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Critical Mass: My Thing for Catholic Boys

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 PERSONAL ESSAYS

  

photo by Steven Arnold

The

night I met my Catholic boy, we did cocaine and ditched the party and wandered

through alleys under dark, heavy trees, saying everything. We loved Dostoyevsky, Kafka,

Thomas Wolfe. We knew the same lines by heart. I told him why he behaves as he does,

he told me I’m not as perceptive as I think I am. He didn’t touch me, even by accident.

When we got back, he refused to come to bed with me because my bed for the night was

our friends’ “marriage bed.” Eventually we found a bed “just to sleep in,” and started

having sex, then he stopped, saying he needed sex to be mystical. I figured it was the

cocaine talking, but then he said he was thirty-one years old and had had sex twenty times

in his life. He’s good-looking, charming, and his band is on Capitol, so it’s not like no

one’s been offering. As it turns out, he was an altar boy till he was eighteen and has some

issues. I don’t believe in issues. I thought I could make this hothouse flower

blossom. But without my realizing it, he began to influence my sexuality, not vice versa.

    

I’m Protestant. My kind are down with the “carnal” half of carnal knowledge. It’s

the other word that frightens us. It’s so personal to open your eyes, stop the frenzy, and

know what it is that’s entering you, shoving you into this wild dream state: a human

being! It makes us nervous. Having sex with my Catholic boy was like reading a Russian

novel. It would start off slowly, gathering the story from every direction, and I’d feel

certain I was about to be bored. But that slow unfolding would always, eventually, enthrall

me, and I’d find myself more broadly and deeply involved than I could be with one of

those immediately-to-the-point, gratuitous-everything American paperbacks (which remind me of how

Protestants tend to fuck).

    

With other boyfriends, the promise of sex was always so ripe in the air, it never

fully gestated. We never left it alone long enough. We took little bites of the fruit all day

long. With my Catholic boy, if the sun was shining, his hands were somewhere other than

on my body, and the promise of sex did ripen, it ripened till it was so bruised and soft and

sugary it about burst open on its own. “You don’t know how to go slow!” he told me.

Indeed I didn’t. My Catholic boy narrowed me. He confined me to missionary. I couldn’t

use a change of position or even tempo to change the mood or the sensations; I was stuck

dealing with the mood that was there. I had to focus. I’d done everything, but I’d never

done nothing. It was hard. He made me look at him. When I came, I cried.

    

That’s how they draw you in, those Catholic boys — with slowness, with stealth,

with intricacy. Their blazing eyes and gentle hands and burning hearts hold so much

promise. Then once it’s too late for you to escape, they poison you, infect you with their

Catholic guilt, doubt and cruelty. They seek you out, use you as a conduit into the world of

depravity, then blame you for taking them there. They claim it was you who thought of

doing it in the airport bathroom while their relatives waited, who talked them into that

threesome. In my Catholic boy’s head, there was a succubus visiting him, and that

succubus was me. He made me feel dirty and weird and wrong. And my confidence,

which had never flagged much before, suddenly fell over and died.

    

Though we had as much sex as any couple, as soon as my Catholic boy’s body left

mine, it totally slipped back into itself, and I was never sure if we’d do it again. I found

myself punching him a lot, tickling him, pushing him over, and doing all the stuff twelve

year olds do to the opposite sex. I did not stop short of foolhardy, most likely illegal acts

— like pulling the steering wheel out of his hands — in some vague but totally pressing hope

that he would knock into me when the car veered. I felt goofy and desperate and totally

turned on! Oh, I couldn’t get enough of that not getting enough. And I knew it wasn’t a

put-on, a seductive ploy — part of the Catholic really doesn’t want to do it.

    

Mostly they’re sweet, the Catholics are. That sweetness is like a walled island in

their center, something to defend. They recognize that in some ways they are trapped there

and they try to break out — or rather, they try to get someone else to smash a hole in the

perimeter for them — and then they realize there’s a reason why they stay in: it’s nice in

there! My Catholic friend TR says, “Catholic guilt is definitely a weird aphrodisiac. Once

you start getting turned on, you know you’re being bad, and now you’re outside the law

and outside the blessings of God. You’re in the devil’s camp, and you might as well just

go all the way. Sex for a lot of us is like being thrown off a cliff.”

    

Islands, cliffs . . . Catholics are so interesting! Their repression is a Rubik’s Cube.

Their problems are cool. Protestants don’t have problems. Protestants have work.

Imagination and fear just get in our way — we have no use for either. Our idea of a good

church is one all white, fairly clean, where the roof doesn’t leak. Compare that to any

cathedral, and you have summed up the difference between Protestant sex and Catholic

sex.

    

If I go out with a fellow Protestant, we just work all the time and don’t fight.

Nothing happens. When I’m with a Catholic, he keeps me up at night with worry and

revelation. He gets me off-course. Being on-course and clear-headed has its merits, but it

also comes with blinders. Catholics surprise me, hurt me, tangle me up. They freak me

out! I weaken, and in my discombobulated state, I’m open and off-guard, and I learn

something. Catholics are also good for my cardiovascular system, because the only way I

can deal with the constant tension they create is to go running every single day.

