Searching For A New Form Of Sexual Expression For The New Millennium.
By Jeff Smith
AUGUST 17, 1998: RUMMAGING through A drawer of my nightstand the other morning looking for the toenail clippers, I came across one of those important notes we write to ourselves, something on the back of a bank deposit slip, written with the stub of a busted pencil, half lead/half wood. It said, Kathy G (something) and had a bunch of numbers preceded by a west coast area code. That night I dreamed about her.
So this morning I finally picked up the phone and punched in her numbers and when she answered I said I had the funniest dream about her and had to call.
Actually, no, but if I'd slept another hour and my dream cycle didn't get thwarted I bet we would have. The plot was developing in that direction.
The conversation wandered off into reality and petered-out, and after I rung off I found myself thinking, quite profoundly, about what she had said:
"Did we have sex?"
At this point I wasn't concerned about fantasy or fulfillment or how many more decades might slip into the ether before loins set afire in the early '60s ever, if ever, quenched themselves, each in the other; I was troubled by my tongue. English, I mean.
"Did we have sex?" What a question to ask. What a wimpy, passive, piss-poor-polite way of asking if the two of us finally, if only in dreams, got together to do what life is all about: the central act of the human drama (or for that matter, the hamster drama), the essence of life.
It wasn't her fault: Kathy is bright, articulate and candid to the point of blunt--and she well may have tinged her terminology with irony--but our native language, boasting the richest vocabulary in letters, has no active verb, acceptable in polite circles, for the very act that cries out most compellingly for an action word. Sorry, but when betrothed couples meet with the minister to discuss the joys of matrimony that are about to unfold before them, they still don't talk about fucking.
And I'm glad they don't. I guess I'm just old-fashioned that way, but fucking--the word, not the act--for all its Anglo-Saxon vigor, simply will not suffice for every circumstance in which Dr. Ruth's darting digit drills the O she coyly describes with her other hand. No more than "having sex" or "making love" or rape, couple, mate, make the beat of two backs, or "do the nasty" would serve the myriad circumstances in which we--if we are lucky, if we get lucky--find ourselves. Not by ourselves.
Hey, English has a lot of verbs for various styles and permutations of the essential act, and a lot more of those convoluted constructions of verbs, nouns, adjectives and adverbs, but not one single, simple and direct active verb you could say in front of your mother (assuming your mother is like mine was and didn't perform the act under any of its more lurid banners, for money) without blushing.
Isn't this a hell of a fix?
Why do you suppose this is? Is it the Puritanism perversely pounded into us on the unyeilding anvil of Plymouth Rock? Are other languages, other cultures similarly tongue-tied when it comes the focal point of all life in the universe? I'm limited in my grasp, but as far as I know, Spanish--and probably the other Romance languages such as French and Italian, too--doesn't come right out and say, you know. Like us, they go from the appropriately Latinate terminology of physical science, to the acted-out-emotion of matrimonial "love-making," and then directly to the gutter. Entirely skipping the real world.
The real world is where old friends and long-time-but-distant lusters like this morning's phone-mate and me sometimes get together and get naked and smile and kind of giggle and hug, and then...what? Make love?
Sort of, but not exactly. Rape? Of course not. Have sex? I don't even "have" pizza. I eat pizza. I prefer my acts to be active.
We could mate, like mountain goats on a PBS special, but we aren't in it for procreative purposes and we probably won't remain matched up forever. Salt and pepper shakers tend to be mated: the term is too generic. Ditto to couple. Besides, I hear tell that some people triple, or worse.
Borrowing again from the world of the lower orders, the veterinary term "service" might be employed, but this has a unilateral flavor to it that cheats the female participant of any active role or fulfillment and tends to leave her pregnant. Mounting is merely a less-polite variation on the same theme.
No, I have searched my brain and my considerable lexicon for the precise word I, indeed we all, seek, and it is not there. I await the inevitable flood of letters from the lettered, informing me that Roget's has the answer, had I but the wit to inquire in the right place, or that Oxford's Complete and Unabridged lists just the verb to fill the bill--preceded by the numeral 9 and described as an archaic derivative of a long-dead slang-term from a Pictish dialect.
They will not serve! If this most important of verbs does not come trippingly off the tongue of the most rude and unlettered among us, let alone one such as I, damned as I oft am for sending Dear Reader scurrying to his thesaurus, then my case is made:
Our tongue has failed us. We needs must coin a term worthy of carrying both the weighty seriousness and the unbearable lightness of...como se dice?
The floor is open to nominations.
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