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Powerful, heartfelt and irreverent, this is a bold, unprecedented glimpse into the glaring truths of modern relationships.
Audio contains the followingessays, written and read bythe contributors
Preface -- Cathi Hanauer
Introduction -- Daniel Jones
A Bachelor's Fear -- Steve Friedman
I Am Man, Hear Me Bleat -- Fred Leebron
My List of Chores -- Christopher Russell
Ward and June R Us -- Rob Spillman
Embracing the Little SteeringWheel -- Manny Howard
Log Man -- David Gates
Chivalry on Ice -- Daniel Jones
I've always loved older women. Though she looked a little like a canary, for years Benjamin Hunt's mother was the most desirable woman I knew. Animated and attentive, with an amused trill to her high-pitched voice, she was endlessly fighting off Ben's attempts to draw a mustache on her face. It was as if he hoped, with one cartoonish black curl, to disguise just how extraordinary she was. But there was no disguising it. None of my other friends' mothers were tiny and blond and thin-waisted; none of my bland elementary school teachers preened prettily in the mirror of their Saab convertible before zipping out of the garage; and certainly no girl in my sixth-grade class ever did anything as oddly beguiling as cooing "Blame It on the Bossa Nova" -- and even dancing a few of the steps, until her husband got annoyed -- in the parking lot of Super Scoops, the local ice cream shop.
Glorious Mrs. Hunt was soon followed by elegant Ms. Eleanor, the thirty-something dental technician at the orthodontist's office. You never forget your first crush, but you ought to take a picture of your second, because all I can recall about Ms. Eleanor is that when she gave me my complimentary toothbrush at the end of the appointment, sometimes our hands would touch, and rather than immediately releasing, we would both let the contact linger. It was a moment that, even at fourteen, I could recognize as illicit: the light joining of our thumbs on the studded plastic handle. Why she bothered with such a flirtation still astonishes me; I had some precocious charm -- the insecure child's manic overcompensation -- but I also had pimples, a bowl cut, and the reedy muscle tone of a chipmunk.
The hopeless crushes continued even after a respectable growth spurt: the girls' varsity field hockey coach; friends of my big sister, whose math homework I unsexily volunteered to complete; the saleswoman in the vacuum-repair store; Morgan Fairchild; Ms. Morraine, a bow-lipped French teacher who accidentally sat on my hand after hopping onto my desk to teach us the conditional tense. (I kept my hand so still that there was barely a pulse in the crisscrossing veins; if she had sat there for the entire class, I would've ended up being amputated at the wrist.) While other sixteen-year-olds were cruising the high school freshmen, my friend Aaron and I concealed ourselves in the Haymarket Café in Northampton, trying to pick up Smith College girls. They were dismissive of us at first -- we smiled too often, and our pronunciation of Sartre rhymed with "harder" -- but one evening boredom and perversity convinced a pair of roommates to invite us to their apartment. Aaron slept with one of the girls, while I learned an important truth that night: discount tequila has no respect for the human body.
In all this time, I hadn't entirely dismissed girls my own age; at school I was surrounded by them, cute and flouncy, their ponytails trailing out the backs of their white baseball caps; but just as I was beginning to attain some minor success with a girl in my sophomore English class, I slept over at a friend's house and lost my virginity to his older sister's twenty-year-old best friend. After that flash of erotic insight, there was no going back to the timidity of youth. That arduous struggle for sexual purchase -- I put my hand here, and you move it away; kiss for thirty minutes; I put my hand back, and you leave it for thirty seconds ... then you move it away again -- it was such a tedious dance that at times I considered just forgetting the whole thing. Why did I have to talk a girl into letting me remove her bra, when Helen, the twenty-year-old, had pulled off my boxers with one foot while twining against me? I didn't want to have to persuade or coerce girls. I didn't want to verbally champion sex. I was sixteen years old; there were enough hormones in my bloodstream to kill an adult rhinoceros. I just wanted to get laid.
A few years later, when I moved to New York City, that sense of impatience and frustration was gone. College had bled some of it out of me; like it did for many people, the four years satisfied a lot of deferred adolescent longings. Falling in love and then messily falling out of love had also gone a long way to exacting a little emotional development. All of that strange and deadly seriousness of young ardor, the juvenile earnestness, the heartfelt silliness ... it had thoroughly worn me out. So once the heartache had subsided, and I was ready to begin dating again, I found that, given the choice, I now preferred the company of older women.
Luckily, I was living in a city with perhaps the most beautiful and sophisticated women in the world. And as I started to meet some of them, I discovered what seemed to be a charming, relatively new phenomenon: as much as I and my friends were attracted to older women, they were also attracted to us. It was a little hard to believe. We were broke, we had annoying roommates and incriminating video-game consoles, we needed better haircuts, better jobs, better facial hair -- and just out of mercy someone should have carried our wardrobes into a field and burned them. But the older, richer, more worldly women we were dating weren't complaining. Complaining? They enjoyed the eroticism of slumming it. In the morning, they'd step over the passed-out friend of a friend on the couch and tactfully ignore the copy of The Onion in the bathroom.
Of course, "older" is a relative term. When you're twenty-two, who isn't older? The women I was meeting were in their late twenties or early thirties, hardly Harold and Maude territory ...The Bastard on the Couch
Posted October 9, 2013
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