Richard Branson published his memoir called ‘Losing My Virginity’ which talked about sex, or at least there were some wild times and sex in it. Now with airlines grounded, he can talk about losing part of his airline, if not entirely.
John Cleese talked about losing his virginity in his acclaimed autobiography, ‘So Anyway…’ And both are fabulous reading, not least because they are brave and honest and transparent in approach.
As I ghostwrite and mentor clients with their memoirs, I often wonder about how much sex should be included. How honest should we be? It’s a challenge for sure.
Cleese’s revelations about his first bonk, at the age of twenty-four, is side-splittingly funny and memorable and courageous.
He raises the delicate subject with candour as he recounts a comedy tour of New Zealand. Cleese talks about his history (or lack of) with ‘a person of the same sex as my mother’ and his painful shyness with women.
Here’s a brief excerpt:
I was presented with the surprising offer of a chance to lose my virginity. The New Zealand girls were a wholesome and cheery bunch and I must have been losing my stiffness and rigidity (I speak metaphorically) because in Christchurch I met a girl – we’ll call her Ann – with whom I felt relaxed and who thought me hilarious. She found my impersonation of a mouse the funniest thing she’d ever seen. We enjoyed a couple of evenings of entirely lust-free meetings, and off I flew to Auckland for the last stage of the tour … then received a phone call from Ann, making it quite clear that she would be coming to Auckland the next day, and would be staying with me at the hotel. The message was unequivocal, even to dopey old me. Intimacy would be taking place … (and) the evening was a relative anti-climax, thank God. Ann and I had a few drinks, went upstairs, and she made it easy for me, bless her.
I had no idea how to please her, but she seemed perfectly happy, and there was affection, and she only asked me to do my mouse impersonation twice.
It’s a fascinating topic and raises questions about how much detail is prudent. We know that a good memoir needs to be open and fearless, but is it wise to expose detail of that first love, or first marriage or our gallivanting days? How will it go down with the family?
If you are interested to read more on this intriguing and risky topic, see my booklet called ‘Sex in my memoir’ (There is a nominal charge).