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Sex, Love, and the Married Girl

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 PERSONAL ESSAYS









Sex, Love, and the Married Girl

by Amy Keyishian




I always knew I was supposed to be good in bed. I just wasn’t sure what
that meant.

    

It was the mid-’70s, I was in grade school, and looking at Bo Duke gave
me a funny feeling like I had to pee. The sitcoms were sex-soaked, what
with the drooling Jack Tripper and the sexcapades on The Love
Boat.
Everyone was having sex except the people on The Newlywed

Game, who were making whoopee. From day one — I was born in the
Summer of Love, after all — I was aware of sex, and of being good at it.
Love I was less aware of.


    

Time wore on. As the spazzy loudmouth of Jersey’s Morristown High —
swarthy, frizzy-haired, brown-eyed and about as far from prom queen as a
girl can get without actually being Ani DiFranco — I learned that while
sex wouldn’t make me popular, it would get me a measure of attention and
some kind of affection. And it felt good too. In college I honed my
skills; I get a little embarrassed now when I think of the many, many
little tricks I tried in my enthusiasm, garnered from serious research in
the pages of Forever and Cosmopolitan. My favorite was a
well-practiced gasp of awe at the first sight of a new penis, guaranteed
to induce more pleasure than any amount of deep-throating or
nipple-nibbling. It got ’em every damn time.


    

I thought I was pretty hot stuff until after college, when I had my
first really awesome lover: a blond-haired, bass-playing, Irish
Catholic whose watery blue eyes promised the wide vistas of pleasure I’d
been hearing about since Fantasy Island. We tried all sorts of
things — not from books or magazines, but from our own heads. His
roommates used to giggle and imitate my shrieks of pleasure the next
morning. I didn’t care. In fact, photos from this phase of my life show
me looking stupefied and possessed of a permanent, foolish grin. And he
gained my life-long adoration by declaring loudly, at a party, that ours
was the best sex he’d ever had. Maybe it was the same trick as the one I
used on new penises — if so, I don’t want to know.


    

I was head-over-heels for him, literally and figuratively, until he
broke my heart. But after I wandered, dazed, into my next relationship, I
quickly discovered that, with the experience I had gained, I could
reproduce that magic pleasure. No, I couldn’t have a shrieker anytime,

with anyone, but it dawned on me that I wasn’t dependent on that one man
to give me a good ka-powie. The early-to-mid ’90s, then, were a riot. I
still can’t hear a Right Said Fred song or watch Herman’s Head
without getting flushed.


    

My heart was getting restless, though. I know there are super-cool girls
out there who can leap gracefully in high heels from boy to boy without
ruining their mascara, but I was turning out to be depressingly
traditional. I wanted love. My first clue was that I’d burst into tears
right after orgasm. (I didn’t say I was subtle.) My second clue was that
I was losing interest in the constant chase and was really feeling the
pressure. If I was to continue being Little Ms. Sex-O-Lympics, I really
had my work cut out for me; the competition was fierce. The day came when
my friend Gordon was kvelling about a recent conquest, and said, “Man,
those German women — they’re so nasty, you could stick your shoe in it!”
I found that I didn’t know what it meant, to be so nasty that someone
could stick his shoe in it. I wasn’t even really sure where one would
stick said shoe, or why. The very fact of which meant that I was no
longer top bitch. Not to mention that I wasn’t even particularly curious.
The time had come for Josh.


    

We’d been friends in college, when I had dismissed him as “too nice” —
meaning not Aryan, not frighteningly powerful, not guaranteed to break my
heart . . . not my type. Josh was as Semitic as I was. In fact, he looked
exactly like me, except with a goatee. What did I need to date him for?
It would be like treading water in my own gene pool. Like copulating with
my clone. Like making out with a long lost cousin at a family wedding.


    

But when he popped up in my life again, I started to look at him
differently. He was skinnier than the meaty gearheads of my past, but
lithe and quick from years of soccer-playing. He was less threatening —
a fact that ceased to be a liability when I realized I liked being able
to sleep next to someone without wondering if they’d be there in the
morning. And his tongue worked like the textured attachment on my Venus
Vibe.


    

Then there was the fact that we had, like, things to talk about. He read
books, he was psyched to start graduate school. And he actually found my

irritating quirkiness and short temper amusing. In fact, he thought I was
the shit. I was derisive of his love of basketball until I realized he
was completely non-derisive of my lack of knowledge about it. Then,
miraculously, I found myself drifting into the room while he watched
games, asking a question here and there (“What’s a field goal? Can you
show me how a pick-and-roll works? Why is Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf so
twitchy?”), questions he answered without calling me a moron. Not that
our relationship revolved around basketball. It’s just that he had . . .
oh my God, he had respect for me — as a person. So this
was what Aretha Franklin had been talking about.


