In this series, Lisa Ellex and her subjects candidly discuss and reflect upon their “sexual debut” all these years later.
“As he laid me down on the bed that stretched from one wall of the trailer to the other, I confessed to him that this was my first time.”
I visited Mimi in the magical garden of her country home. An extraordinarily visual and performing artist, she is celebrated for her work on the Broadway stage as well as at jazz venues throughout the country. When I asked the septuagenarian how she eluded marriage, she responded with a flawless Sophie Tucker impersonation: “I’m Living Alone and I Like It.”
“Because his father owned the local deli, Howie Spinell was the most popular boy in our small New Jersey town. Every so often, Howie would take one of the foil-wrapped chocolate-covered cherries that were displayed in a box near his father’s cash register and slip it into my school bag with a little note that read, ‘Sweets for my sweet.’ This recurring gesture caused me to consider giving myself to Howie when we were grown-ups, however, I was greatly undecided on this matter because I didn’t like his thumbs.
The deciding factor came the night before high school graduation when Howie took us for a ride in his new Buick Wildcat. After cruising out to the lake, Howie shifted the car into ‘park’ as we listened to Peggy Lee sing her latest hit, ‘Is That All There Is?’ on the radio. When the song ended, he turned down the volume, flung his arm around me and asked, ‘Mimi, will you be my girl?’ I reminded Howie that I’d be off to college in a couple of months, leaving him behind to work in his father’s deli. ‘I’ll wait for you, Mimi. I love you. I always have.’ Not knowing how to respond, I didn’t utter a word. ‘Maybe this will convince you,’ he softly whispered. And with that, he got out of the car, howled at the moon, and proceeded to light his farts on fire. Howie was right. I was convinced.
I saw Howie a handful of times over the entire four years I returned home on college breaks. I avoided him, his thumbs, and his butane lighter like the plague.
I graduated college in 1974, with my hymen intact. In an effort to avoid New Jersey, I took a summer job as a cocktail waitress at a famed Pocono resort where the tips were great, the lodging was free, and the music scene was really happening. It wasn’t long before I met Miguel, a musician playing in one of the Top 40 bands at the resort. He was handsome, wildly talented, and he had fabulous thumbs. He also had a girlfriend. Miguel and I became the best of friends and eventually, his girlfriend fell out of the picture. The summer ended, and with it went our jobs and our free lodging. We agreed that we would shack up together in the 1950 wood-paneled Spartan trailer that sat on a property my parents owned just a few miles from the resort.
Our first night in the trailer would be the first night we ever spent alone together. After sharing a joint and a bottle of wine by the fire, we headed inside where Miguel’s transistor radio played songs from our favorite station. This moment could not have been more perfect, and I could not have been more ready.
Miguel lit some candles, scooped me up, and carried me to the back of the Spartan. As he laid me down on the bed that stretched from one wall of the trailer to the other, I confessed to him that this was my first time. He smiled, undressed me, and stationed his body over mine. And as fast as you could say, ‘Sonny and Cher,’ he was done. Miguel rolled over and fell asleep as, utterly confused, I stared through the dark at a piece of fly paper that hung from the ceiling. Then suddenly, as if on cue, Peggy Lee came over the airwaves singing, ‘Is That All There Is?’. As Miguel snored, I did something I never, ever thought I would do. I thought about Howie Spinell.”
“For whatever reason, the married woman became fixated on me.”
A hardcore New Yorker, Jake is full of colorful stories spanning his 40 years as a restaurateur. Now 65, he is divorced, retired, and enjoying his first grandchild.
“There were a lot of great things about growing up in Manhattan: It was a short walk to our Catholic school, we played hockey on the street, it was a ten-minute subway ride to Central Park, and some Friday nights meant piling into a Checker cab with friends to see a concert at Madison Square Garden. The drinking age was 18, but by 14 years old we had fake IDs that got us into the bars.
On a Saturday night in 1973, I was in one of those bars with my classmate, Mousey, shooting darts and drinking beer. If you believed Mousey’s stories, he was a guy of great sexual prowess. I, on the other hand, was still an inexperienced 17-year-old. So there I was, listening to Mousey’s intimate adventures when two women walked in and asked us if we wanted to play darts for beer. Both women were tall, thin blondes who could have passed for twins. Hippy chicks, about thirty years old. It was the stuff boys dream of.
We were having a lot of fun getting to know them when one of the women divulged that she was married to a member of a well-known rock band that was out on a world tour. The other woman chimed in that she was the ‘old lady’ of a musician from the same band. Then, she asked how old we were.
‘We’re 18,’ Mousey lied.
‘Can you get us some acid?’ the married woman asked.
Caught up in the moment, I blurted out, ‘Sure!’ and was out the door. I barreled down the stairs of the subway just outside the bar, took the train two stops to 23rd Street, then ran to an apartment building where two kids sat behind a desk in the lobby. I told them what I wanted, paid them, and they disappeared, returning shortly with four tabs of acid. I stuck the acid in my pocket, jumped back on the train, and returned to the bar.
