No, indeed. In fact, I'm usually next door at Life Cafe. I've been having brunch here for about ten years. I sit by the window and watch the b-ball games in Thompson Sq. Park, sometimes tourists take pics of the locals, while we get on with our Bloody Mary's. The view is familiar. Comforting. I spent a week here when I was seven. But more importantly, my mother lived here. Right in this building. 343 East 10th Street. When she was a young girl. Working on Madison Avenue. Her favorite story:
When I was filled out the job application, I found the box marked "sex" and I wrote "no."
The first $177 Bagel Award goes to the man who created it, Bronx City Councilman, Larry Seabrook. In one of the poorest congressional districts in the nation, Seabrook’s larceny is not only ironic, it’s comic. The Daily News reports today that Cash and Carry Larry, among other things, “funneled Council funds to non-profits he controlled and directed. Including $300,000 for a bogus program to recruit minority-group candidates for the Fire Department.”
His less egregious, but no less iconic offense is doctoring a receipt: instead of being reimbursed $7 for a bagel, he got $177.00. Hence the title of this award. Now I am not naïve, and I know I haven’t heard his side of the story--- but, for the most part, I believe its--- politics as usual in the Bronx, only Larry, you got caught. Congratulations on being the first recipient of the $177 Bagel Award. Maybe next time you won’t be so greedy, because honestly you make it difficult for the rest of us to be quietly inept and corrupt. Shame!
Next up, is the Department of Education. Congratulations on winning the second $177.00 Bagel Award. Tell me is it true that a teacher in the rubber room has collected over $700,000 in salary while doing nothing? Tell me, is it true that said teacher is allegedly a pervert? Wow, holy shit. What a great career choice for a pedophile! I’m serious. Guy’s probably taking in Broadway shows, dinner out, Starbucks, movies, all that good stuff--- on your dime.
You are too much, srsly. The wheels turn so slowly at the DOE that you win the award for sheer lassitude and entropy. Don’t forget to post these teaching jobs on http://www.idonteach.com/. We wouldn’t want any well-qualified perverts (men as well as women) with a bachelor’s degree to miss out on this great career opportunity in education.
At first, I am horrified by my black and white blue jeans. Simply. Horrified. What in God's name was I thinking? Can I blame them entirely on the 80's? But then I see that I am feeding Tippy Jr., my niece, next to my brother, Mark, whose next to the incomparable, Leokadia. Our mother. Now I like those jeans. I like my pouffy hair, and gigantic glasses. Context indeed is everything.
Jezebel.com posted a wonderful review/article of my new book project, Tales from the Velvet Chamber, written by Katy Kelleher. What's perhaps most gratifying is that the author really gets it. Really wrote eloquently and intelligently about the misson of this anthology. To make this even sweeter, have been a big fan of Jezebel.com for a very long time. As of today, 4,000 people have read it. Oh yeah. Oh yeah, baby.
Yesterday, the air was cold and clean, drenched in winter sunlight. My friend Margaret Clark stood at the door greeting people. She was dressed in hot pink. We spoke for a few minutes about inconsequential things. I wasn't in a hurry to go up the stairs, so stepped outside for a moment just as Janette and her son Luke showed up. We walked back in together. More and more people began to arrive at 775 Washington Street. Well dressed people wearing black; cashmere and leather and silk. Margaret said, I've been to bar mitzvahs here, and even danced here when it was a nightclub in the early 90's.What is it today, I asked. Primarily a photography studio, she replied.
Finally I took to the stairs, and then up a cement ramp that curved to the right. On the landing, a slide show projected onto the large white wall. Jasmina Anema in all her glory; dressed in gold lame with matching gold sneakers, wearing a two piece bathing suit, laughing and giggling, her long braids, her wide smile. A six year old girl. I stepped into the main room flooded with sunlight. Row upon row of white chairs, and in the front of the room, a little white coffin and two large sprays of roses. Jasmina's mother, Thea, seated in the front row on one side, on the other side, Jasmina's birth mother and family.
