Slouching in the passenger’s seat of my mom’s mini-van was where I first learned about touching oneself. Specifically, that girls could even do that.
I was 13, parked in front of Sparkles Market while mom ran in to buy Pasta-roni. Our stop beforehand? Best Buy.
Rivers Cuomo taught me everything I needed to know.
“I wonder how you touch yourself, and curse myself for being across the sea,” the Weezer frontman sings on 1996’s “Pinkerton” LP.
His message was intended to reach a young Japanese fan who penned him a personal letter -- a note that Cuomo said single-handedly made him “fall in love” with her. At the time, Cuomo suggested that the fan behind the letter, whom he claims he never met, was “probably some 14-year-old girl who didn’t speak English.” He didn’t seem terribly disturbed by it, though.
A year after that moment in my mom’s van, I wrote -- but never sent -- Rivers Cuomo a 12-page letter. It lives underneath the bottom dresser drawer in my childhood bedroom back in Ohio.
To be sensible, I scratched out the portion about marriage, thinking to myself, “This man graduated high school the year I was born.”
But there I was, 14 years old, practically wet from music journalism and deluded into thinking that one day, I’d grow up, interview Rivers, and charm him with my insightful questions -- upon which we’d get married and make lots and lots of babies, all of whom would inevitably wear black plastic glasses and stripped shirts.
Our romance would be facilitated by writing -- the letter, articles, messageboard posts (a place where Rivers, or “Ace” as he was going by on the Weezer.com boards, was known to pick up chicks from time to time).
(Sidenote: It could have worked -- In 2006, Cuomo married Kyoko Ito, a former editor at a Tokyo-based art magazine.)
Right around the time of the letter, I discovered an interview Rivers had done with his friend Joe Matt, the artist behind the “Peepshow” comics. The candid conversation, which ran in issue 10 of “Peepshow” in July 1997, portrayed Cuomo in way rarely -- if ever -- seen in the mainstream press, specifically on the topics of sex and his love of Asian women.
“How many girls have you slept with now?” Joe asked him.
“Not as many as you might think. I think I'm still under forty. But almost all of those have been in the last two years.”
To this day, forty remains the tipping point to me. Gene Simmons, who has supposedly slept with 5,000 women, is in the same league in my mind as Rivers Cuomo, who took a two-year vow of celibacy in 2004.
Cuomo continued: “There was this one time in Japan that was really emotional for me because this is when I was first starting to figure all this stuff out about being really aggressive. I'd been in Japan for a week and every night there were ten or fifteen girls in my room and nothing happened because I wasn't confident enough to say, ‘Let's have sex or get out of the room.’ So finally, at the end of my stay there, I said, ‘Whoever wants to stay in the room has to take their clothes off and get on the bed.’ And most of them left but four of them stayed. It was a very difficult step for me to take but I had to take it. It was the truth about what I wanted.”
I would never allow my parents give me “the talk,” so I must admit that a bit of what I first learned about sex – including the first time the concept of a “threesome” crept in my consciousness -- came from reading and re-reading this interview.
I remember stumbling upon it one day through the message boards. My eyes could not scan the page fast enough.
Reading the interview for the first time felt like what I always imagined seeing porn felt like -- a fact later debunked by how disappointing porn actually is. Watching sleazy couples fuck on the Internet would never feel as good as hearing Rivers Cuomo talk about fucking Japanese groupies, all the while drowning in what I would later call “my Asian issues.” (Sidenote: To this day, “Goddamn you half Japanese girls.”)
More and more, I began trolling the Weezer.com boards. Long before I knew anything about Sophocles or Freud, I was lecturing my peers in Mrs. Small’s eighth grade history class on the topic of Oedipus and his famed complex.
It was a seed planted by fans interpreting key “Across the Sea” lyrics as being Oedipul, i.e., sexual toward Cuomo’s mother. “At 10 I shaved my head and tried to be a monk / I thought the older woman would like me if I did / You see Ma, I’m a good little boy / It’s all your fault, mama,” he sings.
The same album, “Pinkerton,” was there to comfort me when my first gay boyfriend came out of the closet. “I’m dumb, she’s a lesbian,” I had heard Cuomo sing on “Pink Triangle.” I sang along loudly: “Everyone’s a little queer, why can’t he be a little straight?”
That said, I would hope Rivers had more to go on with the object of his affection than a mutual love of “Harry Potter” and afterschool ping-pong games.
After a while, it wasn’t just the music or even blind Rivers worship. I had become obsessed with the Weezer backstory, specifically folklore about “Mykel & Carli.”
Widely considered the biggest Weezer fans to have ever lived, the two sisters were, literally, both wide and big, much like myself. This was obvious from the small number of photos of them floating around on the boards.
They were friends with Weezer and founded the fan club, but at their core, Mykel and Carli Allan were “band aids” -- and unlike “Almost Famous,” no sex was involved. I always felt bad for them, though. I always felt like, had they not been chubby, one or both of them would have been with someone in the band instead of just following them around on the road -- an act that ended up taking their lives in a 1997 car accident.
In return, all they got was a lame B-side about school buses and hats. I stopped thinking Rivers would want to be with someone like me.
But by the time I did, I had already decided that even if Rivers Cuomo wasn’t going to fall for me mid-interview, being a music writer was my fate. It was a done deal.
High school came, and despite never having sex, I knew all about it -- thanks to Weezer. My mom still thought of them as those nice nerdy boys who wrote songs about Mary Tyler Moore and sweaters. If only she had known the dirty things they taught me.