How To Talk To Boys
I couldn't believe I'd said that. That's the problem
with having a rich inner life - you lose your grasp of reality sometimes,
and say things you shouldn't even have been thinking. The problem was: once
something's been said, there's not much you can do about it. Except maybe
laugh it off.
Stevie didn't look like he was laughing.
"It's a joke," I said.
He started to relax a little.
"Really." he said.
"One of Jimmy Bodell's. It isn't very funny, really."
Maybe cool sophistication was what I needed.
"What's the rest of it?"
"Really." He seemed genuinely interested, god-damn him.
"Well," I said, thinking quickly, "There are these two
guys ...." My back was starting to ache with the strain of holding myself
up. I decided to waft gracefully to the floor. "And they're identical ..."
Stevie was still looking deep into my eyes, which meant
that somehow he was on his hotel room floor too.
"Go on," he said seductively.
I took a deep breath. Helen Gurley Brown says to breathe
from the diaphragm, so that you get the heaving breasts effect that all real
men secretly desire. I wasn't sure Stevie was a breast man though. He seemed
to be sinking into my eyes (or staring at my mouth, maybe he reads lips).
And was it? Yes it was! The smell of Old Spice, and an
arm, not attached to my body, attached to my body! I looked deeply into his
dark, dark eyes, as I felt the arm that wasn't mine touch the small of my
back, and I saw the eyes come closer, closer, closer, too close to stay in
focus, and I'm near-sighted, so I knew it was very close, and the eyelids
started to flicker and close, and the lips ... and o my god ...
I started coughing.
While Stevie was getting me water, I did a lot of thinking,
and by the time he'd come back, I'd made up my mind to tell him everything.
"Stevie ...., I want to tell you everything."
"Stevie." I licked my lips. "See, there was this guy,
and he and his friend go to the Beaver Hotel ...."
Actually, the choice of Jimmy Bodell's joke was only
partly accidental. Masters and Johnson and The Happy Hooker agree
that the more titillation there is, and the more use of well-placed obscenities,
the more erotic the situation. And if it's supposed to work on women, who
have a really strong moral and biological responsibility if they succumb
to the titillation, then it ought to work even faster on males, who don't.
Right? That was the way I saw it, anyway.
I watched Stevie, to see how he saw it. He could go along
with the whole thing, and carry on with a slightly more ribald train of
conversation, or he could say "how gross," and my entire life would be ruined.
"....So his friend says, Well, I just used Ancient Masonic
Love Charm Number One.
Number One, says his friend, What's that?
Well, that's where you go up to a girl and say, 'Wanna
Stevie stared at me, a little tight-mouthed, I thought,
rubbed his nose, which, as you know, is a sign of aggression, and paused.
"o god o god o god," I prayed
"Stephanie ...." he said, in exactly the same tone my
father used the day I spit in his milk.
"Do you know why roosters don't have hands?"
I didn't even try to guess. This could still turn into
a biblical proverb. "I don't know, Stevie. Why?" The dentures were back.
"Because hens don't have tits!"
It was going to be alright. I could feel it. Right on
the brink, and almost over. All I had to do was sit back and enjoy, enjoy,
And flatter, flatter, flatter.
"That's a great joke," I said.
"Not as good as yours."
"Sure it was."
"No it wasn't."
"Sure it was."
"Not at all."
All the titillation was disappearing fast. Why did I
have to pick such a polite person to have sex with? I had to think defensively.
"Gee, Stevie, do you know any more?"
While he was telling his jokes, I stared into his eyes
and started to review everything I'd dreamed, or seen, or heard, or read
about sex. I wasn't quite sure what I should do. Should I throw myself on
his mercy and admit I'd never kissed anyone before? Helen Gurley Brown and
Playboy and Modern Sex and Hygiene all seemed to suggest the virginity angle
would work best, but of course, they weren't written for high school audiences.