    

But Catholics are bad for my morals. They hurt me so bad I have to have affairs on

them. And I’m not like that! I’ve been with Jews, Protestants, Atheists, Satanists, a

Buddhist — I never cheated on any of them. I’ve been with a schizophrenic, a few

alcoholics, too many musicians, assorted existentialists, and one guy who thought that if

he transmitted a certain frequency with this oscillator thing, aliens would pick it up. None

of these did I cheat on. Only the Catholics have the power to make me bad. They crush my

self-confidence like a clove of garlic in a garlic-press, and fooling around is the only way

to get my garlic juice back inside me. I married a Catholic when I was nineteen, and after

a year of loving him I had to have not one affair, but six at once, with men in three

different countries! It was hard to organize, but I was driven.

    

I finally cheated on my Catholic boy with two women in one night —

one was a dominatrix and the other, I don’t know what she was, but that girl was nuts! I

told him about it the next day, and instead of just leaving me like a normal nice guy would

have done, or finding it amusing like a normal sleazy boyfriend would, he reacted by

having sex with me in the middle of the day and from behind — two things he’d never been

able to do before (he’s a deluxe Catholic with extra repression on top) — and then

recounted, from two till five a.m., every time I’d ever initiated sex with him, every word

and gesture I’d made. There wasn’t one tiny movement or breath he’d forgotten. It was as

if he believed I’d been involved in a conspiracy to get him to have sex. He then told me

about how he’d once had sex with his only other girlfriend for two hours while watching

a glass of iced tea, wanting to stop and drink it the whole time. When it was finally over he

drank it, but the ice had melted and it was warm. Why was he telling me this? I mean, it’s

bad enough he’s like that, but to say it out loud?

    

Catholics: they’re tortured, and they’ll torture you. When they ask you to bed, they’re inviting you into their hot, weird Catholic

hell. My only consolation in the midst of all this Catholic torture is the knowledge that

it’s worse for them. After our three hour sex-conspiracy talk, I left, reentering the normal

world, but he was still there in that dreadful zone where the iced tea gets warm and there’s

not a damn thing you can do about it. He put a couch in front of his door so no one could

get in, didn’t go out for five days and ended up spitting blood! The booze and the

cigarettes might have had something to do with it, but I think he was doing penance.

Because he day-fucked me, he had to crucify himself just a bit. He’s an extreme case — he

had a rough childhood. His mother once caught him masturbating, and dragged him

naked through the entire house and threw him in a cold shower. Another time, when he

was seventeen, she heard he’d kissed a girl (he hadn’t) and she beat him in the face with a

giant crucifix. I thought I could make him bloom. I didn’t mean to make him bleed. I was

melancholy at my failure, but I was not the first to fail. Famous Catholic T.S. Eliot was a

virgin till he married. He wrote his parents about how his bride opened the doors to fleshy

delight and then spent the next twenty years ridiculing her and withholding

sex till she ended up in a loony bin! Therein lies the fate of those who try to adhere the

mind of the Catholic to his B-O-D-Y.

    

I recently went camping with a new Catholic boy, also a former choir boy like the

last one, only this one is very affectionate and coherent and has a nice mom. We danced and

swam and looked at the stars and talked about everything. We slept with his arm around

me, but didn’t have sex — I was still reeling from the other one coughing blood. It was

nice. But the next day, when our friends started joking about farts and jism — to an

unnatural degree, I’ll admit — he sort of went into a coma. He lay down next to me with

two pieces of bark over his eyes and no facial expression for an hour until it was time to

go. He was strangely silent all the way home. It was that Catholic thing — they’re drawn

to gross, sexual people like me and those friends, then they can’t take exactly what they

were drawn to. This guy believes in angels and vampires; sometimes you think

someone’s the former, he says, but they’re really the other kind, and they lead you down

the dark path. He calls me Lisa Bright and Lisa Dark, and he says he likes Lisa Bright a lot

better. Why do they gotta be dividing everything up like that? They divide my healthy soul

in two and then chew on the edges so the pieces won’t fit together right again.

    

And I’m sitting here right now, as I write this, with my ears pricked for him to

call. I want to see what else he’ll say. I want to feel ten years old again, like I did flying

down the highway with him, wearing blue plastic sunglasses, in the world where good is

good and bad is bad, and you haven’t yet found out which one you are. When I’m with

my own kind of people, I remember that such dichotomies don’t exist, but right now I

want to sneak back into that Catholic fairytale world of angels and vampires, where life is

like an ornate stained glass window and sex is dangerous.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Lisa Carver is the author of the books Dancing Queen, Rollerderby, The Lisa Diaries and Drugs Are Nice. She’s written for Hustler, Index, Icon, Feed, Newsday and Playboy, among others. She lives in New Hampshire.

©1999

Lisa Carver and Nerve.com