The Only Worthwhile Advice I Ever Received From Anyone My Whole Entire Life

SPOILER ALERT: It involves performing cunnilingus!

Advice is some bullshit. People who come to you for advice aren’t looking for you to share the wisdom you’ve accumulated in life, mostly because if you’re anything like me you haven’t picked up a whole lot of the stuff. My friends know it and so do yours. People who come to you looking for advice aren’t looking for guidance, they’re looking for permission to do whatever the hell they were going to do in the first place. And since they don’t already perceive broad Social Permission to do that thing, it means whatever they have planned is in all likelihood illegal and at best unethical or at least sketchy as fuck, meaning your involvement could lead to a criminal indictment or arrest warrant with your name on it if you so much as tacitly approved any of your friends’ quixotic hopes and dreams. People who come to you for advice are never really your friends.

People who give advice, on the other hand, are the goddamn worst. Fuck those smug bastards. Look, I’m glad your life turned out so great and I’m sure it had everything to do with your sterling life choices and nothing to do with luck or privilege or health or socioeconomic factors you had fuckall to do with. Don’t get me wrong — you’ve prolly got good advice to give and I would almost certainly take it if I knew what was good for me. Except happiness itself — the goal of any life well-lived — is entirely contingent and fleeting these days. What makes you so special? I feel like you’re judging me, when you give me advice, like I don’t already know what’s good for me.

Tomorrow never knows. The Fed could raise interest rates. Russia’s bellicosity is alarming. There’s nothing sustainable about anything happening in Silicon Valley. The ice caps are definitely melting. It’s a good bet that as the waters rise and the tides breach our inadequate levees, we will forsake our most cherished creeds to appease the displeased Fates who punish us so, at which point the rich shall be pitchforked into the everising sea, their unacknowledged cries for mercy and howling pleas that we turn back to the reason and order of civil society a tuneless requiem for all that we will have lost. The fall of capitalism shall, as predicted, be swift and without mercy. Then, in our collective sorrow and desperate madness, our fortunes unrestored by our implacable new gods, we’ll see no choice but to turn now on anybody who was happy or successful before seaswell heralded the end of all things, and cast those formerly smiled upon by Providence likewise into the sempiternally ravenous sea, their howls an elegiac dirge for our dead civilization. All of which is to say the line between triumph and regret is awfully, awfully thin and shifts a little each day, so don’t get smug on that perch of yours, if you ever find yourself inclined to hand out advice to the rest of us chumps.

We can argue about whether or not individual people are fundamentally good, but it doesn’t matter because in the aggregate people are objectively terrible, which is why advice is terrible: it comes from people. There was a time, back when we could imagine a better future, when you could Ask Jeeves for advice. Jeeves wasn’t a person so the advice was legit. Unfortunately, Jeeves has been redirected to the Great 404 Error in the cloud, God rest his code. So now we’re stuck with shitty people and their shitty self-interested advice.

Actually, come to think of it, I did get some really good advice, once, back in 1996. There’s nothing I can say about the nineties that hasn’t already been said, except to say that if we’d known that, by the second decade of the 21st century, people who weren’t grad students would regularly use the word ‘problematic’ in conversation, we wouldn’t now have to go back in time to tell nineties grad students to cut the shit before something terrible happens, something terrible like regular people using ‘problematic’ in conversation. If, by using the sorcery of time travel, we did manage to get that fixed, and there was still time left over, maybe we’d prevent 9/11 also, but I’m not optimistic about our chances of doing both. Grad students back then were damn near feral; pack of wild dogs, the lot of them; maybe the best we could hope for is a future where civilians don’t use the word ‘deconstruct’ interchangeably with the word ‘analyze.’ God, the future has turned out to be a fucking horrorshow; thanks a lot, former grad students.

Anyway, back in 1996 I was playing the final baseball game I would ever play. I had played hundreds of them over the previous ten years, but at that point I was a few months past my eighteenth birthday and waiting out those interminable few months before leaving home for school. By the last inning I’d asked our coach to take me out of the game because I just wanted to talk shit from the dugout; it sounds like dereliction but I don’t think a single one of us knew the score at that point. Our team was not exceptionally good.

Our high school baseball coach had also been our middle school PE coach, plus he’d coached the neighborhood league team we all played on in the offseason. He’d volunteered hundreds of hours as our coach damn near every weekend over the previous five years, so when he spoke we listened.

‘Quit fucking around, boys,’ he commanded, then his voice softened, deepened. We didn’t know it, but he almost certainly knew this would be the last time he’d speak to most of us; teenagers make a lot of assumptions about the future that simply aren’t true, like that it won’t be a fucking horrorshow for instance.

