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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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Whether or not I died a virgin was the first thing to enter Raquelle’s mind – Raquelle who had come to make me come before I left Michigan to start my chemotherapy, afraid I would never come again.  As if penetration were a proper part of my last rites.  As if penetration were a proper part of everyone’s last rites. 

Is it inappropriate to talk about the virginity of someone’s who dead? At the time, the last drop of sweat stayed on my upper lip – I couldn’t wipe her away.  I just wanted to wait until Lina had evaporated and I was once again free from her mortality.  And Lina, the presumed virgin, died the next morning.


Eight months after Lina’s death.  Five months after diagnosis.  Four days to lose my virginity before I had my surgery.  It didn’t help that my week-long sojourn in Ann Arbor coincided with the week of V-Day, Eve Ensler’s vagina-friendly national campaign to stop violence against women, which made me feel guilty about both being a queer man who still prowled for sex from a straight woman and, more importantly, for distracting my already-busy lesbian friends from their vaginal activism.  They seemed all-too-happy to spend time with me, buy me cookies and cuddle me, but I knew their hearts and vaginas were elsewhere – maybe this really wasn’t the week I’d get to bag an unassuming woman…

But this plane was going to crash, and in the ensuing fire, my  virginity would look at me, laugh, and bring me face-to-face with all the the wouldas, couldas and the shouldas.  So I made my way to The University of Michigan’s largest theater for their V-Day show stopping spectacular – the Vagina Monologues – hoping to find a woman empowered by her own sexuality. 

My most favorite lesbian, Johanna, was playing the Angry Vagina (you know, the really dyke-y, man-hating one).  I couldn’t have been more proud.  We all entered with rainbow shirts, large decoupage-d placards proclaiming “We love your Angry Vagina Joh!”  and sat down to form a row of almost-exclusively lesbians.  Robinette, Lara and I, we were all happy and in love with vaginas.  We wanted them in our lives -- albeit for different reasons. They wanted to scream Vagina, CUNT and be empowered in their sex lives, and I wanted desperately to meet a woman, get her to fall in love (or at least lust) with me and have sex in the next 96 hours…  The countdown to my surgery had begun.  The women shouted CUNT! And I responded “Please?”  CUNT!  “Please?”  CUNT!  “Please!”  I looked around, CUNT!  “Where?”  Water water all around and not a drop to drink! 

And then, between Vagina Workshop and The Little Coochie-Snorcher That Could, I saw him – Adam Rubin.  The king of the Co-op-ers who I’d never met before but whose reputation preceded him.  Beautiful, crunchy, crunchily beautiful.  He had that suburban smile that shone perfectly through his perma-stubble.  He sat down next to me in the middle of the third or fourth vagina monologue – apparently also a friend of the Ann Arbor lesbians.  We rubbed forearms, I thought accidentally. He smiled and looked right at me.  He smiled beautifully, but strangely. I had never seen that smile used before.

He kept his forearm pressed against mine, ribbed turtleneck on ribbed turtleneck, for an amount of time that belied his “straightness,” of which I had so oft heard.  He was incredibly beautiful.  Although I’ve since turned away from liking men who don’t shower, the oil on Adam’s face made him luminous in that theater against a sea of empowered women and reluctantly-present boyfriends.  And he kept staring at me – looking and smiling, looking away, like a coy schoolgirl – and that smile, it was so foreign.  His smile didn’t communicate that he wanted to hang out sometime, it was a smile that said he wanted to take me home. He wanted to have sex with me. 

Wait, stop.  Boy, girl, penis, vagina, penetration, the end.  The traditional definition of virginity had suddenly changed. It flipped, flopped, and broke apart, as perhaps it should have done much earlier in my life. I never said that I was straight – why had I wasted so much time begging to bone a broad?  No time to reflect on that now, 96 hours left – full steam ahead.  While the confessionals of empowered women repeated in the background, I was suddenly in another world – he wants to have sex with me tonight.  Adam wants to have sex with me tonight.

A touch on the hand confirmed this and I began to smile back.  Smile, turn away, just like he was doing.  While we dutifully listened to retellings of war and rape in Afghanistan, our eyes continued to exchange clandestine moments – our dimples blew kisses at each other.  Keep the forearms in contact…  perfect.  The lights were mostly down and we shared this moment, just Adam and me, it was going to happen.

Maybe we’ll even fall in love – that smile, the way he shyly looks away, he loves me.  He loves me.  I knew I felt it – It was such a beautiful feeling.  I had never felt anything that strong… until a moment later when I was instantly bursting to pee.  Ohhhh!  I needed to pee!  Because the chemotherapy I had recently taken left me a little short on the warning time in these kinds of moments, I unexpectedly popped up from my chair.  I’m still a cancer patient at this point, prowling for sex at The Vagina Monologues, yes. –  but a cancer patient, nonetheless.  I squeezed my body in front of Adam’s, Robinette’s and Lara’s and raced to the bathroom.  My head spun around to see if Adam was looking, and I caught his eye just returning to the stage…  This is it – I didn’t know how it would fit in my journey or life story, but I did know that I would go home with Adam and have sex with him…  the way he looked at me... (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