Tag Archives: genders

The Other Half

(Continued from July 1st, 2012.)

At the end of the summer, Marinka aimed to take entrance exams to the two top medical institutes in the city.  Mother offered to pull some strings:  The woman was never at a lack of connects.  But I’ve gotta give it to sis!  She was determined to get in on the basis of her merit alone.  (In those days, the idealism of the Russian youth tended to have a longer expiration date.  Skepticism stepped in much later, flooding anywhere where the Soviet control of information gave room.)

So, after half of June spent on cramming for her high school finals, Marinka hibernated for about week; then, immediately resumed her studies.  Mother wasn’t thrilled about it:

“Now, instead just one bookworm, I have two Oblomovas in the house!”

Those days, I began to wonder about what constituted a woman’s happiness.  Mother, whose only expression of joy was overly stretched, forced —  a sort of a strained delirium — didn’t strike me as genuine, but something quite the opposite, nearing insanity.  She wasn’t happy in the way that Olya Morozova seemed, in her mother’s altered dress, on her own wedding day.  And any time I’d seen her since, blissfully pregnant or contemplatively picking tomatoes at a market on weekends, she looked like someone composing a complicated orchestral movement:  Lost in thoughts that she desired, never seeking approval (and why would she need it, with her moderate beauty, always basking in adoration?); content but not out of love or out of curiosity; fluid, available; kind.

For the first few weeks, mother struggled with the no longer vague signs of her oldest daughter’s ambition.  She sized up our bunk beds, branding us with the name of the biggest lazy ass in the whole of Russian literature:  Oblomov.  Other times, she tempted us with distractions:  a rerun of Santa Barbara or the news of other women’s misfortunes.  It would happen mostly in that late afternoon hour, when mother, having returned yet again from a day of hunting for discounts and gossip, was expected to be in the kitchen.  And we were expected to assist, simply because we were daughters.  And therefore born female.  And therefore, we had no choice.  (But one always had a choice, even in the country that didn’t advertise freedom.  We could choose the other way:  the way outside of the expected, of the presumed.)

In response to the call for confrontation, I listened to my sis remain motionless above my head.  It gave me the courage to stay sprawled out on my stomach as well, despite the signs of mother’s fuming in the doorway.  The smell of her perfume lurked more oppressively than her silence.  The anxiety of always, somehow, being perpetually wrong — inappropriate, incorrect — stirred in my chest.  What was to happen?

Mother exhaled audibly, turned on her heels and stormed out of our room, making a ruckus with the bamboo curtains in the doorway.  I held my breath, just in case of her abrupt return; until a few moments later, the kitchen appliances began tuning into an orchestra of percussions.  I suppose a light touch does not belong to every woman; and our mother exorcised her frustrations via the objects that reminded her of domesticity.

I slathered up the ladder to Marinka’s bed and rested my chin on the last plank:

Sis looked up:  “Hey, monkey.”  She stopped chewing on her pencil for long enough to smile faintly, as if to herself.  There was that mystery, again; the place of thoughts where women departed — to create, to process, to understand; or maybe rather to mourn, or to escape.

“Oooh,” I bulged out my eyes in the best dramatic delivery I’d inherited from mom, hissing:  “Mom’s pee-ssed!”

Marinka smirked — inhaled — and resumed making a meal out of her pencil again.  The two females had been in a bickering war this entire summer.  Still, sis would not speak unkindly of our mother, at least not to me.  To be the last to abandon her graces was my sister’s route to growing up.  Descending into silence, she never gossiped in return these days, only listened whenever mother couldn’t hold it in.

Sis was curled up in the corner or plastered against the wall.  She looked dewy and flushed.  Her eyes shined with the symptoms of the cooped-up syndrome.  She appeared sleepy and slightly dazed.  Colorful drawings of human insides, notebooks, flashcards, a pile of reference encyclopedias borrowed from the library, a tipi of stacked colored pencils were spread on top of the purple blanket we’d inherited from our grandmother in Siberia.  The old woman had died having accumulated nothing.

I watched Marinka’s plump lips mouth off unpronounceable terms.  Mean smart! Ignoring my adoration (which was always too nosy or too hyper anyway), she leaned forward to flip a page; and, as she sometimes did in obedience to the flood of her kindness, grazed the top of my head with her sharp nails.

