Take it or leave it.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

THE (SE)X FACTOR

I was born a hopeless romantic. I say hopeless because in today’s world romance seems to have vanished or to exist merely as a mirage so seeking it is a lesson in futility. The more appropriate term perhaps is hopeful romantic, since I wished so badly to be in love, but that was then. By then I mean from the time I was in nursery school until my parents broke up when I was twenty-four. During this time I wanted more than anything to get married. And by now (I am 41) I could easily have gotten hitched a half a dozen times. And been just as many times divorced.

Like most boys, my earliest sexual experiences predated even the presence of another. I think it was Marvin Gaye who awakened the urge within me with his chart-topping tune Sexual Healing, which stormed the airwaves in 1982. I was 9. But it was around this time that I had caught my first glimpse of such girlie magazines as Playboy, Penthouse, Oui, and Hustler, courtesy of my father. Not that dad owned these magazines, not that I know of. He lived an abstemious existence and raised us in accordance with the five human values – truth, non-violence, peace, love and duty. Note that lust is not one of these. But dear ole dad’s friends and clients (he’s an attorney) were loyal subscribers, and when we’d visit their houses for parties his married male friends would leave these magazines by the toilet, not bothering to conceal them. Apparently they felt no guilt or shame about advertising their love of the female form to anyone who came over. Once at a party I locked myself in Barry Himes’ bathroom with a particularly salacious issue of Hustler, one which featured the familiar teacher-student scenario. Mustached man, blonde co-ed. Ruler. Tight clothes. Bulges everywhere. No clothes. Private tutorial first at the desk, then in a bubble bath. Etc. It was studying these images that I first felt my loins stir and become blood engorged. My heart began to palpitate and my cheeks grew flushed and wet with perspiration. This was before I knew how to masturbate so I couldn’t achieve immediate release, and thus the dreaded blue-balls ensued. Ah, the pangs of youth! My mother eventually knocked on the door but I came up with some excuse, tummy upset I think, to buy myself a bit more time. The next time we visited the Himes’ home I made my way to the guest bath and managed to snatch away a particularly titillating shot of a guy performing cunnilingus on a girl – at least his head was in her nether regions. Eighties smut left precious much to the imagination. My mother, who I am now sure made it a habit to root through my desk, found my prized possession and threatened to make me return it which was enough to ensure I’d never pilfer pictures again.

The first time I saw a porno was again courtesy of my father’s friend, another client of his, named Louis (I think). While the guests were outside eating barbecue I asked to remain in the living room watching baseball on TV. From the couch I caught sight of Louis’ impressive collection of VHS videos (this was 1984) and popped a particularly interesting title in and pressed play. While I watched a peeping Tom spy on a couple doing the deed in their bedroom, my whole body stiffened as a surge of adrenaline shot through me like a bolt of lightning. Of course I had to watch with one eye on the hallway leading to the room, in case my parents came to check on me. You can guess what I did when I got home.

By this time I had learned to masturbate from of all people my little brother. He used to sit in front of the TV with his pants off, employing a sawing motion against his sex with the pinkie side of one hand. I tried the same while watching baseball (so no one would guess my intentions), my hand working feverishly beneath the bed covers. With a bit of practice I was able to achieve the desired effect. That same year my brothers and I spent an afternoon in a Jacuzzi at the home of yet another of my father’s friends. We got the idea to press our private parts against the air jets. About a minute of that and I felt a surge in my loins and the release of a lifetime, or what would have been that had my brother Justin not thought to obstruct my pleasure by placing his hand on my penis. He laughed hysterically, as if he knew he had just ruined my first high. A chance at greatness. My first orgasm cruelly interrupted. I think I’m still chasing the perfect one. That was when I was 10.

