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The shape of a testicle

Two girls want to check out my balls
I’m out with three girls. Not involved with any of them, but Jane is an old friend from those young days when you can knock around with a member of the opposite sex and be surprised when people think you’re a couple. Heather and Marianne are friends of hers whom I have never met before. It was going to be a “girls’ night out” until I suddenly became at a loose end, bumped into Jane in the bank and they were kind 

enough to take me along for a laugh.

After half an hour of everyone watching their f’s and b’s, the champagne (we’re starting off in style) has made us all more comfortable and a girls’ night out it is again, with an honorary girl gradually easing into the group.

The subject, now and all night long, is men. The bastards. The useless wankers. All four of us are recently divorced or separated, and I alone have no particular grudge against the opposite sex. I have just parted company with a woman I had known for nearly 30 years and been married to for 13 years, because the relationship simply ran out of steam.

My three friends here, on the other hand, are dismissive and obsessed at the same time. The conversation ranges from the sizes of their exs’ penises to how many sex aids they have. Two of these women, my friend Jane and the one called Marianne, are of the outspoken variety: you know, “I’ll say anything, me! I don’t care.” Heather goes along with it but seems less convinced, but then she is quieter by nature and still in the middle of her divorce, clearly feeling delicate.

Because I am the token male, they are out to see if they can shock or embarrass me. Thus we get the direct question, “D’you like foreplay, then, Greg?” Do I like foreplay? Of course I do. I reply thus: “Marianne, if we ever go to bed together, feel free to give me a tremendously long blow job before I shag you briefly, wipe my dick on the duvet and leave.”

They all laugh. They’re pretty sure I am on their side in this debate, but then again I am a man, so maybe I was serious about that. Maybe there’s at least a grain of truth in it. They carry on again as if I’m not there, or as if I am one of them; this is a major compliment, but what is actually going on here? I’m the enemy and I’m right here in the camp.

Jane has always told me that on these nights there is no question of pulling men, just taking the piss out of them. So apparently when a hopeful one comes along to try his luck, whatever he says is treated as the most hackneyed, insulting or pathetic chat-up line in history. Doesn’t matter what it is. “Which of Keats’ Odes do you find the most affecting?” would be grouped with “Is it your period or am I in with a chance?”

So according to these guidelines, there is no possibility that any of us are sitting here desiring one another. Jane and I are out anyway; we know each other too well – if you want to look at it logically. With the other two, of course I am running a mental rule over them in the way that absolutely everybody does about absolutely everybody else. When you see someone in the street you might give them an infinitesimal glance, but it’s enough to establish whether you would, wouldn’t or might, given the right circumstances.

I like to think of it as the Desert Island Rating. How long would you have to be marooned on a warm little sandy paradise with this person before you decided you wanted to have sex with them? Five minutes, to get your breath back after the swim from the shipwreck? A couple of days while you get to know them? Or six months until you are desperate?

Naturally I have been going through this process ever since I met the trio a couple of bars ago. To my surprise I find that although Heather is good-looking, well-presented and has a brain in there somewhere, her vulnerability is clear and I have no wish to add to her troubles by suggesting something that she might find complicated. I hate those situations where you’re in the bedroom and within striking distance of heaven until she remembers the photograph of her ex on the bedside table and has to put it face down. By that time it is too late: passion has been shackled by reality, and the reality is that she is not ready for this. There is no point in pursuing it, although by that time you’re usually drunk enough to stumble on with the sweet talking before eventually giving up and going to sleep, frustrated. So Heather is out, Jane was never a consideration and that just leaves Marianne.

Marianne is the one I find the least physically attractive, but then standards and preferences can go out of the window when a personality comes into play. She is loud, brash and opinionated – and talks out of her arse a lot of the time. But she obviously fancies me a little bit and there is something about her sexist views which I find strangely comforting.

She talks, for instance, about this guy she was having a relationship with a few weeks ago, whom she referred to at the time as “my shag”. She had a deal with him: sex on Saturday nights and Sunday mornings, but no contact during the week because she was a busy woman with a coffee shop to run. Now if he had suggested such an arrangement to her she would have had him run out of town as a despicable chauvinist shithead. What do you think I am, a fucking whore? But since it was her idea it was okay. And he was six foot two, blond and good in bed. He liked foreplay, you see.

