Dirt, sex and Dr. Zhivago [memoir]
I was twelve and despite finding some rain-drenched girlie magazines in the basement of a house being built in our development, I knew little about sex. If the magazines, their pages stuck together by water or who knew what else, defined sex, then sex must be dirty, just as dirty as the foundation floor where they'd lain strewn, where you could smell urine and feces and something else, an organic moldiness that filled every corner. Something barely touchable and yet, strangely; new, modern houses were being built over these dank, dark, dirty places. Could those homes — bright, shiny split-levels in the mid-60's sun — ever be really clean with such foul foundations?
That was my mindset, a grimy, murky kernel held close, when my mother allowed me to go with her to see Dr. Zhivago. I wish she hadn't. I was so excited, not just to see the movie, but because our neighbor Sylvia was going too. Sylvia was a decade younger than my mother; she and her husband Don were just getting ready to start their family and the round the clock conversation was having babies. "Think Pink" Don would say as my sister and I hammed it up, blushing at his applause. Don, tan in his capri shorts and golf shirts, and Sylvia, with crop tops and frosted hair, were everything I thought a married couple should be. That was love, "thinking" pink; sex was different, sex was that dirty stack of magazines.
We went to the drive in; I sat in the backseat. I was swept away by the breathtaking beauty of Julie Christie, the exotic, mysterious charm of Omar Shariff's Dr. Zhivago, the gorgeous Lara's theme 'Somewhere my love, there will be songs to sing'. But mostly I was traumatized by Rod Steiger as Komarovsky and his rape of Lara. That heavyset bearded brute pushing himself up against her, pressing the breath out of her, overpowering her, raping her. I could feel her complete helplessness, the same futility I felt when David, the little boy next door, pushed me up against the wall when I was six, and kissed me, whether I wanted him to or not, his breath as fetid as that foundation. Making me feel so dirty I dare not tell my mother. Was that sex? I wanted no part of it.