
hadn't talked to her in a few months -- like many of us, she goes
underwater when involved in a relationship -- so I assumed everything was
going along swimmingly with Mr. Big.
But now, I was startled by the violence of her sobs. "I didn't know you
were that into him," I said gently. "I mean, I know you liked him."
"Well..." she drifted. "It was in ... in ... intense."
"I know," I sympathized. "It would be a lot easier if your sex wasn't so great with him."
I heard her stop crying for a moment. "Is that meant to be funny?"
"No, no," I said. "I'm being completely serious."
"I was in love with him," she crowed. "It wasn't about sex! That had nothing to do with it!"
"Did you see that movie 'The Opposite of Sex'?
Very cynical, very smarmy and therefore pretty hilarious. Did you see it?"
"No. And I don't think I want to."
"Yes you do," I said. "These two friends, Bill and Lucia, spend a lot of time chasing Bill's ex-boyfriend around the country. They go to great
lengths to find him and bring him back to the little town -- the police get
involved, there's a murder, etc., etc. And Bill wasn't even
really into this boyfriend. Finally the Lucia chick says to him, 'You know,
this is all about sex. All this running around, all this drama -- it's all
because you had great sex with the guy. This would not be happening if, for
example, he gave a great neck massage.' Admittedly, she's a cynical and
heartless woman, but she had a point."
"The point is that he was really in love with him, then!"
"No," I said. "The point is, good sex can be just as strong a motivator
as, say, being in love with someone. That's not a bad thing. It's just
another facet of how interesting sex is." I flashed upon the last
relationship I'd had where the sex was so explosive, so intense and
therefore so addictive that yes, I was devastated when it ended. Was I in
love with the guy? Perhaps at the time, but certainly I don't look back on
it with any great emotional fondness now, which to me is always the telling
Maureen blew her nose. "We had great sex," she said distinctly, "because
we were in love with each other. Not the other way around."
"I'm sure that's the case," I lied. That might have been the case with many couples but not Maureen and Mr. Big.
What I wanted to tell Maureen was that great sex is just as important as any other major element in a relationship. We don't have to make it more "meaningful" by throwing love into the mix. Great sex stands on its own two feet; it doesn't need to be propped up by more lofty ideals, which in many cases -- particularly with women, I've noticed -- are instigated by guilt. But this wasn't the time to get into that.
"What is that title supposed to mean?" Maureen wanted to know.
"Oh, just that one character said, 'If that's true, if that's what sex
does to people, then I want the opposite of sex.'"
"Love!" Maureen said triumphantly. "That's what the character wants." She paused as I heard her sniff and blow her nose. "Why would you tell me that,
about that movie?"
"Because Lyle Lovett is in it, and I know anything Lyle does is OK with you," I said. "No, really, because sometimes sex makes you feel and say and do things that you wouldn't normally feel or say or do," I said. "Because,
specifically, you loved having sex with him and that can make breaking up
even harder." She murmured a sad little "uh-huh" and fell silent. "And --
more to the point, you've stopped crying. Now you're just a little mad at
me and think I'm cynical and heartless."
She sniffed and laughed. "Did I tell you the problem he and I had with my mouth?" she began.