Jasmina had a fought a year long, much publicized battle with a particularly virulent form of leukemia. Tragically, she lost that battle last Wednesday night. This was her funeral. I walked up the aisle, gave my condolences to Thea, and stepped up to the coffin. There was Jasmina dressed as a fairy princess, the coffin lined with toys and a picture of her with President Obama. Nothing prepares you for this. Soon the service started. Many people spoke, musicians played, two of Jasmina's friends from school sang Twinkle, twinkle little star. My heart ached for Thea.
I only knew her casually through Margaret, but throughout the years, I heard all the stories, all the adventures of Thea and Jasmina; how they traveled around the world, how Jasmina knew Dutch and Mandarin, their summer house in the Catskills. Margaret told me the story about how Thea stitched up a mermaid costume when Jasmina had to undergo a painful procedure at the hospital. When I saw them together, I was humbled, they were such a pair, mother and daughter, bonded for life. The love was palpable. But now it was over. At one point in the service, a man sang a song about how lonely he was going to be, and suddenly the birth mother burst into tears, inconsolable.
I thought about how incalculably generous Thea was--- inviting the birth family. And it was strange to see adults and children who looked so much like Jasmina, but who never really knew her. Thea reached out to them at some point during Jasmina's illness. They bonded. I couldn't get over Thea's courage. I thought how strange, sad and even wonderful that there were two mothers at this funeral for a little girl. Both had, in their own way, lost their child. But Thea was the true mother who raised her, loved her, and who, day after day, stood by Jasmina's side and never gave up. She never spent a night alone in the hospital.
There was no religion at this funeral. No priest. No 23rd Psalm. No drive to the cemetery. Instead in a photography studio flooded with late winter sunlight, a mother and her community grieved the loss of a remarkable and beautiful little girl. My heart is still breaking.
We are not thrilled when celebrities start to frequent our favorite coffee shop, bar or restaurant. We are not thrilled at all. In truth, the locals, the real New Yorkers--- we like to keep to ourselves. Celebrities bring in the outside world; the tourists, the trash and the folks from New Jersey which means the white stretch limos can’t be far behind and that ain’t never good.
Everyday, no matter how far we have travel, we always carry one if not two bags. The bag might be a tote, a backpack, a briefcase or a signature blue Tiffany shopping bag, but guaranteed this aforementioned bag contains some or all of these items: a water bottle, a pair of sneakers, a lap top, a book intellectual enough to impress the strangers on the train, but not a book we would actually enjoy, a snack maybe an apple or a box of raisins, an umbrella, a folded up newspaper, a pair of socks, a hat, spare change, a hair brush, a lipstick, hair spray, hair gel, and of course a Metro card.
We regard all night restaurants, bars, laundromats, grocery stores, pharmacies, bookstores, dry cleaners, salons, and coffee shops as our God given right.
We always have a subway strategy which evolves and refines itself the longer we live here. For example; I decided 15 years ago that I could improve the quality of my life by at least 35% by avoiding Penn Station, and I haven’t looked back. BTW: I avoid the big monster stations, like Times Square and Herald Square, and get on the first or last car.
Walking around the city in a torrential downpour or snow storm does not faze us . Every smart New Yorker (and there are no dumb New Yorkers) has all the appropriate foul weather gear. We all have warm hats, waterproof shit-kicking boots, a collection of umbrellas--- all black--- and if all fails, we tell magnificent lies when we call in sick because the weather is so bad.
Every New Yorker has an emotional connection to a building, a bridge or park that borders on the perverse. Said structure will bring tears to our eyes, inspire us to sing sad songs, and visit when we are drunk or lonely or both. For me, it’s the Brooklyn Bridge. I love it beyond all reason. When I am zooming along the FDR in a cab, heading south, as the Manhattan, then the Brooklyn Bridge come into view along the river, lit up by lights b/c of course its very late---- is a moment of the purest bliss.