‘I got one piece of advice for you and it’s the only advice I’m ever going to give you.’ He looked out onto the field a bit, measured his words. Measured the moment. He spat out some of the sunflower seeds he kept stashed in his lower lip, on account of the fact role models couldn’t chew tobacco in front of kids, and he scratched his balls. Our attention thus grabbed, he continued:

‘Any man that don’t mack his woman’s box has got a woman that can be stolen.’

That’s a direct quote, and worth putting in bold in case you don’t have time to read the rest of this essay, because if you had any sense then instead of reading the rest of this essay you’d right now be tending to the critical task of not having your woman stolen or otherwise not yourself getting stolen. Or you might yourself be getting stolen as we speak, which is an admirable bit of multitasking.

Incidentally — incidentally to this bit of advice if not for you biographically or personally — if you’re a gay dude you’re already better at being gay than my old baseball coach ever could have been, so he wouldn’t have much advice for you; I’d say keep doing what you’re doing if it’s working for you, if not change it up a bit I guess. Watch some porn if you’re out of ideas.

Tearing down the obsolete gender binaries that constrain the fullest expression of our collective humanity is also a thing you might be doing, either instead of or in conjunction with taking or not taking this advice. Lesbians? Stop laughing, you had a total head start on figuring this out.

Naturally, being mostly seventeen years old at the time, we had questions for our baseball coach. So many questions! Like, wasn’t the language of ownership a barrier to intimacy since it elided the conceptualization of relationships as a partnership between equals? Did the performance of territoriality not misappropriate a woman’s agency? Moreover, was this not the dehumanizing language of consumerism, reducing gender to a set of asymmetrical transactions mapped onto reifying power dynamics? Did conceptualizing the vagina and/or labia as a literal box not serve to ‘Other’ female anatomy as a prelude to erasing it from the discourse? Did the dialectical logos of patriarchal dominance not dictate codification of specific sex acts as themselves feminine/verbal as opposed to masculine/physical? Could this exhortation not be read as a politically reactionary gesture in defense of masculine hegemonies? Could our high school baseball coach not immediately recognize just how problematic this all was?

‘Boys, I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about,’ he snapped, spraying sunflower seeds. ‘I think you might be missing the entire point that I’m trying to make. And did one of you just use problem as an adjective instead of a noun? What the hell is wrong with you?’ He shook his head, took a deep breath, and scratched his balls before continuing.

‘Let me clarify what I just said. I know this is very difficult for you to understand. It might be even more difficult to believe, but here it is. Women enjoy getting gone down on about as much as boys enjoy getting blowjobs. Might even enjoy it more. That’s a different subject though. The fact of the matter is that most women I’ve ever known you can’t satisfy unless you mack their box on the regular. But here’s the thing. If you’re half-assed about it then she’ll know you don’t want to be pleasing her, and you won’t satisfy her, and she’ll wonder if she even wants to be with anyone who doesn’t particularly care if she’s satisfied, and then she’ll start wondering if some other person maybe could satisfy her instead. So if you haven’t already, now’s the time to start macking box or munching rug or eating pussy or whatever you kids call it, because trust me it only gets fun once you stop thinking it’s not supposed to be fun.’

‘Giving oral pleasure,’ said one of the guys, in Maria de Madeiro’s accent from Pulp Fiction, because literally every other thing out of our mouth was a Pulp Fiction quote in those days. That’s what we kids were calling it.

We had to ask our coach if he particularly enjoyed it, to which he replied: ‘Hell yes, I enjoy it. It’s one of my favorite things. It’s awesome.’ And that — the admission that he in fact enjoyed performing cunnilingus — absolutely blew my goddamn teenage mind. I’d never heard a man say that, and in the twenty years since then I don’t know that I’ve heard any other men say it, for that matter. Partially this is modesty — after all, you basically never ever once hear men go on and on and on about the details of their goddamned sex lives, at all, ever, do you? — but there’s still a bit of stigma around being a man who performs oral sex regularly. Well? I also enjoy the hell out of it, so there.

I should point out that I’m making no claims for my own competency here. It’s like when I meet someone and they describe themselves as funny or say something like ‘Everybody thinks I’m a funny person.’ You know what? Fuck you, funnycakes. Tell a joke or crack wise or flash some wit. If you tell me you’re an inorganic chemist I’ll take your word for it — for now — but whether or not you’re funny is so eminently demonstrable that declaring yourself such makes me sincerely doubt the claim. Mostly I’ll think you’re a self-serious asshat.

I enjoy eating pussy but am I good at it? WHO KNOWS. If you happen to be curious about whether or not I’m good at eating pussy, give me half a reason and I’ll eat your stupid pussy and then you can decide for yourself whether or not I’m good at eating pussy already. That’s if you’re a lady. If you’re a dude wondering the same thing, uh, just keep your own house in order and concentrate on not getting your woman stolen. Don’t make this weird.

