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The Particulars Of Virginity Lost: A Coming Of Age Story, In Another Age
by Brian Josepher

Bob is an old friend of mine. His 90th birthday was five months ago. He’s been an eyewitness to quite a century. The stock market crash of 1929, the resulting Great Depression, World War II, the Kennedy assassination, Vietnam and Watergate and the impeachment of Bill Clinton – these are the threads of his canvas. Bob loves politics. It’s why he gets out of bed every morning. It’s why he can’t fall asleep at night. He watches every news show. He studies every poll. He rereads the political commentary on the Op-Ed pages.

He also loves sex. At 90-years-old, it’s the thing he misses most. It’s not that Bob can’t have sex. It’s that his body, broken down from the toil of nine decades, is in a great deal of pain. To make up for that great loss, Bob tells his stories. Sex stories from the war. Sex stories during the McCarthy hearings. Sex stories of the Cuban Missile Crisis. While this country was on the verge of a nuclear attack, while the standoff just south of Miami escalated to near-catastrophe, Bob was in Miami, on business, following the dire news during the day and humping away at night. Sex during the Cuban Missile Crisis, according to Bob, was “quite a release.”

And the way Bob talks about that small window of time – he glows, he beams. Color comes to his otherwise pale face. Animation.

He doesn’t talk that way about losing his virginity. The year was 1936. Bob was 18-years-old, on a tour of Europe with his parents. In those days young adults went to Europe with their parents, not to get away from them. Traveling through Europe wasn’t viewed as a form of rebellion but, rather, a form of education.

In Paris, Bob’s father walked his son into a brothel. A madam greeted the two Americans. Bob’s father paid for a prostitute. This is what fathers did then. They extinguished their sons’ virginity when they thought the time was right.

In Bob’s memory, his father only paid for one prostitute. Bob’s father wasn’t there for himself.

Against a wall, a group of women gathered. Bob had a tough decision to make: Which one? He asked his dad. His dad shrugged.

Bob chose a woman. Today, he has little memory of her particulars. He does remember one big detail. “She didn’t speak English,” he says, “and mon français était mauvais.” My French was bad.

Bob does not remember the room of virginity lost. He does not remember the afternoon light, or the fancy bedspread, or the ticking of a grandfather clock. The little incidentals of history are lost. The reason is simple. “I was so nervous,” he says. “I think I just stood there, unable to move.”

The prostitute coaxed him to the bed. Bob remembers her exact words: “Sont vous une vierge?” Are you a virgin?

Bob remembers his next words: “Moi? No. Pourquoi demandez-vous?” Me? No. Why do you ask?

The prostitute didn’t need to answer. Bob was apparently shaking.
he next minutes were a blur. What does Bob remember? In one word, anxiety. “I think I did what I meant to,” he says, “but I was so nervous. I remember running from the room.”

Another man might have been scarred by that experience. Not Bob. “At our next destination,” he says, “I had a little romance with a fräulein.”

“A fräulein?” I reply. “You were in Germany?”

Bob, I should mention, is Jewish. Being a Jew in Germany in 1936 was not such a good idea.

“Yes,” he replies, “and swastikas were everywhere.” But that’s a story for another time.

Published: Oct 27,2008 16:53
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