Real New Yorkers NEVER stand in line to get into a nightclub or a restaurant. We NEVER wait months to get a reservation. The very idea is preposterous. We stand in ENOUGH lines--- we would rather go to the movies on Monday night or Wednesday morning just to avoid standing in line.
Let me repeat: Real New Yorkers NEVER stand in line unless they have to. Got that? Good.
In the Daily News today, Elizabeth Benjamin writes about embattled Senator Hiram Monserrate. He claims that he’s being targeted “because he is a Latino.” Not because he cut up his girlfriend’s face in a jealous rage, and was convicted of this crime. No, that wouldn’t be the reason. Instead he's compared himself to, according to Benjamin, “murdered civil rights workers” because he’s about to lose his Senate seat. I don’t know anything about that, but by a strange coincidence, an unnamed source emailed me this letter today:
I want to you to kiss me, beat me, and make me write bad checks. I want you to slap me silly. I want to worship you. I want you to grow tomatoes in my backyard. I want you to grill steaks, shoot deer, shovel snow and take the garbage out at night. I want you in all your manly manliness. All your girth. Your wisdom. Your big head, your devilish smirk.
You’re the Prince Charming I’ve always dreamed about. You’re the Boricua in my cup of tea. You’re my tamale, my chorizo, my empanada. Together we’ll build a home on Long Island or Staten Island. I’ll stay home and make the babies. I’ll pour your coffee in the morning, clip your toenails in the afternoon, and watch you belch after dinner.
And if I ever want to fuck a cop I won’t be a bitch about it. I’ll invite you along to watch. You can take pictures if you want, and email them to all your cronies in Albany. What fun you and the boys will have laughing about my tits and my ass. Then I’ll blow you when you come home, and mix you a martini, shaken not stirred.
Please tell me I have chance. I love you, Hiram Monserrate
Psssst. Tina. I saw him first. Now back off, bitch!
A woman was taken into police custody today after threatening to blow up, Archeology, the well known chain of high end clothing for women. Information on this breaking story is still not verified, but it seems the woman began waving around a stick of dynamite when a sales associate informed her they no longer carried size 14 in blue jeans. She is described as being in her late 40's, bleached blond hair, wearing a long gray cashmere coat and black cowboy boots. She is a size 14 at least.
Apparently she walked into the store at around noon today. Several witnesses reported that after only a few minutes, she became very agitated. At one point, she cornered a sales associate and said, "Where are the size 14 blue jeans?" The associate replied, "We don't carry them anymore." When the still as yet unidentified woman asked to see the manager, the associate replied: "She's not here, she's taking her SAT's."
The woman became even more agitated and demanded a pair of jeans. At this point, three or four other associates as well as several worried customers began combing through the piles of neatly folded blue jeans. Hoping against hope, playing against time--- perhaps a miracle. Perhaps a pair of blue jeans that would fit.
But this was not to be.
While there were plenty of size 2, 4, 6, and 8, no one could find size 10 let alone 14. Again, according to sources, this is when the highly emotional woman pulled out the stick of dynamite and threatened to blow up the store. As of right now, we don't have any more information on this developing story. But STay tuneD. In closing, one might be tempted to draw a parallel between this and the story last week of a woman who held her plastic surgeon hostage for fifteen days. Her HMO didn't cover her nose job. Are we seeing a trend here?
---when my evil twin, Esmerelda appeared, and started mouthing off. Saying terrible things. Things like: "What the fuck do you know about Jungian psychoanalysis, the concept of the shadow self, the archetype and the dream? What? Where did you get your degree, Pace University? Please! Don't sit here in your rent controlled apartment that doubles as your office and tell me how to live my fucking life. I know how to live my life!"
