Nerve Classics

Love Is a Four-Letter Word

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For a few weeks, neither Bernice nor I had said much of anything. Then, one morning, I’d just rolled off to take a break when she asked if I would “talk to her.” I said I’d try, but inside I was dreading it.

Historically, I’d hated dirty talk during sex. I could handle it when girls cried out things like, “Oh my God!” or “Adrian!” or even “I love you.” But when a girl really got to talking, it distracted me out of my mind. I’d feel pressured to holler back, but everything that came to mind humiliated me just thinking about it, much less saying it, so I’d always stayed mum.

For Bernice though, I had to try. She was the best lover I’d ever had — nothing short of a sexual genius. If she’d asked me to go down on her in a kiddie pool filled with non-alcoholic sparkling cider, nauseating, while monster-rock ballads, fetch the bucket, played in the background, I’d have broken the seal on the screwtop and had the CD spinning before she’d had a chance to step out of her panties. Bernice wanted dirty talk. Dirty talk she would get.

But as soon as I rolled back on top of her, I started backpedaling. Why hadn’t I just said, “I’m sorry. Dirty talk embarrasses me, and I just don’t think I can do it.” How hard is that? Then I had a happy thought: “Maybe I’ll die in the act.” For a couple of minutes, I concentrated on fucking her so fast that I’d give myself a heart attack. But I ran out of air before I ran out of pump capacity.

When I stopped to rest, Bernice was looking right in my eyes, still waiting for me to say something. My lungs were burning and my muscles starved for oxygen, but I could only take air through my nose because I was petrified that she’d see my mouth moving and mistake a wheeze for my first attempt at dirty talk and ask me, “What did you say?” At which point I’d have no choice but to answer, “Nothing. I was just open-mouthed breathing because I tuckered myself out trying to commit suicide by fucking you real fast.” Then the sentence, “Nothing. I was just open-mouth breathing because I tuckered myself out trying to commit suicide by fucking you real fast.” would, for all eternity, count as my first official attempt at dirty talk and how lame would that be?

When my breath returned, I restarted my pushing. Her face strained in anticipation. Still, I said nothing. Another minute passed. No longer able to bear the suspense, she closed her eyes. My mind raced with possibilities: “I like my penis inside you.” “You’re beautiful.” “I am going to fuck your brains out!” “I like your pussy.” “I am so horny for you.” “You have great tits.”

It all sounded to me like lame cocktail patter at a swingers’ party. My dick was getting soft just hearing these thoughts run through my head.

Then it just happened. Under all that pressure, I coined the phrase, “You like that?!”

Only I didn’t say it like I was asking a question, but with dead certainty that Bernice did like it. I sounded every bit the short Italian actor in a romantic Mafioso film, only without the accent. “You like that?!” As I heard the words blurt out of my mouth for a second time, I felt like I had reinvented the English language. For the rest of the weekend, I didn’t even bother to come up with anything else. Why water down good whiskey?

It wasn’t until Sunday night that it hit me: I’d said “You like that?!” about a hundred times that weekend. Frightened by the potential answer but desperate to know the truth, I called to ask Bernice how things had gone in the dirty-talk department. Surprisingly, she gave me good marks for my first outing. Apparently, dirty talk is like rock vocals — more about attitude than quality.

From that weekend forward, I talked pretty much every time we jumped in bed together. Having experienced so much success with, “You like that?!” I used it as a foundation from which to expand my repertoire. At first, I built on to the beginning of the sentence, “Yeah, you like that?!” or as a statement, “Mmm hmm, you like that!” Then I started to expand on what exactly “that” was, as in, “Oh, you like it when I suck your toes.” This gave me an inexhaustible supply of fresh-seeming dirty talk. I would just observe what we were doing at the moment and tell her that she liked it.

Then one time, I asked Bernice, “You like it when I pinch your nipples?!” She said, “Hmm” like she always did. But either I imagined it, or I heard some hesitation in her voice. I panicked. Every woman has a personal preference about the amount of pressure to be applied when playing with her nipples. What if Bernice didn’t like the amount of pressure I was using, but my asking her in the context of dirty talk had pushed her to give me a “hmm” in the heat of the moment?

Maybe as soon as she said it she’d realized that I did use too much or too little pressure. Maybe, right then while I was fucking her, she was thinking about how to shoehorn the nipple-pinching issue into some non-nipple-pinching conversation, “Ha, ha, ha! You’re so funny! I sometimes repeat the funny things you say to the people in my office! Remember how you just asked me if I liked it when you pinched my nipples? Well, I don’t. I know I said I did, but I don’t.” No thank you! I’m not having any part of that.

And Bernice shouldn’t have to go through it either. So as precautionary damage control, I took it upon myself to shoehorn the nipple-pinching issue into our post-fuck conversation. “Bernice, you are beautiful with no make-up at all . . . do I pinch your nipples too hard or not hard enough?”

She said that I was well within her range. Safe! While this incident did not make me abandon my winning format of the question, I never again took the risk of dirty-talking a question that actually had an important answer. All my new questions were pure silliness:

  • “Does that make you feel dirty!?” Not at all a question but pronounced with a dead certainty that it did absolutely make her feel dirty. I’d sometimes follow this up by answering, “Yeah, you’re dirty!” Bernice appreciated it when I answered for her because despite being the one who had initiated the whole dirty talk initiative, she almost never talked back.
  • “Are you a naughty girl?!” Again, I’d immediately follow up with, “Yeah, you’re a naughty girl!” Or sometimes, I’d start with my original, “You like that?!” kind of like I was noticing some new bit of naughtiness for the first time. Then, as if it had made me angry, I’d say, “You’re a naughty girl!”
  • “You just want to suck my cock all night, don’t you?” I was careful to say this only when Bernice was already sucking my cock. I was afraid that if I’d blurted it out while fucking, she might have thought I wanted her to stop fucking me and suck my cock instead, when really I was totally into the fucking and just trotting out a little dirty talk. Yes, it gets tricky. You have to pay attention if you’re going to try this stuff.
  • And finally — the jewel in my dirty-talk crown: “Oh, you like it when I treat you like a dirty whore, don’t you?!” Bernice loved this one. I could feel her cunt get wetter whenever I said it. Score!

Notice how none of my new questions had legitimate answers. Nothing about sex made Bernice feel dirty, much less like a prostitute, and no way would she have wanted to give me head for an entire evening — not even I would have wanted that. The entire idea is just stupid.

As long as I stuck to calling Bernice dirty and a whore and whatnot, no more misunderstandings were possible.

This article originally appeared in Nerve’s True Stories.