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10 Most Important Things to Learn About Sex

These are a few bits of hard-won wisdom I wouldn’t mind shouting out to my past self.

Photo Credit: Denys Kurbatov


“Strange things are afoot at the Circle K…”

Points if you recognize that line from Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, which gave the world many things including a young Keanu Reeves. It also had something I find myself wishing I had more and more now that I’m older (besides Keanu Reeves): Bill & Ted could take their time-traveling phone booth back to the past to give themselves advice for the future.

I’d certainly go back and teach myself about money (“You know your impeccable credit? It’s peccable,”) and work (“Take this ‘Harry Potter’ book, retype it and send it to some agents. See ya on the yacht!”). But I’d probably have a lot more advice to give my younger self about sex...and a few dozen TED talks about love.

Here are a few bits of hard-won wisdom I wouldn’t mind shouting out to my past self.

1. Find out what “happy” looks like.

You know that scene in Fantasia where prehistoric climate change causes the dinosaurs to get horribly stuck in glue-like mud that used to be water? That’s pretty much the impression I had of marriage when I was younger. By the time I got to high school I was perfectly prepared to believe it when I read the Sartre quote “Hell is other people.”

What I didn’t know then was, so is heaven.

If I had Bill & Ted’s phone booth I’d have taken myself on field trips to see happy long-haul couples and listen to what they had to say until I got it, kind of like an immersion in the language of healthy relationships. It would have at least given me another vantage point from which to see the world. It wouldn’t have guaranteed anything: not everyone moves to the country they study in. But at least they get to see there’s a world beyond their own block.

2. Tell them what you want…what you really want.

When sexual chemistry is great it can seem like your partner is a mind reader.

He's not.

Too often, rather than piping up about something I wanted (more or less commitment, open or closed relationship, never to see his mother again), I didn’t say anything. I didn’t trust the men I loved—even the ones who loved me—to listen with an open mind and still be there tomorrow. That had more to do with me than with them.

These days I’m quick to pipe up and if my interests go over as well as New Coke, at least I tried. It’s still mysterious to me why we find it difficult to share thoughts with the people we share our bodies with.

3. Sex is awkward.

What I knew about sex in my youth came from porn, Hollywood and Our Bodies, Ourselves, so I was wise in the ways of mechanics, safety and advanced face-making. But these outlets all offered such staged, serious, choreographed encounters I didn’t know that sex had lots of potential for comedy gold. No one in movies ever kicks their partner in the face trying to master a certain position, slips off a satin sheet, makes embarrassing sounds, scrambles to figure out how to act the next day (do you stay? go? tip?), or mistakes the back door for the front.

Had I known sex had its share of goofy moments it might have had less of a mystique and been just a regular part of life…which it is, or should be. I knew it was fun. I didn’t know it could be funny.

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