Men are never born with anything like an aptitude for cunnilingus. If you’re a straight male over the age of thirty you’ve had the formative experience of sensing a lack of enthusiasm from your ladyfriend, at which point you must have stopped, looked up, and asked in all seriousness: ‘Whah? Ahmahh doowah eht wraaang?’ Which is how the phrase ‘What? Am I doing it wrong?’ sounds when you have a mouthful of pubic hair because boot camp did not adequately prepare you for the war that is waged on the battlefield that is love, and now your intrepid expedition into no man’s land has left you stranded, not at the target LZ of the placid and fertile delta with all its treasures but, in an indefensible display of martial incompetence, you’ve instead deployed several clicks north, in the altogether inhospitable jungle, which your CO neglected to inform you is a DMZ and not only is your mission FUBAR but, man oh man do you ever look like an asshole trying to bivouac in that sector. Fall back, soldier, and live to fight another day.

And I know you’ve been on the other side of this exchange if you’re a straight woman over the age of thirty; you’ve had this exchange because us boys were raised comically ignorant of female anatomy but intimately conversant with any kind of metaphor, no matter how incongruous or just plain stupid, that kept words like vagina and labia out of our mouths; women’s genitalia, being unspeakable, was therefore profoundly unknowable even or especially when it was right in front of our faces, its entire dimly comprehended topography pregnant with tacit menace, like the sea.

My coach had to navigate right past obstacles like that with his advice, obstacles that had been thrown up during sex ed, in sixth grade. For a week that spring, they had separated us boys and girls into separate classrooms for an hour before recess. While girls presumably learned how to use tampons and the like we were told profoundly alienating things about girls’ bodies, like that the clitoris was ‘a miniature penis that women have down there, for some reason,’ and that orgasm is ‘the involuntary muscle contraction that causes the ejaculation of sperm into the woman’s body’, which, hey, we knew that word! Wasn’t orgasms a bigger deal than that? Our teacher, who got into the business to teach math and had almost certainly never wanted anything to do with this shit, figured that orgasm is in fact the ‘reason’ boys enjoy sex and want to have sex in the first place — no mention of girls in all of that. As for them, they tended to want to be In Love and have babies and were unlikely to have sex just for fun, so you needed to be suspicious of their motives at all times and always, always use a condom.

More immediately pertinent to our lives as twelve year-old boys, we learned that you can’t pop a boner right after you have an orgasm, not for some undisclosed period of time anyway. This was to us sixth graders the impossible dream, to not be walking around popping humiliating boners every time a female aside from your mom or your sister bent over to pick something up off the floor. It also meant, in an offhand way, that the reason you didn’t see forty year old men walking around in public spontaneously popping boners constantly was because they had sex twice a day everyday to prevent just that very thing. Adulthood and marriage seemed like a win-win from that vantage point.

From here, now over a quarter century later, I will add, ruefully, that as time makes its inexorable advance we men can only lament the profligacy of youth and all those boners we did pop yet could not help but to have wasted along the way to the decrepitude of our journey’s earthly end. I mean, unless your insurance covers them blue pills, in which case: suck a dick, passage of time.

Anyway, so far as my coach’s advice re: macking box goes, I had to figure out elementary shit like the fact there’s nothing erotic about going to town on a mouthful of pubic hair, and that women are in fact capable of orgasm; due to analog constraints I learned these things almost exclusively by getting feedback from actual women, which in this porn-saturated age sounds archaic and mortifying to anyone who grew up with xhamster playing on an infinite loop 24/7 from the moment you were old enough to type an address into a browser, all the other assorted tubez and ‘specialty’ sites precision engineered to collectively satisfy each and every one of your incipient curiosities while likewise satiating any need you could possibly conceive or latent kink you might arouse or urge you should ever otherwise intimate, all without the awkwardness and inevitable disappointment — on either, or, in all likelihood if we’re being honest, both sides of the exchange— that results from attempting to love or otherwise interact with other living souls.

I’m all for progress and I’m sure the past sounds to people who weren’t there like every bit the nightmare that the future has turned out to be for the rest of us; for instance, not a lot of people remember this, but it used to be that your phone would be stuck to the goddamn wall and when the stupid thing rang you’d have to pick up without even knowing who the fuck might possibly be on the other line. Who needs that kind of stress? Nobody, that’s who. Send a goddamn text, you obsolete twat! Fuckouttahere with that. But that was just how life was, if you’re over thirty now, and we got on with it as best we could.

Nowadays I can’t say much definitively for straight people under the age of thirty and what those first forays into cunnilingus are like, primarily because I’d certainly hope they’ve changed the way sex ed is taught these days, but also because grooming habits have changed so radically. Despite the overarching horribleness of the Bush Years we seem to be living through what I’ll describe as a gross overreaction to them. If it’s not a political statement then safe to say nobody has pubic hair anymore because of pornography and its pervasive influence. Thanks to porn, straight men under thirty know everything there is to know about sex with women, aside from the part where a woman’s pleasure gets anything like equal consideration, or that ‘eating pusssy’ doesn’t consist entirely of five licks in the general vicinity of said pussy to get her warmed up for the Good Part, you clueless Tootsie Pop Owl living jackasses.

