“On Marty’s right was dear old Mom, who was once very attractive and bright. Now, at forty-seven, she was overweight, drank more than was good for her and had more food on her plate than anyone else.”
I wasn’t trying to have sex with Christine, but I wasn’t opposed to it. She was in town visiting from some far off country where she had gotten a job teaching English, picked up a relationship, burnt through it, and came back to her hometown to regroup before doing it all again. She’d come back home for gift cards and praise, complementing her courageous and free spirit, to have a few parties in her honor- maybe hook up with some old flames- and leave before it all started feeling too familiar. I never left our hometown; I was neither courageous nor a free spirit.
We were the first generation to explore our late-twenties as unmarried. As it turns out, this only extends adolescence, creates expectations that life won’t likely meet, and gives you a handful of addictions to grapple with for the next decade. If you’re lucky, you’ll have your head screwed on by forty and then spend the rest of your life playing catch-up like you’re running out of time on a level of Super Mario Bros. (1985)– the background music fast and anxious so you don’t forget.
The first generation where men and women can just be friends– where the sexes aren’t diametrically opposed, constantly playing out like Biff Tannen chasing Lorraine; the perpetual antagonist meeting the perpetually antagonized- until one is stubborn enough to give in. Christine was coming over for drinks, and I knew that sometimes, men and women had sex- even as friends, even if I hadn’t ever experienced that myself.
I’d had girlfriends, and I’d had dates- I’d had dates that turned into girlfriends, and dates that turned into sex, but never a friend with supposed benefits. While I knew what these benefits were, I wasn’t exactly sure how they were secured- nothing about a friendship screamed sex, that kind of dangerous, animalistic tension; this was more like a cockerspainel playdate.
But friends had sex- I was sure there was a precedent for this- and I wasn’t opposed to having sex with Christine. Men don’t waste time with women they don’t vaguely want sex with- and this was probably the bulk of guys lining up to make plans with Christine.
It’s not that she was ugly, she was just painfully average. Never the prettiest in any group photo she’s taken, she had a kind of toothy smile and an uncharacteristically flat nose for an Irish girl. Perpetually twenty-pounds overweight, but it usually “went to her chest”- a luxury men don’t have. We went to the same high school, and in another time and place it wouldn’t have been such a far-off idea that we’d have married. The same kind of unremarkable, though not necessarily undesirable, aesthetics would’ve produced some equally average kids- who’d have gone to the same school as us, played on the sports teams we were too cool to join, and gotten eventual office jobs, meeting their own unremarkable mates, and starting the process over again. Not bad at all, just unremarkable.
Of course, Christine and I thought we were too special for that trajectory. It wasn’t cool to marry young, and definitely uncool to have kids before experiencing life– as if having children were a death sentence. How else would you have these drunken nights, anyway?
We didn’t have sex, that notion died fairly early in the evening, and it shocked me when she told me about the kind of guys who were having sex with her. Cool guys, athletic guys, rock band guys, frat guys- guys whom I’d have thought wouldn’t waste their time on Christine- someone who was a vague, “I guess if it just happens” type of notion for me. She’d spend more time talking about the ones who must’ve gotten her goat- they were always little boys with small dicks.
I didn’t know it then, but I’d made the mistake of thinking men and women could be friends in the first place. Just like I was only hanging out with her because you never know, she wasn’t really looking to have a genuine conversation with me. When she first gave me her phone number back in high school, my father sat me down, after overhearing one of our endless phone calls, to tell me that none of the girls that I was just friends with would ever want to be my girlfriend, and I still feel guilty for reacting like a total shit to what must have been a difficult conversation for him to have because I was fucking embarrassed… and just like always, she was using me as an audience to complain about boys who’d fuck her but not want to date her, while not wanting either with me. My father was right.
But, even if sex would have been vaguely welcome, it wasn’t pressing- I genuinely thought we were old friends first and, and as single friends in their mid-twenties, we were talking shop about the complex sport of male/female relations. She brought up small dicks, so I had mentioned, in passing, that guys with small dicks should just match up with smaller women who have smaller vaginas.
Her face turned red, and she shouted “all vaginas are the same size!”
Christine didn’t end up marrying one of her Biffs. A few years later she met her George McFly, an Asian boy with a nice smile, gained thirty pounds and started having kids. Her last great adventure, she told me, the last time I’d probably ever talk to her too- and I let those words settle into the atmosphere. I didn’t want to screw Christine anymore so there wasn’t much reason to keep up the conversation.