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Brian Lobel

By Brian Lobel
Brian Lobel is a writer/performer and theater director originally from Delmar, New York. His plays BALL and Other Funny Stories About Cancer and Festival of Lights Alive have been produced in Chicago (at the Bailiwick Repertory Theatre and Live Bait Theater) as well as at over 50 theaters, universities and medical schools around the world. Brian is the recipient of the 2004 Hopwood Drama Award for BALL and a 2006 CAAP Grant from the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs to develop Other Funny Stories. You can find his website here.
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oy, girl, penis, vagina, penetration, the end.  I was a queer virgin on a mission.   I simply could not experience life without experiencing sex as most defined it – I just couldn’t. But in order to remove the metastasized testicular cancer from my abdomen and finally enter the world of cancer survivorship and LiveStrong bracelets, one final hurdle was placed before me – the abdominal surgery which would potentially leave me with a life sans ejaculations. 

Sentimental survivorship stories be damned, I headed back to my college home of Ann Arbor, Michigan with but one item on my agenda:  lose heterosexual virginity before ejaculations become retrograde and the threat of knocking up a woman becomes mere fantasy.  I think my only possible rationale for trying to lose my virginity to a woman was that I was friends with Third Wave feminists and Second Wave lesbians, exclusively, in Ann Arbor and I really wanted to prove that I could have sex just like them.  Or as close as I could get.  Regardless of the plan’s logic, I arrived raring to go.


Like the beginning of some stupid joke, I was a virgin on a crashing plane, looking in all directions for someone to do me one last wish.  One dying wish… Oh, and I would  also see some friends who were worried that I had died in the four months since leaving college, assuring them that I was alive and breathing after my chemotherapy.  Admittedly, seeing those friends was not truly my week’s primary goal.  I never shared my cherry-popping agenda with anyone, though – anyone – for fear that I would lose my status as esteemed cancer patient and just be judged as an emaciated, hairless leach.

After I arrived back at my pre-cancer home, Ruth’s Co-op, I began conceiving my plan.  Which woman was the easiest?  Most attractive?  Most noteworthy?  Was there anyone I actually cared about?  I didn’t care about caring, though… I didn’t have time to care about caring - nor about attractiveness, cup size or reputation.   I evaluated each of my potential lifesavers in an efficient, misogynistic and desperate cost-benefit analysis; how much money-slash-time-slash-emotional self would I be required to spend in order to have sex with any given woman.

I first turned to Raquelle Staffler, who had attempted to take my virginity four months earlier.  Raquelle was my academic and artistic colleague at the University of Michigan, and, more importantly, the only other virgin I knew.  We spent countless hours talking about our virginities on the steps of her Co-op, generally while smoking cloves or something similarly pretentious.  (Please note that I didn’t have cancer at this time, so my smoking wasn’t offensive just yet.)  We weren’t prudes, just choosy, and figured that since we had waited long enough, it was best just to keep waiting.  She was a fabulous, French-speaking Jewess with starlet hair who always threw elegant affairs, with good booze and a range of guests that included jocks, bookish-scientists and men comfortable enough with their masculinity that they wore butterfly wings on Halloween.

Four months before the pressures of boy, girl, penis, vagina, when she first heard of my diagnosis, Raquelle was quickly moved to action.  On the eve of my departure from Ann Arbor, at the start of my cancer, I was packing at 2 AM, when I heard pebbles being thrown at my second story window at Ruth’s Co-op.  At first I thought it might be my 8-day-gone right testicle, finding its way home like a faithful St. Bernard to my scrotum… And instead I saw her, Raquelle - the next best thing.  I motioned her up and within seconds we were kissing, groping and feverishly dry humping.  I fumbled with her shirt and black bra, grabbing and feeling around what was still a relatively uncharted area of the human body to me. 

What Raquelle didn’t know, however, was that for the past three days I had been making regular and somewhat painful trips to the area sperm bank before receiving a fertility-destroying dose of chemotherapy, and that getting my blood to even enter my shaft’s erectile tissue, as she desired, was a near-impossible task…  or maybe I just didn’t really want to have sex with her.  For the first time since my diagnosis, I pulled away and lowered my head, lips pursed. My cancer-face inspired immediate attention.  She was powerless to its pathos. Raquelle quickly buttoned up her shirt, kissed my freshly shaven head, and wished me the best of luck. 

Presuming a similar passion for my maidenhead, I figured that Raquelle, four months later, would be the easiest, breeziest – and that’s exactly what I had time for.  Boyfriend.   Over coffee, she enthusiastically divulged that she now had a boyfriend…  who?  The guy with the butterfly wings.  She had lost her virginity a few weeks earlier – and apparently, sex was amazing.  Amazing.  Yeah, I bet.

With no time to lose and less time to dwell, I quickly turned to Sandra.   Beautiful, talented, intelligent, and she had a shady record that no one quite understood, which therefore meant that she could have been a major dl hooch, or a virgin like myself.  Either one would work for my specific purposes.  Lunch date, Cosi.  We chatted for a while, but after a few minutes over matching Asian chicken salads, I realized that she was acting earnest as opposed to flirtatious as I had hoped -- I was an idiot to think that getting laid by a woman was that simple. I wallowed in my inability and lack of game with women and then tried to pass off the lunch as shop-talk about theater and art (which I of course didn’t care about at all during this week-long jaunt in Ann Arbor).  I was on a mission.  A precious and now wasted 90 minutes later, Sandra hugged me gently -- lest I break-- and after brief pecks on cheeks, we were on our way... (continue reading)

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Rob Day-Walker said:

Brilliant, concise, evocative, and funny. I should take some pointers from you. Seriously, though, stories like make me despair of ever fully understanding queer communities and lives - and I wouldn't have it any other way. Thanks for sharing.

Posted at: May 23, 2008 2:20 AM

erica said:

i kept waiting for the part where he expresses his regret for such a misogynistic crusade. did i miss something?

Posted at: June 9, 2008 9:16 PM

Janice said:

In response to the previous comment, this essay feels to me like a critique on queer misogyny. I believe the description of the scene during the Vagina Monologues between the author and Adam alludes to this. Not to mention the reference to Cynthia Nixon, a lesbian, and dare I say, feminist icon. This is a funny, challenging essay and I can't wait to read more of his work.

Posted at: June 10, 2008 9:15 PM

Seth Macy said:

Feminist lesbians be damned. I agree with the previous comment and add, he adores lesbians and considers himself a feminist. He's making fun of them, but in doing so making fun of himself. His crusade seemed more like a means to an end than misogyny. He wasn't afraid to admit the truth of his quest.

Posted at: June 13, 2008 5:08 PM

thomas spitzer-hanks said:

Having been an anxious virgin myself, I admit I'm less interested in the politics of Brian's feelings than I am in his having expressed them. I think it is really important to describe fear and desire in a masculine context (as well as all other possible contexts) because so many find these two emotional states inextricably intertwined in themselves and in social expectations of personhood. Also, I thought the piece was well-written and easy to read. Thank You.

Posted at: September 17, 2008 4:24 PM

Bryan said:

Excellent writing...intriguing storyline. I am curious though, what was with the homosexual connotations and "queer" references in your story? Once finished reading your story, I reflected that this is a story about a bisexual man struggling with both cancer and sexual identity. Was this the purpose of your story? If so, great, but I get the impression that you were trying to convey something else.....?

Posted at: May 3, 2009 3:34 AM