Notching with David JM O'Brien
I’m happy to have my fellow Tirgearr author David return for a visit. Last time it was werewolves — this time, a little slice of life romance. Take it away, David!
First of all, thanks for having me here today. It’s great to be back on LadySmut. I’d great fun last time I was here, talking about sex and pheromones and my first book Leaving the Pack.
My second book is a very different beast – a contemporary romance written in first person from the male POV.
Here’s the Blurb to give you an idea….
A startling revelation – the long-time friend you never viewed romantically is actually the person with whom you want to spend the rest of your life.
But what do you do about it?
For Derek, a laid-back graduate camping with college friends on Ireland’s west coast in the summer of 1996, the answer is … absolutely nothing.
Never the proactive one of the group – he’s more than happy to watch his friends surf, canoe and scuba-dive from the shore – Derek adopts a wait and see attitude. Acting on his emotional discovery is further hindered by the fact he’s currently seeing someone else – and she’s coming to join him for the weekend.
As their five days on the beach pass, and there are more revelations, Derek soon realises that to get what he desires, he’ll have to take it. Events conspire to push him to the forefront of the group, and, as unexpected sorrow begins to surround him and his friends, Derek grasps his chance at happiness. After all, isn’t life too short to just wait and see?
The question I wanted to experiment with in writing this, was whether a romance could be actually written like that, since most men aren’t usually all that “romantic.” I wasn’t sure whether the story wouldn’t end up just very unromantic, written that way. But it seems it works well enough that at least my editor likes it!
I’m not sure whether the main character is atypical, but he doesn’t seem so at first, or second glance. His best friends consider him a bit of a philanderer, and he’s never spoken up before to dispel their perception, even though the reality is different. He is a romantic soul, however, and admits to “crying at chick-flicks.”
In the following excerpt, the main characters talking over lunch about the end of Derek’s current relationship, and Sinéad’s perception of Derek as a serial philanderer:
Neither of us spoke for a while. We concentrated on our food, pouring ketchup all over the chips. It was Sinéad who first spoke again.
“So, what’s the story with Ana?”
“They don’t all live happily ever after?”
“No. That’s the epilogue; the beginning of a whole other story.”
“Yes? Not just another chapter in your never-ending story?”
“Possibly. You never know. I hope not, though.”
She didn’t say anything for a while, as she picked at the last few of my chips.
“When are you going to tell her?”
“Later on. Do you think she sees it coming?”
She nodded. “Yes, I think so. She seemed despondent this morning.”
“I hope it won’t be too hard on her.”
“Oh, Derek! Don’t worry – she’ll survive!” she exclaimed theatrically, then laughed. “Who knows – maybe you were just another notch for her, too?”
“Eh? What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Come on, Derek. Don’t give me that.”
“Give you what, Sinéad?” I asked, leaning back on two legs of the chair. Normally I’d brush a comment like that aside, but I reckoned that the time had come to get to the truth.
“Explain to me exactly what you mean by ‘another notch’. Well, no, not what you mean, but why you are tarring me with that particular brush.”
“Well, you’ve had your fair share of girls…”
“Fair share? How much is that? Does it depend on how good I am for Santa?”
“Ha, ha. I mean a lot.”
“You’d think so, wouldn’t you?”
“I do think so.”
“The world seems to think so. But the world is wrong. A victim of its own rumours.”
“Okay, I am a victim of the world’s rumours. Well, maybe not a victim, exactly. A beneficiary even, I suppose, depending on how you look at it.”
“How do you mean?”
I leaned forward a little. “You know the way they say that the best thing to do when you don’t know the answer is to stay silent?”
“Well. Sometimes, it seems – or I have found – that if you stay silent, people invent the answers for you. The most interesting ones, of course.”
“What are you trying to get at?”
I leaned back again and spread my hands. “I have a reputation that far outstretches my accomplishments.”
She looked at me without speaking; judging me to see if I was telling the truth or spinning the biggest web of bullshit ever. I sat there and let myself be judged. I could see her acceptance of the truth written on her face. She was surprised, and it changed her opinion of me – if ever so slightly.
Eventually she spoke. “So, you have not been with all the girls you said you’ve been with?”
“No. I never said I’d been with them. I have been with a lot of girls in the sense of kissing them, but not in the sense of notching my belt or my bedpost or anything else.”
She nodded slowly. “So you don’t have as many notches as one would suppose.”
“But you do have some notches.”
“And Ana was one of them.”
“So, when was your first notch?”
“None of your business! But it was significantly later than the date publicised.”
“Wow. How come?”
“You know what they say about the first notch.”
“Yeah, but most blokes just want to get the knife out as soon as they can. I thought you were a notch-aholic.”
“I know you did.”
So why is it that some (or so many?) men feel such pressure to make others think that they’re sexually proficient to the point that they will lie (if only by omission) about the fact that they have had few (or none) sexual partners?
At the same time, why is it so easy for people to assume that even the more “shy?” reticent, retreating men are still out there having sex with multiple women? It’s just considered the done thing, so everyone must be doing it?
Why doesn’t anybody know, or want to tell the truth, about the number of sexual partners we’ve had, or the frequency of their having sex? This is public knowledge in other species, since they have sex in public (to a certain extent – there are situations in primates where a female will sneak off with a favoured lower-ranked male while the higher-ranked males aren’t looking). Because our sexual acts usually occur in private, when two people are in private it seems we assume they’ve had sex. Married couples (full disclosure, I am one half of a married couple) are by this token, always having sex. They’re not (except my wife and I). But don’t expect them to tell you or anyone else (except very close friends and psychologists etc.) how often they actually are having sex, unless it really is all the time (like my wife and I).
I’ve always thought it weird the way there’s an “acceptable” age at which to “lose one’s virginity” – a phrase I dislike because it makes it sound like you’ve lost your innocence or something precious, when really, nobody nowadays gets – or should get – into bed with another person in complete ignorance of what is going to transpire, and it’s often an arbitrary event, anyway). This acceptable age is basically the same time as everyone else: not too early and definitely not too late. We express surprise if someone actually waits past eighteen, shock if they way into their twenties. So many people say, sixteen, seventeen, unless it was actually earlier.
But the thing about sex and “losing your virginity” is that age is irrelevant – all that matters is whether you’ve done it or not. Once you’ve done it, then it’s done and you’re the same as everyone else. It’s like getting a driving licence: whether you’re 16 or 60 when you get it first, you look the same sitting in traffic. It could even be compared to having your first book published!
If you’ve not had sex yet when you’re asked, though, it can be pretty embarrassing (happened to me when I was a teen), and many choose to say, “oh, my first time was ages ago, at some unspecified time in the past.” Just make it be the past. And once you’ve had your first, well, all the other times you slipped away, it stands to reason you had sex then too, because what would you hold back for? It’s not as if you’re waiting. And so a whole fabricated list of conquests begins to grow. Until eventually some will shy away because they think you’re just out for the same thing you were with everyone else they saw you slip away with.
Which all just goes to show what strange creatures we are.
Follow Lady Smut because we have people ask the tough questions.