A Sign From Above

ONE OF THE FEW times I ever believed that God was trying to tell me something was when Evelyn informed me that it was too painful for her to have sex.

I’m calling her Evelyn because she doesn’t need her name dragged through my ink, and because all the straight guys I hung out with at the time said she looked like Faye Dunaway in Chinatown. I was usually drawn to the women who wouldn’t look out of place on American Movie Classics. Evelyn had porcelain skin and blond hair, and if she had told me that she was protecting her sister/daughter from an incestuous L.A. tycoon father, I would’ve gotten my nose slit open for her as surely as Jack Nicholson did.

I was 23 and had already frustrated several such attractive women. They would go out with me for a while until my heroic devotion to their chastity drove them to more compelling dark knights. Most of them soon became devoted friends who now slap their heads when they recall trying to date a guy whose cassette collection included the entire oeuvre of Sheena Easton.

Evelyn and I metwhere else?as actors in a summer stock company in California. We spent the summer not confessing any sort of feelings for each other, until the night before she was to fly back to grad school. She dropped me off at my house after the final cast party, then drove off, until a minute later I heard her car tear back into the parking lot and she was knocking at my door to tell me that she loved me. It remains the single most romantic moment of my life.

But she had to know something was upor, rather, that nothing was up because as things progressed she would talk about how distant I was, and even went so far as to sigh that at least I hadn’t “turned out gay like a lot of the other boys” she’d dated. Gulp.

So, one night, when she was in town on vacation, we tried. I had such intense affection for her that I remember thinking, as consciously as you can allow yourself when you don’t yet know who you are, that this was my last chance for normalcy. This was the closest I’d ever felt to wanting to be with a woman sexuallyI’d clipped a lot of Valerie Bertinelli photos out of Tiger Beat when I was 13, but that wasn’t quite the same.

Evelyn and I fumbled around until I attempted to remove her bra. If I’d learned anything from the movies, it was that, supposedly, most guys had the trouble I was having with this particular endeavor. But Evelyn took it as an opportunity to stop me cold in my tracks. She told me she couldn’t have sex because of some painful condition that would require her to have a medical procedure. Now, thanks to female friends, I’ve since learned about unstretched hymens and, oh, vaginismusa tightening of the vagina usually caused by sexual anxiety (i.e., attempted intercourse with a man who owns Sheena Easton cassettes)but at the time, I swear, Evelyn’s confession was accompanied by vaguely heard gongs and trumpets and all the other instruments that the heavens play when they want you to wake up and face your Wizard of Oz poster.

The two of us had a prolonged, awkward parting of ways for the next several months. She’s still in my memory as someone who changed my life. I assume she’s found someone who helped her through her “condition.” I know I found several people to help me through mine.