Guesties: Sex and basketball

Posted: September 7, 2012 by shawnfury in Uncategorized
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(Last week, when I wrote about my travails in one-on-one basketball, I mentioned my uncle Emilio DeGrazia, who routinely defeated me on the court when I was growing up. Emilio, a retired English professor from Winona State University in Minnesota, still plays ball. As I noted in the piece, he’s probably the best over-70 player in the world. Emilio is currently writing a memoir about his connection to basketball — or, to be more accurate, his addiction to the game. Below is an excerpt from the book. Emilio, 71, is the author of several books, including the highly acclaimed Billy Brazil, Enemy Country, Seventeen Grams of Soul and A Canticle for Bread and Stones. He’s also the poet laureate of Winona. If you’re ever in Winona, stop by his house and spend an evening with Emilio and my aunt Monica. They’ll welcome you to their porch, provide great food and better company. And if you face him on the court, look out for that jump shot — it’s a killer.)

Addiction Proof

By Guest Writer Emilio DeGrazia

Addiction always imperils personal relationships. For example, I was finding it harder and harder to play a little one-on-one with my wife. She had developed the nasty habit of parking the car right under the hoop hanging over the garage door, so I’d have to move the car before I could get her half-interested in a gentle game of push and shove. Rather inevitably she still said no, even after I told her I’d go easy on her. I’d end up alone on the driveway with my ball, pursuing my basketball dreams by trying to drain shots from sidewalk and front lawn distances. Meanwhile, she started making car trips to the Twin Cities in pursuit of a career in law.

We had a no harm-no foul divorce soon after she earned her law degree. There were several violations we could have called on each other, but we chose no-look passes instead. We split the $25 filing fee equally, and when she split to catch up on her casework I went to work in the gym.

Weeks later a new calling reached me through the telephone lines. I knew immediately that the caller did not have a job offer in mind.

“I’ll be here in my apartment. All alone. From noon to two.”

She had a Muriel cigar voice, one that speaks in Mae West tones as she looks all males up and down: “Why don’t you pick me up and smoke me sometime?”

I thought back to my cigarette butt smoking days, the one with the lipstick smear.

I confess that in my more tender years I actually tried a Muriel, but didn’t like the taste. But Micky (let’s call her that) was something else. The first time I saw her I knew I’d never get enough of her. Micky had the form, the face, the look, and the moves that had gone the other way most of my life. When she actually stopped to introduce herself my heart double-dribbled right where I stood. And when she called the phone left a buzzer-beater ring in my ears.

“I’ll be here in my apartment. All alone. From noon to two.”

I paused long enough for my eyes to see what my ears had just warbled to me.

Thoughts swirled like whirlpool waters into that pause.

Sexual addiction was not clearly visible in those swirling thoughts, though even then I was old enough to have heard of it and young enough to wonder if I had contracted the disease in my early teens. I can see why doctors want us all to believe in it, aside from what satisfactions they gain from treating it. Its symptoms seemed obvious to me: A recurrent current that makes the flesh quiver and glow while concentrating the mind into the monstrous mindless cyclops that of its own accord rears its ugly one-eyed head whenever I sit, stand still, or remember being asleep. I wonder now if a law of physics is involved: Bodies in motion are moved from here to there; bodies at rest are moved by the cyclops rearing its ugly head. It’s clear to me now I had at least dormant symptoms of the disease, without its antibodies being anywhere in evidence.

But was I a sexual addict per se? This question is not easy to discuss with a doctor, priest, or ex-wife. Did I want to satisfy my urge once a week? Yes. Once every day? Yes. Once every hour? Yep, that too if I was sitting still long enough. Was sex always on my mind? Yes. Almost always? Yes. Now and then? Yes. Did sexual thoughts manifest themselves in the workplace? Well, yes. Did they cause workplace inefficiencies? Yes, and work speedups too. Did I routinely have fantasies of having sex with strangers? Yes. Did perfect strangers lure me off my straight and narrow paths? Yes, until they disappeared from view. Were there long moments when I thought about nothing but sex? Yes. Did I feel obsessed by sex? Yes. Did my obsession make me feel guilty and perverse? Yes. Yes. Could I do without?

