Just to be clear, this is not a graphic blow job reference, but merely a metaphor to describe my feelings. We never even attempted oral sex until our 29th year of marriage!
Anyway, point being, grace and tact was something he would have to develop over time. Moreover, months before, when I had asked Troy if he was excited about having sex he said, “No, not really.” From the stories my friends told, I knew this was not a typical guy response. I concluded that he was either just suppressing his desire since we weren’t married yet or that he really didn’t find me appealing enough to be tempted. My fears were relieved when we had secretly “made out” in the days leading up to the wedding.
The sparks were flying as his hands made their way up my blouse and it was obvious we were both physically aroused. So with my rose colored glasses, I concluded that he was merely trying to please God by feigning a disinterest in physical pleasure and yet the possibility of the latter still left me feeling insecure as we ventured through this, once forbidden, but now encouraged, frontier.
We drove across country back to Missouri and then flew to Florida where we boarded a cruise ship headed to the Bahamas. On day three of the road trip I tried to shake off some of my fuddy-duddy reticence by inviting him to take a bath with me, something I had heard other newlyweds enjoyed. I imagined lots of bubbles, giggling, kissing, playful splashing-and imaginary hearts floating above our heads as we gazed into each other’s eyes. Nervously, for the first time, I undressed in front of him with the bright bathroom light glaring harshly down on my nakedness, making me feel completely vulnerable and exposed.
Troy’s reaction was one of complete disinterest as he made no discernable gesture whatsoever that he liked what he saw.
When I asked what was wrong and why he didn’t want to have sex, he said, “Well, I don’t particularly enjoy making love to a limp, wet dishrag!” I felt like a deer in the headlights, as I frantically searched for clues of lust or fire in his eyes or a faint smile on his face denoting pleasure. But all I could read from his body language was apathy, which I translated into rejection. Suddenly I was reliving one of my recurring nightmares of being at school and realizing, with shock and unthinkable horror, that I had somehow forgotten my pants. The notion that sitting in the bathtub together, making bubble beards, would be romantic, was terribly overrated. It felt more like a TSA security inspection at the airport. After a few minutes of painful awkwardness, I slipped on my robe, covering my embarrassment, and made a note to self, “Don’t try that again. He’s not attracted to your body.”
By day four, in our hotel room, Troy was already “not in the mood” and simply gave me a peck on the cheek and said good-night, as he rolled on his side with his back towards me. Was it because he had seen me naked in the light and was having buyer’s remorse? I had always been self-conscious about my body, painfully aware that my dimensions didn’t seem to match the flawless standard of beauty portrayed in the media. Nonetheless, I still had enough sense to know that this wasn’t normal. We were on our honeymoon and should’ve been “making whoopee” day and night, for God’s sake, and yet there we lay, two old tired 23-year-olds, bored and disillusioned after only four days, post virginity. I quietly asked him if everything was okay. He grunted a pathetic and unconvincing “yeah, I guess.” When I asked what was wrong and why he didn’t want to have sex, he said, “Well, I don’t particularly enjoy making love to a limp, wet dishrag!”
I thought the “nagging mother” comment was hurtful, but this time, he had really outdone himself. I was utterly devastated.
I still feel the sting of his nasty rebuke thirty years later as I write this. Any confidence that I had was crushed by his cruel insensitivity. I wanted to please him, to satisfy him, but I was already written off as a failure before I could even learn what to do. I needed my rose colored glasses. This couldn’t be as bad as it seemed, could it? “No, of course not,” I rationalized. “Everyone’s honeymoon starts off awkward. I mean, what husband hasn’t compared his wife to a soggy towel at one time or another? I didn’t know any personally, but I was sure I wasn’t alone. Further, I had to remind myself that I hadn’t exactly had an opportunity to practice, what with being a virgin and all.
Down deep in the core of my being I didn’t believe I deserved to be treated with kindness and respect. I didn’t deserve to be loved or nurtured. My response to feeling rejected did not propel me to seek happiness for myself, but rather to try harder to please him. In my mind, he had gotten a raw deal by marrying me because I wasn’t pretty enough or sexy enough to meet his needs. And yet, strangely, I was still absolutely convinced that God had brought us together.
I remembered all of the signs and wonders we had witnessed confirming that our union was stamped and sealed with God’s approval. We were meant to be together. I was sure of it. We had to be! Our names were Troy and Joy! We rhymed, god-damn-it.