An ethics-oriented weblog celebrating effective altruism, philosophy, and other beliefs Eric holds. Also: a place to post random thoughts.
09 September, 2012
The Most Important Thing (For a Young Man)
I would have been in the class of '99, had I not dropped out of school. It was an interesting time period to grow up in. I was introduced to the internet via America OnLine at age 13, so I was among the last generation in our world's history to have first-hand experience of life both with and without internet at a young age.
The most important event in my life definitely has to have been my turn to philosophy. It is philosophy that encouraged me to reevaluate my value system, become a better person, and live my life in a way in which I can be proud. But this all happened many years later. Back then, when I was young, the most important thing was definitely sex.
Sex was something that was simultaneously exalted and demonized in the culture I grew up in. As a child, my parents never allowed me to watch movies with nudity, though movies with extreme violence was always perfectly okay. Yet at the same time, sex was all the culture around me ever seemed to talk about. For example, the Soviet Union collapsed while I was a child--it was an event so momentous that it forever changed the entire tenor of the world thereafter--yet I remember none of it. All I remember from those years is peers talking about sex, television talking about sex, and guardian figures insisting that I not be exposed to sex.
The constant nature of the sex issue in my young life really made me view sex as something I had to experience sooner rather than later. It seemed, to my young mind, that all my peers were having sex constantly, even while I was still a virgin. (I now realize, of course, that this view was mostly mistaken.) Yet there was nothing I could do to get sex. I was the smart kid. I was the teacher's pet. The nerd whom I felt nobody would deign to be with. So I never even tried.
Then, at twelve years of age, an opportunity arose. I went to a new summer school, where nobody knew whom I was. It was a boarding school, so every single person around me was new, and no one had preconceived notions about me in any way. But I was still shy, and had no idea how to branch out. So I laid low, avoiding the terror of receiving a reputation for being a teacher's pet. I stayed back and hid in the crowd, watching how the other students behaved. It was far more educational than you might think.
When regular school started up again, I felt wiser and more confidant. I had gone through the whole summer without being thought of as the nerd in the group (back then, being the 'nerd' was still a very bad stigma), and had actually gone so far as to get very close to girls, though never quite close enough to actually touch them. As creepy as this sounds, my proudest moment back then was going to to the movies with a dozen fellow students and getting to sit next to a girl whose name I did not even know. After the film ended, she stood up and bent down to get her purse, putting her ass directly in front of my face. It was an experience I could not get out of my mind for weeks.
So my optimism was understandably raised even when I was back in regular school, well known as the class nerd. I knew that even if nothing happened all year, at least I had confidence that as soon as I started summer school again, I would immediately make my move.
Perhaps this confidence is why things started to happen for me even in regular school. My first non-accidental sexual touch was a thinly veiled situation lasting no longer than ten seconds with a person that I'd had a crush on for three years. R— was a track and field runner, and she was well aware of how much of a crush I had on her. She had used my feelings for years, getting me to let her "borrow" money for school lunch nearly every week, though I never got paid back. Perhaps on this particular day she was feeling generous; or maybe she just needed the ego boost. But for whatever reason, when she and I found ourselves alone in a room together right before she was going to go do her daily run on the track after school, she said: "Running track all the time really builds my leg muscles. Want to feel?" And with that, she pushed up her short shorts even higher than they already were and guided my hand to her thigh. I felt for a full ten seconds, taking in the experience in a manner that seems silly to those of us who now get to enjoy sex whenever we so please. When it was over, she left me alone in the room to go start her run, but I stayed in that same position for many minutes longer, savoring the memory. She was, after all, my second crush (the first having been way back in third grade at age seven).
That event at the end of the school year occupied my mind as my parents dropped me off at boarding school for another summer. I was insistent that I was going to make things happen in this new environment. I could think of nothing else.
So on the very first day, in the very first class, the very first thing I did was take out my journal and start recording the possibilities. I listed every single girl in the class, writing their name down as they called out introductions. With each, I wrote pros and cons, and I ranked them in the order I wanted to make my attempts with. At the very top of the class was L—, the most beautiful girl in the room. I desired her more than anyone else there.