I know what some of you are thinking right now: He’s a sicko.

But there are moments when I’m not so sure. I can’t help believing, for example, that I’m really typical. Certainly every male under fifty knows what I’m so carelessly confessing here, and even very old men have eyes with hands in them. The short and long of it is that the urge seems natural. Therefore, is sexual addiction a universal affliction, viral perhaps, contracted at birth as part of the covenant all males enter into because they’re born? Is sexual addiction an existential condition, or, when theologically considered, is it a manifestation of our terrible estrangement from a celibate heavenly Father omnipotent and omniscient enough to exempt himself from the troubles brought on by the nagging needs of fallen man, especially when this man doesn’t fall often enough?

No philosophy made simple here.

Addiction. There’s something about the sound of the word that calls for serious attention. We normally link addiction to the chains synthetic substances strangle us with — cigarettes, drugs, alcohol. Addiction’s synthetic base thus implies bondage to unnatural substances and the acts they stimulate, acts that are often illegal too, whose repeated use brings pain in pleasure’s disguises. We never think of ourselves as addicted to natural substances — air or drinking water, for example — for we deem our bondage to them required by natural law. Food intake’s addiction status, however, is anomalous, with its successes equally exploited by rabid marketers of both heavy use and lite diets. As such, eating occupies a gray area in the human mind, where all lines between the addictive and the natural blur. For this reason food need perhaps resembles sexual need. How do we know when enough is too much, or, when we’re perhaps lucky too, when too much is not enough? How do we know when sex, if it ever is, is unnatural?

Please beware that I’m not including here any sexual acts societies rightfully deem criminal and should severely prosecute and punish — especially rape and pedophilia and any form of sexual assault or abuse. My discussion is limited to sexuality as entertained and performed by consenting adults in their right and not abnormally confused minds.

Orwell’s conception of “thoughtcrime” and its institutionalization into brigades of Thought Police is not wholly irrelevant to this discussion. Is it quasi-criminal to think incessantly about sex, especially if failure to act on one’s desires is likely to concentrate while extending sexual thoughts? Does failure to perform sexual acts intensify sexual thoughtcrime and give it addictive status, or is ritual performance of sex acts to be preferred as a way of purifying the mind of addictive potential? On the other hand, what are ritual performances per se? Are they not customs to which a society is addicted? A purist definition of addiction would exclude sporadic, episodic, and occasional sexual activity from the habituality required of addiction. In this view, having sex predictably every Monday, Wednesday and Friday would be an addictive behavior, while doing it according to no schedule would not. But then consider this: If one has a lot of sex but never according to a well-established schedule, is that natural or is the sheer weighty frequency of sex a telltale sign of addiction?

So when I heard Micky’s voice on the phone I didn’t know what to think. I never did drugs or drank a lot of booze, and the one Muriel cigar I tried made me nauseous. I had no experience with these ordinary forms of addiction to help me judge why Micky’s words — as clear to me now as they were years ago — made my whole body salivate.

“I’ll be here in my apartment. All alone. From noon to two.”

What could I say? What could I do?

“Will you be free from two to two-twenty?” I asked.

“No. Just until two.”

“How about later — say six or seven?”

“I work,” she said.

So what could I say? Could I tell her the truth? I play noon ball Monday, Wednesday and Friday until two. Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Without fail.

“I can’t,” I said. “Not today.” Wednesday.

“Why not?” she asked.

An addiction is to something you can’t do without.

“I work,” I lied. I work especially hard on defense.

“Oh,” she said with a deep disappointment that turned its back and said good riddance to me.

When she hung up the phone I had proof positive I was not a sexual addict.

  1. Sam says:

    Do you happen to know when DeGrazia anticipates finishing this memoir? I’d like to read more.

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