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 Iíve covered a lot of topics in this meandering mess of a series, but Iíve found one aspect of the human condition near impossible for me to write about: sex. I just canít write a sentence about it without cracking a lame, backpedaling joke or hitting delete immediately before anyone has a chance to make fun of me.

Iím not sure why that is. I enjoy sex. Quite a bit, actually. I might even say, if I dare, that sex is somewhat of a driving force behind many of my decisions in life. Certainly more so than my cat, and Iíve sure written a lot about him. I donít consider myself a prude, far from it. Itís just ... I dunno ... itís hard writing about sex. What seems majestic and earth-shaking at the time comes across ridiculous in print. I canít fathom how people write those dime-store novels with a shirtless Fabio on the cover, with titles like To Tame a Texan. I mean, could you type ďHis brawny, sweating chest glistened as he ripped off her blouse and caressed her supple, ripe breasts. She found herself flush with desireĒ with a straight face? I sure canít.

A couple of months ago, as a practice session intended to help correct this writing deficiency, I sat down to write a 2,000-word piece about my most recent intense, powerful sexual experience. To make sure I got in the groove, I drank about a quart of Dewarís, shut off all the lights and cranked up Motley Crueís Dr. Feelgood (when writing about love, try Miles Davis; when tackling sex, nothing but the Crue will do). Adequately drunk, I tore in and tapped away for about three hours straight, pausing only for three cigarettes and to restart the CD. I didnít read what I wrote until I woke up the next morning. It could not have been more embarrassing if it had been written by one of my former partners with an ax to grind. It read like Garrison Keillor being anally raped by David Foster Wallace. Hereís a tip: When trying to write sexy, avoid the words labyrinthine, perpendicular, snorkel and mayonnaiseish. I beg you to trust me on this one.

A market has sprung in recent years for sex columnists. Weíve actually had a few on Ironminds. People love reading sex columns, but Iím not sure I ever believe them. Itís one thing to be frank and matter-of-fact about sex; itís another entirely to confess the weird shit you do in print, with your name attached. If most of these women (and, of course, theyíre always women; a guyís columns about sex would always have the same predictable, abrupt end, and theyíd all run about 150 words) had sex as often as they claimed, I donít know how theyíd even have time to write their columns. And how real can it be when everyone youíre having sex with knows youíre a sex columnist? I would suspect, knowing most guys, that would be more of a detriment to finding willing subjects than a benefit. (And, come to think of it, if youíre a sex columnist, is it OK to miss deadline because youíre having sex? Is it considered research? What kind of stuff can you write off on your taxes? Do you ever punch a time clock?)

Sex is such a mystery itís a wonder anyone even knows how to do it. You never know who will be into what. Who would have guessed Marv Albert was a biter? Iím reminded of Woody Allenís Manhattan, when Diane Keatonís character tells Woody about her last lover, a ferocious hellion in bed who sent her to heights sheíd never imagined. When we meet him, heís played by Wallace Shawn, the short ďinconceivableĒ bald guy from The Princess Bride. I suspect thatís always the way it works. The hottest girl is often the coldest fish, and the guy who boasts about sex all the time canít get it up.

But two play this game, and itís strange sometimes how two people simply cannot click. Iíve been with people in the past who have surely considered themselves skillful at intercourse, and they appear to know all the right moves. But for whatever reason, we were never quite on the same page. It wasnít her fault, it wasnít mine. (No! It wasnít! Couldnít be!) That thing just wasnít there. Barry Bonds is one of the greatest hitters in baseball history, but he couldnít hit it out of the infield against journeyman lefthander Tony Fossas if he placed it on a tee. Sometimes it just doesnít work, no matter how perfectly matched people seem to be. And, as we all know, when the physical attraction goes, itís all over. We can fake smiles at cocktail parties ... but we canít fake that (though we canít help ourselves from trying). On the flipside, weíve all had that person that we have crazy chemistry with even though they drive us nuts. Sex has a tendency to goad us into abandoning all reason and self-preservation. Itís either a not-that-funny joke played by the cosmos or God punishing us for having sex before marriage.

