On Your Back and Off Ours
A few years ago, I worked waiting tables at a tavern in downtown Atlanta. One day a really pretty woman (whose name was definitely not Judy, so I’ll call her that) came in looking for a job. The manager was a friend of mine, and I begged her to hire Judy because Judy was so pretty. The manager hired Judy. Two weeks later, she told me she was going to fire Judy. Judy was a lousy waitress, but she seemed cool during the few shifts I worked with her. I asked her out on a date before she drifted out of my life. She said yes, and set me up for one of the most bizarre evenings of my life.
Judy was a suburb girl. I lived deep in the heart of the city. She suggested we meet at a bar halfway between her Cobb County netherland and my Little Five Points little heaven, so we met at a really trendy bar just north of Midtown, just south of Buckhead. It was out of my element, but walking distance to the train, so I borrowed a shirt with a collar and borrowed shoes other than the good old Chuck Taylors, threw away Thoreau’s advice to beware of the enterprise that requires new clothes, and caught the train to trendy.
I walked into the bar behind a guy wearing a tailored suit that cost more than my entire thrift store wardrobe. Hell, his shoes cost more than my wardrobe. It occurred to me that I should feel poor among those who drank carafes of wine that had a birthday; I should feel poor among those who rode down here on the leather seats of foreign cars while I rode up here on the plastic seats of MARTA, but I didn’t feel poor. I looked all the way down the bar at the woman dressed in a skin tight dress that reached her ankles, but her crossed legs up to the thigh shone out of the slit; the woman with the jet black, straight hair, bangs cut high on the forehead and dark, red, full lips puffing on a cigarette that looked like it should be in a cigarette holder. She looked like she shouldn’t be in this suddenly dive of a bar at all, but in a penthouse somewhere in the nineteen-forties in New York with a highball in her hand and Myrna Loy chatting in her ear. I looked at this woman, and she was my date and I figured, to hell with all these rich bastards, because I’m the cool one here. I walked down to Judy, sat on the stool next to her, and said, “Hello.”
She didn’t say hello back. Not “how are you?” Not “what’s up?” Not “what are you drinking?” Nothing perfunctory at all. She said, “Sean, I’m never having sex again.”
“We could still have a drink,” I said, and ordered a bourbon rocks. Usually I drink beer, but when a date starts with that first line, it’s whiskey time.
Judy didn’t hear what I said or at least didn’t respond to it. She pointed out one of the waiters and told me a story about her having had sex with him. Only her stories didn’t take the form of stories, but twisted and meandered and drifted away into new thoughts. She spoke at if she were William Faulkner writing Penthouse Forum . “Oh my God, I screwed that waiter. I hope he doesn’t see me,” she said as she stared right into his eyes. “John was such a lousy lover. He had a big belly and a little cock that he had to see-saw into me while he huffed and puffed, and I thought he was going to have a heart attack, because he took me to Taco Mac. I couldn’t believe it — Taco Mac? Would you bring Betty Page to Taco Mac? I like Betty Page, she had a nice big ass, and I think of her hanging on the wall of a sailor’s bunk in a destroyer in World War Two. My grandfather was in World War Two. He was a hero — not like John, who could barely get his cock to stick out far enough past his belly. I didn’t want to fuck him, but he asked, and I have such a hard time saying no.” She stopped to take a drag off her cigarette.
I tried to respond, but I didn’t know how. I looked at the waiter, a skinny kid with a mop of hair like the young Beatles and wearing a black turtleneck. “He lost a lot of weight,” I said.
“My grandfather, God yes he did. He died five years ago. He must’ve lost just about all his weight by now, but not John, that fat fuck.”
