*Girl not included.
“Women cannot complain about men any more until they start getting better taste in them.”
There’s one episode from my distant past that I’ve put off sharing, partly because most of the details are blurry, and partly because the few that aren’t are, shall we say, near the knuckle. On the other hand, it was a pivotal moment in my sexual development, so share I shall.
It was a blistering hot summer’s day in 1985. Or possibly 1986. My friend Ady – the absurdly good-looking bastard – was visiting for a couple of days, and teenage boredom had driven us out of our minds and on to the mean streets of Wroughton. We loitered at the shops, dallied in the playing fields, and were on our way to dawdle at the weir when bumped into a girl.
Now, Wroughton is a big village, by village standards (population: 7,000), but since I’d lived there for seven years, attended the only school for miles around, and spent every moment not essential for the completion of homework out of the house, I thought I knew pretty much everyone under 18. But this face was unfamiliar.
She was about our age, with golden hair, golden skin and a languid, cocky gait that would have been mesmerising even if she hadn’t been wearing a micro-skirt and a crop top. I was desperate to engage her in conversation, but since I didn’t know her, and struggled to elicit a grunt from the girls I did know, Ady, with his usual maddening nonchalance, engaged her instead.
Pippa, it emerged, was not a Wroughtonite, or even a Swindonian; her parents were divorced, and she was staying with her dad for the holidays. She was every bit as bored as us, and when she heard about our complete lack of plans for the day, she was eager to join in.
And so we three sauntered on, Ady talking about himself, Pippa laughing uproariously, and me shuffling forlornly behind.
I can’t remember whose idea it was to get booze. But I do know that it was Pippa who went into the International to buy the cider, and yours truly who footed the bill. The combination of sun, failure to lunch and total inability to hold our drink meant that we were all merry within minutes, at which point Ady somehow convinced Pippa that it would be in her best interests to take off her crop top and walk around in her bra. My contribution to the banter duly dropped from minimal to zero.
When we’d emptied our cans, Pippa revealed that her dad was out for the day, and suggested going back to hers to raid the drinks cabinet. Ady jumped at the idea; I made vague noises about returning to my own home alone, but the other two would have none of it.
The house was on the opposite side of the village from mine, and unexceptional but for two things: a boy of about seven (Pippa’s little brother, Robert), and a wendy house in the living room. The brother was technically in Pippa’s charge; the wendy house she didn’t attempt to explain.
There was a VHS in the VCR, and since Ady’s anecdotes were apparently beginning to bore even him, we poured ourselves some sherries (and a lemonade) and started watching. It was Poltergeist, or The Thing, or something else that was going to give Robert nightmares for years. Anyway, within about 10 minutes of the start, Robert and I were the only ones left watching, because Ady and Pippa – their top halves, at least – had disappeared inside the wendy house, next to where I’d propped myself against the wall.
It was clear they were up to no good, because one of the protruding pairs of legs was pointing up, the other down. However, it must count as one of the least passionate make-out sessions I’ve ever witnessed, because the legs remained rigidly immobile for the next half-hour, and not so much as a sigh, rustle or squelch came out of the plastic tent. This made it relatively easy for me to ignore them; Robert, glued to the TV, was oblivious anyway.
I was descending into a self-pitying doze when I felt a tap at my hip. On looking down, I saw, with some bemusement, that a hand had emerged from under the wendy house wall. A small, dainty hand, with pink nail varnish. A female hand. And it seemed restless.
Being tired, drunk, and having my hands latched behind my head, I wasn’t ideally positioned to react, so I watched, confused, appalled and increasingly turned on, as the hand crawled up the side of my jeans, over my hip, and on to the base of my stomach.
I held my breath and prayed that Robert wouldn’t turn round. And any residual doubts as to the Beast with Five Fingers’ intentions were soon dispelled, because first one digit, then two, and finally all five, pushed down inside the front of my jeans.
What the hell was going on? My first theory was lust. I’d heard stories about girls like this, and suspected that’s all they were: stories. But thank you, gracious Lord in holy heaven, they exist! She’s a dirty, filthy, nasty strumpet, and she’s actually being dirty with me!
Then came a more dreadful thought. Maybe Pippa was so drunk that she thought they were Ady’s trousers. I spot-measured the distance from where the hand was to where it was supposed to be, and concluded that the level of intoxication required for an anatomical error that large would be near-fatal.
In the end, I settled on pity. That’s what this was: a consolation prize. “Sorry for shunning you all day – here’s a hand shandy.”
Whether it was pity, lust, or drunken misdirection, I wasn’t about to intervene. What could I do, anyway? Grab the hand, gently slip it back under the wendy house wall and say: “Excuse me, I think this belongs to you”?
Oh my. Contact. Not direct contact, granted, since my boxer shorts, although stretched to full capacity, were still technically separating skin from skin. Nonetheless, this was a milestone. It was the first time in my life that a member of the opposite sex had willingly – though perhaps not intentionally – put herself within spitting distance of my sexual organs.
No real manual labour of any sort ensued. The Hand just sat there, rather limply, tucked inside my fly. What motion there was was limited to a sort of consolatory pat – ”There, there, little penis” – which rather added weight to the pity hypothesis.
Nonetheless, I was electrified. Not only was I receiving my very first sexual attention, but a girl was cheating on Ady, with me, while she was getting off with him. The impossibly good-looking, inexplicably charming rake, the guy who always got the girl, had, on this occasion, only got about 85% of the girl.
My joy was soon forgotten, however, as I noticed, after a couple of minutes, that the area around my belly button was glistening.
Now, no amount of protesting on my part will prevent some readers from jumping to a certain conclusion here. I shall protest quite a lot regardless. First, the substance in question had leaked out, rather than gushed, and was transparent, not opaque. (For those who are unfamiliar with the workings of the male anatomy, this generally means that only seminal fluid, or “pre-come”, has been released, not sperm.) Second, there was none of the pleasurable feeling generally associated with such events. Not a dicky bird. I’d been self-abusing for over 10 years by this point, and had never once produced an end result without an orgasm. Third, and I believe most crucially, I have never, before or since that day, been afflicted with premature ejaculation. If anything, I’ve suffered from the opposite problem – what you might call mature ejaculation: probably the single complaint I’ve heard most in the bedroom is “Haven’t you finished yet?”
That said, there was an awful lot of the stuff. And it soon became clear that I was not the only one to notice what had happened, because seconds later, Pippa snatched away her hand, leapt out of the wendy house, and ran to the bathroom to throw up.
Ady and I, mortified, took the opportunity to slink out. I don’t think he knows to this day why his snogathon was so rudely interrupted; and despite spending several evenings conspicuously hanging around outside the house, I never saw Pippa again.
♥ I’ve written before about the difference in rates of infidelity between men and women; how men were historically the bigger cheaters, at least according to self-reported surveys, but how the gap was narrowing fast.
Well, a 2011 study published in Psychological Science claimed to explain why. It found that the strongest indicator of cheating behaviour was professional or social status: that is, underlings aren’t very likely to cheat, middle managers cheat a middling amount, and bosses are serial philanderers. So it’s not maleness per se, the researchers argued, that drives cheating: it’s power. The paper predicted that as women gain more power in society and in the workplace, so too will the frequency with which they are unfaithful.