I didn’t start ejaculating until I had been masturbating regularly for a couple months. Before that I’d experience the penile paroxysms so familiar to a young man, but nothing would issue forth. In common parlance, I’d shoot blanks. Then, after borrowing my mother’s massage device (she used the vibrator to massage away a double chin, or so she said) and placing it to my swollen sex. Not long afterwards I experienced a blissful sensation and what ensued was a curious white substance not unlike sputum. I dabbed my finger and put it to my tongue. Slimy, slightly sweet, quite salty. Not the last time I tasted my own semen. When I was thirteen I learned that my good friend had come down with mononucleosis and among the ways of contracting the viral infection – other than drinking from a water fountain and “licking your palms” (who would do such a thing?) – was from masturbating too much. Seeking to avoid depleting my sperm count I tried to drink my jizm (such a crude term!) but ended up dry-heaving. I don’t know how girls do it. (But I am thankful for it.)

In elementary school my eighth grade teacher, Sister Francis Mary, once told us about a king in England whose countless sexual encounters had driven to an early grave. She proposed a number of ejaculations a man may enjoy before he dies. It may have been 10,000 but I’m not sure so don’t quote me. This was in biology class so I assumed the statement held scientific truth. 10,000. Such an astronomical figure. But doable. That’s climaxing every day for 30 years. Since I was 11 at the time and already enjoying my daily habit, I calculated that if I persisted I’d be dead by the time I hit 40. As I mentioned I’m 41 and still around. Possibly because I decided to cut down on massaging myself. Indeed I once tried to go 2 weeks without “shooting my wad,” just to show how badly I wanted to make the baseball All-Star team. It was my deal with God, who if only He answered my prayers I’d offer my celibacy. But I couldn’t make it through the week. I still made the All-Star team however.

My willpower grew as I got older. By age 14 I was able to abstain for 40 days; by 18 I managed 5 months without self-stimulating (as I took to calling it), although during this time I did ejaculate during sex. (I lost my virginity at the age of 17.) Testosterone levels peak at around age 20, then decline, precipitously for the first decade (the 20s), then gradually from age 30 onwards. With a reduction in testosterone comes a decrease in sex drive, making abstaining from masturbation (and for that matter sex) ever easier. I have currently gone without sex for nine months, and not masturbated for nearly half a year, breaking my previous personal best. Nevertheless the body may have a physiological need to ejaculate at least on occasion. During this period of celibacy I have had two episodes of nocturnal emission. Wet dreams as they are called hadn’t occurred since I was in my early teens with my hormones on the rise. As to why now it’s hard to explain. The body recycles sperm that has not been ejected after a few months, to keep the stores fresh. But maybe ejaculating is a way to, I don’t know, clean the pipes. There must be a medical explanation but I never learned it in school. Anyway, masturbation always left me feeling guilty, probably because we were told as children that as a form of premarital sex “spanking the monkey” is a mortal sin (punishable unless confessed with an eternity in hell, yikes!). A wet dream achieves the end of masturbation (the release) but since it is not intentional there is no guilt. And it feels pretty good to be awakened from sleep by an orgasm. In an out-of-body, otherworldly sort of way.

That my sexual awakening coincided with the onset of puberty is common to most young men. In fact I had quite a love affair with myself during my teens and early twenties. A little alone time in the bathroom, the applied science of manual dexterity, the benefit of my imagination, perhaps an erotic image or two, and voila I was able to keep the crazed monkey of sexual desire in its cage. Curiously there are many chemicals released in the body during ejaculation. These include adrenaline, which dilates blood vessels, makes your heart pound, and gives that feeling of exhilaration associated with sexual stimulation; phenylethylamine triggers dopamine release in the pleasure centers of the brain, overwhelming you with bliss, attraction, and excitement; testosterone, which is responsible for that rush of confidence that comes after sex; serotonin, a natural anti-depressant, makes you feel cheerful, hopeful, emotionally balanced, and content – if a bit sleepy. The body is a natural pharmacy waiting to release powerful chemicals otherwise obtainable through drugs, gambling, sky-diving, and other risk-taking behaviors. All you have to do is press the fleshy magic button. It’s not against the law (like drugs and gambling), nor is it life-threatening (like extreme sports), unless you have a pre-existing heart condition – as did my grandfather, who died in the act of coitus. One might argue that there is no better way to exit this world than with a literal bang. . . .

