They seemed perfect. He was smitten with her at first exposure. She was immediately attracted to him. Their initial friendship took a long time to form, to gel into a relationship. When it did, they were truly soul-mates. Yet they broke up.
The break-up can best be ascribed to “sexual politics.” That term, coined in the late sixties as a by-product of the feminist movement that started on college campuses, is defined as: “The principles determining the relationship of the sexes; relations between the sexes regarded in terms of power.”
In other words, power in the bedroom.
This is their story.
The start of this history begins at “the Big U.,” the largest and most prestigious university in the middle of the country. To find its equal in terms of size and academic prestige you would have to travel to the East 600 miles to the University of Pennsylvania or Westerly 2,000 miles to the large prominent schools in California. The Big U. had at the time just under 40,000 students: two colleges offering bachelor’s and graduate degrees in the Arts and Sciences (more than 20 majors); undergraduate and graduate schools in Engineering; and professional graduate schools in Law, Medicine, Business, Dentistry and Public Affairs.
The protagonists of this story met “cute.” It was early September, at a Thursday-night “mixer” or open house at the Big U., this particular social gathering a once-yearly event. Attendance was limited to the 800 students in the College of Medicine (85% male, 13% female, rest indifferent; tip of the hat to Thornton) and the 1,300 students enrolled in the graduate and undergraduate programs studying Social Work (95% female). The one group was hoping to achieve an M.D. degree, and go on to well-regarded and lucrative careers as healers. The other group was seeking a B.A. or M.S.W. degree and hoping to enter into the lowly-regarded and financially mediocre ranks of social workers. All were hoping to advance their social agendas by participating in the get-together, whether the goal be a soul-mate for a lifetime or merely a bed partner for the night.
Well, you can’t have a mixer without name tags, right? The blue name sticker pasted on one medical student’s shoulder read “Laurence.” Tall, sandy-haired, and with chiseled good looks, he was in his third year of the four-year program. The aspiring social workers’ red sticker just above the well-proportioned left boob read “Ma Duck.” She was a medium-height, brown-haired, well-scrubbed college junior, with virginal good looks. (Looks can be deceiving, but in this instance the appearance was pretty much the real thing.)
There they were within a few inches of each other, trying to tune out the hideous cover band and eyeing the festivities warily. They were sort of looking at each other over their room-temperature beers and sort of not. Laurence spoke first: “I’m willing to accept that you might be a mother,” he began, “even considering your youthful age and decidedly non-matronly appearance. But am I truly to believe that you are an ‘anas platyrynchos?'”
“And what is an ‘anas whatever-you-just-said’?” she replied.
“You know,” Laurence responded, “a mallard, a duck. The term whose pronunciation you just mangled is the genus for ducks.”
“Are you sure you’re not an aspiring veterinarian?
“Quite.” Laurence replied, “I’m just like Maxwell Edison, majoring in medicine. Though I’m marginally less violent than him. Unless provoked.”
“Well, Mr. Show-off” she protested, “I am human, at least my physician has never expressed any doubts. My name tag shows an abbreviation: my real name is as follows: ‘Michelle’ is my given name, ‘Annabelle’ is my middle name, and my Polish surname is ‘Duczycki.’ Fairly hard to pronounce in English. So my friends have taken to calling me ‘Ma Duck.’ And keep your silver hammer at bay.”
“The explanation as your name does make perfect sense,” Laurence admitted. “But I may have to perform a hydro test on you to make sure you’re truly a homo sapiens.”
“I assure you I am completely hetero,” she countered and feigned rim shot. “And what, pray tell, is a hydro test?”
“You remove your sweater and bra, get down on all fours, and I pour water onto you to see if it rolls off your back,” Laurence answered, figuring he was going to learn very quickly if Ma Duck had a sense of humor or not.
“Suppose I’m not wearing a bra?” she challenged, quelling his concerns about her having a sense of humor.
“But you are,” Laurence responded. “You should realize that as part of my studies I have devoted myself to the close scrutiny of the female anatomy. Very close. It is, you should pardon the expression, hard work — though of course someone has to do it. At any rate, in my professional opinion, you cannot be as uplifted as you present without a support garment underneath. Well, I suppose I can allow for one caveat: if you’re not wearing a push-up bra then you’ve had helium implants.”