I mean, let's face it , if you're as old as I am, and you still have all
your teeth, and you wash fairly frequently, then you must be a real turkey
if you haven't even managed to be kissed by anyone. You must be a complete
social misfit. Which I admit I am, being a teacher's daughter, but I didn't
want Stevie to know. Besides, it really wasn't fair. The reason I hadn't
been kissed was partly because I didn't want to be kissed by just anybody,
I wanted to be kissed by Stevie Brown My Own True Love. So if there was anything
I didn't know (and there was probably a lot) it was just as much his fault
On the other hand, I didn't know what he'd do if I did
as some of those old novels suggested, and cast myself at his feet, weeping,
"Kind Sir! Take that which no man can give me back."
It didn't look like I was going to have to worry. It
was only quarter after ten, and we were already rolling around on Stevie
Brown's hotel bed, having a really nice time. I mean, it was a lot better
than just playing footsie when you're playing cards. A lot better. And I
didn't feel seriously out of my depth, either, until Stevie started running
his left hand up and down my spine, pressing really hard with his fingers,
which gave me tingles the first couple of times, and then didn't, because
it hurt. Finally, I couldn't stand it any more. "What's wrong?" I whispered.
"Nothing." he whispered back, but he kept pressing down
on my spinal column, right at the back of my ribs, digging his fingers in
right at the small of my back, like he was searching for something. I could
tell he was worried.
So was I. I had no idea what kind of sexual lunatic
Stevie Brown might be. I mean, how well did I know him? Actually know
him. Forty-five minutes a week in the weight room, and two and a half
seconds between classes for a couple of years is no guarantee of up-rightness
of character. Of course, he was with me right now, which might be some kind
of character reference by association, but on the other hand probably only
a lunatic would be caught dead in bed with the Algebra Teacher's daughter
when he still had a year and a half to go before graduation.
It suddenly occurred to me that if I took off my
lumberjacket, whatever Stevie was looking for might be more apparent, and
everything would start happening a lot faster. Under it I was wearing my
hot pink danskin (which my mother doesn't allow me to wear by itself, because
she says it makes me look like a french hooker). But of course I want to
look like a french hooker, which is why I bought the thing in the first place.
I don't know why parents always try to give you a hard time about the way
you look, when that's exactly the look you were trying to achieve. I don't
tell Momsy she looks like a dowdy, over-weight housewife. (Well, if I do,
it's for her own good. Sometimes it's embarrassing to walk down the street
Once I took my lumberjacket off, Stevie seemed to cheer
"Oh ... you're not wearing a bra." he said, and
"Neither are you." I said, and deftly undid his
Everything was going as planned, but it was way behind
schedule. For one thing, I'm never going to listen to anyone complain about
Wham Bang Thank You Ma'am again, because I think those kind of seductions
would be probably very refreshing if you have any commitments at all - other
than emotional. I mean, when I went into Stevie's room at ten, I never
expected to still be rolling around on the bed, fully clothed except for
the article which I had myself removed at 2:31.
I was beginning to see how Mrs Beebee could take sex
for granted. I'd be cranky too if I had to stay up all night every night.
The thing I was dreading was that in the morning, Stevie
Brown would walk me back to my hotel room, shake my hand, and tell me how
much he respected me for letting him go as far as he did, and how much he
respected me for not letting him go any farther, and maybe we could go for
coffee sometime, and that would be it: my big chance to get pregnant and
live happily ever after with the Man I Adore would be lost forever.
Actually, he didn't look like he was going to last until
morning. He kept tugging here, and making furtive little forays, but he never
really managed to displace anything for very long. It wasn't just the lack
of a bra that had confused him. He didn't seem to know anything at all about
danskins. You can't pull up on a danskin. You have to pull it all down at
once, with one swift tug, and Stevie just couldn't seem to screw his courage
to the sticking point long enough to do any good. "I think Mrs MacBeth was
right." I said, "If twere done when done, Twere well it twere done quickly."
but he didn't seem to take the hint.
By 2:45 (I still had my watch on) even I had lost interest.
"Look, what's the problem," I asked briskly. "Don't you
like me?" If it was my fault, and it probably was, I wanted to know, whether
it hurt or not.
He didn't say anything.
"Well, don't you?"