Anyway, the poor sap falls in love with her and wants to see her during the week. What? He’s a freak! And when she tells him what he can do with such an idea he becomes upset, even abusive. Gives her a terrible time. Shows up when she’s out with her friends and is less than complimentary about her. Well, says Marianne, that’s completely out of order. When your time’s up, your time’s up. He had been shown the red card and had to go. Personally I feel sorry for him - he’s a victim of a sexist attitude. Why does she feel she has to treat men like that? “Because they’re all bastards,” my three friends say in chorus. Present company excepted, I trust.

As I was saying, there is something about Marianne’s attitude that attracts me, because it gives a man a licence to do what (according to these women) comes naturally to the hairy sex. Just as long as she is setting the rules. I can treat her like a sex object if she can treat me like one, with no emotional commitment to worry about.

As the evening wears on, you know how these things go, we drink for the sake of drinking. The champagne has given way to ready-mixed bottles of spirits as the money has dwindled. Marianne accidentally brushes her foot against my leg about ten times and shares a Bacardi Breezer with me because I’ve never tried one before, but she doesn’t want any of my wine because everyone knows what wine tastes like.

We end up swaying through town to get a takeaway, then sit on the steps of the tourist office to eat it; they’ve got chips and cheese, I’ve got chips and chilli because I’m posh. It’s a warm night in July and the punch-ups outside the clubs nearby haven’t started yet – give it another half hour and the oiks who haven’t pulled will be looking for a fight.

Marianne sits with her legs apart as she eats; she’s wearing these tight black trousers that finish just below the knee and because I’m a man I don’t know what they’re called. Suddenly she says “Where do you think my clitoris is, Greg?” The other two don’t visibly bat an eyelid and I make sure I don’t either. “Where?” I say. “Where exactly,” she says. “Show me.”

“I’d have to have a feel around to be exact,” I say eventually. She doesn’t react, but she doesn’t continue.

Five minutes later when Jane and Heather have gone off to the loo, I’m sitting there with Marianne and we’re both drunk. We’ve got our knees drawn up and we’re resting our chins on them and I’m smiling like I do when I’ve had a few and I’m happy.

“Why are you looking at me like that?” she asks.

“Like what?”

“You know.”

“I’m not looking at you like anything.”

She glances at me, then turns away.

“Stop it,” she says playfully.

“What?”

“Looking at me.”

“I’m not.”

There’s a short pause, then she says “Greg?”

I look at her, she looks at me, then she goes “No… you’re drunk.”

I smile at her like I do and she says it again. “No, you’re drunk.”

The other two come back and we head for the taxis. I am sharing one with Jane - that was the arrangement all along and we live the same way – but I can tell Marianne would have been up for a bit of a frolic. Let’s face it, she hasn’t been particularly subtle. I could go back to her place and point out her clitoris with my tongue – she’d like that. And so would I, don’t get me wrong.

For the rest of the weekend I’m thinking about this situation. There I am with no-one to answer to, no-one to betray or hurt. Why did I not take Marianne up on what was clearly an unspoken offer? Was it because I actually don’t fancy her or was I put off by her blokier-than-thou attitude? I don’t know. I don’t really fancy her, as I said before, but you don’t have to fall in love with every girl you make love with, and you don’t have to consider them gorgeous either. Tolerable will often do.

She’s not repulsive – far from it. Fairly trim, although of course she thinks she’s overweight and I suppose you can see it in her cheeks. And anyway, I’m no Johnny Depp, more your Nick Nolte (or so I’ve been told) and with him it’s more about character than looks. I’m a normal person: sometimes you look in the mirror and think Greg, you’re a bit of a mixed bag, and it’s not a great mixture. Another day you think yes, I can see a market for you, son.

It is sad but true that ugly men don’t pull beautiful women, unless they’re ugly and rich, or vile but powerful. That in itself makes me want to throw up: it’s the most disgusting of all female traits. Marry a man because he’s going to give you a good lifestyle. Go weak at the knees because he’s got influence.

In my book you fall in love with who you fall in love with, whether they’re bemusingly wealthy or completely broke. Take their clothes off and the girl from the humble background is on equal terms with the rich one. Find out about her likes and dislikes and you’ll soon see if she’s on the right lines or not. Does she think the way you do? Does she get your jokes, understand your references and generally work in tandem with you or has she got the brakes on your true self all the time? Take it a step further and you get into serious territory. If you had to go away to war for a couple of years, would she wait for you or shack up with whatever wide-boy with money asked her first?

Education can throw a spanner in the works, though. It’s very frustrating if one of you has to use short words rather than the ones you naturally want to use for fear of being accused of swallowing a dictionary. I had a decent education, at least by my reckoning. Got two A levels and went to polytechnic (now a university) but dropped out because I was too interested in bumming around the country, visiting my friends. So I don’t have a degree. That’s important to some people.