Itís nerve-wracking writing this, you know? It makes me uncomfortable just putting it into words. Once, I had a brief fling with an associate of a few close friends of mine. The Monday after we went out, my friends cornered me and demanded some locker-room talk. I couldnít do it. They peppered me with questions, digging for details, intricacies - they were just friends of hers, but she was pretty, and they had to have wondered - and I gave them nothing. Just stammered, babbled, changed the subject. ďUh, guys, did you see Pedro Martinez stuck out 16 yesterday? Um ... did you see that bill that Clinton signed? Man, that weather ... how about that weather?Ē

It didnít feel right, reporting back details. It never does. People look at the sex other people have far more dispassionately than they do their own. Personally, we have this notion that sex is supposed to be this sacred, two-become-one experience that is deeply profound, and we hold out for that ideal, but when we imagine others having sex, itís either repulsive or just a manipulation of genitals. And both views are right, of course. We never truly and irrationally surrender ourselves to sex - I submit the condom as Exhibit A - but itís supremely important to us nevertheless. Sex does change everything; itís just that none of us are sure why.

After all, itís only natural, right? Birds do it, bees do it. (Iím thinking of the way the parents of a friend of mine explained sex to him. ďItís like a hug, only it takes longer and youíre tired afterwards.Ē Ladies, you have to agree ... sometimes, that sums it up entirely.) That sex affects us the way it does is a uniquely human thought process, and sometimes I wonder if the rest of the animal kingdom has it right. I witnessed two flies having sex the other day. It went on for about five minutes, which in a flyís lifespan is about four years. I doubt the male fly was bragging to his larvae friends the next day, and I seriously doubt the female fly was upset the male fly didnít call her. (I, naturally, swatted them both. Hey, why do they get to get some?)

Think of it this way: If you and your current mate had never had sex, had never even considered it, how would your relationship be? Is what you learn about your mate during sex worth knowing? Iíve tried to foster an image as a cultured, witty, subtle member of the intelligentsia, but Iím a sweaty, hulking mess when I have sex. It is us at our most open, unguarded, completely bare for another person - a entirely different person! A whole other person! - to witness and comprehend. There is nowhere to hide. That we continue to have sex is a triumph of nature, not our brains. It is safer not to be close. Itís more comfortable keeping it inside.

But look at me ... Iím saying too much. I knew this would happen. Iím giving away my secrets.

It occurs to me ... what is the ďsexiestĒ thing Iíve done? Lemme think ... hmmm ... mulling ... well, there was ... oh, jeez, Will, you canít write that ... no ... seriously, donít ... you wouldnít dare ... what if your parents read this? ... your readers will lose all respect for you ... people will mock you forever ... OK, fine, fuck it: One of my old lovers and I once filmed ourselves. We were both drunk, there was a camcorder in the room, we figured what the hell, weíre young, footloose, fancy-free, all that. Besides, with me, there wouldnít be any worry about running out of tape. It was a sexy, dangerous thing to do at the time, and whenever we talked about it afterwards - only with each other, of course - it never failed to titillate us both. It was exciting and reckless, and certainly worth the trouble. So we thought.

We eventually broke up, obviously, but the tape remained in my possession. Choose to believe me or donít, I could care less, but I swear, I never thought about putting in the VCR again. OK, thatís not quite true; I did once ... but I had no choice.

Two lifelong friends came to visit me in St. Louis once. They stayed a day later than I thought they would, so on the last day of their sojourn, I had to work. They grabbed a case of beer and hung out at my place while I was gone. I thought nothing of it. They returned for New Yearís Eve about three months later, and at the end of the night, the three of us went in my room to artificially scramble our cerebral cortexes. We were giggling through the smoke when one of them stopped abruptly.

ďHey, Will, we gotta tell you something. Youíre going to be pissed,Ē he coughed, still laughing maniacally. ďUh, remember when we were here a few months ago? Well, we got pretty drunk and started watching some of your old tapes. We found this one ...Ē

The next morning, when I finally came out from under the bed, I took a tennis racket and destroyed the tape, admittedly, a bit late. When your friends have witnessed something that inspires the comment, ďum, interesting technique there, Will,Ē itís best to destroy the evidence, and violently.

Hey, check it out ... I think Iím finally writing frankly about sex.

(Ahhh ... about that story I just told ... I made it all up. Not true. Donít believe it. You know those columnists, theyíre always fabricating ... just pretend you didnít read it ...)

Um ... how about those Lakers? Ahem ... boy ... sure is getting warmer outside, isnít it?



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