Guides and gals

Sex and love shift into manual overdrive.

Feb 10, 1999 at 12:00 am


My friend Ian’s coming over at 10 to talk about this, that and quite a bit of the other. Girls. We always end up talking about his girls. Petite, large, dim-witted or clever, it doesn’t matter as long as they’re red-headed. That’s the only requirement.


Maybe I should squeeze in some work. I glance at the pile of books on my desk, waiting to be reviewed: The Guide To Getting It On (“One way to find out how your vulva looks is to sit on a large Xerox machine and press the copy button!”); The Gay Man’s Guide To Getting (And Keeping) Mr. Right (mind the Miss Havisham principle: Don’t plan the wedding); The ‘Go Ask Alice’ Book of Answers (“Dear Alice, am I having an orgasm?”); The Lesbian Love Companion (after following sundry gay couples over a period of 10 years, the author reaches the conclusion that there is no conclusion as to why they work or don’t); 99 Tips To Prevent HIV Infection (“Tip 58: don’t get raped”).

The moral: Love sucks (or you suck at it), but if you reach between your man’s legs and cradle his genitals, he will be yours forever.

“X-Files” is on. Scully makes a phone call: “Mulder, it’s me.” Ian would call their relationship “co-dependence.” Ian’s 19, so to him “dependence” sounds — in essence — totally cool.

Mulder? Now there’s a man in need of a sex guide. What am I talking about? Mulder doesn’t even have a bed.


I remember Ian telling me about his failed love affairs: “Sorry, Ian, I’m a lesbian.”

“Wrong line, Ian.”

“Too late, Ian.”

“Good-bye, Ian.”

“How much bullshit does a guy have to take?” he whines. “I’m so fucking tired of being alone. I’ve never been in love.”

“Shut up, Ian, you’re 19.”

“That’s good,” he says. “And new. ‘Shut up, Ian,’ is new.”


Getting it On, page 296: “Rimming is a slang word for kissing ass, literally. It means sticking your tongue up or around your partner’s deep space nine. Keep in mind that it’s probably not a good idea to rim just anyone, unless he or she is your boss or the chair of your dissertation committee.”

Mulder calls back: “Scully, it’s me.”

Ian lusts after Gillian Anderson. “Now, she’s a beauty,” he says, dreamily. “She’s also a moron, which complicates things.”

Ian’s on a quest for the ideal woman: Red hair, full lips, bitchy. No affection, no understanding. He’s young. He can wait. He knows the right gal will come along.

Getting it on is not the problem, Ian assures me, but whom to get it on with?

Would the manuals on my desk help or shatter his illusions? I can just picture myself waving at him from a distance, sex treatise in hand. “This will take care of your insecurities, Ian. Technique is in, romance is out! Rejoice! What you can’t feel, you can learn!”

“By the time a couple has been together for a few years,” I read again, “they pretty much share the same anal flora. This means you wouldn’t get anything more from licking your partner’s asshole than you would get from licking your own.”



Ian bursts into the room, cigarette in hand. “You won’t believe what happened to me today. There’s this girl I know....”


Maybe our proverbial lack of trust (“The truth is out there”) is occasionally challenged by the insane notion that ideal partners can be wished into existence.

For whatever reason, we just can’t seem to make a move without our precious self-help manuals.

Positive thinking. Influencing people. Killing your own zits. Shedding your own skin. Losing 12 pounds in 12 minutes. Guides to getting it on. Guides to getting it. Kissing lip-smacking good. Sex fluids. Pleasure and plumbing. Playing with yourself. Drawings. Charts. References. Twisted metaphors. Double-entendres. Tit for tat. Enough!


The author of Getting It On claims it has been assigned as required reading on college campuses. He says a lot of serious presses turned it down, because it’s written with a sense of humor. Possibly.

It does not claim to either define sex or have all the answers, and that’s OK. Like the others, it’s all about technique and formulas, about making money off people’s insecurities.

“There’s nothing like the X-files approach to sexual encounters of the third kind,” Ian mutters. “Nothing wrong with being like Mulder.”


We decide to go out. Ian drives like a maniac. An elegant maniac, but a maniac nevertheless. Cigarette in the corner of his mouth, fingers barely touching the steering wheel, eyes fixed on the road, he makes the car glide, diagonally, across angry lines of heavy traffic.

The light changes to yellow.

“I’m going,” Ian says. “Fuck this. Fuck this storm, fuck these people, fuck their stupid traffic laws. I’m going.”

“Stop the car!” I scream.

“What? I was only going 75.”

“It’s not that! Look at the billboard!”

Ian looks. “It’s a Chevy truck ad,” he says, choosing his words carefully. “You’ve never seen one before?”

He’s young. He’s immortal. He’s a Virgo with a Gemini ascendant, the kind that mucks up everything and then blames the world for his mistakes. He’s tense. He’s cynical.

The stripper he’s been seeing, on and off, has taught him a few tricks. Thank God for that. Now he knows: Burn the manuals!

“Look, Ian!”

On the billboard, the cowboy in the ad leans on an elbow with the nonchalance of a huge jungle cat, his legs spread to accommodate the glossy silhouette of a Chevy truck.

“Are you blind?” I turn to Ian. “The man has a truck between his legs and ‘Like a rock’ written underneath, and you’re telling me this is a car ad?”

Ian sighs. “Whatever.”

Out there, beyond the slippery line of the horizon, words stretch and tell interminable lies.

“Let’s get on with it, shall we?” Ian says. He lights a cigarette and inhales deeply.