Esmerelda is definitely a bitch. And I did not agree that she should appear at this session, my third. I was totally against it from the beginning. For one thing, she scares people. For another thing, she's unpredictable. So there you go. Perfect Storm. So E. mouths off, and my shrink, Dr. Yates, is like, What the fuck. I knew that's what she was thinking. Her face turned white, her mouth dropped open. I could see her tongue.
Now I was going to lose another shrink, my fourth in less than a year. First there was an old guy who smelled like cabbage. He wore cardigans and ties, and assiduously took notes as I spoke--- all the while tapping the toe of his tasseled loafer. After awhile just the sight of those shoes was enough to give me a headache. Plus he never said much--- until the day Esmerelda made her first appearance.
Fine, move on to the next one. A stone cold butch shrink in an office building downtown; blond pixie cut, cowboy boots and big silver jewelry. Looked like she could slice cheese with her nose. She was another one. Sat there in silence twirling her Tiffany pen, surrounded by candles, and pictures of Indian goddesses. Her favorite expression was, "How would you re-frame that?"
Then wouldn't you know it, Esmerelda jumped out, and said, "Is that the only psychoanalytical tool in your psychological bag of tricks? For God's sake, woman! Get a grip on yourself. I know how I would re-frame that because I've been sitting in your office for three months and its the only advice you've given me. Jesus."
And Esmerelda did it again today with my newest shrink. Just as I was getting to like her. Part of the problem is that E. is more than the average shrink can handle. She's a force of nature. She would have to go up against a real warrior, someone from Stanford or Harvard, a real smarty pants, someone who could put E in her place.
I apologized to Dr. Yates, but she couldn't get me out of the office fast enough. I bet she called in an exorcist. That's how scared she was. Ironically, I don't have a problem with Esmerelda. Would never want to lose her. That's not why I see a shrink. I see a shrink because I have 25 cats in my basement and I've run out of money to feed them. If anyone is interested in adopting a pet, let me know. And if anyone knows of a good shrink, call me ASAP.
Marc "colander head" Travanti on the vicissitudes of including male writers in my upcoming feminist book project: Specifically he tells me that he's been teaching at a very elite girl's school (celebrities galore) for almost thirty years.
He understands the zeitgeist of young, smart women; absolutely destined for success. He tells me that amongst this demographic there is no respect for feminism. It's not considered cool. Or relevant, or very inclusionary.
In this picture, he tells me, "Bitch, you better make up your mind and do the right thing!"
So I was home this afternoon, doing my thing. Writing a post for this blog, eating lunch. I'd done the gym thing, swam for 30 minutes, 10 minutes in the sauna. I remember checking the time, thinking, damn its almost one in the afternoon, and my day has no direction. About a second later, I heard a loud explosion. Like a bomb had gone off. I went to the window, looked down the street, didn't see flame or smoke or fire, and thought, whatever it was, its under control. But ten minutes later, I looked out again, and saw my neighbors standing on their stoop, wandering out into the street, and decided I ought to check this out.
Nobody knew exactly what had happened aside from the explosion. But words like gas leak and transformer fire were bandied about. I went back in, grabbed Molly, b/c I thought it might be a good time to go for a walk. Soon the streets surrounding my neighborhood were swarming with police and firemen. Con Ed men. Emergency vehicles were driving on the sidewalks. Traffic was being diverted. Molly was getting a little freaked out, so I dropped her off at a friend's funeral home on Atlantic Avenue to find out exactly what the hell was going on. I know that sounds weird but he's a nice guy and he loves Molly. Besides, I wanted to go back home and grab my cell phone.
I got there just as firemen were knocking on my door. I let them in and they said, Miss get off this street. You can't go in. Everyone on Joralemon and Willow were evacuated. Shit. This was serious. I went back to the funeral home to get Molly--- Ronny, wanted me to stay where it was safe, but it was way too entertaining out on the streets. Plus the sun was shining, and it was like 50 degrees out. Back at Willow, now taped off, two reporters from Newsday and the Post were fighting over me, and another man had a camera in my face. I really didn't know what to say except that I'd been evacuated, that I'd heard what sounded like a bomb go off, and that earlier some guys had been jack-hammering further up the street. That's it.
