Advice to the lustlorn
July 25, 1990

   Letters . . . I get letters. . . .
   To: Randel Shard AKA/The Devil's Pen Pal
   Dear Pal:
   Excuse me for writing this to you. I realize that in this sexually repressed time at old U of M it may be construed as sexual harassment, even trying to query the Devil about sex. But I'm gonna do it anyhow.
   As long as I've been attending the U, there has been graffiti on the women's restroom walls asking, in one form or the other, "should I have sex with my platonic male friend?'' and "will the friendship be ruined?'' I've wondered for years why anyone would want to have sex with a platonic friend. Well, I've finally come to a time in life when a natural answer comes to me: when someone is horny as hell. So horny they'd fuck the Devil if he showed up and his breath wasn't too bad.
   The Devil has been lurking. He tries to cover that camphoric smell with Fahrenheit or Brut 33, but he can't fool me. I've been burned at the stake for this type of thing in a past life. I think.
   So, Mr. Pen Pal, tell that devil to stop lurking and strike while the mood is hot. Otherwise, I'll probably be asking my friend . . . to sleep with me, embarrassing the pants off of him and ruining a nice, uncomplicated friendship.
   Sublimating as hard as I can,
   Sincerely yours . . .

   To protect the innocent and the guilty, I'm left out her name and her platonic friend's name. When referring to her in the future, I'll follow the grand tradition of men's magazines and call her Name and address withheld.
   Against my better judgment, I wrote back:

   Dear (Name and address withheld):
   Yes, indeed, these are sexually repressed times at the U, but at times like these I'd even appreciate a little sexual harassment, as opposed to plain old non-sexual harassment. . . . So I'm more than glad to pass your question on to Beelzebub.
   I sent your query to him by express mail, and here's his reply:

   Dear (Name and address withheld),
   I haven't had a chance to hang around women's rest rooms since the fall of Rome, and back then the graffiti usually dealt with carnal acts so complicated it'd take up half a wall just to describe one of them in English. It's a shame Latin's become a dead language.
   As for the lurking and tempting, I haven't done any lurking since the days of St. Theresa, and as for tempting -- well, I prefer to think of it as offering a little friendly advice. I haven't been hanging around your place; I don't even have your address. I can't sit on your shoulder any more than I can tap-dance on the head of a pin. S o whoever it is that's been lurking about, it wasn't me. My guess is that it's Merv Griffin.
   By the way, I use Mennen Speed Stick, spice fragrance. I t's the only thing that keeps me smelling good in the bowels of the earth.
   I'm flattered to read, if that's what you're implying, that you're horny enough to "fuck the Devil if he showed up and his breath wasn't too bad.'' My breath is pretty good, by the way. I use Scope religiously. I used to use Listerine, but that tended to scare a lot of people. As for that occasional camphoric smell -- that's the Noxzema I sometimes use to keep my skin from getting scaly.
   But anyway, to the platonic question. I don't pretend to be all-knowing; I don't know what sex would do to your friendship. It might wreck it, it might not. Platonic love and romantic love are two different things, and between the two is a vast chasm of confusion and horniness. And then, of course, there's sex, and that may have nothing to do with either type of love. B ut one thing's for sure, once you take the plunge, there's no turning back. There's no such thing as sex with no strings attached. I 'm the Devil; I know these things.
   Choose well and never regret,

   I hope the Devil's letter helped clear things up for you. Maybe there's a future for me in advice-column intermediating. Who knows.
   Happy sublimating,
   Randel Shard

   Days went by, and I received another letter:

   Asking the Devil a question is kinda like, to steal a phrase, putting out fire with gasoline. My desire to ask another just increases.
   All those questions about love were just a cover, you know, to ask the Big Guy about sex. T his morning I was walking around the library, all self-righteous, believing that I'm so good that the Devil wouldn't even dare answer my query, but here it is this afternoon: his answer is neat laser printing. And Randel, your express mail bill must be enormous by now -- alarming.
   OK, OK, so Mr. Beelzebub wasn't lurking on the fourth floor of the Law Library. Anyway, I've got it all figured out. Some enterprising students were probably doing some research on human pheromones up there in the study rooms. The whole thing got completely out of hand when they spilled some of the shit. Whoo, what a smell. I nearly attacked three gardeners that day. If they weren't carrying brooms, well, then . . . You think I'm pulling your leg? I 'll show you the bruises. I noticed that now all the gardeners, regardless of age, carry weed whackers.
   Thank Lucifer for the polite answer to my "fuck the Devil'' offer. This Devil is such a joker, that I'm supposed to believe he uses Scope, Mennen and Noxzema. I suppose so as not to scare the folks on their way to the bowels of the earth, huh? The gardeners are scarier that that with those big weed whackers.
   So many questions, so little time.
   A fan,
   (Name and address withheld)

© 1990 Randel Shard
First published in The Minnesota Daily on July 25, 1990