Today I did another writing exercise from my book, Now Write!, edited by Sherry Ellis. However, I am only going to share the first portion of this exercise with you right now.
The exercise is called “Truthful dare” and comes from a writer whose work I’ve read and appreciated, Diana Abu-Jaber, author of Crescent and Arabian Jazz and teacher at Portland State University. She impishly introduces her exercise by saying, “I love exercises that help writers to limber up and get their creative juices flowing.” It takes a few paragraphs to realize she means this in more ways than one. “The assignment is very simple,” she says. “Write about the first time you had sex.”
And now many of you are probably sitting there shuddering at the prospect of Zak divulging Too Much Information. Yet Abu-Jaber warns that “we are often our own greatest censors.” ‘Tis true, I say. Nevertheless, I will keep parts of this assignment under covers (heh) for now, and share only the first part, which to my ear reads rather like a monologue or stand-up comedy bit. Read: safe.
As for the meaty part (heh), that’ll have to wait. Don’t worry, you peeping thomases and you kind and encouraging and open-hearted friends: the thing is written, and will out eventually. To go from El Misterioso to this is a bit of a rush to the deep end. This is MY pool.
So then. I bring you the first part of my essay…
I hate the term late bloomer. I always have. And wallflower. Why are so many slang terms for social awkwardness related to flowers? Would the flowers be offended? They seem to do all right on their own. They have tons of sex. And they’re kinky too: they use other species—hell, another kingdom—to help. Can you imagine if you had to have a creature of another species walk all over your genitals, get their feet nice and covered with semen, then walk over to your lady-friend and play footsy with her genitals? Doesn’t sound very convenient, and I’m sure it’s not very high on the pleasure scale (though who am I to judge?), but that’s how flowers do it. It’s kinky shit. And they must get around that way. I’m no botanist, but when’s the last time you heard of a flower going extinct?
If a flowers had consciousness, how do you think they’d feel after the first time they were pollinated? Do you think they’d know? Would it be something like, “Oh shit, there’s that giant bee again—oh no! He’s coming for me! Aggh! Oh—hmm…that kinda feels good. Yeah, a little to the right—that’s it—watch the stamen—Oooooh…Can you pull on my petals now?” I’m guessing it’d probably play out more like, “La-di-dah, just being a flower, ho-hum…Oh! What’s that. Hmm. Interesting. Ah—wait, that’s it? Okay. La-di-dah, just being a flower…”
Then along comes the late bloomer. He’s so confused. “What, huh? What?” He likes the sun well enough, but it can never seem to reach the spot where it itches. He likes water, but only in moderation. He reads a lot of Nietzsche. Or whatever the plan equivalent of that is. I dunno. Silent Spring?
The whole plant metaphor is dumb. Extend it too far and it all falls apart. I mean, people develop at different rates, just as plants do. But people like to get out, be social, go to clubs. They don’t, under any circumstances, go looking for action at a nursery.
Who uses the term late bloomer? Older people, looking down at younger people, often in a benevolently snobby way, as if both admitting to and allowing for their awkwardness, and hinting in kind of a creepy way that this kid is bound to have lots of sex…eventually. And it’s only ever applied to someone between, say, the ages of eighteen and twenty. Before eighteen you’re still golden, you’re expected to have sex though everyone makes a big deal about how you’re not supposed to (wink wink, nudge nudge). And after twenty you’re a full-grown adult (sort of) who should either be having lots of college sex, or else lots of working class sex. After twenty if you still haven’t had sex you’re either a dried up old hag or a eunuch. In between eighteen and twenty, you are a late bloomer.
I first had sex when I was nineteen, with an asterisk. No, I didn’t have sex with an asterisk. That would be silly. And I had already kissed a girl—a couple of ‘em, even—as early as fourteen.
The asterisk is that I may have had had sex when I was seventeen. I say maybe, because it gets into that murky territory of what constitutes sex. Literalists might insist that unless the penis enters the vagina, it’s not sex. But that definition ignores the broader social and interpersonal contexts. What about hours of sensual play without penetration? Is it not sex if she is lightly biting the skin of my scrotum, massaging my balls, tugging on my penis, biting my shoulder, and letting me rub around her clitoris, helping her get drippy wet? What about gay sex? It’s still sex, duh, but literalists are left scratching their heads. Or something else. Anyway, I’ll be perfectly clear and you can draw your own definitions: I had my first blowjob when I was seventeen, and it can best be called a romantic—as opposed to smutty—encounter. Well, as romantic as a seventeen year old can be. It was in a bed, not a hotel, with a girl I liked and had a relationship with, sort of.
We had kind of flirted (ever see wild turkeys flirting?) the year before—I was a junior and she a sophomore—but then she moved with her parents to New Jersey. We hadn’t ever really talked much or hung out together. But I remember the night—it was after some big school event, like a model United Nations conference of something like that—that’s where we met, anyway. Post-conference, we were hanging out with a small group of friends at someone’s house. We watched some Monty Python movie, I think. I sat in the sofa and she on the floor leaned back against my legs. And that’s all it takes for a seventeen year old: sirens, alarm bells, steam pouring from vents, soldiers running through corridors of a submarine on their way to battle stations. At this point, I’m serious, we had really hardly ever talked, and had only exchanged glances best described as furtive.
End of Part I.