Love and marriage, love and marriage,
Go together like a horse and carriage
I've only been married three times, and the half dozen or so serious relationships I've had over a long life never made it to the engagement stage. Was Sinatra ever a model for me, more so than Hugh Hefner, the guru of Playboy? Someone once told me I looked like Old Blue-Eyes and I did not take it as a compliment. Or maybe they said I resembled Humphrey Bogart. The mind plays tricks at this age.
Conveniently, my father's cousin who lived in Marin County was an Episcopal priest. Years earlier my family had visited him in Tucson where his wife's hefty inheritance maintained their country-club lifestyle. But in his mature years he saw the light, turned his back on a mediocre sales career and became a man of the cloth. During a "fish-in" for native fishing rights near Tacoma, Washington, he was arrested with Marlon Brando. At Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, he was assistant canon to the noted liberal Bishop James Pike. Who better to marry us?
Contrary to the dreams of teenage boys, marriage does not guarantee a steady diet of sex. I think I realized this not that long before the woman I had been sleeping with became my wife. Six months earlier I had been living in the lonely isolation of a basement room in an Italian lady's house on Leroy Street in Greenwich Village. Intent on a writer's life, the only outlet I found was to type passionate love letters to the woman I'd met at my going-away party in Pasadena. We spent the night talking before my train left for the east, and during the cold New York winter I imagined her to be my muse.
I learned everything I know about sex during furtive discussions at the back table with other 8th grade boys in the lunchroom at our junior high school. Vaginas, one aspiring physiologist told us, took time to move from the lower stomach of a girl down to between her legs. If you want to get her excited, blow in her ear. But not too hard. Watch out for braces which could be dangerous. Girls that disappear (and there were a few) got pregnant and had to go away to have the baby. Run round the bases as fast as you can, from kissing to fucking. But in those early days all kinds of sex was equally imaginary.
Girls played with dolls and engaged in extended foreplay over weddings and marriages and babies. In my experience, boys never aspired to marry and raise a family. It was simply not one of the choices we imagined for the future. The models presented to us on television, in the movies, and in our own homes, of marriage were not appealing. I wanted to be a movie actor, a musician, or a famous writer, but never did the thought of being a husband cross my mind. If anything, it was the consolation prize in a life that failed to live up to one's expectations.