After we all did the acid, the women invited us to an apartment on the lower east side where we did shots and smoked weed. For whatever reason, the married woman became fixated on me. Perhaps it was my Irish Catholic upbringing, but I didn’t feel right about being with a married woman so I decided to pair off with her friend. And that’s the last thing I remember.
When I woke up in the morning, the married woman was sleeping beside me. Though I couldn’t recall a thing that happened in bed, I was guilt-ridden. The women made us breakfast and when we were done, Mousey and I made our way to the door.
‘Don’t you want to hang out?’ the married woman asked.
‘We have to get to work,’ Mousey said.
‘We’re altar boys,’ I confessed, closing the door behind us.
I was sure Mousey would never speak to me again, but I had to ask.
‘Listen, Mousey, I know I was really wasted, but didn’t I go to bed with the single one?’
‘You sure did. But in the middle of the night, they switched.’
Then we walked in complete silence, all the way to church.
Believe it or not, I did not experience sober sex until I was 32 years old. I guess you can say that’s when I lost my virginity because it’s the first time I was really present. But sober or not, I could never resist an older hippy chick.”
“I fell asleep thinking, ‘I am now a sexual being,’ and I discovered a confidence (and a sense of humor) that has stayed with me to this day.”
I was tickled when a young woman who read my first Quiver column contacted me to share her personal story. Enjoying her second year in a committed, domestic partnership, Nina is a psychotherapist who uses music as the focal point of her practice.
In her early teens, Nina began singing in small New York City clubs and cafes. During this time her parents divorced, her filmmaker father remarried, and Nina spent every other weekend traveling to the suburbs to visit him.
“My dad was shooting a film in his neighborhood and had cast me in a short scene as a lounge singer. The days were long and the crew became like family, but there was one guy I found particularly attractive. Call him Zev. Zev was handsome, funny, artistic, and had the most beautiful blue eyes. I especially liked that he was not American. After a week of mutual flirting, I decided he would be ‘the one’.
At the end of the shoot, we had the customary wrap party. My father thanked us for our work, said his goodbyes, and left to return equipment to Manhattan where I knew he would be spending the night. Everyone started playing this drinking game in which you take a shot of tequila with lime and someone removes the lime from your mouth with theirs. Somehow, Zev and I were paired together and after he removed my lime we kissed.
When the party ended, Zev called a taxi and offered to drop me at my dad’s. As we pulled up to the house, I leaned in and kissed him goodnight and then invited him in.
We made our way to the couch in the den. The entire house was dark, except for the light from a lamp across the room. I knew this was the moment. I wasn’t nervous but I was self-conscious about my body, especially about my breasts. For enhancement, I always wore ‘chicken cutlets’—silicone-filled pads that actually resemble chicken cutlets—in my bra. As Zev took off my shirt, I realized this was the first time I was presenting my body to another individual yet I had made no plan for the cutlets!
In an effort to distract him, I directed Zev’s head between my legs, reached inside my bra, grabbed the chicken cutlets, and flung them across the room, knocking over the lamp and miraculously taking out the light.
Zev lifted his head and whispered, ‘What was that noise?’
‘Must have been the cat,’ I answered, pushing his head down again.
We didn’t own a cat.
Truth be told, it was not magical. Liberating was more like it. I fell asleep thinking, ‘I am now a sexual being,’ and I discovered confidence (and a sense of humor) that has stayed with me to this day.
I awoke to the smell of bacon. I shook Zev, and ran into the kitchen to find my stepmother making breakfast. She looked at me and shrieked. ‘You’re covered in hickeys! Your father just called from the bagel store. Jesus Christ, put on a scarf!’
I ran to my room and looked in the mirror. This was not your average hickey. This was a map of Pangea.
The only thing I owned that was even close to a scarf was the feathered boa I wore in my scene. I wrapped it around my neck and headed to get Zev out of the house. As I found him standing in the kitchen, I heard my father coming through the front door.
Frantic, my stepmother motioned for us to take a seat at the table. My father entered the kitchen, set down a bag of bagels, greeted Zev, and gave me a kiss. My stepmother nervously began dishing out bacon, starting with Zev.
‘Thanks, but I’m vegan,’ said Zev. ‘Is it okay if I give mine to the cat?’”
“This is Joe’s story. He actually makes me miss high school.”
“She was older by a year. I was a high school sophomore and Linda was a junior. We had no classes together but I always noticed her because, well frankly, she had huge breasts. I guess she noticed me, too, because when I was walking home from school on that particular day she sidled up to me. I thought I was hallucinating. I was probably thinking about her at that very moment, and suddenly, she magically appeared. She walked with me to my house and then continued down the street to her own.
Walking home together became a regular thing. I guess my mother had noticed. I was outwardly shy and perhaps my mom was worried that I didn’t have a girlfriend because one day she said, ‘Tomorrow night, your father and I are going to the movies. Why don’t you ask your friend to come over for dinner?’ This surprised me for a couple of reasons. First, my father was the Science teacher at our school and it was rare that he went out on a school night. Second, I thought it odd that my parents would leave me alone with a girl.