In those moments, oh, how I missed her already!

 

Some afternoons, when the heat became so unbearable not even the open windows offered much relief, we agreed to leave the house for the river bank.  Half the town would have had the same idea by then.  Mother grumbled about how we had wasted half a day on our shenanigans; yet, from the way she readied herself — nosily, running in her bra between the closets and the bathroom I wondered if she relished arriving to a packed beach.  Giant straw hats with floppy edges were matched to colorful cotton sarafans with wide skirts that blew up at all the wrong times.  There was a weightiness to most of mother’s possessions.

I was ordered to carry our picnic basket.  Marinka was loaded up with blankets, towels and old linen sheets.  We treaded ahead, while mother joined and laughed with various families, also en route to the river.

As predicted, everyone and their mother was out catching a break from the afternoon sun.  The tilted bank was dressed with a smog of accumulated heat.  For days, it hadn’t let up.  Sheets and towels were splattered on top of yellowing grass, and families in various states of undress moved around sluggishly.  Seemingly every kid in town, with the exception of the Slow Vanya who was home-schooled all of his life, was now squealing and splashing in the water.

As soon as we reached the top of the hill, an abrasive smell of fresh cow dung greeted us when the barely palpable breeze blew in our direction:

“Oh.  We’ve missed the collective bath!” Marinka said under her breath.  She was becoming funnier, too.

En route to and from their feeding ground, the farm cows were led into the river daily, to cool down and to get a break from the murders of flies.   They must’ve just left.

Without getting up, the mothers were already hollering their instructions to the frenetic children again:

“Be careful, Irotchka!”

“Sasha!  Don’t manhandle your sister!”

“What did I tell you about swimming that far?!  MASHA!”

There were some fathers who got into the water on occasion, but they immediately got flocked by their own and other people’s children with runny noses and, for whatever reason, fatherless, for that day.

Our stuff hadn’t hit the ground, yet I was already squirming out of my clothes and hauling ass toward the water.  Marinka dropped her load and scurried off after me, still in her jeans skirt with rhinestones on her pockets.

“Marina!  Please watch where she goes!” mother, already slathering herself with sunflower oil in a company of her girlfriends, barely took notice of the fact that my beautiful, olive-skinned sister shed a few shades and turned nearly pale with terror.

She stopped.  “Mama?  She’s fine!”

I too looked back.  Seemingly every hairy male appeared to have propped himself up on his elbows to get a better look at my sister’s behind.  Mother was already gone, having departed quickly from any parental awareness.  Marinka was expected to step in.

I slowed down and waited for my sister to catch up.

“If you’re lonely, I don’t have to go in.”  Devotedly, I looked up at my sis.  She seemed so out of place here, somehow kinder than the rest!

“It’s fine, my monkey,” she reached for my hand and looked ahead, at the glistening water at the other edge of the river, and the field of sunflowers there; or possibly further beyond all that, maybe somewhere where her life was going to begin.

Habitat for Humanity

The sound of the 1 Local rattled the windows; she untangled herself from his limbs, sat up and prepared for the sensation of mellow distain, in the vicinity of her diaphragm:  It had been his idea for her to move in here, after just seven months of dating.

 

It was the only time she had encountered a man so willing.  She was lucky, according to other women, most of whom, she suspected, had gone through the chronic toss between a want of love and a denial of it, due to their self-esteem.  A man’s attention could go a long way though.  She had been known to make it last for years, settling for either those who feared commitment or were half-committed — to someone else.  Bitterly, she would eventually begin to withdraw from all offers of courtship because she was sick of herself:  reaching, trying too hard; accounting, then settling for leftovers.

But this one loved her, it was obvious.  He praised her enthusiastically, similarly to the way one adored a deity or a Renaissance statue of a nude, made more precious by its missing parts and by the scabs of earth and time.  Never had she been with a man who wanted to parade her through the circles of his friends, all of them older, calmer and mostly academics, who got through their own marriages by sleeping with their students.  Sometimes, while she feigned being asleep on the couch after hearing his keys scratching their way into the lock; she listened to his footsteps get quieter, as he approached her, merely breathless; and he would sit at the edge of their coffee table, amidst magazines and her thesis papers, and study her.  She began to feel responsible.

