Can I love my Berkeley alterna-boy and my frat boy too?

Just what kind of multitudes can one girl contain?

By Cary Tennis
January 13, 2004 1:51AM (UTC)
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Dear Cary,

You seem to be (or at least write) from California and I have a question about a California guy. I hope you'll be able to help. I was born and raised on the East Coast and this one seems to be of a completely different species.

I am 27 and straight and have had two mundane sexual relationships in my life, plus one with him.


He's slept with 20 women including using sex toys and having anal sex with most of them, and he's given and received B.J.s from about three men, and kissed about six other men. He's geeky, he likes S.F. Indie Pop, he reads a lot of books, he has hot thrift store style and is great in bed, doing things like talking dirty and coming on my face, which nobody has ever done with me before. He's different and exciting but ...

What is the question here? When I meet a guy with this many sexual partners and such a diverse sex life, he usually ends up being hook-up material and not boyfriend material because I myself am inexperienced, so I want someone for whom it will be as new and meaningful as it is for me. Also I don't like "players" because they're usually not devoted, and most of the bisexual men I've met have ended up 100 percent gay. (Maybe you will tell me not to stereotype, but it's only human to generalize from what I've seen.)

Should I put my generalizations aside because this particular boy is from Berkeley, Calif.? You all have different sexual mores over there, don't you? He has been devoted to all 20 of these women, he seems to respect me even though he ejaculates on my face, and it just doesn't physically seem like he is a homosexual.


On the other hand, some days I feel like I'm just a notch in his bedpost, and I am not California-cool enough. He cheated on me once, in a drunken stupor, by kissing a very "alternative-looking" girl. Sometimes I miss the beer-drinking, football-watching, shy, macho and slightly misogynist East Coast guys who won't give me nearly as much oral sex, but who feel so much safer. And other days, I like the dirty feminist side of me that I can only show him, and I love his hot geek style and his witty banter. Would you give me a little insight here?

East Coast Gal

Dear East Coast Gal,


In his "Song of Myself," Walt Whitman famously wrote,

"Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)"

We all contain multitudes. Whenever I hear corporations or universities smugly intone the virtues of "diversity" I am reminded that within ourselves, wherever we come from, each of us is already splendidly diverse; were we more enlightened perhaps we would honor less the splendid skin colors of Benetton and more the spectrum of each person's interior multiplicities.


Be that as it may, given that we are each of us many diverse people, your attraction to your Berkeley boy may seem strange to you because he appeals to one of your minor, neglected avatars: your inner Berkeley girl.

Of course, it is well documented that Californians are morally unmoored savages raised on the wild edge of the American continent. We're all a little nutty here and we have sex in our offices, on the streets and in fashionable restaurants. In San Francisco you can have group sex any time day or night just for the asking in most hotels and on city buses. (Speak to the driver; he will issue you a permit.) Our governor himself is a famous body worshipper and libertine. Lubricant is our No. 1 export. And we do know a thing or two about sex toys. But we, too, contain multitudes. We're filled with perversities and glories unspeakably sacred and profane. We're the Brady bunch on crack. Within your wild Berkeley boyfriend, do not forget, also lurks a frowning Presbyterian minister. We're all that and more.

So I say: Honor your interior multiplicities. Enjoy the boy from Berkeley this week. Enjoy the squash-playing captain of the rugby team in his innocent subjugation of the weaker sex next week. Enjoy it all.


If I take you correctly, though, what troubles you is your inconstancy, the apparent contradiction in your nature signaled by your affection first for one type and then for the other. But it's quite natural, even if you are not from California, to enjoy something and then tire of it, and enjoy the opposite for contrast. The important thing is not to lose yourself in too much sensual experimentation; for while your tastes and predilections may vary, certain ethical and moral requirements remain constant, and do not vary from partner to partner. However many multitudes you contain, there is a you who's always there, wherever you wake up, whomever you wake up with. That's the you that makes the choice.

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Cary Tennis

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