Indeed so powerful are the endorphins (natural pain-relievers) flooding the body during ejaculation that once when I had injured my back playing soccer and decided to masturbate, during the several seconds of climax I was able to move my torso side to side and back and forth (movements so necessary to the rhythmic thrusting motion of the pelvis) without so much as a twinge of discomfort. Sexual healing. I was making Marvin Gaye proud.

But it’s worth mentioning that the same feel-good chemicals as are released in orgasm also flood your body with laughter, which may be the best remedy, less complicated, and certainly less messy.

Long before I was sexual, even before I heard that song, I was a romantic through and through. My first great love was Tabitha. She was a first-grader who used to visit the nursery school I attended. I think her mother was a teacher there. She’d sit and have lunch with us and I’d always bring a snack to trade with her. Usually cheese and crackers or fruit roll-ups. From then on, I had a series of crushes but in 3rd grade I fell in love with Jennifer Hall. Blonde, blue-eyed, and two years my senior, she was a fellow student at Bellagio Road elementary school. One day I scribbled a list of three names of boys in the school, myself being one of them, and asked my friend Greg Houle to deliver the list to Jennifer Hall and request that she rank us from 1st to 3rd in terms of looks. I ranked second. First place honors belonged to a boy in her grade. At that age, two years is a lifetime. How could I compete? For the most part my thoughts of Jennifer were pure, but Marvin Gaye’s titillating ditty awakened something curious in me. He sang of romance mingled with love, sex as medicine, a rush to relieve the mind, and in the song the two worlds - my crushes on girls and my solitary sexual fantasies and mysterious urgings - were united as one.

And the question arose: Could I have love and sex both in the same female?

Christina was my first official girlfriend. I was in the seventh grade, she was in sixth. Our “dates” were limited to after-school kissing in whatever nook or cranny we could steal away to, out of sight of the ever-vigilant nuns. That summer I learned Christina had had her first period. She was three months shy of her 12th birthday. They say Latin girls mature rapidly. (Christina was Colombian.) We promised each other we would one day get married. Our mothers were friendly and allowed us our romantic fantasies, which I’m sure they found quite droll. And they call it puppy love. . . . Christina and I went steady until I graduated the eighth grade. As a graduation present my parents let her spend the night at our house, provided she sleep in the living room. Of course when everyone turned in and the lights went out I snuck in there to be with her. My mother had loaned Christina a red cotton pull-over which was very form-fitting and revealed her legs up to mid-thigh. Earlier that evening I had watched the movie About Last Night. If you don’t want your 14-year-old boy to rev his engine before his 12-year-old fertile girlfriend comes over, don’t let him watch this film. Unless you want grandkids. Or do let him. We all need to start somewhere, and what better place to begin the amorous adventure than in the home? Rob Lowe and Demi Moore had some of the most vivid and erotic love-making scenes of R-rated 80’s film. And by the time Christina arrived I was a walking erection. Alone together for the first time in the quiet of the night, I attempted to put my finger between her legs and beneath her panties. I was in a world of firsts. She told me, “Don’t Adam, you’ll just get lost down there.” These words couldn’t have been more true, and I wonder if they still are. Enter the gates between a girl’s legs and be expelled from the garden of Eden. Eat from the tree of knowledge, know a girl carnally, and say goodbye to innocence. Maybe this is the former altar boy in me talking. But at the time I was intrepid (and horny). After we had made out for what seemed like an eternity, Christina said, almost in a whine, that she wanted so badly to have sex. It would have been ungentlemanly of me not to comply. I began rubbing against her with such ambition (dry humping is the rather pedestrian term) that I ejaculated in my sweatpants. Talk about boiling over with enthusiasm. I excused myself abruptly, cleaned myself off and locked myself in my room, where I buried my head beneath the covers and went to sleep. I never told Christina the reason for my early exit (pardon the pun). Communication was not my strong suit I guess, and I was embarrassed.