“Eeeew, gross,” she squealed. In a measured tone altyazılı porno she continued, “For now why don’t you take my word for it and call me ‘Ma Duck.’ As for what I shall call you, ‘Laurence’ is much too stuffy for my tastes. So, given my name and your field of study, I think I shall call you ‘Quack.’ Unless you actually are a Veterinary student, in which event I won’t likely be calling you anything.”
They became “buds,” nothing more. She called him a stick-in-the-mud, and he called her a wild woman; but over time and deep down they both came to realize (without expressing the thought to the other) how essentially compatible they were. Despite their affinity, Laurence would not allow a closer entanglement to occur: he was not a gifted student, and had to work very hard at his studies to get through.
Between coursework and required labs, Laurence put in 50 — 60 hours a week. Ma Duck’s academic demands were much less. She did not have a boyfriend, and she liked Laurence a lot (though she never expressed it to him, or basically even to herself, directly). So when he explained he did not want to divert his energies away from his studies and seek a close relationship she was willing to settle for the occasional movie or study date. A chaste kiss goodnight (no tongue) was as close as they got to intimacy.
Ma Duck wanted much more from him whom she referred to as “my Quack.” But she understood and fully appreciated his emphasis on studying and obtaining an M.D. degree. And she passed up all opportunities to see other male students and chose instead to engage in her limited relationship with him on an exclusive basis, as he too did in practice.
They had fun together, Laurence blowing off steam, Ma Duck content merely to enjoy his company without further expectation. (Of course she did hope that would change; but she never expressed that sentiment to him.) And they got along very well. Intellectually they were very well matched. He found she could satisfy him “up there,” that is between the ears. A determination as to her effectiveness “between the sheets” would have to wait to another day, he figured, if it came at all.
Ma Duck and Laurence had had a strong grounding in literature and the arts, both in secondary school and college. The two of them would throw quotes at each other from, and debate the ideas of, the great philosophers, authors and poets of Western literature they had had the good fortune to read:
Virgil (whom they’d each read in English translation and the original Latin);
Shaw, Wilde, Chesterton;
Sarte, Réage, Beauvois;
Nabokov (who taught English at Cornell when Laurence was an undergraduate there);
(Harper) Lee, (Charles) Frazier;
(Eugene) O’Neill, (Tennessee) Williams;
(J.D.) Salinger, Kerouac;
Roth, (Hunter S.) Thompson;
and even graphic authors such as (Philip K.) Dick and (R.) Crumb.
Once when a friend brought up Lolita (the novel, not the movie), Laurence and Ma Duck chimed in simultaneously and almost verbatim words to the effect of “did you know Nabokov is the only author with two number one best-selling novels written in two different languages.” At that point they realized how similar their interests and tastes in the arts ran.
Their interests also ran to American and French lyricists, but only a select few: Berlin, Hart, (Ira) Gershwin, (Jacques) Brel, Porter, Hammerstein. They could recite alternatively, line by line, the lyrics from various songbooks. They would debate the deeper meanings buried within the songs’ language. In this sense, they were Romantics.
Their shared appreciations ran to cinema: they doted on the French New Wave auteurs, such as Alain Resnais, André Bazin, Jean-Luc Godard, Jacques Demy, François Truffaut, Éric Rohmer, Claude Chabrol, Jacques Rivette, Agnès Varda. But they loved the American cinema classicists as well; Chaplin, Keaton, Griffith, Gish, Pickford, Sennett, Lubitsch, Marx Brothers, Welles, Capra, even Laurel & Hardy.
They could complete one another’s sentences. Once, at a party while temporarily separated in the crowd, someone from across the room drunkenly said something that struck a nerve in each of them. Their eyes sought out one another, and immediately they cocked their heads, raised them slowly upward and then suddenly thrust them sharply downward à la Laurel & Hardy. In perfect unison.
They shared an identical sense of humor. One’s sense of humor is based on contextual awareness (worldview) and intelligence. Theirs was a masterful match.
Their relationship flourished without the slightest expression of any terms of endearment on the part of either. She came close several times. amatör porno He, never.