I pointed at the waiter and pointed out that he was very thin. She said, “that’s not John, it’s Craig. We fucked one night at Backstreet’s in the upstairs room. It was really crowded, and a bunch of people watched us, but most of them watched the Cabaret, and a waiter came by and told us to stop it, that it was a gay bar and only gays could fuck there. I got a new bra.” She pulled down the front of her dress to show me, then showed me how it unsnapped in the front and showed me her boobs in a crowded bar at nine o’clock on a Wednesday evening. They were nice boobs. I really didn’t want her to talk anymore, but she kept going. She told me about having sex with the waiter against the emergency exit door of Backstreet’s and accidentally opening it and falling out onto the street nude at seven AM while traffic passed by and the emergency alarm went off. She told me everything that came to her mind as soon as it did. She told me everything from her classes at Kennesaw Community College to the Ritalin she was on to the accident she’d almost gotten into driving to meet me to her love for bananas. She told me that she’d pierced her clitoris, but would only let gay men and adventurous lovers see it. She told me all about her boyfriend who lived in Nantucket. He sounded fictional, but it was emasculating anyway. Not that I’m not content with my penis size. I’m more or less happy with that, but I can’t compete with the man from Nantucket. Somewhere in the midst of it all, she said, “My dad’s a minister. He molested me,” but she never elaborated and I didn’t feel qualified to press it. I started ordering doubles and drinking fast until my cash ran out. Then I lied and said I had to work in the morning and it was a long train ride back to Little Five.
She offered to drive me home. I wanted to decline, but somehow couldn’t. We flew and slid through the rain soaked streets and thick traffic, through Midtown and the Highlands and into Little Five. She pulled up at my apartment building. I tried to just hop out and say goodnight, but she asked to come in. Again, I didn’t know how to say no.
My pad was a little studio, nothing much to it except my bed, a love seat that I’d pulled out of the trash and covered with a bed sheet, a desk made from milk crates and 2x12s, a chair for the desk, a word processor on the desk, and a radio in the kitchen. She came in and sat on the bed. I played some music. Nothing romantic. Loud punk rock, actually, hoping it would drive her away. It didn’t. She told me that it showed my passion. This surprised me. I’d believed up until that point that she hadn’t noticed my presence as anything more than someone to keep her from talking to herself. She went on talking, though. Telling more stories of her sexual exploits and proficiency, telling me again and again that she didn’t always want to have sex with these men, but they’d asked and she couldn’t say no. If a man asked her to have sex with him, she wouldn’t say no. I looked at how pretty she was, and how coyly she reclined on my bed, and how she kicked off her shoes and showed her toenails painted black, and I thought of how nice her boobs had looked in that trendy bar, and wondered what it would be like to have sex with a girl with a pierced clitoris. I kept listening to her talk. I realized that if I did have sex with her, a time would come when we were finished. I realized that, if that point came, I would become the next ghost in a pretty crowded closet. Finally, I could say no. When hints didn’t work, I asked her to leave so that I could go to sleep.
That’s a true story. Or at least it’s true to how I remember it. I took Judy out sometime during the summer of 1994, and I’ve laid to waste quite a few brain cells since then. Still, the events of that night struck me as so bizarre that they stuck with me pretty clearly. And believe me when I tell you that I couldn’t make up shit like that. I also guarantee that if I told you that story in a bar, you could say to me something like, “That’s nothing. Let me tell you about this date I had one time.” If you want to get really scary about it, you have to realize that someone somewhere is bound to tell his or her story about a really bad date, and that story is going to be about you or me. Dating in the Nineties (or the Oughts, or whatever you want to call this block of time we all share) is a difficult thing. It’s difficult precisely because each date has the potential for sex. Sex excites and frightens us all. That’s normal, and even good. Sex also confuses us all, and that’s the strangest thing. Why should sex confuse us? Why should it come with all the games and baggage and scars? Sex is in the top seven for the most natural things we do. Barring some horrific accident, everyone has sex organs. Sooner or later, everyone uses them (according to Dr. David Reuben in Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex , some infants begin masturbating as young as six months. Most children establish regular patterns by the time they are two or three years old [proof that nature told you it was all right before anyone told you it was wrong]). Even your parents have sex organs. Even your priest. By contrast, everyone doesn’t have a religion or a bicycle. Everyone doesn’t use a telephone or use front door locks. There’s the old expression that the only two things you have to do are die and pay taxes. That’s not true. I know people who don’t pay their taxes. Besides that, there are seven things you have to do: eat, drink, breathe, urinate, defecate, find some way to use your sex organs, and die. I’m not trying to force any lifestyle on you, here. I’m just pointing out basic physiology. I would be pointing out elementary physiology, but in elementary school, we, as a society, are still teaching our children that one of those seven things is dirty and evil. That may be the start of the problem.