Our puppy love ended by the time I began high school in the fall. Loyola is an all-boys parochial school, and girls (being nonexistent) took a backseat to studies and sports. Of course there still was masturbation. But most of my friends were from Beverly Hills where I played baseball, and my teammates had girlfriends, and their girlfriends had friends, and before I was even 16 I was sleeping over Linda Atri’s house the night before games and we were rolling around in the hay when her parents were away. She had my sex pressed to her lips and said, “You know you like this.” It seemed so arrogant an expression that I lost the attraction, and we broke up before we could devirginize each other. I always wanted to be a girl’s first, and that was the closest I’d ever get.

I had my own first two years later, with Neysa. I had just turned 17. She was the same age but had already been with a dozen or so guys, and one girl. By then I had seen enough movies of the R and X variety to learn the moves, and I pulled it off so well Neysa swore it couldn’t have been my first time. But it was. By the end of high school I had been with four girls. College brought a prolonged period of celibacy, about 2 ½ years. I had been studying Hinduism, and one of the stages a young man passes through is that of brahmacharya, corresponding to the educational period between the ages of 14 and 20. Among other requirements, the student is to abstain from sex. I imagined myself a brahmacharya, although I continued to masturbate whenever the urge seized me, every few days or so. Then came a brief (year-long) amorous affair with a girl I had known in high school. We were very attracted to each other physically, but after a few months sex had become a ritual, required and sort of tired. I suggested we take a month off to let the fire of desire grow. Of course she took offense, reading into it and thinking I was no longer attracted to her. This is where sex began bringing problems, and making me wonder whether love and sex could coexist in the same couple. Could I be a girl’s friend and also her lover? They say a guy and a girl can never just be friends, that one or the other has romantic feelings, or both. And my experience was proving this true. But can a guy and a girl be lovers without it blowing up in one’s face?

My twenties and some of my thirties were spent in a series of more or less casual relationships in which sex played a pretty central part. I got it into my mind to be with as many girls as my age in years, and since I had only carnally known seven or eight women by my college graduation I had some catching up to do. Most of the relationships were stormy, many were brief, and I am no longer in contact with any of the girls. I managed to fulfill my girl-per-year quota (that sounds so cheap!), dated a girl for every letter of the alphabet, all the zodiac signs, different races and creeds, but one thing was invariably true: They all ended with some degree of disappointment if not downright disaster.

I began to wonder if it wasn’t more trouble than it was worth, the whole romance thing, as along the way I got a girl pregnant, became engaged to another, lived with a third, and for all the romantic dinners and days at the beach there was often more frustration than frivolity. I used to fantasize about having a wife, not to have someone to share my dreams with, or to be the mother of my kids, but whose panties would be in my bedroom hamper for me to sniff at any time. That’s a guy who shouldn’t get married, you say. Why this desire? Had I been a dog in a former life?

As the years went by sex happened sooner and sooner on (often on the first date), and had become more and more casual and less fulfilling. Indeed the best sex was probably with Sheri, who years after we had been together I found out had become a lesbian. Speaking of lesbians, the closest I’ve ever come to being strictly friends with a woman, to proving untrue the adage that man and woman cannot be just friends, came in a relationship I had with a lesbian. But I didn’t know Mariama was “that way” when we started hanging out, and we even kissed a few times before she let on that she was more interested in girls than I or me. And the time we spent together, often at girl bars, could be characterized as my drawn out attempt to make her fall for me. It didn’t work. She got a girlfriend. I got a girlfriend. We no longer speak.

And that’s just the thing. Friendships, for me at least, are defined by what friends do together. With my guy friends it was always about getting together and doing guy stuff - playing video games, sports, pursuing girls, surfing, lifting weights. But what do a guy and a girl do when they get together? Have sex. Sure, it’s nice to talk, but to me talk is cheap, and I tire of conversation rather quickly (unless I meet a person who really intrigues me, which I hardly ever do!). If I want words, I pick up a book, or write one myself. But the thing is, the older I get, the more comfortable I am spending time alone, and the fewer the activities I engage in which require the company of another. I run, a solitary pursuit. I read and write, also best done alone. And as they say conversation is the enemy of good food, so out the door go romantic dinners. If I am seized by the desire to ejaculate, Rosy Palm is at my beck and call. And these days I’d just as soon refrain. Besides, some schools view ejaculation as depleting one’s sexual energy and thereby explain the fact that women (who unlike men do not lose their seed with orgasm but only with menstruation) outlive men by over five years. So saving sperm can’t hurt and might extend my life, albeit one in which I am alone and asexual, which to some is not a life worth living, I recognize.

