I happen to be taking a poetry workshop in which I am the oldest student. Being probably four to five years their senior, I am naturally a little patronizing in my view of them. But it surprised me how many of the young ladies—including a conservative Muslim girl—openly expressed a deep yearning for sensuality.
One girl wrote about her orgasms. She reminded me very much of the character Tanya Skagle in the TV series Hung. Both she and Tanya had the same hippie-esque poet’s air about her, and both had a certain kind of homeliness that was strangely not unattractive. In any case, my first reaction was, Oh, she’s one of those kind of poets. But then I was struck by the maturity and the ‘adultness’ of her poem. She was a sexual being who craved sensuality, despite the fact that she was, in my eyes, “only” twenty-one years old. The incident reminded me that as mature and experienced as I am in many other areas of life, I am still rather innocent in love. When she said that “boys only want one thing,” it reminded me that young people enter into many kinds of relationships, and that I am rather different from the typical male.
Of course, I relate most nearly anything that happens in my life to my novel. And so I was reminded of exactly how strikingly child-like Mark is in my novel. Like the songs of the fifties that he listens to, the love that he wants is adolescent. The love that Mark desires is innocent, divorced from carnal desires. Mark’s way of love is not appropriate for his age. As a twenty-three year old, he should’ve had his first girlfriend and moved on from adolescent love into a more sexual love. However, that isn’t the case. And so the dilemma arises: is it possible for a twenty-something year old boy to find innocent love with someone age-appropriate?
In any case, the aforementioned girl opened my eyes to another way of creating the stark contrast between Mark and his environment. Like most anyone else, we all seek out pleasures of the flesh; or at least, most nearly all of us do. Yet Mark’s prerogative is to find love. It is through this innocent love that he will learn to love in a more physical way. I’m interested in discovering how he makes his way through innocence into a more mature and less chaste stage of life.