Beyond the physical necessity of sex, the act of sex should be easier now than any other time in history. Birth control is very cheap and very available and works very well. You could legitimately have nothing wrong with your reproductive capabilities and have sex every day of your adult life and never have a child. A hundred years ago, Emma Goldman was sentenced to two years in prison for distributing information on safe, healthy ways to prevent birth. Now, you can get condoms from your high school guidance counselor, in some places. If something should go wrong with the birth control, though, abortion is still mostly legal in the United States (provided we can keep another asshole Bush out of the White House), so if you feel that you are not at the right point in your life to raise a child, you don’t have to. Medical science has also found cures for syphilis, gonorrhea, crabs, and just about every other STD. There are treatments for herpes. True, there is no cure for AIDS yet, but it’s also not the epidemic that everyone predicted it to be. Many people live long, full lives with AIDS. Someone close to me has lived with AIDS for sixteen years, and she’s going strong. A lot of the taboos are breaking down, too. Pornography couldn’t be more accessible. It’s even getting somewhat acceptable. Ten years ago, masturbation jokes cleared the room. Now, Howard Stern makes a living from them. He’s even made masturbation cool, in a geeky, blowhard kind of way. Libraries and bookstores and check-out line magazines are full of information on how to make intercourse and everything leading up to it (I know there’s a word for that. Fore-something. I don’t know. I’m a man) more pleasurable. So why does sex still carry such negative connotations?
I’ve got some theories. They all have to do with the unconscious or subtle ways we view sex in America. For instance, why does nearly every word that is considered profane or obscene have something to do with sex, sex organs, or otherwise normal body functions? What are the seven words you can’t say on the air? Aren’t they all normal body parts or natural acts (with the exception of the Oedipal one. I’m not going to call that normal, no matter what Freud says)? Think of every word that’s considered profanity and ask yourself why so many of them have to do with sex. Ask yourself why you’re the biggest jerk in the room if you say twat, which just means vagina and isn’t based, linguistically at least, in any term of hate, yet no one bats an eye when Washington names its football team the Redskins, which is a bad word. It’s a derogatory term dating back to the ugliest act of genocide in American History. Ask yourself why fuck is such an offensive word, yet killer and righteous mean the exact same thing. That’s where you begin to understand how deeply engrained these perverted views on sex are.
Take, for example, A1A in Cape Canaveral. Drive south past the port and the miniature golf course and the Ramada. Then, on your left you’ll see United Space Alliance (USA) and on your right, you’ll see Fairvilla Megastore. USA stands proudly on A1A. Fairvilla is tucked back off the road and partially hidden by a concrete block wall. Fairvilla used to have a big, new sign on A1A, but it’s not there anymore. I don’t know why it’s not there anymore. I’m willing to bet that it wasn’t Fairvilla’s idea to take it down. USA gets hundreds of millions of dollars every year from the US government, from our taxes, to develop the technology for weapons. Weapons that kill people. Right now, they’re working on a missile capable of shooting down another missile mid-flight from as far away as ten thousand miles. They are working under the foolish ideology that, if you spend enough money building a big enough defense department, you never have to have a humane foreign policy. This doesn’t seem to bother anyone around here. Fairvilla, on the other hand, sells magazines, underwear, and sex toys in a clean and friendly environment. If you have a question about a sex toy, one of the employees at Fairvilla will answer your question knowledgeably without giggling or making you feel ill at ease in any way. This is a good thing. Everyone loved toys as a kid. Everyone loves sex as an adult. It doesn’t take the genius who put peanut butter and chocolate together to figure out this one. Yet people have a real problem with Fairvilla. To me, this is twisted. This is part of the problem. If this continues, next thing you know, a President of the United States could bomb an innocent pharmaceutical plant in Sudan and no one would care because they were too busy having a congressional hearing over the blow job he got from an intern. And no one wants this to happen.