So as soon as class ended and people started streaming out, I stopped by the door and interrupted L— and her group of three friends. "L—," I asked, "can I speak with you for a second?" Her friends giggled as they left her behind, and I built up my courage as we stayed in the classroom. "L—, would you like to go out with me?"
What a momentous occasion it was. I had never before uttered such words aloud, and I could never have dreamed of asking out anyone prior to that day. But this was a brand new place, where everyone was different, and I had received no reputation of nerdiness. So perhaps it should not have surprised me that she assented. Nevertheless, I was ecstatic.
I had not really prepared for a yes. All the courage-building had been aimed at getting me to make the ask, not close the deal. I had no idea what to do. So I improvised.
I took her upstairs to a classroom that isn't used during summer school. It was dark and unlikely to attract attention. I figured it was safe to begin a relationship there. I told her nothing about me or my past. Nothing about my tastes nor desires nor interests. After all, that is not what our relationship was started on. All I knew was that she was the most beautiful girl in the room. All she knew was that I asked her out and she had somehow said yes. For her part, she was terribly shy. She said almost nothing except giving soft assent in a southern accent. To almost every question I asked of her, the answer was a light "umkay."
Our nearly wordless relationship began its first five minutes with her sitting at a desk in this dark classroom with my hands massaging her back. I was too scared to do anything more; after all, this was my first real time with a girlfriend of any kind. But through luck (good or ill), her shirt bunched up a bit as I moved my hand down her lower back, and when my hand moved up again, I found myself accidentally touching not her shirt, but bare skin.
As my hand glided across the back of her bra, I found myself confused even while I was exhilarated. Why was she still sitting so perfectly still? Wasn't she going to react to this accident? Wasn't she going to stop me from going further?
It was then, in that very moment, not five minutes into the relationship, that I decided that I would see how far I could take it.
My hands started wandering. Though her shirt stayed on, my hands underneath it began exploring not just her back but her sides as well. I inched my way toward her breasts, alternating every forward movement with caresses further away. How odd, I thought to myself, that she is actually allowing me to do this. Had I been wrong all along about how girls would react to such overtures? My mind raced even as I started kissing her midsection and running my fingers over the top of her bra.
This was my first real sexual experience. It was more—much more—than I had even imagined it would be. I was only thirteen years old, while she was but twelve. Her breasts were still small, but her body excited me beyond all measure. My extremities trembled with excitement as I slowly removed her bra and began kissing her breasts, running my tongue across her areola. She had still said less than four words in our entire relationship thus far: "Umkay." and "Hi, Eric.". She was still sitting at that classroom desk doing her very best to not betray the pleasure I was giving to her. She was too embarrassed, I think, to say much of anything to me, nor even to move out of fear that it would break the spell. So she sat there and just allowed me to touch her and kiss her everywhere. I was in heaven.
After an hour, my alarm went off, and we had to go to our next morning class. Still saying nothing, she put back on her bra and we walked hand in hand to class, sitting next to each other and spending the entire class just touching. I did not even hear a single thing the teacher was talking about; instead, all of my attention was on her back, which my hand constantly caressed for the entire hour. As soon as class ended, we retired again to an isolated place and I continued to partake of her body, tasting her skin and rubbing her everywhere I knew how.
It was a glorious half week of pure pleasure. Unfortunately, boarding schools for children of our age had strict rules on allowing persons of the opposite gender in each others' rooms. Sexual contact with her in soundproof piano booths and abandoned classrooms was great, but I wanted also to be able to be with her in my bed. School officials weren't very happy about this, and after multiple violations, both L— and I were expelled.
And yet, even with being expelled, I still nevertheless felt like the relationship was the best thing that had ever happened to me. I felt like I could do anything. Life immediately started turning around. I got up the courage not only to ask out girls I thought interesting for their looks, but also girls I thought interesting from the books they read. I specialized in girls with no sexual experience, as I felt comfortable in that role after my first sexual encounter, but I also branched out to interacting with girls who were already comfortable with me touching them in various ways.