"How can you say that?"
"Just answer the question."
"Of course I like you. I wouldn't be here if- I mean,
you wouldn't be here if I ...I mean ...."
"But you don't love me, is that it?"
He didn't answer.
"That's it, isn't it?" Whether it hurt or not, I had
He started to huddle into himself, and his voice started
to shake. Actually shake.
"Look," he said, "I'm sorry if ... I know you think I'm ...
I just ... I just don't ... I just didn't ... I never dreamed ... I ... I've
never done this before."
And then he started to cry, at 2:48 in the morning.
I didn't know what to do. None of my sources had prepared
me for emotional outbursts on the part of the male. I mean, I knew,
theoretically, that they were human, but I'd never had to deal with them
as such. Secretly, to tell you the truth, I felt a little embarrassed.
Not that it made me feel any differently about Stevie.
I mean, I loved him, right? That doesn't just disappear overnight, or I'd
be a pretty shallow person. And I'm not. But honestly, you didn't see Stephanie
H. Nickel breaking down because she was in an impossible situation, did you?
No, I went home, I did my research, I considered my options, I got in a
compromising situation, and I tried to compromise. I accepted the challenge.
Now, I agree there's a little more pressure on Stevie Brown in this situation,
because he has to be actively interested in the sexual pursuit (by which
I mean, erect) before anything can happen, but that shouldn't be too difficult,
I did up his shirt buttons for him, and put my lumberjacket
"Look, Stevie," I said. "It doesn't really matter."
"No?" he said, his chin trembling a little.
"Of course not. I think you're great."
And to tell the truth, it really didn't matter. I mean,
I figured it had been a learning experience, even if we hadn't gone all the
way. Up to ten o'clock last night, I knew zippo first hand about making out,
and now I knew how to kiss (rather nicely, if I do say so myself). More
importantly, I knew what it was like to be alone with a boy. Really alone,
without him, or me, showing off or having to pretend we were something we
weren't, which I wouldn't do anyway because I'm not a shallow person, but
I have to admit that sometimes people who don't know me think my naturalness
is occasionally a bit forced.
"And don't worry," I said, "I had a really nice time."
I know it sounds sick, but I sort of like a guy in tears.
It picks up the colours of their eyes. Besides, now we didn't have to actually
do anything, I started to notice - again - how attractive Stevie Brown was,
even at 2:52 in the morning with his eyes all bloodshot and puffy.
"Look, I'm really sorry if I put any pressure on you
... I just wanted to show you how much I cared."
"That's alright," he said, "I understand."
"No, I really am sorry if ...." and I guess I was tired
or something, because my chin started to tremble, and I had to put my hands
over my face so he wouldn't notice, but it didn't do any good.
"I'm really sorry if .... I just .... well .... I've
never done this before either." And all of a sudden, I'm bawling, twice as
hard as Stevie Brown, and he's bawling with me, and we're both bawling together,
if you can believe it, and then suddenly, nobody's bawling, we're just holding
each other tight, like the world was flat and we're standing in a strong
wind at the edge.
Nothing happened, of course. But it was a really good
nothing. I'm ready for Greek Tragedy next semester, because now when Mrs
Beebee talks about catharsis, I'm not going to be confused at all.
Catharsis is getting really seriously involved with someone,
and getting seriously close to them, and when you're really involved and
really close, you go through some sort of tremendous emotional upheaval -
like your father being made a senator and moving you to Ottawa, or something
- and then you get together, and you stay up all night, and you exhaust each
other completely, and you have a good, knock-down bawl.
And the point that Mrs Beebee misses is this: it feels
good. Even if at the end you find out that you have to run Mixed Relays
at nine in the morning, and the Man You Adore can't date you because he's
already going steady with some Convent girl, because he thinks they're not
as fast as the girls who go to Thomas Hardy.
He's wrong of course.
How To Talk To Boys by Kim Morrissey
first published in 200% Cracked Wheat
edited by Gary Hyland, Barbara Sapergia & Geoffrey Ursell
Coteau Books, Regina, Canada 1992