The following story is based on Dorothy Allison’s 1995 memoir, Two Or Three Things I Know for Sure and was for my Women’s Gender Studies course.
Two or three things I know for sure and one of them is that Netflix and chill for me actually meant the literal interpretation.
It started with a drunk Facebook message telling her she looked like Cindy Crawford. And she did, but Cindy Crawford didn’t live right behind me.
Time and distance eased the creep factor on that, but I worried I had become the very thing my feminism derided: the digital catcaller.
Then it was her asking me if I wanted to take a class with her. It was me saying, of course. So we took a trip together — the first time we’d seen each other in person — to Oxford to get books for the fall semester with Chipotle and laughter afterwards.
She had an almost three-year-old child. According to friends, family and acquaintances, that meant she was damaged goods; she had baggage; she was something to be avoided.
I didn’t avoid her. We clicked the way two LEGO pieces do, building a foundation of and for…something.
The class was biology, with an instructor we routinely mocked, and course material we cursed.
It was late nights at McDonald’s studying cell structures and phagocytosis and and eating McChickens. Somehow we found abundant laughter in the hard-to-grasp machinations of biology.
Then more late nights on her couch watching the TV show Gotham. Alone.
According to my brother, this was the moment he would have made a move.
“You guys haven’t done anything yet? If it was me…” he’d leave hanging, with a knowing smirk and a deafening implication: as a man, I ought to be more aggressive.
It was Halloween. It was more shots than either of us can remember of the “wet pussy” drink. It was ditching a lonely, middle-aged pool player with a bald spot at the bar.
It was me saying goodnight to her in the front yard of my house, spinning her around in my arms in a silly drunken dance move.
It was me realizing the surreal reality of kissing her, something I had fantasized in my head for weeks, our lips smashing feverishly against each other like a toddler ramming two monster toy trucks together.
Then the crippling fear as her hands moved down on my body, groping around. I tried to keep the hands away.
We moved to her backseat and crinkled the biology textbook. We talked. We kissed some more. We became more than neighbors in the steam of her backseat.
Two or three things I know for sure and of them is that I’m not expected, as a man, to be insecure or nervous; I must always project confidence and assertiveness.
It was a special hotel getaway to celebrate the end of fall semester. The end of learning about biology and berating the inept instructor.
She came prepared with candles, assorted craft beers, and classical music. Everything she rightly thought I needed to relax and “get in the mood.” The candles were sensual, the beer hoppy and the classical soothing, but I was still insecure, unsure and contrary to what society says, I’m not always “on demand” with my penis.
That didn’t stop me from feeling as if I had failed her, us and myself. Humiliation sat like an unrelenting Sumo wrestler on my chest.
I didn’t just want to disappear and crawl into the deepest abyss in that moment. I wanted to die. The humiliation was unbearable and hot lead buried within the crevices of my brain seemed preferable.
Society had imbued within me too much hype, too much expectation and too much worry around the need to perform this particular, singular act while simultaneously scaring me off of doing it with fear of pregnancy and diseases.
It was a wonder anyone could do it.
Two or three things I know for sure and one of them is that my manhood is bound by my sexual organ.
It was talking to my mom about it because I didn’t feel comfortable telling my dad or brother. It was telling my sister-in-law because I didn’t feel comfortable telling my dad or brother.
I felt the men in my life would have made fun of me, even though my dad went through a similar “crisis of masculinity” with my mother, she told me, but I still couldn’t talk to him about it, nor could he talk to me, to offer advice or guidance. Just something to assure me that I didn’t need to feel like complete shit because my manhood had “failed” me.
Then something else swept in, as her and I were entwined after another night of hot lips and hot breath, something that erased the fear and humiliation, holding back the emasculation I had felt: her warmth and understanding.
She didn’t care.
She didn’t care.
She didn’t care.
The surreal moment I felt when we first kissed happened again in that moment. The surrealness that she accepted me, insecurities, warped view of the relationship I held between the maintenance of my manhood and my penis, was almost too much to comprehend.
It made me want to cry, although I didn’t because men don’t cry, my dad and brother would say, especially not in front of a woman in that moment.
But in that moment, two things occurred to me. The first thing was that this was someone who had seen me vulnerable in a way no other person had seen before and she wasn’t running away from it. Even more, I liked the bond manifest in that vulnerability exchange.
And the second thing was that women will always be the strongest people I know because they simultaneously carry the burden of society’s warped expectations of them and society’s warped expectations of men on their shoulders when they encounter the broken men produced from it.
Not that they should have to.