Illustration by Popularium. Source images Matador Records
Liz Phair taught me about sex because Phil Collins couldn’t.
It was in a maroon Volvo station wagon that my good friend Phil Collins helped introduce me to sex. It was his classic rock assumed-drowning anthem, “In The Air Tonight,” that turned me into a teenage cliché, and I didn’t even finish. No one did. Maybe it was all the Coca-Cola I was drinking instead of water or maybe it was because I hadn’t figured out how to jerk off yet. I had been a sheltered kid who’d grown up watching Deep Throat on Betamax, too scared to kiss a girl when given the green light, and now here I was, in my own sad porno.
You see, I wasn’t one of those lucky boys who met some super-experienced 30-year-old divorcee — the one promised in the movies I watched on pirated cable, who calls you in from cutting the lawn for iced tea or lemonade — and spent the summer learning how to be a good lover, learning that women can come too, and not from just boning them with all your might.
I wasn’t one of those lucky boys who met some super experienced 30-year-old divorcee and spent the summer learning how to be a good lover
I had to wait until much later, until I first heard Liz Phair’s debut, Exile in Guyville, to begin to really learn about women and that they might just like sex as much as I did in a completely different way. The album gave me chills in part because it made me feel a ball-shattering combination of some of the horniest yet most intense disappointment in myself I’d felt since my mother called me a punk for having to sign a paper I didn’t ace in the 6th grade. Liz Phair became my ideal gal. I wanted to be with her, to save her, to satisfy her, and give her all my sperm. I wanted to marry her and then die a week later so she’d write great songs about how I fucked like an experimental Viagra-fueled monkey who pretty much fucked himself to death and left a path of manhood that his rockstar wife could never replace.
My car at the time was a 1990 Acura Integra that my parents had bought me. I loved and knew that car better than any girlfriend I’d had. It had no other owner, it was white, fast, and provided a freedom that only a young person travelling from state to state with no real home could feel. It came from a time when Honda knew how to make cars, before they gave in to our American waistlines and began designing for soft and boring over hard and exciting. I drove the shit out of that car, which went as fast as 136 MPH on a downhill stretch in Rhode Island heading north on 95. 1.8 bold liters and dual overhead cams, DOHC proudly displayed for all to see. Twenty years later that’s still my most loved car. Must be the whole formative years thing.
I had to wait until much later, until I first heard Liz Phair’s debut, Exile in Guyville, to begin to really learn about women and that they might just like sex as much as I did.
I drove around Pontiac, Michigan in my car that summer, in an unfamiliar place with unfamiliar feelings, and no one to share them with except my hand. I found myself going deeper and deeper into the well of self-generated porn scenarios and an uncontrollable need to express those feelings. I wanted someone to practice technique on so badly, to say “look what your homegirl Liz taught me to do.” Instead I found myself drunk, telling Davy Jones how he was my favorite Monkee and that I could be a much better lover if only I lived in the fantasy world that Liz and I inhabited.
My personal brand: Me, the Integra, Liz Phair, cassettes, and whining.
Cut to now. I dig up my old tape case and search for that tape. I think one side was Exile and the other was The Breeders. I start panicking, because I can’t find it. Shit. Where is it? It’s gone, as is my Integra. Traded in for a Nissan 300ZX that I had zero affection for.
We haven’t caught on to the fact that women might be the best teachers for young men on the magical wonders of sexual experimentation.
The objects that seem so closely linked to a moment in our past often get left behind. But nowadays technology lets us rediscover gems from the past. Recently, thanks to Spotify, I became reacquainted with Liz and Phil. The Phil Collins solo stuff is such great music to run to, to romanticize and think nice thoughts about love and my wife and being a kind person who does good deeds. But looking back, it should have never been part of my first sexual experience.
“One More Night.” Total boner-killer. “You Can’t Hurry Love.” Sorry, Rob, I have to wash my hair tonight. Seriously, sing fucking “Sussudio” to yourself and try to picture getting down.
Compare that to the hard edges of “Fuck and Run” or “Flower”:
“I want to be your blow job queen
You’re probably shy and introspective
That’s not part of my objective
I just want your fresh, young jimmy
Jamming, slamming, ramming in me”
I go back to that early fantasy where instead of Johnny she spoke of Robbie, and her debut was about our passion and somehow it never died and in fact we ended up falling in love and I was married to the hottest rock and roller of my youth. My dad had his Chrissie Hynde thing, I had this. It happens.
Without the other half you are pretty much half a lover. Which is pretty much being alone.
And it happens for a reason. We haven’t caught on to the fact that women might be the best teachers for young men on the magical wonders of sexual experimentation. That a man’s perspective is only one part of the story and in fact without the other half you are pretty much half a lover.
Which is pretty much being alone.