And then one Friday night Laurence and Ma Duck ended up sleeping together. Sort of. They had found themselves in a unique pizza parlor in C-Town. This place offered a wide variety of pizzas, so long as you chose cheese and tomato; and a wide variety of alcoholic beverages, so long as your preference ran to Chianti served room temperature from bottles with bell-bottoms encased in straw; and a wide variety of music, if you dug a loud and raucous banjo band.
Laurence and Ma Duck partook of the pizza in moderation; and of the Chianti liberally. They sat as far from the bandstand as they could, so they could talk — well, not have to shout too loudly. And then they had some more Chianti. And more yet again. Their talking/shouting became giddy, interspersed with pointless giggles and broad smiles. And suddenly, when the band took a break, here was a wine-fueled Laurence bounding up onto the bandstand, sitting at the piano and launching into a spirited vocal rendition of the song “There’s a Kind of Hush (All Over the World Tonight),” the Herman’s Hermits standard.
I played piano pretty well, and was still young enough that I could perform from memory. (When my brain fully matured, in my late 20’s, I lost that ability.) On the night in question I played a great arrangement that segued from B? Major to a bridge in D Major and then back again to the original key for the closing; employing a fairly sophisticated thematic structure for late 60’s rock and roll, Abbey Road notwithstanding.
The Herman’s Hermits version was sort of whimsical and straightforward with a lilting upbeat. (Much like the Beatles’ When I’m Sixty-Four, though more serious in tone.) My version of Hush was drunken, energetic and honky-tonk, almost driven; except for the conclusion: this I sang sweet and tenderly, in a dramatically-reduced tempo, like a crooner. I am far from a great singer, but it didn’t seem to matter a bit to me at the time. Nor to the audience — who hadn’t left — they seemed to enjoy it.
That night I saw a side of Quack I hadn’t seen previously: a young man who notwithstanding his stuffy name and often serious, sometimes dour, demeanor could let his hair down and enjoy himself. By the standards of the evening he performed well — no one in the audience jeered or threw anything at him — and after he sang the bridge
Now listen very carefully.
Move closer now
and you will see what I mean.
It isn’t a dream.
The only sound that you will hear
is when I whisper in your ear,
“I love you.”
Forever and ever
he prefaced the conclusion with a five-octave arpeggio, slowing the tempo to that of a love ballad, and turned his head to look straight at me in the audience. He finished the number with a soft croon:
There’s a kind of hush
all over the world tonight.
All over the world you can hear the sound
of lovers in love,
of lovers in love.
This he topped off with a little jazzy fillip as an afterthought, a famous jazzy phrase [D – vB? – vG – ^A? – vG – vF – vD? – ^D – ^F – vD – vB?] from Gershwin’s immortal Rhapsody in Blue.
It felt as if my Quack was whispering these final lines directly into my ear, exalting praises to the glory of love. I felt a tingle run up and down my spine. At that moment I knew I loved him. And I thought, well, maybe he felt for me that way about me, too. “In Chianti veritas,” no?
But when he surrendered the bandstand to the banjo boys and returned to the table, I couldn’t bring myself to tell him about my newly-realized feelings. So I made light of his performance, saying, “Not so bad, Quack. But don’t give up your day job.”
I was flushed and animated after my song; and more than a little drunk. I realized I was in no condition to drive home, and given my student budget did not want to pay for a cab. My place was nearby — I had a decent apartment on the periphery of the North Campus — and so off we trounced slowly into the cold night air, arm-in-arm, both of us wondering, “What now?”
After arriving at Quack’s place, what followed next was far from romantic. As it turned out, we came nowhere near getting carried away. He explained that while he liked me “well enough” — ouch, that hurt — he knew I understood that he didn’t want to become “overly involved.” And “getting physical,” as he put it, would just “complicate things.” So he suggested that we sleep together in his double bed but, well, “just sleep.”
Well, I never claimed to be a Lothario. I had never led Ma Duck on: she knew that at that point in my life I did not want to have a girlfriend, with all that implied. I wanted to be just friends. I suggested we share the bed, but made it clear as tactfully as I could that we should not do anything “physically.” She agreed, half-heartedly. And in arap porno any event that’s how it turned out.
I stripped down to my underwear.
