Wednesday, September 8, 2010


"I've been with plenty of women, of course, but I never touched a lizard woman. The faint hissing was enough for me... that sound… like far-off cicadas, late summer rain on palmettos… puss escaping a wound.

I didn’t know anything about women until college. Sure I’d had some sweethearts in high school. I was a runner then, and girls found that attractive. But nothing ever past first or second base, depending on how you count. But I was too focused on other things—science and journalism, learning about other cultures and the world.

Her name was Elizabeth. She was the first. We fell in love, and it was rapture. In six months we had the whole cycle: infatuation, passion, attachment, resentment, and parting. The novelty of it all made it drag on too long. I don’t know how it ended, but I think I slighted her. Of all those minutes together I can probably only remember thirty.

It was with Tina, though, that I had my true sexual education. Everything with Elizabeth had been too fraught—we were still just discovering ourselves—the delights of our bodies and the cruelties of our hearts. Tina, however, brought those things, or at least the former, to its limits. With her I charted the full extent of my inner terrain. And what with the language barrier, there was little else we could do.

I used to be considered quite funny at the frat house. For the life of me I can’t remember why. I didn’t know if it was the humor that won the girls, or if it was the confidence that came with sexual success that made me comfortable being funny. Whatever it was I've got nothing of that now. All my jokes are gone. But then there were so many: Mary and Juanita, Natalia and Amelie. I took a special shine to girls with male sounding names—Jordan, Tyler, and Casey. My friends said I was just an old fashioned misogynist.

Things continued largely the same throughout graduate school, possible even diminished as my intellectual curiosities grew and grew. The great breakthrough, of course, was when I learned to stop expecting that a relationship would make me happy. Happy. It sounds ridiculous now, doesn’t it? Even at thirty-five, we were still so young.

I’ve never bought a woman, though that’s not a source of pride. Fame is too much like money, I’d feel like a hypocrite. But I’ve been well fed. It’s a blessing, I know, though as a consequence, the older you get the only things that stand out are the disappointments, mistakes.

Priorities change. Things with Shauna didn’t last long. We had different objectives, and of course I’m terrible with children.

And Roxanne. Her sex was like a furnace. I thought I would melt inside of her. Apparently she felt the same way. But our sweat was so cold, and after the act we shivered.

Ruth Simmons was… well… I’ve never been with such a powerful woman. After her I could only be with interns. Yes, it’s true. I know the allegations. What I will say is that this isn’t a university. We are all adults here—private adults, and professionals. I only regret not giving them more attention. In the end, it had all been about Ruth.

But it wasn’t a matter of love, only of power. Ruth taught me the most important lesson of my life. For a so long I wanted love, until I realized that others were only a mirage."

- Charlie Rose on This Week with Christiane Amanpour

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