I would never deny that certain inborn qualities or skills can make sex a lot better. It’s true that size does, generally, matter. But I really do believe that these things matter a hell of a lot less than open-hearted and open-minded attention to one’s partner. And that’s why I love this quotation from Haruki Murakami’s Sputnik Sweetheart.
The summer vacation of my freshman year in college, I took a random trip by myself around the Horuriku region, ran across a woman eight years older than me who was also traveling alone, and we spent one night together.
… She had a certain charm, which made it hard to figure out why she’d have any interest in someone like me—a quiet, skinny, 18-year-old college kid. Still, sitting across from me in the train, she seemed to enjoy our harmless banter. She laughed out loud a lot. And—atypically—I chattered away. We happened to get off at the same station, at Kanazawa. “Do you have a place to stay?” she asked me. No, I replied; I’d never made a hotel reservation in my life. I have a hotel room, she told me. You can stay if you’d like. “Don’t worry about it,” she went on, “it costs the same whether there’s one or two people.”
I was nervous the first time we made love, which made things awkward. I apologized to her.
“Aren’t we polite!” she said. “No need to apologize for every little thing.”
After her shower she threw on a bathrobe, grabbed two cold beers from the fridge, and handed one to me.
“Are you a good driver?” she asked.
“I just got my license, so I wouldn’t say so. Just average.”
She smiled. “Same with me. I think I’m pretty good, but my friends don’t agree. Which makes me average, too, I suppose. You must know a few people who think they’re great drivers, right?”
“Yeah, I guess I do.”
“And there must be some who aren’t very good.”
I nodded. She took a quiet sip of beer and gave it some thought.
“To a certain extent those kinds of things are inborn. Talent, you could call it. Some people are nimble; others are all thumbs. … Some people are quite attentive, and others aren’t. Right?”
Again I nodded.
“OK, consider this. Say you’re going to go on a long trip with someone by car. And the two of you will take turns driving. Which type of person would you choose? One who’s a good driver but inattentive, or an attentive person who’s not such a good driver?”
“Probably the second one,” I said.
“Me too,” she replied. “What we have here is very similar. Good or bad, nimble or clumsy—those aren’t important. What’s important is being attentive. Staying calm, being alert to things around you.”
“Alert?” I asked.
She just smiled and didn’t say anything.
A while later we made love a second time, and this time it was a smooth, congenial ride. Being alert—I think I was starting to get it. For the first time I saw how a woman reacts in the throes of passion.
The next morning after we ate breakfast together, we went our separate ways.