After awhile, it was like a carnival. All my neighbors were out, everyone had their dogs, their cell phones, and cats in cat carriers. We traded gossip and tried to figure out when we would be able to go home. I started to get cold, and went over to my deli for a cup of coffee and a roast beef sandwich. Then I settled in on the curb in the sunlight and watched the parade of official looking men roam up and down my street. Finally I asked a fireman if I could go back in and get a sweater and my cell phone. By now it was three in the afternoon, and it was definitely getting colder. I had to consider that I might need a place to spend the night.
The fireman went inside with me with a carbon dioxide meter, allowed me to get a sweater and my cell phone. He said the air was clean. Two seconds later, I was allowed back. But I couldn't stay there. Too much DRAMA out on the street; news cameras, reporters, displaced neighbors from further up the street who were still homeless. I went back out for groceries, watched an elderly woman try to slip past the barricade, only to be told, "No way."
It's about 8:30 now. I can hear kids on skateboards, laughter. The street is quiet and dark. No doubt tomorrow the only thing I'll see on my way to the train is the massive hole in the street from three separate gas explosions. Way to go independent contractors jack-hammering on Willow Place. That's what you get for breaking the law and working on a holiday.
I watched the Golden Globes last night b/c I love the spectacle of the dress, the hair and the jewelry. I did not like Drew Barrymore's gown at all, I kept asking myself, "What is that thing on her shoulder?" And it was a bit disconcerting to watch her drag Jessica Lange up onstage. Ms. Lange was Miss Thing. A great dramatic actress and a great beauty. But perhaps since she sliced up her face, she's not feeling it anymore. I compared her to Helen Mirren. They're both about the same age. But Ms. Mirren owns it. She may have had a little nip or tuck here or there, but its still her face. She's not trying to look 30, she knows she not. And she is still gorgeous. Every time I see her, I pray, Let me still have that grace and that power.
Cher. She has sliced up her face--- many times from the look of it, but she's still the greatest drag queen of all time. I loved her Adams Family goth webbed gown, the big fake lips, her masque-like face, and her defiant smirk upon her iconic face. As I watched her parade out with Christina Aguilera, I was like, "Damn its Cher. Thank God for Cher." She still has the courage to be her own grand self. Older probably than Jessica Lange. But fierecely fierce. Jennifer Aniston needs to get a life and a better stylist. Her body language still screams, "I'm a forsaken woman." Darling you're too young and fabulous for that kind of crap.
I loved Julia Roberts' mini in a sea of long column gowns. George Clooney looked slightly embarrassed for his girlfriend. It's like he presents the women he's dating to the press, to the world, and lets everyone else decide whether or not she's right for him. Of course she can never be right, b/c in photos with his mother, its clear who's still the number one women in his life.
I liked seeing my friend, from back in the day, David Zayas in the audience. He plays Lt. Bautista on Dexter. I knew him from the 1994 1993 production of my play Rough/House. I knew him from when he was a cop raising two young children, and acting part-time. Once on his birthday, we, with his girlfriend and other friends, swam in the fountain at Columbus Circle. We almost got arrested--- but of course we did not. He told our potential arresting officer that he was a cop.
I also kept praying that 30 Rock wouldn't win anything. It gets boring when the same show wins year after year. Perplexing that Hang Over won best comedy. Funny, yes. But the whole male-bonding-road-trip-movie is played. Disappointed of course that Kathyrn Bigelow didn't win best director win for Hurt Locker, but next to her ex-husband's Avatar, that's like Davy fighting Goliath. Take me to the blue planet. Take me to Pandora.