I spent the next school day terrified by the thought of Linda rejecting my invitation. When three o’ clock came, we walked, we talked, I asked, I stammered. She agreed.
While setting the kitchen table, my mother instructed me how to serve the eggplant parmigiana she prepared for us. As my parents were making their way to the front door my mother whispered to me, ‘There’s a little wine left in the bottle.’ And they were gone.
Linda arrived. We went into the kitchen to find two place settings complete with grown-up wine glasses and a lighted candle. Linda poured what was left of the wine.
‘Cheers,’ said Linda.
‘Cheers,’ I replied.
Then she blurted out, ‘I can’t believe I’m in my Science teacher’s house!’
The next thing I remember is Linda taking me by the hand and walking me up the stairs to my room. She led me right to my bed where we started making out. She was aggressive, in a tender kind of way. There was no doubt that she had done this before. I remember slowly peeling off her jeans; those great bell bottoms from the 1970s. That was all she allowed me to do. From then on, she initiated every mind-blowing thing that was to come. I wasn’t nervous. I was fascinated. Fascinated by every perfect thing Linda did.
While getting dressed, Linda commented on what a great lover I was. I actually thanked her and admitted it was my first time. She laughed. I asked what was so funny.
‘You’re kidding, right?’
I assured her I was not.
‘But you knew exactly what to do.’
And she was right. I did. I don’t know how, but I did. Maybe it was instinct. Maybe it was from years of thinking about it.
Making our way down the stairs, Linda reprised, ‘I can’t believe I’m in my Science teacher’s house!’. And with that, the front door opened on my parents. My mother seemed to have a slight smile on her face. My father, on the other hand, looked like he wanted to kill me.
‘Why don’t you walk Linda home,’ my mother urged. And so I did.
That was forty-five years ago but I can’t tell you how often I’ve replayed that night in my mind. To this day, I adore sexually aggressive women. Sometimes, when I walk down the street, I can feel Linda sidling up to me in her bell bottom jeans.”
For her first column on first-time-sex, writer Lisa Ellex tells Violet’s story and discusses the “inheritance” of a healthy sexual attitude.
My mother married my father out of guilt. “It was 1954, I was 17-years-old, and we were intimate. Girls like me were looked upon as ‘used goods’. I thought I had no choice.”
The 1960s women’s movement (and a little help from Erica Jong’s 1973 novel, Fear of Flying) greatly contributed to my mother’s physical and spiritual liberation. It also influenced her decision to divorce my father. Enlightened, she passed her new and healthy sexual attitude along to me, and I to my daughter. Call it our family heirloom. I am happy my mother lived long enough to see a time when life choices such as marriage are no longer influenced by sexual mores. We are, for the most part, free to love whomever we choose, whenever we choose, however, we choose.
I would love nothing more than to interview my mother for the debut of this column and further share with you how her first sexual experience shaped -- and re-shaped -- her adult sex life, but mom has moved on to that great Plato’s Retreat in the sky. I only hope she found a clean mattress.
From Colette to Henry Miller, authors of modern literature deliciously recounted desire. Somehow, the Golden Age of Television ushered in a pseudo-puritanical moral code for the 1950s, and a guilt-ridden America played along.
Someone who did not play along is a friend I will call Violet. Not only does she share my mother’s birth year, but she also shares my mother’s free-thinking spirit.
A bright and curious child who “developed early and attracted many suitors”, Violet’s parents kept a watchful eye. She met her “first” -- we will call him Roman -- under the awning of a church picnic concession stand while waiting for a rainstorm to pass. A romantic beginning, indeed. It was the summer after her freshman year of high school and Roman was about to enter college on a football scholarship. She fell fast for the tall, dark, and handsome athlete, and when he walked her home that night he asked to see her again. And again. And they spent the next year seeing each other on weekends when Roman would make the one-hour drive from his college dorm to Violet’s house. When her parents forbid her to get in a car with him, Violet protested, “Don’t be ridiculous! Anything we can do in a car we can do under a bush!” And so, Violet would walk around the corner to rendezvous with Roman who was waiting in his 1947 Plymouth.
Feeling the strain of classes, football, and his part-time job, Roman enlisted in the Air Force to later finish college on the G.I. Bill. Violet was heart-broken. They spent the next year corresponding through steamy love letters. When Violet graduated that June, Roman was transferred to an outpost in the Midwest. Despite earning two full college scholarships, Violet decided to follow and marry Roman.
I asked Violet if forfeiting her scholarships was a difficult decision. “I was in love. I was in lust. I was 17-years-old. What did I know?” What Violet did know was that for the rest of Roman’s days their physical life perfectly reflected their courtship: romantic and passionate. Violet was done talking now, but I couldn’t help but ask, “So, did you do it in the car or under a bush?” Candid yet reserved, she answered, “You find a way.”
How did your first sexual encounter shape your adult sex life?
The Crush Letter
The Crush Letter is a weekly newsletter from Dish Stanley curating articles & intelligence on everything love & connection - friendship, romance, self-love, sex. If you’d like to take a look at some of our best stories go to Read Us. Want the Dish?