I spent much of last night with this young man I’ve been seeing briefly, a man I call Young Marlon for his physical proximity to my pretend husband, the first, the last, the only: Marlon Brando.
If you’re unfamiliar with Brando, or your only association relates to his later work (I’m talking Apocalypse Now/The Godfather/Last Tango In Paris era stuff), you may be unaware: this is a man of great physical beauty, of wit, of charm, of steadfast, glorious erotic energy. If you’re unconvinced, feast your eyes on this:
Or even this:
My physical attraction to Young Marlon is intense, and not just for his casual resemblance to the original. He is a force to be reckoned with, his eyes are bright, his body is strong, he is sweet and kind and generous. I am excited by him, and I inhale sharply when he touches me. Nevertheless, our attraction is somewhat fraught.
My most recent and most beloved ex and I shared an intense physical connection that threatened to drive me crazy. Some chemistry we have, I said to him once, early on in our relationship. More like nuclear physics, he said. And it was.
But as attractive as I find Young Marlon, that instantaneous, peel-your-clothes-off-immediately-or-you-might-combust energy does not exist here. It’s tempered by something else, inexperience on his part, perhaps, or too much experience on my part, it is unwieldy and it is bumbling and it is frankly, a little awkward. I can’t remember an encounter that was similarly off-kilter. I can’t remember ever becoming intimately involved with a man with such a bumpy start, and I worry that physically, we will never work.
Give it a shot, my friend Jessie implores.
Maybe he’s gay, Dave offers.
Dust yourself off and try again, Brian says.
He’s probably just really nervous, Kelli promises.
Whatever the case, young Marlon–very hands-on in his general approach, deeply affectionate, a giver of sweet kisses and bearer of great emotion–falters in his approach to the bedroom. Last night, for example, he wanted me to stay.
I’m not going to try to have sex with you, if that’s what you’re worried about, he said.
Some men might have trotted this out as a line, a come on, a false promise. In this case, I felt he was sincere. And it bothered me, for some reason.
Actually, I thought, that might compel me to stay.
I really have to go, I said, but thank you.
My decision to leave sprung in part from a deep need for self-preservation, but it also reflected what I did not realize was a psychological imperative: I had to ignite unstoppable sexual desire in a man, or else: what was there?
For this reason, I could not accept the fact that this man could genuinely want me to stay, and be attracted to me, yet have no intention to pounce. He could exist, and I could exist, and there might be sexual attraction, spoken or unspoken, but he could go forward without any sexual agenda.
This troubled me. I could not put it into words last night, but I did not like it, and I was not comfortable with it.
For better or for worse, the men I know have a tendency to roll up, sometimes with a bit of smooth, sometimes with a bit of swagger, and ask for it, or take it, or at the very least, indicate that they’d like it–as Marlon Brando might. So I ask myself:
Why does it jack you up so badly that this man did not immediately try to know you, in the biblical sense? Why do you seek out men whose highest purpose in your life is to get you into bed and one way or another, and at best, if you are very “lucky”, to confine you there? What does it mean that if a man does not try to get to you sexually at the first possibility, you see him as suspect, as lacking, as somehow less than a man? What does it say that if he declines to avail himself of that opportunity from the start, you cannot trust his interest?
These are the questions, and maybe if I am careful, and contemplative and lucky, I will find my way to the answers.