Because you had a very round face. Because it seemed as if you were primarily composed of circles except for baby Dracula teeth. Because you were the child who was placed in a ramshackle playpen on Thanksgiving; wearing only a diaper. Later in the evening, you were given a turkey leg. This kept you happy for a long time, but at some point you held out your fat greasy hands in supplication: Please get me out. Sometime you were ignored, and sometimes somebody--- your mother, your sister, your grandmother would pick you up and wipe you down. Because of all this--- in those days, those very early days, your nickname was Beabock: The second brother. You were thus anointed on the front porch of a house dominated by a colony of mice.
Rise brother, rise up Beabock, and accept this honor. Rise up and acknowledge that yes you are Beabock. With one tooth, shaped like a fang. Your face so round, often accompanied by drool, always happy for a walk in the wooden stroller; strung with beads across the front. I wonder, brother, if you remember the color of those beads, because I do. As your older sister, brother, I do. I do remember the color of those beads--- they were different shades of blue. But Beabock was your name. And I believe that all children should be anointed in this way. From an older sister. Finally, it seemed inevitable that you would collect beer cans from around the world in high school. Beabock Rules. Beabock: The Second Brother.
On my way to the 4 train, as I walk down 161st Street, in the shadow of Yankee Stadium, I pass a discount clothing store; outfits for urban warriors, male and female. The male mannequins are the usual blank faced generic male models. They pose and preen but there is nothing noteworthy about them. They are neither handsome or sexy. But the women are molded from the bodies of porn stars. The women have something to say. A simple t-shirt is stretched across mammoth breasts with huge prominent nipples.
A cheap black dress is made extraordinary by the sheer breadth of the boobs. I'm talking 40 DD's. I'm talking gazongas. Cha-chas. Fun bags. Forget Barbie. We're talking 52-18-36. We're talking the biggest of the big breasts. I always stop to stare.
Where in the world did they find these mannequins?
It's beyond insulting. It's cartoonish, almost funny. I've been tempted to stop in the store and ask them, "Hey just out of curiosity, are they supposed to represent real women to you? Is this your wife? Your girlfriend? Your sister? Is it the smartest thing to model your clothes on bodies that don't exist in nature?"
I long to puncture the fake boobs like over inflated tires, hear the hiss of escaping air, and bring them back to normalcy. Women's breasts are not watermelons. We are not Pamela Anderson. We are not centerfolds.
I wonder why the male mannequins don't have gigantic cocks. A horse or zebra cock that would extend down to their knees, right next to the fake woman with 40DD's. Now that would be something to write home about. Wouldn't that make more sense?
And I have to admit its a kind of a sexy accusation. And I also know that its true. This is not news to me. I do like a crisis. I operate at maximum efficiency in the face of catastrophe. My aim is sure. My hands are steady. During rehearsals for the Super Bowl Half Time Show at Joe Robbie Stadium in Miami, I was a wreck. I was the PSM (production stage manager), the head honcho. Under my command I had a Technical Director, 2 Stage Managers, 1 Costume Designer, a crew of about 50 Production Assistants, 200 dancers, and about 1,000 cast members including a team that was in charge of "cold fire."
Cold fire is the term used for stage explosives. I was also responsible for 4 tons of soft goods. I couldn't sleep at night, and when I did, in my dreams, I checked and re-checked all the pre-sets; all the props, costumes etc. that needed to be in place long before the football game started. On the day of the game,the cast and crew were housed in what looked like a jail beneath the stadium. But I had been there since seven in the morning. Checking and re-checking, just like my nightmares. My palms were sweaty. Often I'd go into the ladies' room and put my feet up, so that anyone searching for me couldn't locate my tell-tale red high top sneakers.