By the end of my most recent “serious” relationship, which lasted nearly four years, one of which was spent living together, we both agreed (as we saw the end coming, and you always do) that if we never spoke after breaking up it would be because we had had sex. You can say your partner is your best friend, but best friends don’t break up (probably because they don’t have sex?). Have sex with someone and you can assure it will be stormy and you will be strangers when all is said and done. Strangers if you’re lucky. You might wind up hating each other. But friends? That’s consistency. My ex had many gay boyfriends who predated our relationship and I knew would outlive it, if for no other reason than she and they had never been naked, had never known penetration. If things never get too intense, they never blow up. Things just stay at that even keel. Slow steady flame, like. But you could argue that all associations need not be permanent, that if sex shortens the lifespan of a friendship, but is fun while it’s done, then the ride is worth the fall and new friends are easy to find.

Everybody knows the divorcees who despise each other or at least refuse to speak, and when you’re looking where to place the blame sex is an easy target, but there is no ignoring the fact that sex offers the opportunity to get to know someone inside and out and every square inch. And that opportunity, perhaps because it is so rare and surely because it is quite pleasurable, entices to no end. No sport other than sex do you play naked, the partner’s body being the playing field. God that’s exciting.

Nevertheless, if it’s merely about getting one’s rocks off, a bottle of lotion and some Kleenex and a few deft strokes and in a moment or two in privacy and boom! you’re done. Why go through all the trouble, all the dates, and dinners, and disagreements, for a little roll in the hay? Perhaps sex should not be the main course but the cherry on the dessert of an otherwise satisfying friendship. Because if a five-minute romp is the focus of it all, it’s not worth it. Self-stimulation, even celibacy, is a far better option. Because massage parlors are too seedy, and brothels cost too much.

Don’t think I’m being cynical. Remember the hopeful romantic I used to be. I think my whole romantic life has been spent proving the truth of a song that was popular when I was fourteen and dating Christina. Friends and Lovers was the title, perhaps you remember it? The most memorable line: “I’ll be your friend, and I’ll be your lover. ‘Cause I know in my heart we agree we don’t have to be one or the other, we can be both to each other.”

Which brings me to the present. How would I describe things now? I’m sort of leaning over the abyss, really. Relationships seem to be a dead end. Either they end in a(n often tumultuous) break-up with one or both parties frustrated and broken-hearted, or the lovers wind up in a “successful” marriage (read: they stay together), where the man becomes a beast of burden, the wife naggy and demanding, the romance sucked dry, and which judging from the outside looks like a jail sentence maintained out of fear, convenience, or habit. I speak with authority. Although I’ve never been married, I have close friends who are, and I’ve stopped visiting them because that’s how it seemed.

What place does the pleasure of sex have in a romantic relationship? A necessary one, if you want kids of your own. Ask a man of the cloth (I did) and he would add a second purpose: to show love between husband and wife, as long as birth control isn’t used, which takes us back to the first reason. Sex is ultimately for procreation. What if you don’t want kids, or to get married, but still want to enjoy the pleasures of another’s body without the pitfalls? Should the boon of physical union be reserved only for those united in holy matrimony? Of course it’s not, since so many have casual sex, and as you now know I have had a lot of my own.

Now that we know the position of the Catholic Church, what do the sages say, those mystics from around the globe who have subdued their senses and seen through the mystery of life to the essence of all that is? Many advise celibacy. Take Swami Prabhupada, master of the Vedas who lectured around the world and founded the Hare Krishna movement. Abstaining from sex is essential for one on the spiritual path, he maintained, and since the purpose of life is to realize the divinity that shines from within, everyone should be spiritual, and therefore celibate, unless actively engaged in the conception of children. The other no-nos are alcohol and other intoxicants (tobacco, drugs, even caffeine), gambling and eating meat. Funky hairstyle optional. Prabhupada’s insistence that followers shun the pleasures of sex is in line with the brahmacharya stage of life I mentioned above, only the spiritual aspirant is to abstain for life. Even if he is married. Well, that’s one person’s view.