Maybe I’ll be invited out with the three of them again and make further studies of the phenomenon in general and Marianne in particular.

The other one, Heather, is having a hard time with an acrimonious divorce. They’re always nasty, and Jane’s was a nightmare due to her having a whingeing, self-pitying child with a vindictive streak for a husband. We’ll come to that later.

Heather doesn’t just think she is overweight, she really is. Pretty with curly blond hair and immaculately made-up and dressed, but you can see that she is a particular kind of slob. She just looks heavy, moves slowly, talks slowly and likes eating rich food. If you’re a bit porky – unless you like it that way – you have no business daintily tucking in to takeaway curries, chips and cheese and drinking alcopops that taste like vodka mixed with sherbet. I’ll bet she hasn’t been for a run since she left school. Never seen the inside of a gym. Would rather get a taxi than walk a mile, even in good weather with plenty of time.

It was her I chanced upon first, several weeks later, and by chanced upon I mean met by chance. I wasn’t thinking of chancing my arm or anything else, but we were both out with friends and found ourselves talking together for what must have been an hour. If you’re out with more than one other person, as we both were, the others quickly get used to the fact that you have other things on your mind, and quite soon we were left to our own devices.

This was at a music bar where they have live acts on all the time, and tonight it was a solo singer/guitarist. With backing CD. Imagine watching George Michael doing his stuff alone on a stage while the band and record producer are represented by a compact disc. Not that this guy is anything like George Michael. You know you’re in trouble when he starts off with Robbie Williams’ Let Me Entertain You before launching into Horse With No Name, which blows his cover completely. Heather and I made it as far as Hotel California, at which ludicrous point we left. As we ambled through the doors and down the steps, Joe Walsh’s chunky, muscular guitar solo was being given the Charles Hawtrey treatment.

Heather lived just around the corner, so we walked to her house. It wasn’t a listen-I’m-dying-to-get-in-your-drawers sort of arrangement, just that we couldn’t stand the music any longer. Anyway, I was allowed - I was on an undercover assignment, studying this new species.

The house was just like her: immaculate, fragrant and tasteful in a muted way. It was quiet as retired people’s homes are quiet. A small brass clock ticked while part of it pirouetted first one way, then the other.

The marital photographs were still up. Heather looked predictably angelic in a big white wedding dress with flowers in her hair, while Mark looked like the sort of ultra-straight, neat-haired, sensible man who was just bound to be a pervert in some way, or at the very least despicable. You could see him demanding to have his y-fronts ironed and insisting that she kneel across him when they had breakfast in bed so he could use her as a table. He’d have the salt cellar lodged in her fanny and make her suck the end if it became clogged. You know the kind.

Heather was in the kitchen making coffee while I thumbed through her CD collection. Compilation albums, middle of the road female singers, assorted schmaltz from the 1980s and 90s, and a lone gem: Aretha Franklin’s greatest hits. She would later tell me she’d discovered Aretha on a TV show co-starring Shania Twain and Celine Dion, but never mind. At least her ears got a genuine treat from time to time.

I put the CD on and wandered into the kitchen, where I found Heather drinking from a vodka bottle. She had already been well on the way when I had met her two hours earlier.

“Straight from the bottle?” I said.

“Fuck it,” she replied.

“You don’t always do that, do you?”

“You mean am I an alcoholic? Mark thinks so. He likes a gin and tonic at half past five, a glass of chardonnay with his tea and that’s it. I just like… you know. I’ll do what I like. Want some?” It would have been rude to refuse. “I’ll get you a glass,” she said as I put my hand out for the bottle. “You don’t want my germs, do you?”

“I’d get them if I kissed you,” I said, trying not to make it sound flirtatious. She stood still for a moment before handing me the bottle. We took it and the coffee through to the lounge and sat on the cream leather sofa.

“So are you going to kiss me, then?” she asked, trying not to make it sound too expectant.

“Would you like me to kiss you?”

“Do you want to?”

“Mmm hmm.”

“I haven’t had a snog for five months,” she said, and her eyes clouded over. “No, I haven’t had sex for five months. I haven’t had a snog for three years. It’s funny how fast that disappears, isn’t it? Like, when you’re a teenager it’s virtually all you do – well, it’s all I did – and when you first meet someone you do it a lot, but when you’ve had sex with them a few times you’d rather kiss their bits than their mouth. D’you find?”

“Usually,” I agreed.

