It was the last day of ninth grade. Me and my boyfriend of one year, Chris, had decided a few weeks earlier that this was to be the day we would have sex for the first time. We’d fooled around, of course, and by of course I mean A LOT. Anywhere we could, really; I specifically remember getting kicked out of Borders Books for making out in the Computers section. I guess we thought that would be the least trafficked area of a public shopping mall in which to grope one another. Movie theatres were our other favorite spot. We’d go to a late afternoon matinee and I’d give him a couple hand jobs over the course of the film, as his eyes glazed over and other moviegoers carefully moved their seats.
Despite these very public displays of affection, my sexual initiation was slow; Chris was respectful, perhaps too much so. The first time he touched my boob I had to put his hand on it. He was a sensitive sort, a Libra with a soft soul. As a result, our relationship was conducted almost entirely on my terms; he did anything I wanted, and he relied heavily on me for emotional support and validation. AS mean as the average teenaged girl, I thrived on my power and amiably manipulated him at any time, and any place. It was so easy! I can remember once, playing Monopoly with Chris and a bunch of my girlfriends. I cheated, stole money unashamedly from the bank, and this so riled his sense of injustice that he set off to walk home, crying. I mean, what fourteen year old boy cries in front of a room full of girls his age? Over a board game? I had to run after him and coax him back through the dark streets, his crying muffled in my tank top. Later that night I let him finger me for the first time, some twisted apology.
Anyway, we progressed together sexually, dry-humping through the 1999-2000 school year, moving past kissing to feeling to fingering (bases one through three) with one left to go in playground parlance: the homerun - the fucking. I was excited, of course, and scared, but felt sure that Chris and I loved each other and that he was the right person with whom to embark on the final frontier of our early teenage sex lives.
Incidentally, at this point in my life I was highly enamored with all things Sixties - meaning, I sewed myself a patchwork bag, lurked on “hippie” message boards and devoured books and movies about Woodstock. Jim Morrison was my pinup of choice, so much so that I must have read six or seven Doors/Morrison biographies that year. Chris happily yielded to my obsession. He bought me a Doors box set for Christmas, burnt me Dead mix CDs, and listened to me ramble on about the rock scene incessantly.
Eventually, I also got pretty into Jefferson Airplane. In fact, if I can remember correctly, Chris and I made “Today” by Jefferson Airplane "our song." Since reading was my entryway into this world of rock and free love that so captivated me, naturally I read Grace Slick’s autobiography, Somebody to Love?: A Rock-And-Roll Memoir. I admired her for her grit and passion, and for the fact that she had slept with Jim Morrison.
There is a part in her memoir where she describes their one-night stand, detailing how they ordered strawberries up to their hotel room and smashed them all over each other’s bodies. In fan circles, this incident is referred to as “The Strawberry Jam Session.” In my fourteen-year-old mind, this was the absolute ultimate in sexual decadence; and my two rock idols had participated in it! It was so mind-blowingly sexy, in my opinion.
So back to the last day of ninth grade. We cleaned out our lockers, left school, saw Austin Powers II with our group of friends. Finally, the time had come. Chris had walked to the local university and procured a condom from a machine in the men’s room of the library - so we were “set” on protection. The deed was to be done at Chris’s, as his parents were more lax than mine and he had the luxury of an entire basement as his bedroom. We walked to his house, three streets over, said perfunctory hellos to his parents, and shakily walked down the steps to his mattress-on-the-floor.
You can guess what’s coming, right? There, sitting in wet and juicy glory, was a bowl of old-looking, soggy, just-beginning-to-mold strawberries. I turned.
“What are those?”
“Um, strawberries. Like Grace Slick and Jim Morrison?” Chris replied, looking nervous but smiling.
I burst out laughing. I had related the rock-god-sex-magic-one-night-stand tale to him some months before as an anecdote, but obviously had not expected a bowl of strawberries smack in the middle of my own first intercourse experience.
"I walked to the Giant earlier to get them. I thought this is what you wanted?” he said, turning red.
I suddenly felt bad. He had taken the time to remember my story and plan ahead by going to the grocery store, buying strawberries and then placing them lovingly by his bed, all to please me. And I was laughing. That was rude, and heartless, and I remember feeling awful. I took him by the hand and led him to the bed, carefully and tenderly.
“Thank you,” I said. “But let’s leave those where they are.”
And that’s about all I remember. I don’t remember the actual sex, except that it was short and certainly inelegant. My memory comes back into focus later, as he walked me back to my house, holding hot hands down the alley under the buzzing of streetlamps. I felt different then; not happier, not sadder, but newer, somehow. I didn’t know what to do with that feeling. Like so many girls in the coming-of-age stories I’d read, I thought I’d feel older, more sophisticated, better, even. I didn’t. I was still fourteen and walking home with a boy who loved me, a boy who listened to me, a boy who was willing to shape his first experience of sex around a fantasy I’d read in a book. I had no idea how lucky I was.
I broke up with Chris that fall. I was bored, I think, tired of having a boyfriend at my every beck and call. I quickly moved on to boys who made me squirm and yearn for them, boys completely unlike the shy and open Chris, who was so ready to make sex special for me. I was the teenage cliché: I found the brooding, Nietszche-reading boys much more alluring than poor Chris, who just wanted a fair game of Monopoly and a hand job at the movies.
Thankfully, my Sixties obsession passed and the Jim Morrison posters came down from my bedroom walls and were quickly replaced with Ani Difranco lyrics and gloomy black-and-white photography. Chris and I talked infrequently and awkwardly throughout high school, and I heard he has since declined steadily into drugs. I don’t go home very often now, and I rarely see him when I do. Still, I know I’m fortunate to have moved through the uncertain waters of early sex with him. Whenever the “my first time” subject comes up, I tell the strawberry story, making it funny and ironic and quintessentially teenage. But I say a silent thank-you to Chris every time.
Carrie lives in New Mexico. She is from Baltimore, Maryland and is convinced that listening to Selena is cure for anything that ails you.