Men are students of women’s behavior, as women are of men’s. But we sometimes abandon our studies, feeling women are unknowable, their mysteries unfathomable, our bewilderment a measure of their power and charm.
Men are awed by women’s beauty, bewitched … but you knew this. A boy’s ultimate passage to manhood is making love to a woman for the first time. His confrontation with her nudity is slack-jawed, breathtaking wonderment. Ron Jones’s story, “Cool,” finds him, as an adolescent, fumbling with this first sexual encounter, one all men feverishly wish to get right, but rarely do.
Like Ron, most American boys are lost in their first intimacy with a woman, because unlike a girl, whose mother has often given her “the talk” by then, guys don’t always hear about it from Dad or any man. Some of what my generation of boys thought we knew about sex was locker room jive. But even a well-conceived talk (or talks) would not prepare a boy for the astonishment of being with a girl for the first time.
Marc Wilder’s “Planned Parenthood,” is about a boy trying to do right by his girl. John Biesecker’s “April 3rd,” a poignant tale of young parents, precedes Michael Morgan’s “A Premeditated Starving,” a story of how men take care of a woman. In “It’s Always About the Girl,” we see Michael Estabrook protecting his interest in the love of his life, and in Jordan Legg’s “Sharpie Stones,” we read about a teen pregnancy.
One story is missing in this section, an excerpt from John Updike’s novel, Villages, because we don’t have the on-line publication rights. The excerpt, which we’re calling “The Simple Truth of Her,” will be included in the print version of Heart of a Man, when it’s available.
The poignant stories here are rich with guys’ honest efforts to understand and navigate the opposite sex. By watching men look at women, you will see us more clearly.