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Diary: Purple Bananas

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 PERSONAL ESSAYS


    Let’s go crazy
    Let’s get nuts
    Let’s look for the purple banana
    ‘Til they put us in the trucks.

    — Prince

I saw my first naked penis because of Prince. And, yes, it was purple. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

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    I started getting into Prince my junior year of high school. That was the first year I felt like a real teenager. I had spent much of my freshman and sophomore years in the hospital for what was diagnosed at the time as Crohn’s disease. As I look back, I think much of the illness had to do with me being afraid of being a teenager, afraid of growing up, of growing into a woman’s body. When the real symptoms started going away, I tried to recreate them with laxatives and make-believe. Being sick was safe. It kept me out of the normal tumult of high school life. It made me a pale angel, something the world couldn’t touch. By the time I was sixteen, though, I was ready to have an identity other than “the sick girl”; I was ready to be part of the world again.
    I had been able to keep up with all of my coursework in the hospital, but I had missed taking a required public speaking class, which kids normally take their sophomore year. When I enrolled in Discussion and Debate as a junior, I was the oldest person in the class — and, more significantly, the only one with a driver’s license. All of a sudden, I was the object of male attention. This was new for me. I was quiet and flat chested and had protruding eye teeth. Nevertheless, guys started asking me out. I’m sure they were more interested in the fact that I was mobile than anything else, but that was okay. I liked driving around with them. And I discovered I liked kissing a lot.

I don’t think I ever had the hots for Prince himself; it was his music that did it for me.

    It was around this time that Purple Rain came out. I don’t remember much about the movie now, but I remember the music really spoke to me. It made me squirm. I wore down the grooves in the soundtrack album, feeling scandalized and excited by it, especially “Darlin’ Nikki.” My friends and I also bought the 45 of Appolonia’s song, “Sex Shooter,” and tried to piece together her dance from the movie. It felt good to move my hips that way. I had never danced in a suggestive way before. I remember showing the dance to my mom and watching her jaw drop.
    I bought other Prince albums. The beat was so sensual, Prince’s voice so orgasmically anguished; it made me feel very grown up to listen to it. I spent a lot of time in my den, dancing to “1999” and “When Doves Cry”, feeling myself sink deeper and deeper into my own skin. I began occasionally dressing like a virginal, slightly toned down, version of Prince — lots of lace, velvet, jacquard, all in white.
    I don’t think I ever had the hots for Prince himself; it was his music that did it for me. It was his music that made me begin to feel sexy, that helped me get in touch, at least start to get in touch, with my raunchy self. When he sang, “Dig if you will a picture/of you and I engaged in a kiss./The sweat of your body covers me./Can you my darling, can you picture this?” I could definitely picture it, but it was one of my debate guys, not Prince, I was picturing.
    Maybe I did have a little thing for Prince, though, now that I think about it. My friend Laura and I occasionally went to a teen dance club called McGreevy’s. One night, a guy came in who was obviously trying to look like Prince-he had the longish Jheri-curled hair, the ruffled shirt under a velvet jacket, the tight pants. He told me his name was Pierre. I was smitten. I made out with him on the dance floor for what felt like centuries. When I took a breather in the bathroom, I wrote a little note with my number; I wrote that a school dance was coming up and I’d like to take him. I slipped the note in his jacket pocket as I kissed him goodbye.
    On the way home, I began to regret my decision. I knew absolutely nothing about this guy. I knew he’d want to have sex, and I wasn’t ready for that, not yet. Plus, he was kind of greasy. To my relief, he didn’t call in time for the dance. I went with a guy from my debate class who only gave me a quick peck on the lips at the end of the night. A few days after the dance, though, some one started calling me late at night, talking dirty. I was pretty sure it was Pierre. I was quite titillated. This happened two or three times, until my dad picked up the phone in the middle of the heavy breathing.
    I enjoyed my pseudo-Prince encounters with Pierre, but I’m glad I didn’t see his penis. That honor goes to a guy named James. My Discussion and Debate class took a three-day field trip down to Springfield, Illinois, the state capital, to participate in a mock congress with other high schools. As soon as we stepped into the hotel lobby, a girl from another school turned on her boombox. Prince’s “Erotic City” was playing. I had never heard that song before. It hit me straight between the legs. The lyrics are especially raunchy — “We could fuck until the dawn/Making love til cherry’s gone/Erotic city can’t you see/Fuck so pretty you and me” — but it was the relentless, nasty, drive of the music that really had an effect.

He pulled the sheets out and we lay beneath them, me fully clothed, him naked.

    It seemed like everywhere I went during those three days, that girl was holding her boombox, playing the same song, over and over. It was like the soundtrack to the trip. People were hooking up left and right. The chaperones hung out in the bar and left us to our own devices. Someone smuggled in some wine coolers. I got a little bit drunk. When James, a very tall basketball player from another town, asked me to go to his room, I — under the influence of the fizzy drinks, and, more so, the Prince music — said Sure.
    After James and I kissed for awhile, he stood up and took off all his clothes. I wasn’t prepared for that. I loved kissing, I loved “second base”, but I had never gone any further, other than the time one of the debate guys put my hand on the lump in his jeans. I had pulled my hand away like it had been scorched. As excited as the Prince lyrics made me, I wasn’t ready to be a fully sexual being yet. There, right in front of me, however, was a fully erect penis. I had always imagined that penises would stick out — as some indeed do — like a finger pointing out, perpendicular to the guy’s body, but this one stood straight up. It was huge; it seemed to go halfway up his chest, and it was as purple as any of Prince’s outfits.
    James must have seen the terror in my eyes. “You’re a virgin, huh?” he said. I nodded, speechless. I couldn’t imagine anything that big inside of me.
    “Let’s just get under the covers,” he said. He pulled the sheets out and we lay beneath them, me fully clothed, him naked. I guess he wanted the sheets to be mussed so it would look like he got some action when his roommates got back. We just laid there for awhile, until I told him I better go. I’m grateful that he didn’t force the issue. I wasn’t ready to be “making love ’til cherry’s gone”, especially with someone I didn’t love, someone I barely even knew.
    The girl was still wandering the halls, “Erotic City” booming out of her speakers. If she was trying to use the song to pick people up, it didn’t seem to be working. She was like the town crier, instead, sending a message out to the hormonal throng. I walked back to my room, feeling very sophisticated. I had seen a penis. I wasn’t ready to do anything with it, but I had seen it. Someday, I knew, I’d touch one — hopefully one not so big, I thought — and someday do even more with it. I knew how to move my hips to Prince music. I knew I’d do just fine.  


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©2003 Gayle Brandeis and Nerve.com
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Gayle Brandeis is the author of Fruitflesh: Seeds of Inspiration for Women Who Write, and The Book of Dead Birds: A Novel. She lives in Riverside, California, with her husband and two kids.