In 2016, I participated in a story slam hosted by TMI Project. On the illustrious stage of Kingston, NY’s, now-defunct BSP, I shared this tale on the assigned theme: Prince Tribute! I did my man proud and tied for first with a fellow MPLS native.
“Dear Dad: Things didn’t work out quite like I wanted them to. Sometimes I feel like I’m gonna explode.”
Those are the opening words of what Prince song?
“Can’t Stop This Feeling I Got.” Track 1, Graffiti Bridge. The year is 1990. I’m a Junior in High School. The song is playing on my girlfriend, Connie’s stereo. We are listening to the cassette that I made her. See, Connie had passed me a note in French class. “Do you have the new Prince album?” I taped it for her from my CD. Then we started dating.
Now we are upstairs, in bed. In her mother’s bed, to be exact. Nobody is home, and Connie’s mother will not be home all weekend. Connie’s mother is away on vacation with her boyfriend Rusty, who drives a truck and runs pig farms.
Now we are listening to it on the tape deck to the living room stereo. It has two big speakers. We have it on loud so we’ll hear it all the way upstairs. Where we are in bed. Trying lose our virginity.
The only problem is, it’s taking a long time to accomplish this.
Like, a really long time.
Okay, let me just come right out and say it: it’s taking a long time because I’m not sure, like, where it goes. I’m struggling with that. The bedroom is dark, and I’m going by feel. Meanwhile, Prince is singing “Tick-Tick Bang.”
“If I ever getcha, ever getcha, there’s no telling how long I’d last…”
Prince is singing that, but I’m nervous. No telling how long? It’s already been, like, an hour, and I can’t really seal the deal. There’s tick, tick, but there’s no…
Because even though I listen to Prince all the time, and I’ve learned everything I know about sex from him, it’s not happening quite like I thought it would. I thought it would go like a Prince song lyric—like, maybe, “Temptation,” from Around the World in a Day.
“Working my body, working my body…”
That’s Prince. But it’s not going like that at all for me. And getting this monumental act wrong is making me nervous, and so, at times, to quote another Prince lyric, it’s kind of “trying to play pool with a rope.”
I have arrived at Erotic City, population 2, but I am lost.
But the good news is, Graffiti Bridge is playing in a tape player that has auto-repeat. When Side A finishes, it goes to B. And when B finishes, we just keep at it. And it kind of plateaus at heavy petting. For several hours. While Prince fills the house with sexy vibes, power spirit ballads about lasting love, like, “Still Would Stand All Time.” And nasty funk jams with George Clinton. “I’m testing positive / for the funk!” And songs by guest artists like The Time doing “Love Machine,” in which Morris Day raps about his extreme sexual competence.
And every time GB starts again: … “Dear Dad. Things didn’t work out quite like I wanted them to. Sometimes I feel like I’m gonna explode.”
You know—I’m 17. I’ve got hormones surging. Connie is 17, and feels a lot like a 17-year-old with lipstick and tons of hair spray. I’m excited, I’m stymied. But because of my ineptitude … I can’t really park the car in the garage, knowwhatimean….and that brings discomfort. I know, this is a family show, so I’ll only that the cover of Graffiti Bridge features some sky that is blue.
Hour after hour this goes on.
Dear Dad: Things didn’t work out. [wincing] ….sometimes…. explode!
We must have heard the album like, 8 times. We were having bad teenage awkward sex with no manual and no one to ask for help. It was a good time, but I admit, I was not really living up to Prince-ian ideals, sexually speaking.
Let’s admit it, we’re all here tonight because we’re Prince fans. We all wanted our sex life to be like a Prince song—full of instant attraction, “every living fantasies.” Full of poetic euphemisms for oral sex.
We all wanted to wear lingerie to a restaurant.
“Lay your pretty body / against a parking meter
strip your dress like I was stripping a Peter, Paul’s almond joy
Lemme show you baby I’m a talented boy.”
Oh, yeah. I totally am built to have impromptu sex on a parking meter.
In the end, we didn’t have sex that night. And Connie, bless her heart, never said, like, “What the hell happened?! How could you not know how to put your thing in my thing?” She said nothing, and enjoyed the night, and on another occasion, we succeeded in deflowering each other.
And that’ a great lesson for life, from Prince. Sometimes in our lives, things don’t work out like we planned. But we don’t need to explode about it. We can explode later.