Don’t worry, this is not another tawdry tale of life among the hillbillies. I was raised in France in the fifties. We had a respectably long list of usual turpitudes including sexual practices that still don’t have a name in English but incest was low on that list. Instead, I am referring to my mother’s life-long but indirect influence on my sex life.
My mother – who had six children total – was always extremely optimistic about human sexual potential. When the first blue-jeans appeared in France, she swore none of her sons would ever be allowed to wear this new garment. She stated with finality that blue-jeans were expressly designed to mold a man’s intimate tool-kit in order to inflame otherwise chaste, sedate, and retiring young women. Raised in an all-female household herself, she took a keen interest in the magical transformation from sweet, lovable little boy to big, loud, brash, uncouth, sex-crazed semi-adult male. She wanted to be sure she would not screw up insofar as she had a part to play. She took the pragmatic path, almost the scientific path, you might say. From age 12 until we left home, the three boys were served red meat every evening at dinner. We ate lunch at school, or maybe skipped lunch altogether, so my mother worried we might be short of the raw material for testosterone, pure protein. There were five living children. The family lived on a single small public servant’s salary. Meat was expensive, except one kind of meat. That’s how the boys ended up with a mess of bloody, barely singed horse meat on their plate every night.
Perhaps, my mother’s physiological theory was approximately correct. Or, possibly, it was the power of suggestion: If you eat a lot of horses knowingly, you end up acquiring in your mind some of the attributes of horses. In any event, there was never any motor failure in her sons nor any lack of fuel in their motors.
As far back as I remember, there were whispers and even loud comments bordering on exclamations about the questionable behavior of some married women in our village-like area of Paris. There were even more in the small resort town where we went on vacation. That was a place where youngish married women were dropped by their husbands for months on end in close proximity to randy students in their early twenties. (Idleness is the mother of all vices, including that one!)
My mother spoke about those women from both sides of her mouth. On the one side, she condemned conjugal betrayal in the strongest terms. On the other side, she would declare,“The poor woman is a prisoner of her senses. What can she do?” In this, she differed markedly from her lower middle-class married girlfriends among whom the consensus was that you could forgive infidelity only if it was the result of “le grand amour,” the one great love that happens only once in a lifetime. My mother was not merely Lifetime Channel-like soft on gooey love; she was openly open-minded about erotics, specifically.
Her attitude was a big asset for her sons, I realized later. It gave us a goal in lieu of the vague unfocused, rutting search of adolescent males in general. From an early age, we had a clear goal: Among desirable girls (that would be 95% of them), identify those with a potential for becoming prisoners of their senses, cut them from the herd, and perform the needed to enslave them. The search was long but not really painful or boring. When I finally found one, I felt I had arrived at one of life’s major destinations.