Signing on for the Duration
Mama and others, this is a post about losing my virginity, and IS NOT FOR YOU. More for you soon.
Everyone else, this is a public post, but there are regular subscriber-only essays that appear; I’d welcome your support if you are able!
Thirty-six and a half years ago today, I lost my virginity on my girlfriend’s mother’s blue velour couch.
April was 15; a high school sophomore; I was a senior, three months shy of 18.
Since the previous June, I’d had sex with perhaps two dozen men, but April was the first girl I’d seen naked, the first girl I’d kissed below the neck, and now the first I’d been inside.
I was April’s fifth. Or seventh, she wasn’t quite sure. She told me she had lost her virginity at 13, because, as she put it matter-of-factly, “He was cute, my mom wasn’t home, and it was time.”
I didn’t care who had been there before me. It was with April that I learned I wasn’t jealous about sex, only about emotions. (This is a good thing to know about oneself.) April had told me that I was the first boy she had loved, and I treasured that. I wanted her to be my first, and – for what I hoped would be a lingering season – my only.
We first had intercourse the weekend before Valentine’s Day, and February 14 was much on my mind. I would have my own Valentine for the first time, my tall, curvy, swim-team-shoulders-as-broad-as-mine Valentine. I was proud to call April mine; if we’d had social media back then, I would have covered my pages with images of and tributes to her.
So much of what I knew of sex then was charged with shame. So much of sex hurt. So much of arousal came intermingled with fear and revulsion.
When April guided me inside her, there was no shame, no fear, no pain, just a feeling more exquisite than any man’s body had ever given me. “You feel so good,” she whispered encouragingly.
We had MTV on in the background, as one did. I remember “Careless Whisper” playing as I slid inside her, and “Boys of Summer” a bit later, when my body shuddered and I set off down what Hugo Williams calls “the hall of collapsing columns.” April said later I’d given a childlike cry as I came, and she’d suppressed a laugh.
April asked me to go down on her again. The Scorpions, Michael Jackson, Bryan Adams and — maybe? OMD — played in the background before she came. It was always such a wonder to see her orgasm. Making a man come was easy; that scruffy, pimply me could make this beautiful girl flush and cry out was as humbling as it was miraculous. It was unmerited grace.
Afterwards, I asked to stay, and it was April who reminded me I had a curfew. Her delightfully modern mother wouldn’t mind; mine very much would were I not home by midnight.
“I was inside you,” I said as I kissed her goodbye at the door. I had thought I’d feel liberated, with the monkey of virginity off my back, but instead I felt awed, as if I’d expected one sort of initiation but received something so much grander, so much more lovely and important.
So much more… solemn.
April laughed. “If you don’t get home on time it’ll be a long time before you are again.”
I pulled away reluctantly, and as I drove mom’s loyal Datsun B210 back down Highway 1 from April’s house to Carmel, I repeated over and over, “It’s so much better than they said it would be. My God, so much better.”
My great good fortune in life has been to be repeatedly surprised that almost all hoped-for things surpass my expectations.
The “loss” of my virginity was everything I could have asked for. And for more than 36 years, I’ve remembered the excitement and gratitude I felt on that night in February 1985. I’d like to think that no matter how many I’ve slept with, I’ve never taken it for granted that a woman would choose to lie down with me. As Sharon Olds puts it, “I signed on for the duration,” with all the wonder and heartbreak and consequence that that entailed.
It is still the greatest thing in the world. And with the one person with whom you’re building a life, there is no joy on earth quite its equal.
”Boys of Summer” is part of the canon now, and has been widely covered. My favorite version, besides the original, is from KT Tunstall: