SEPTEMBER 2017
GROUP, SEX
by Steve Silver
Sometime during the dark period of my 40s,
my friend Irv called me. Like me, he was going through a
divorce. In fact, several of my friends, all men of a similar
age, were going through divorces. Most of us too often liked
to wallow in our pain, molesting ourselves with alcohol, but
Irv was different. He’s always been practical and successful
and likes to take action. Moping is not his milieu.

“Steve, we need something to cheer us up. I’ve bought two
tickets to a class on how to please a woman, taught by a
lesbian. My treat.”

Well, there are classes, and there are classes. In my mind,
this was not going to be a seminar in a lecture hall with a
blackboard and a pointer. This was going to be something
different. Something forbidden. Something less instructional
and far more voyeuristic. This was going to be girl-on-girl
live action.

I consented to go.

The date was that Tuesday evening. The place, an adult
bookstore on Polk Street in San Francisco. Ten minutes
before the appointed time and across the street from the
appointed place, I parked my car. From the outside, the
adult bookstore did not look like an adult bookstore. It
looked upscale. Presentable. Respectable. And sure enough,
when I walked in, it was bright and cheerful and so estrogen-
friendly it felt like I had wandered into Anthropologie, only
instead of tops for over $50, there were sex toys for over
$100.

Frankly, I was concerned. It wasn’t seedy enough for a sex
show. But clearly, I was in the right place. And besides, the
“classroom” was in the back. Behind the closed door. On the
other side of which would be one-way mirrors and the like.

Wrong. On the other side was a room with a table and about
a dozen folding chairs. Irv was already there. I took a seat
next to him. There were three or four other guys there. Over
the next ten minutes the chairs filled up. All men. All adept
at avoiding eye contact.

Who were these guys, I wondered. I figured they were like
me and Irv. Divorced, or about to be. Disappointed in love.
Puzzled at work. We were men in the middle of our lives and
at the end of our rope. Embarrassed to find ourselves in our
own company. But there was a light at the end of the
tunnel. Soon we were to be joined by our lesbian teacher
and her female assistant.

At 7 pm, in she walked. She was more manly than most of
us, she had no female assistant, and she didn’t look
particularly happy to see us. I didn’t blame her. Looking
around the table, I didn’t want to spend the evening with us,
either. But if she were going to suddenly whip off her clothes
and start demonstrating any of the pricey hardware from the
front of the store, she certainly didn’t give that impression.

That’s because she wasn’t. And she didn’t. Instead, she
talked.

I’ll say this for her: she took her job seriously. Perhaps a bit
grimly and joylessly, but seriously. She was there to teach
us losers how to please a woman. And we obviously needed
help in that department or we wouldn’t have been there. So,
she began her lecture, which was as wanton and naughty as
an owner’s manual for an automatic dishwasher.

And I’ll say this for us guys: as it became clear that this was
not the red-letter day we had hoped the evening would be,
we kept our dismay to ourselves. We just sat there, like
deeply disappointed Easter Island statues.

I cannot remember anything about the first part of the class.
Just a vague memory of feeling sad. But I remember the
second part. That’s when we were asked to collaborate.

“I have a fun little exercise for you now,” she forebodingly
announced.

In her hands was a stack of index cards. On each card was
the name of a part of the female body. She passed them out.

“I’m giving each of you a card and I want you all to work
together and arrange yourselves in a line against that wall
over there from most erogenous to least. OK? Everybody
understand?”

Everybody understood. Just like Tennyson’s Light Brigade
understood its orders to charge a heavily-fortified, enemy
artillery battery with excellent fields of defensive fire.
Understanding wasn’t the problem. It was working up the
inclination.

But ours was not to reason why. Ours was to reconstruct the
female anatomy in order of ascending sexual sensitivity.

I looked at my card. Right off I knew I wasn’t going to be
toward the front of the line and I sort of lost interest. I was
Mr. “Outer Vulva.” My mind started to wander. Outer Vulva
sounded vaguely like Upper Volga. Isn’t that a river in
Russia? Isn’t that where my people come from? The Pale of
Settlement. Grandpa Max. Ellis Island. A nation of
immigrants. I shuffled toward the middle of the line.

I looked for Irv. He had insinuated himself down the line. I
caught his eye and raised an eyebrow. He held up his card.
Inner Thigh.

Who knows who was at the end. Probably Mr. Elbow Skin.
Who cares. The real action was toward the front.

I’m proud of us. We may have been middle-aged, divorced
losers, but we weren’t idiots. We were probably all
professionals, all San Francisco residents, all smarter than
your average soap dish, and all reasonably evolved males.
Very quickly we figured out who belonged at the front of the
line. The guy holding the card that read, “Brain.” Duh. Like I
said, we weren’t idiots. We knew what was expected of us.

So we had Mr. Brain in front, Mr. Elbow Skin taking up the
rear, and the Upper Volga meandering somewhere in the
middle. All eyes now turned toward the second through sixth
positions. You had the usual suspects. The big five. Clitoris,
vagina, anus, breasts, and nipples. Each word hand-written
in black marker on a card, each card in the hands of one of
us. Consultations began. Discussions ensued. It was
heartening to see the group working so well together, even
when disagreements arose. For example, Mr. Anus kept
trying to persuade us that he belonged right behind Brain.
But his argument, and our counter-arguments, were
presented with decorum and careful reasoning. Some of us
might have wondered if Mr. Anus had somehow signed up for
the wrong class, that perhaps he had meant to come in on a
different evening, but we never said anything. Eventually,
we sorted ourselves out. (Mr. Anus wound up between Mr.
Earlobe and Mr. Nape of Neck—he wasn’t thrilled but he took
it with good grace.)

Finally, we were ready for inspection. Our instructor scanned
the line and smiled at us for the first time. Then the smile
was gone, soon so was she, the class was over, and in no
time Irv and I found ourselves out on the street. Our
classmates scattered away like nails from an IED.

It wasn’t even dark yet. The sidewalks were filled with young
people hurrying to meet other young people. The boys with
their coat collars turned up, the girls with their bare legs
slashing through the arctic San Francisco summer evening.
Everyone moved with a purpose.

Earlier that evening I had hurried along this same street.
Now I could barely believe that I had been so excited to
attend the class. Irv and I talked a bit about grabbing dinner
somewhere but our hearts weren’t in it and in the end, we
said goodnight.

I crossed the street to the car. Before I even had the door
open another car had stopped to grab my spot. Surrounded
by everyone moving with such intent, I felt adrift, aimless.

Only later, much later, did I realize that each of us—Irv, me,
the other men in the class—were also moving with a
purpose. We were trying to recover the plotline to our lives.
In various ways, our stories had been interrupted, refuted,
our starring roles recast as marginal characters. That night,
and for many nights to come, each of us were slowly,
painfully, implausibly yet inevitably writing the next chapter
to our lives.

Word by word. Part by part. In a certain order.


Steve Silver is an advertising creative director and
singer/songwriter with three album releases to date. He is
happily remarried and lives in Evanston, IL.