    

The road from dating to living together was just over one year long, and
the wedding was a year after that.


    

Now, I had lived with boys before. Twice before. Well, three times, if
you count the six months I camped out in a fourth-floor walkup on the
Lower East Side, going home once a week to switch outfits. Before that
was my college guy, with whom I jammed myself into a succession of tiny
one-room apartments (with or without kitchens) that, due to our exactly
matched housekeeping abilities, were always overflowing with clutter and
crap. Trapped, I’d gaze out of those rooms, usually into an air-shaft,
and wonder how I’d gotten myself into this suffocating relationship and
why my boyfriend didn’t want to get engaged. The last live-in loser was a
blue-eyed rockabilly ectomorph, a pudgy brillo-haired womanizer who,
though skilled in the sack (I hate to admit), kept me in a constant state
of self-doubt. He’d been everywhere, done everything, and his constant
comparisons threw me into fits of inferiority. How could I compete with
the legendary frisky stewardess, unlikely as his story now, in hindsight,
seems? Oy!


    

When my dear Josh moved in, though, things were immediately cozy and
nice. We were already engaged, so I didn’t have to wonder when he’d
propose or whether I was wasting my time or why he didn’t really love me.
He moved into my place, so I didn’t feel adrift or homeless. It

was just plain groovy. I thought, “This is the deal. This is my home. I
feel secure and happy.”


    

But wait. It gets better.


    

I’m not going to lie and say that the wedding night was magical, that I
knew unparalleled joy the first time I had licit sex and wished only that
I had saved my virginity for the father of my future children. Please!
And anyway, we didn’t even bother doing it that night. There was no porn
in our hotel room, and we were exhausted and starving. I took off my
dress and burst into tears and we ordered a pizza and that was our
romantic wedding night. The end.


    

It wasn’t until a few weeks later that I began to notice the
change.
How to explain it without sounding corny? My life suddenly
had a quality that I hadn’t felt since — well, that I couldn’t remember
feeling. Maybe it was the feeling of being a little kid before my older
sisters started going to college. Maybe it was the feeling of sleeping in
the back seat on the way home from my grandparents’ house with a pack of
butterscotch Life Savers clutched in my paws. I told you it would sound
corny. But I was suddenly safe again.


    

There was a closeness between Josh and me that wasn’t about being
forcibly, brutally honest, revealing every deep, dark secret or sharing
every perverse fantasy. It wasn’t about speaking at all. It was about
belonging to each other, and knowing neither of us had to wonder about
the other’s intentions. We had gone through with it. The thing. The scary
thing. The scary marriage thing.


    

The sex didn’t change much. It was the same stuff as before: rollicking,
giggly and warm. Except now it was, like, lawful or something. I noticed
a different look on my parents’ faces when we stayed at their house and
went up to sleep in our room: before the wedding, their eyes said, “Oy
vey”; after the wedding, their expressions read, “Aw, cute.” Is that all
it is? Acceptance in the eyes of society? I was still being violated

seven ways ’til Sunday in my childhood room, my Boy George poster still
smirking benignly down on me. But there was a difference. Maybe it was in
The Afterward.


    

The Afterward, when I used to feel a palpable loneliness in my hands, my
heart, and behind my knees. Round and painful, like hot Spalding balls.
The Afterward, when I’d once felt bored to tears, literally. When I’d
felt absent (though never ashamed).


    

But now The Afterward felt . . . unmoored. Like I was the Casper the
Friendly Ghost balloon at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade and someone
had cut me loose and let me bob away, over Central Park, uptown past the
Bronx. But not in harm’s way. Just blown along by the warmest breezes to
eventually land gently in the trees somewhere in Westchester.


    

There’s this pain scale I read about one time. Ten is the worst pain
possible, like having your leg ripped off or sitting through The
English Patient.
One is the minute amount of pain associated with
being in the earth’s gravitational pull: the pain of feeling the chair
against your back, your hair against your head, a watch on your wrist,
spinach in your teeth. There’s no way to feel less pain than that, not
physically. Not in the world as we know it.


    

But that’s what I thought of, as I found myself floating in The
Afterward with my new husband. The absence of pain I hadn’t even known I
felt. With the person I hadn’t realized I wanted. Corny? Apparently.
Traditional? Not given the national divorce rates.


    

Nice? Yeah. Really nice.


©1998
Amy Keyishian
and Nerve.com