I think part of the problem also has to do with the way love is portrayed in the mass media. Take something like Jerry Maguire . Excuse me if I looked too deeply into this, or if I don’t remember it correctly, but wasn’t it about a selfish, obsessively clinging man and a lonely single mother who desperately needed a father for her child forging a codependent relationship, then fighting because he was selfish and obsessive and she wasn’t in love so much as lonely and desperate? In the end, they get back together, and it’s supposed to be a happy ending because he makes a dopey speech, but he’s still clingy, and she’s still lonely, and they haven’t done anything to solve this. Sitcoms are just as bad. It’s pretty much understood that, if a man and woman can’t stand each other in a sitcom, they will end up in love by the end of the second season and fight all through the third and fourth seasons. I could give examples, but that’s like pointing out rain to a wet man. Take Friends . Please. God help anyone who got stuck with one of those anorexic, neurotic broads on that show. And I haven’t really thought much about dating the guys, but they seem like weenies, too. Maybe all our definitions of love might be a little healthier if we quit taking Disney and Time Warner’s misrepresentations of love as our definition. I decided to ditch this definition of love when I got sick of Sam and Diane breaking up on Cheers . It’s worked for me. I’m in a healthy, happy relationship with a beautiful woman, and it works precisely because we don’t fight. If we have a problem, we work together to solve it and work to communicate with each other. We compromise. I watch Jerry Maguire and Friends when she wants to. She listens to me rant and rave about how bad they suck when the movie or show is over. Happy. Healthy.
I also think religion, specifically what’s being passed off as Christianity these days, is part of the problem. It may have something to do with two thousand years of gay men who couldn’t handle their natural sexuality so they wrote church doctrines to scar us all. That’s an old argument, though. We’ve all heard it. It does bring us back to Judy and the father who molested her. Men who molest their daughters are evil because they molest their daughters, but they do not molest their daughters because they are evil. Evil doesn’t come out of a vacuum. People are driven to it by oppression and repression. Very likely, Judy’s father’s problems started when he was an infant and got an erection and touched it because it felt good and his puritanical father smacked him for it. His life probably became a tangled mess of twisted sexuality starting there and followed by ignorant and harmful remarks about masturbation being a sin and sex being dirty. So he probably held it in. He probably beat off when he had to, but hated himself for it. The sexual tension probably exploded some of the lines of rational thoughts in his head, and very likely led him to having genuinely perverse fantasies and fetishes. When he grew up and joined the clergy and married to a woman I don’t know, but who was probably the kind of shrew who marries clergy, he probably did not have a normal or enjoyable sex life, but he probably had an above average sex drive. Feelings of a loss of control, pain of repression of sexuality, and the helplessness of his daughter could have all led to his evil act. The real problem may have come from him burying these harmful memories and clinging to these harmful religious ideas. The emotional damage caused by burying these ideas instead of examining them probably led to his deviant sexuality. I can’t say for sure. It seems to me that Judy’s molestation may not have occurred if her father spent time examining the causes of his guilt and realizing that sexual tensions are natural and masturbation is a natural release. A lot of this may have been avoided if her father realized, “hey, everyone’s gonna scratch if they itch.” I can’t imagine God has a problem with that.
Basically, all I’m saying in so many words is that we all need to lighten up. Most of us have quite a bit of sex before we’re twenty-five or so, and most of us are incapable of feeling the depth and breadth of true love before that young age. That’s no reason to stifle your sexual potential. Sometimes sex is just fun. It’s just about the most fun you can have — if you let it be. There’s no guilt or shame in that. If your god is really so opposed to that, what the hell kind of god is he, anyway? When you do fall in love, it’s better. You care more so you pay more attention and learn more and practice more. And then I realize there are those people who have sex in order to have children. I’m not going to say anything is wrong with that, either. I’m just saying that it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. There are too many people fighting for a little space on this earth already, and a lot of them are messed up emotionally because their parents are assholes. That’s just something to consider, too. All in all, when someone wants to try to make something evil and dirty out of your sexual organs and how you use them, think of Fat Mike from NOFX. In response to two women who criticized his support of pornography, he sang, “I think they need a good hard fuck, ’cause she may be off her back, but she needs to get off ours.”