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From the Archive

The Solution

March 11, 2016 | by

A new kind of matchmaking. Photo: Marco Verch

Sharon Olds’s poem “The Solution” appeared in our Summer 1985 issue. Her most recent collection is Stag’s Leap.

Finally they got the Singles problem under control, they made it scientific. They opened huge Sex Centers—you could simply go and state what you want and they would find you someone who wanted that too. You would stand under a sign saying I Like to Be Touched and Held and when someone came and stood under the sign saying I Like to Touch and Hold they would send the two of you off together. 

At first it went great. A steady stream of people under the sign I Like to Give Pain paired up with a steady stream of people from under I Like to Receive PainForeplay Only—No Orgasm found its adherents, and Orgasm Only—No Foreplay matched up its believers. A loyal Berkeley, California, policeman stood under the sign Married Adults, Lights Out, Face to Face, Under a Sheet, because that’s the only way it was legal in Berkeley—but he stood there a long time in his lonely blue law coat. And the man under I Like to Be Sung to While White Bread Is Kneaded on My Stomach had been there weeks without a reply.

Things began to get strange. The Love Only—No Sex was doing fine; the Sex Only—No Love was doing well, pair after pair walking out together like wooden animals off a child’s ark, but the line for 38D or Bigger was getting unruly, shouting insults at the line for 8 Inches or Longer, and odd isolated signs were springing up everywhere, Retired Schoolteacher and Parakeet—No Leather; One Rm/No Bath/View of Sausage Factory.

The din rose in the vast room. The line under I Want to Be Fucked Senseless was so long that portable toilets had to be added and a minister brought for deaths, births, and marriages on the line. Over under I Want to Fuck Senseless—no one, a pile of guns. A hollow roaring filled the enormous gym. More and more people began to move over to Want to Be Fucked Senseless. The line snaked around the gym, the stadium, the whole town, out into the fields. More and more people joined it, until Fucked Senseless stretched across the nation in a huge wide belt like the Milky Way, and since they had to name it they named it, they called it the American Way.