But there are others. Take Osho, aka Rajneesh. In his book, The Way of the Clouds, on page 109, he states: “In your love, fear is always there. The husband is afraid of the wife, the wife is afraid of the husband. Lovers are always afraid. Then it is not love, then it is just an arrangement of two fearful persons depending on each other, fighting, exploiting, manipulating, controlling, dominating, possessing – but it is not love.”

See, this is what I see going on all around me!

But Osho continues: “If you can allow love to happen there is no need for prayer, there is no need for meditation, there is no need for any church, any temple. You can completely forget God if you can love, because through love everything will have happened to you: meditation, prayer, God, everything will have happened to you.”

That, according to Osho, is the potential of Earthly love (presumably even with the sex). But so few seem to realize it! All’s fair in love and war, and the battle of the sexes rages on.

As Osho saw it, to the fair sex (women) God is love, and since the purpose of life is Self-realization, the Self being synonymous with God, women seek to know God through love in the arms of a man. Men, being of nature more solitary and less inclined to partnership and family, grow spiritually through meditation, discrimination, introspection. Thus arises the age-old conflict of interest. But men want sex. Testosterone is the sex hormone, and guys have it in spades. And so they are often cajoled into a romantic union, either by the prospect of regular intercourse, clean laundry, and tasty food, or by the desire to have children to carry on their family name. And too often what happens is the woman’s desires (for God realization through companionship) and the man’s desires (for sex) distract the man from the solitude that his soul would seem to require, and he is irritated, and she is hurt. Matrimony is the field where a woman can grow spiritually, and indeed the life of a householder is believed even by the sages to be harder than the solitary life of the monk, but what happens is it becomes a poisonous, toxic environment that not only kills love but kills the couple. They say women thrive in marriage. Well, not if you look at the stats, which show that a married woman’s lifespan is actually a few years shorter than her single counterpart’s.

And then there is the spiritualist Jiddu Krishnamurti, who states on page 222 of his book on relationships: “There is pleasure, sexual pleasure, in which there is jealousy, the possessive factor, the dominating factor, the desire to possess, to hold, to control, to interfere with what another thinks. Knowing all the complexity of this, we say that there must be love that is divine, that is beautiful, untouched, uncorrupted; we meditate about it and get into a devotional, sentimental, emotional attitude, and are lost. Because we can’t fathom this human thing called love we run away into abstractions that have absolutely no validity at all. . . .

“The religious saints, unfortunately for mankind, have established that to love a woman is something totally wrong; you cannot possibly come near their idea of God if you love someone. That is, sex is taboo; it is pushed aside by the saints, but they are eaten up with it, generally.”

A seeming proponent of romantic relationships, Krishnamurti continues: “You do not say, ‘I love the whole world,’ but when you know how to love one, you know how to love the whole. Because we do not know how to love one, our love of humanity is fictitious. When you love, there is neither one nor many: there is only love. It is only when there is love that all [the world’s] problems can be solved.”

For Krishnamurti sex itself was not an obstacle to love. The act itself was not a problem, only thinking excessively about the act. But this goes for the man that abstains as well, since the celibate who doesn’t have sex but often thinks about it can be termed just as obsessed if not more than the sexually active person who enjoys it for what it is and when it’s done moves on to other areas of life.

Despite their differing views on relationships and sex, both Krishnamurti and Osho were unmarried celibates. Ramakrishna, another sage who as a young man got married before later devoting himself fully to the spiritual path, coexisted with his wife in a platonic relationship rather than divorce. So he was a married celibate. The two were seen as a holy couple. Was their holiness enhanced because of their abstinence? Were their feelings for each other somehow purer than the feelings of their sexually active counterparts, because they stayed together without the incentive that the pleasure of sex provides? I know that I have only felt jealousy and possessiveness towards the girls I have had sex with. But there have been girls I didn’t feel possessive about, even after having sex. There may be a threshold, a certain number of times you have sex with a person after which you view them as part of you and grow anxious at the thought of their being with another. Something for me to think about, and since I’m not thinking about sex, I can spare the time.