The sex itself couldn’t be mistaken for porn by any casual observers despite being so thoroughgoingly informed by it, the whole scene more a garish phantasmagoric simulacra of some pneumatically powered posthuman cartoon filmed on shakycam that your woefully fleshy nonpornstar body with its unflatteringly bungled depilation will eternally fail to replicate with any credible verisimilitude while it thrashes clumsily about, reminiscent of the scene after a fairy godmother brings to life afterhours a department store mannequin with stiff joint articulation, the sensation of feeling its own limbs somehow profoundly alienating to its newfound consciousness, its first act as a sentient being to get itself hopped up to the eyelids and out of its goddamn mind on knockoff Tijuana ketamine somebody left in the breakroom before it staggers through the furniture department to the clearance section at back where it wheezes and surges and pounds without any semblance of rhythm while charmlessly trying to fuck an unsold ottoman, and hard. Which! certainly doesn’t sound promising if you’re having to have sex with dudes under thirty, but on the upside we have managed to raise an entire generation of amateur proctologists, so congratulations everybody. Fantastic work all around.

I do feel compelled to offer an important caveat, mostly as a Public Service to any teenage boys reading this. Please keep in mind that receiving oral sex is like receiving tacos, insofar as everyone likes tacos, except of course for people who don’t like tacos. They have their reasons for not liking tacos. Whether it’s because tacos can be a bit messy, or they have an aversion to delicious things, or they’re vegetarians, or they simply do not care for Mexicans, the particulars don’t matter; you’re not going to be The One who suddenly changes their mind by shoving tacos in their face and insisting they’ve never had a proper taco. Stop. It’s rude and you’re being weird. Drop the goddamn taco and back slowly away from the table. The lady ordered a cheeseburger.

It’s a fair question whether or not a woman who dislikes receiving oral sex either always or never can be stolen from her partner, but as usual Science can offer nothing but worthless Speculation and Innuendo until the relevant experiments have been conducted on Dutch and Icelandic populations.

I said earlier that advice is worthless and that it is bullshit, so it’s useful for me to think about what made that one piece of advice from my high school baseball coach stand out as the one bit of good advice I can point to. And I do get thrown a metric fuckton of advice, despite the fact I am an adult with most of a college degree, who has also been employed a whole bunch of different times. I seen some stuff.

First of all, my coach, in speaking to us for what would be the final time, wasn’t making any noble attempt to improve me or make me a better person. ‘Better person’ suggests a best possible person, meaning some ideal self he imagined for me, rather than the person I would aspire to myself become.

It also helped that the advice wasn’t directed at me personally; not only that, it was prolly a little irresponsible of him to ever have given the advice in the first place, given that he was an employee of the school district. I mean, I volunteer with high school theater kids all the time; you have any idea how quick I’d get shitcanned, telling kids to mack each others’ box after rehearsal? Plus, I mean, it’s theater; the dudes ain’t exactly keen and the girls can prolly figure it out amongst themselves. Still, it’d be nice to be able to tell the kids what’s what without the probability of never being allowed on school property again. That’s why when kids ask me anything personal or even a little grown up my boilerplate response is ‘Anything I have to say could be better said in the language of pornography, which you all have access to on your phones. Truly you are a generation blessed by the wisdom, judgement, and foresight of your elders; cherish them.’

Point is, my old coach gave the advice without anything like a coherent agenda to push, which is to say he gave it freely.

It was a generous gesture from a man who’d already spent hundreds of unpaid hours coaching us over several years. Most advice you get from most people amounts to a bunch of hot tips on what in their opinion has made them so happy and so successful, and they dole this out to people who are in their eyes less happy and less successful and therefore in need of their hot tips, which when you add it up is pretty goddamn selfish of them. Advice wouldn’t be bullshit all the time if people just shared their experience, let each other know that this is what’s given me pleasure in this situation and that is what’s nearly broken my spirit in that situation; if the knowledge was hardearned and the only receipt your own heart’s faded scars then certainly others would benefit from being made aware that such things are already known in the world, the comfort of knowing beforehand that others have lived to tell the tale. Like about cunnilingus, in this instance; how many women had been stolen from our coach over the years? How many had he stolen? The mind boggles.

Regardless the answer, and the tricky realities of actually being a role model to kids, I think you’ll agree it is a great thing for boys and girls and everyone else to hear at seventeen about the link between oral sex and infidelity and reciprocity and building a lasting relationship. This all sounds like I’m giving advice, I know, but I am not. Just letting you know there is good advice out there, is all. Now let’s go grab some tacos.