“So snog me,” she ordered, and I did. Her tongue was slow and tender and gradually her arms moved around me as she relaxed into what she was doing. I stroked her face and hair as I wondered whether having sex would be a good idea. My crotch, of course, was saying Yes! Yes! Yes! My brain was asking what if one of us wants more out of the relationship than the other.

Autopilot took over and my hand drifted down to her substantial breasts. She pushed me away.

“I said a snog,” she said.

“Snogging leads to feeling,” I maintained, standing my ground.

“And feeling leads to sex,” she concluded. “I don’t want to have sex just for the sake of it. I’ve never done that. But kissing just makes me feel good.”

“Feeling makes me feel good,” I said with as much innocence as I could muster.

“Not tonight,” said Heather. “Maybe not ever. You can’t see you and me going out together, can you?” I shook my head.

“Just a snog, then,” I said.

A week or so later Marianne phoned me. She said she and Heather were going out on Saturday and would I like to go along. Jane apparently had a babysitting problem – a curiously old-fashioned concept for this lot, I thought. So I was out with my new friends.

We went to the same bars as previously, and despite my efforts to talk about music, films and – thinking it was worth a try – tennis, the conversation kept coming back to sex. Marianne had a way with links which enabled her to move from Maria Sharapova to her first boyfriend via the entirely predictable “Talking of balls…”. Apparently this boy had big ones.

“Like squash balls,” she informed us.

“Except that squash balls are round,” I pointed out.

“Well?” she said.

“And testicles aren’t.”

“Aren’t what?”

“Round.”

“Of course they’re round,” said Marianne.

“Not where I come from, they’re not.”

She turned to Heather.

“Are testicles round or what?”

“Sort of,” said Heather. “It varies, doesn’t it? What shape are yours, then, Greg?”

“Egg shaped,” I said. “But I’m sure you two have a lot more experience in that area than I do, having never felt any other ones.”

“See? They don’t even know their own bodies, never mind a woman’s,” Marianne proclaimed. “No wonder they’re all crap in bed.”

The wine and the Bacardi Breezers flowed once more but when the time came to go for something to eat, a cold wind was blowing and we didn’t feel like hanging around in the street.

“Got any food at your place?” Marianne asked.

“Yeah, I can knock something up if you like,” I said.

“You don’t mean you can cook,” Heather jibed.

“I’m a bit of a cowboy but I can do a few things,” I assured them.

We strolled, or perhaps rolled, up the hill. I poured them a glass of wine each and knocked up a little pasta dish in the time it took for the penne to cook. Heat up some olive oil, add some chillies and garlic, then a few anchovies right at the end, drain the pasta and sling it in. You should try it.

They loved it. Well impressed, to use their mutual accolade. I refilled the glasses and we played some music – they’d never heard of most things in my collection but, like an old jean jacket, Steely Dan will never let you down. Then Marianne spotted a tube of tennis balls.

“Oh yes, balls,” she said, her eyes lighting up. “How liberated are you, Greg?”

“In what way?” I asked.

“I mean if I felt your balls would you take that as meaning I wanted to have sex with you?”

“Normally I would be assuming that,” I agreed. “You’re not a doctor.”

“Well let me put it this way,” she continued. “I want to feel your balls to see what shape they are. And I’m sure Heather wants to as well.” Heather smiled with a trace of alarm.

“Okay,” I said. “How do you want me?”

“Turn the lights out, stand in the middle of the room and drop your trousers.” So that’s what I did. I had an erection, of course, but being in the dark I didn’t feel quite so self-conscious about it waving around like a heavy branch in a storm. Marianne and Heather gave me the time-honoured “Whoo!” when my trousers hit the carpet and I pulled my Dolce and Gabbanas down to my ankles.

“Shall I go first?” Marianne asked Heather, who nodded. “Now remember, Greg, this is not a sexual thing. I’m adding to my general knowledge.” She stood in front of me and her hand proceeded directly to my testicles, which she examined like a specialist. “They are oval, aren’t they?” she said in surprise, feeling first one, then the other before taking my whole scrotum in her hand. “You learn something every day.” Having achieved her objective she waggled my erection playfully and said with mock admonishment “What’s that?”

When she sat down I got the impression she was slightly breathless. I certainly was; my heart was pounding. Heather declined the offer of confirming her friend’s findings, although she did put her arms around my neck and kiss me, just to show willing. When she had finished and sat down again I said “Can I pull them back up now?”

“Unless we’re going to have a threesome,” said Marianne, leaving everyone wondering whether she was serious or not, probably including herself.

TO BE CONTINUED

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