Yet no one ever really clicked. With some, the issue was how dumb they were -- I was okay with L— having never talked because I knew she had to have been smart even to just get into a boarding school like that. But B—, for example, was a moron in every category save kissing. With others, the issue was (sadly) cultural. One girl I felt up was a relative of mine, and was obviously someone I did not really wish to start an ongoing sexual relationship with. Another girl was great in every way for me except for the fact that others would make fun of me if I spent time with her. I was not yet independent enough back then to realize that what others thought truly did not matter, so my relationship with her was always a balance of me wanting desperately to be closer to her against the countervailing force of wanting to not be made fun of by others.
Yet with all these dalliances, one main issue remained that kept holding me back. These were all people that everyone already knew. I had a reputation here, in regular school, and it was tough to get past. So when I met the new arrival from out of town, I knew instantly that this was who I needed to latch onto.
A— was gorgeous, with a perfect figure, large breasts, long blonde hair, and a neverending smile. Her large eyes glistened as we first met, and I entered her into the school computers. As the office assistant, I was able to fill out the forms for the classes she wanted to take and the home address and emergency phone numbers. Everything I saw that day made me happy. I not only had her number, but also I immediately learned she was in the highest level classes. It was exactly what I had been looking for. Best of all, she was unaware of my "nerd" reputation, and I was the first student her age that she saw in the entire school. Needless to say, after entering her into the school records, I asked her out. She said yes.
A— was my first long term relationship. We fucked like rabbits. Being a good church volunteer, A— had the keys to a local church and could go there anytime. It became one of our go-to spots where we would make love for hours on end. We fucked in pews, on the altar, and even in the absolute pitch black that was the inner bible study room. Other times, we made love in my parents' house while they were away, trying out just about everything we could think of to do with our various sexual organs. But perhaps the most memorable for me were the times that I, as a boy too young to be able to drive a car legally, would sneak out my bedroom window and walk multiple miles just to be able to have sex all night long in her bedroom. It was definitely worth the walk both ways.
It wasn't long before I began a polyamorous lifestyle. I met a lot of people over the years, some of which I'm proud of; others that I regret spending time with. Each relationship was different, with some healthy, and (unfortunately) many more unhealthy. I did a lot in those days, mostly because it was what I wanted at the time. Looking back on most of it is a sad experience for me today. My priorities were just too upside down. My first threesome was solely so that I could experience it; I didn't even particularly enjoy the experience. Later, I learned to enjoy such things by focusing on the moment, rather than on the idea that I finally will have done it — a strange distinction to the uninitiated, but an important one for me to come to understand. I was paid for sex once; I also ended up volunteering quite a bit of time to helping out the sex worker community via web work. In one surreal experience, I once met someone new, initiated sex before ten minutes had passed, and ended up moving in by the end of the day. Obviously, some of these are embarrassing. Others I feel a minute amount of pride in. But in every case, the distinctive thing that went through my head was the base idea that the most important thing for me at that time was sexual exploration.
It really wasn't until after I encountered philosophy for the first time that this drive diminished. I can't even claim that philosophy was the primary cause — I stopped being so preoccupied about sex a matter of weeks before my introduction to philosophy. Yet I think I can credit philosophy with filling the head space that sex once held in my mind. Today, the most important thing is philosophy. I've even had a year long romantic relationship with an asexual person, to no real ill effects on my psyche. I suppose this is partly because I am no longer a young man. At 31 years of age, I may still be young, and I may still be a man, but the vagaries of word use dictates that I am far past being a "young man". Sex is still important to me, of course, but it has become a need that can be fulfilled in the background of my life, rather than as the prime motivation for most of actions.
I have matured, and now live vicariously through my mind, rather than my body. I wonder what a young me would think of how I've changed.
Posted by Eric Herboso at Sunday, September 09, 2012
Labels: life, philosophy, polyamory
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