But mustn’t one look to the circumstances of birth to determine the path to follow in life? If I were meant to be a celibate, would I not have incarnated perhaps in a village in India, there to spend my days bearded and wearing a loin cloth, absorbed in meditation, like Ramana Maharshi, who I might add is a great hero of mine? But if I was meant to live like a Westerner (and continue to enjoy casual flings) why would I then be exposed to these Hindu heroes, these maharshis and maharajas, Rama, Krishna, Sai Baba, who often shunned sex? Indeed most of the Godmen who have walked this Earth have been celibates, but there are stories of Christ’s having consorted with Mary Magdalene, and Krishna who is the Eastern equivalent if not inspiration for Christ, was quite the womanizer. Tales abound in the Srimad Bhagavatam, which contains volumes devoted almost exclusively to the pastimes of Krishna, that detail his amorous exploits. Therein one can read all about how Krishna enjoyed the pleasures of the flesh with countless women, often at the same time. He’d manifest as multiple versions of himself to be with all the females in the village, while copies of those females fulfilled the domestic duties and satisfied their husbands. Talk about multi-tasking! One passage reads: “Following the ways of the world, encountered by a fair maiden love-lorn, [Krishna] quickly occupied her luxurious bed, and drawing her to him where he had sport with her.” But instead of asking for liberation, which is what you’re supposed to do when in the presence of the Lord on Earth, she asked for him to live with her, a request he fulfilled, but when the allotted time had expired he left and she was known as a fool by asking for the trivial pleasures of the senses. Reading this, one might be tempted to say, “What’s good enough for Krishna…” But it is important to remember that Krishna cavorted with females unattached, enjoying their bodies not for any selfish motive but to fulfill their desires, and once this was done left their sides if their desires were rooted in the senses rather than lifted to the sublime.

The secret it seems is to be detached, to enjoy what comes you way without seeking it, and to let it go when it no longer remains. It is said that without desires you lack nothing, that the wise man seeks no one but enjoys what enters his life unsought. But to make this work, it takes two (wise people, both detached).

For however dispassionate you may be, if your partner feels attachment after love’s embrace and wants to possess you, you can get trapped. And I’ve always felt beholden, not wanting to hurt feelings, and obliged to remain with a woman until she is ready for me to depart, which is often much later than I’d have liked. Sometimes entire years too late.

So the trick lies in a certain carefree lightness of heart – I like the term insouciance - and in finding someone who is willing to play the game of love with the same insouciance, the same lightness, even if the loins get heavy.

At least in theory.

Maybe I haven’t met the one, you say. All I can offer you on that is a shrug. I once read a book entitled Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex. It said that some people prefer masturbation to intercourse. Maybe I’m one of those people. Maybe I’m better off alone.

So far, my life can be summed up as a nearly 30-year experiment to prove true the words of that old song, that two people can be both friends and lovers. But experience has proven me wrong. Friends or lovers. Choose one, because to find both in the same person is just not possible. In short, I have failed. But I must say that failure has never been so much fun!

Which I suppose is the point of it all anyway. The ancients talk about samsara, the endless cycle of birth and death that humans endure, over lifetimes and lifetimes, with its alternating bouts of pleasure and pain. And why? God is said to have created the world for sport. It is His leela, or divine game. And so it all boils down to having a good time (even when you think you’re not.)

Going back to Osho, who also said: “The body will be taken away by death. Before it is taken away why not share it? That is the only way of possessing it. If you can share and give you are the master.”

Of course, his more orthodox counterparts would counter with something to the effect of: “Pampering the body and catering to the senses only increase attachment to the earthly realm, which is ultimately unreal and to be rejected for the reality that transcends the senses and alone is. So practice celibacy.”

After a while reading so many books and thinking all these thoughts just get confusing.

I suppose I must go back to forging my own way.

There’s this really special girl, you see. She’s a friend. Or maybe a lover? But surely not both?

Oh, here we go again!

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