I wondered if I could handle the pressure. I wondered whether or not I would crack. Billy Joel walked by with Christie Brinkley. He looked like an Italian leprechaun next to her cool blond goddess. He was singing the national anthem. Finally half-time arrived. The show started, and I took to the seas with the grace of a swan. Every element of the show went off smoothly, perfectly. I was in perfect sync with the world around me. I was high on my ability. I never wanted it to end. Yes, it was strange to be in charge of a show that spanned an entire football field, and stranger even that the people in the stands weren't watching. This was strictly for the folks at home, watching it on TV.
Afterwards, I was so tired, I was like the living dead, a zombie. But dammit I was going to stay awake and go to the party on Ocean Drive. At about 2:00 a.m., someone offered to drive me home. But I lived just down the block, right on the ocean. Along the deep blue sea. I said no. I was afraid that if I stopped moving, even to sit in a car, I would pass out. I walked home as the sun came up. Slept for fourteen hours. For months I had the same dream over and over, checking and re-checking the soft goods. Soon this dissipated, along with my intricate knowledge of a football field.
So yes. I do like a crisis. I like the pressure. My mind is clear. My hands are strong. My nerves are steady. I feel most alive.
Dammit. My yellow slinky nightie is in the wash, and the roses on the bedside table need to be replaced, and my hair isn't dark, its blond. But I got the right attitude. I got the dark stockings, the feather bed, the smoldering impatient bitchy attitude, surely I will be allowed my rightful place in Bitch Heaven. I'm July. The month of hot summer sun, the cool blue sea, margaritas, sun screen that smells of coconut, and men on a foreign beach who don't speak English. This is where you will find me. The hot July bitch.
The story goes that she sprang fully grown from her father, Zeus', head. He'd had a splitting headache all day long, and nothing he did soothed his suffering. But what he didn't understand was that he was having labor pains, that his daughter was endeavouring to be born. Finally, at midnight, when the North Star was the brightest on the horizon, Athena burst through her father's skull. Already a full grown woman, with breasts, hips, thighs, and most of all--- a brain. Beautiful and strong.
The world had never seen a woman like this. Men and women were in awe of her. Even her father shrank in her presence. No one could forget her. No one could ignore her. She wouldn't go away. She wouldn't disappear. No one could shut her up. This is why Athena is the first headache. The first real woman.
To those of you who are squeamish, please read no further. I’ve made a career writing nonchalantly, elegantly and openly about sexuality. It just doesn’t embarrass me. This topic may however embarrass you. So be warned.
I’m only half-kidding.
Specifically I speak of the clam, the bush, the cunt, the pussy, the snatch, the gash, and the slash. It is a discovery I’ve made at the gym; in the locker room, in the shower, in the sauna, and the steam room. Of the moment, when we guardedly check each other out. When we look at the tits, the ass, the face, the belly, and yes, the pussy.
I’ve discovered that women under the age of 40 now present a well manicured clam. I speak of the bush that is now shaped and trimmed. These women no longer sport the full unruly, kinky, crazy mass of pubic hair. That wiry jungle that sometimes grows half way down the thighs, a garden of furry delight. It is now, for younger women, a neat landing strip; clipped and shaped. Manicured. Even elegant. Like topiary on an estate.
I wonder, where do women go to get this done? Do they go to a salon and say, take a little off the top and the sides? Can you buy a kit at the drugstore? Is it waxed? Is it painful? Do you pluck it? Clip it? How often? Although my days of wearing a bikini are over, I do remember gently lathering up along the bikini line and gingerly, carefully shaving the excess so that nothing poked out of my suit. And the re-growth was painful.
But this is a whole other level of grooming. I’ve known women (girls) who defiantly refused to shave under their arms, who refused to shave their legs. Who I’m sure sported a full bush of pubic hair. Let your freak flag fly. I sometimes wonder how much the porn industry has played into this trend. When completely shaved pussies first made their appearance it was a bit appalling, and even freakish. For me, it seemed to infantilize the women. They became little girls.