“You’re right,” I agreed. “We wouldn’t want a new deeper element added to ruin our shallow friendship, right?” I don’t know if he knew I was being facetious or not. Or even if I had expressed it all that clearly. Our expressive and perceptive abilities had been purloined in great part by the liquid thief Bacchus had compelled us to pour into our mouths.
After Quack removed his shirt, slacks and shoes, I had a dilemma on my hands. My bra and panties that night were strictly utilitarian: nothing frilly or fancy or lacy, or Damn it, in any other manner sexy. (Had I known we would end up in his bed, you can bet I would have been “dressed for success.” I also would have shaved my legs.) I didn’t want Quack to see me in such pedestrian lingerie. Well, of course, I could have slept in my clothing. But that would have been so déclassé.
Bottom line: I told Quack I would reciprocate but would appreciate it if he would first turn the lights off. And that was how it went. I figured I would have to make sure to get up before him in the morning and get dressed right away.
I rolled slightly in bed to face Ma Duck and I kissed her goodnight. But unlike our previous kissing, all of a sudden there it was — tongue. Did she initiate this variation? Did I? Was it more or less mutual? I’m just not sure. (There’s the matter of the wine affecting my recall.) At any rate, we drifted off to sleep with my arm around her, neither my hands nor my tented boxers venturing into any territory that would earn the disapproval of my mom (or hers).
After a kiss more enlivened than usual, my hopes were aroused. But Quack let it go there. He didn’t even nibble on my ear or shoulder. And both are very presentable, thank you. I was disappointed. So what else was new?
And so it went through their graduation three semesters later: friends, good friends, but nothing more. They never had “the talk,” they never discussed a future together. The unspoken expectation was that they would not have a future together. Certainly not, at the very least, unless one or the other broached the subject.
Laurence and Ma Duck received their degrees a day apart and afterwards celebrated together, with propriety. Nothing maudlin occurred on that occasion. Neither was able to summon expression as to the depth of feelings felt for the other. The thought of doing so occurred to them both, but each doubted the likelihood of any positive response from the other.
Ma Duck went home to live with her folks an hour away in Farmington Hills, a suburb of the motor city. She managed to escape social work, taking a dubious entry-level job at the Detroit Zoo, where she wrote a newsletter and worked in public relations. Dr. Laurence (née Quack), returned home to Boston to begin a lengthy residency as an orthopod (bone surgeon) at Mass General. He and Ma Duck promised to keep in touch. But they didn’t really: a cursory phone call every two or three weeks was the extent of their expressed interest. This was the mid-seventies, and long distance was expensive — the equivalent of about $1.20 a minute in today’s dollars. They exchanged no snail mail, not even cards — and e-Mail hadn’t been invented yet.
In short order Laurence acquired a girlfriend, Zita. He had known her in High School as a vivacious and cheerful girl, a year younger and a hanger-on in his extended group. She had since become a single mother of rather easy virtue. Her current accessibility would put to shame fish in barrels.
Meanwhile Ma Duck had an older brother who helped out by fixing her up with friends of his from time to time; she went rapidly downhill from that point all on her own. So in the months immediately following her graduation, she went through a series of short-term and sometimes abusive relationships grounded in sex and hardly any pretense of anything more. Ma Duck truthfully hinted to Laurence that these were physically intimate but essentially uncaring involvements.
Laurence in turn told her virtually nothing about Zita except that she was a single mother he had known for years and that he was just “marking time” with her. From the context she assumed, accurately, that theirs was a sexual relationship.
Friends told me that a girl I knew in Brookline High School, Zita, was now a single mother listed in the phone book as “Sullivan Z.” A year younger than me, she was a gregarious pixie-like girl in high school with lots of friends, but (so far as anyone knew at the time) no boyfriend.
Zita had moved out of her folks’ home suddenly and quite soon following her high school graduation. This occurred in a more judgmental era culturally, when her second-generation Irish parents learned some unpleasant facts. These were that (a) their daughter, who had not even dated in high school, was now quite the party girl; and had, (b) become pregnant; and, as if it couldn’t get any worse, (c) the father was Black. This development, in particular the interracial aspect, proved to be just too much for her conservative parents to process.