Obviously, this has spread to main stream America and even Brooklyn. I remember stepping out the steam room, a towel wrapped around me. I caught of glimpse of myself in a mirror and was completely embarrassed. My clam was exposed and it wasn’t manicured! The horror! I’ve actually become self conscious about this. As if I need anything else to be self conscious about--- still though I don’t see myself joining the ranks of the well manicured clam anytime soon. "I'm hairy high and low."
On New Year’s Day I went to a vodka tasting party in Chelsea. Hosted by a high level executive in the insurance industry and a literary agent (mine), there were academics, artists, bankers, lawyers, editors--- gay, straight, married and otherwise. A real NYC mix of highbrow, middlebrow and even a couple of village idiots. I started off the evening with a vodka tonic and made my way over to the sushi station. While munching on raw tuna and yellow tail, I struck up a conversation with a man who is an English Professor at a well known university and also a member of the MLA (Modern Language Association).
Let’s call him Carlos. I asked Carlos about the troublesome hanging indent still required for all good bibliographies. I said--- is it true it’s about to become obsolete? Heading down the same lonely road as whom and thou and shall? In a lofty tone, he replied that he was on committees that didn’t deal with such matters. But surely I persisted this is important? He conceded that yes MLA style books are still their bread and butter, but clearly couldn’t be bothered with the fate of the hanging indent. Fair enough. Then I asked him what the MLA thought about texting--- is it changing the shape of language? Is it good or bad? More loftiness, more condescension. WTF?
I moved on. Sat next to a woman who could’ve been me, but with money. Pretty, blond, “of a certain age.” Boiled wool pants, cashmere sweater and scarf, gold jewelry, rust suede boots. Oh, a banker at JP Morgan. She lamented about how her and her colleagues were afraid to say the “B” word out in public. About how the whole industry was unfairly targeted. That it was a myth that the industry is rife with criminals. I asked if her bank received a bailout. She said, Yes, but along with other solvent banks such as Wells Fargo, they took it even though they didn’t need it. Why did you take it, I asked. Because it would’ve looked bad if we didn’t, she replied, we’ve already given the money back. When she began to complain about how friends of hers lost so much money, couldn’t send their kids to ivy league colleges, etc. etc. I bailed. That was something I just couldn’t listen to.
Besides, the main event was beginning. The vodka tasting! Waiters passed around trays containing shots of mystery vodka. We were to grade it according to clarity, bouquet, taste, and finish. Determined to remain sober and avoid a horrendous hangover, I took tiny sips in my assessment of all four vodkas. We all knew beforehand that one was made with soy, one was made with grain, and one was made with grapes. They hailed from Florida, Poland, Vienna and France. Not surprisingly, my favorite was from Poland (mother’s milk), but the over-all favorite was from France, P. Diddy’s vodka of choice, Ciroc Ultra Premium.
When the tasting was over, I switched over to a lovely pinot grigio. As I fixed my hair and my lipstick in a bathroom adorned with contrasting marble tile, a stainless steel shower and a towel warmer, I thought, I will never live like this. I will never buy a one bedroom apartment in Chelsea, buy the studio next door, knock down the walls, redo the floors and hang track lighting. Many people were interested in my career as a feminist writer, as someone who’s been produced on Broadway, Off Broadway, NPR, as a woman who writes erotica--- and at this gathering in Chelsea, on the first day of a new decade, the dividing line wasn’t class or money, but art versus commerce.
Clearly there were two camps. We admired each other. We each secretly envied each other. And I’m sure we were all glad to be going home to our own homes, and our own lives. I thought about the banker from JP Morgan who said, its entirely possible that one or two “bad” people making bad choices can bring down an entire economy and still wondered if this really could be true.
Creator and co-author of the award winning The Erotica Project. Author of erotic short stories published on Salon.com. Producer/author for NPR. MA from NYU. Published by Cleis Press, Seal Press, Heinemann Press, New York Press. Reviewed in NYTimes, Village Voice, Art in America, London Sunday Times.