Her girlfriends, of course, were full of advice:  Men like him happened rarely.  She was lucky, they hoped she knew.  But was she ready for their age difference; and for the ex-wife with a list of entitlements to his money?  Heartbroken men made for hard material.  But wasn’t it a woman’s sport, to fall in love, despite?

The night when they would sleep together for the first time, she found a photograph of the ex, tucked away into an old aluminum cigarette holder.  She wanted to light up.

The black and white face of a blonde looked over the shoulder, with one hand propped up like an awning across her forehead, her lips closed sternly, as if disliking the photographer.  She found her to be a forgettable woman, not at all like she preferred to see herself.  Now, with both of his habits gone — the smoking and the wife — he was not at all enthused by the idea of reminiscing about the past.  But she insisted on a talk, so that she could investigate herself the story through his sighs and avoided glances.  It was a hideous tendency for some emotional sadomasochism that she disguised as intimacy.  Or, maybe, she was already reaching.

She, of course, tried to be casual about it.  He would begin to speak, not from the start, but going immediately to when the ex blurred out her desire for a divorce.  It happened in the midst of a tiff over the shut-off electricity due to an unpaid bill — a woman flailing at him, in the dark — and he first thought she was quoting a film they may had seen together.  They’d gone to film school together, a decade ago, in the City, never pursuing the field afterward.  He’d stick to theory; she — to freelance writing.

“But didn’t you see it coming?” she asked him, watching his fluttery eyelashes add to the dark circles under his eyes.  “Any signs at all?”

The gray-haired lover shook his head but held it high.  Still, for the first time, in his habits of disobedience to his emotions, she saw a once crumbled man; a man, perhaps, still in need of repair.

This predisposition of her imagination — to be able to see her men as children (or worse yet, as children in need of rescue); to truly feel their suffering; to be moved to tears by their losses that happened a decade before her, but always so unjustly — that evening, made her weary.  Hadn’t she had enough yet?  She couldn’t possibly save every one of them!  She wasn’t here to fix it, to make-up for another woman’s whimsy.  Still, she would begin to feel responsible.

In the light of an exposed, yellowed by months — or years, perhaps — of fried food in his kitchen, that first night she watched him cook dinner for the two of them.

“That’s a big step!” the girlfriends rolled out their eyes and smacked their lips.

“A man that cooks and does his own laundry.  You are one lucky bitch!”

The more she listened to the women get involved (for none of them actually listened), the more she regretted exposing her tales of love and loss.  Perhaps, her ex was right:  Over the course of the last century, women had become a collectively confused group of people.  She herself no longer knew what she wanted at the moment.  And she could not remember what she used to want.

 

He was exhausted from the emotional testimony and was now fussing in the kitchen:

“I haven’t used this barbecue since my last apartment.  So:  should be interesting!”  She’d gone too far.  She shouldn’t have probed.

Albeit the open doors of the top floor patio, the hot air clustered the entire apartment.  It took up every corner.  She, having just come out of the shower, felt dewy in her crevices.  There used to be a lot more vanity, in love.  Perhaps, she wasn’t trying hard enough with this one.

She watched him cutting up fresh herbs plucked from the flower pot along the kitchen window sill.  He operated with a tiny knife at the edge of a wooden cutting board, blackened by mildew on one side.  There was nothing visibly sloppy about his appearance, yet she could see the absence of a woman in his life.  Perhaps, the shortest distance between his earlobes and shoulder blades had something to do with her aroused compassion.  Or the bulk of crumpled Kleenex in the pocket of his sweats.  Or the rapidly blinking eyelids, when he decidedly walked away from his story.  He wasn’t cared for.  He was recovering.  It made her heart compress.  Responsible!  She had to be responsible.

While nibbling on twigs of dill, flirtatiously at first — although mostly out of habit — then suddenly more grounded in her kindness, she studied him while standing by his microwave.  She didn’t find herself impressed, but tired.  Tired and kind.  If not in love, she would be grateful for this one, she decided.  Just look at him:  He needed her so much.

“Sometimes You Wanna Go Where Everybody Knows Your Name…”

He is quite pretty.

Yes, I said “pretty”.  Or, rather:  He is luminous.

I’ve never seen him here before, waiting tables at this joint I frequent.  In the City ruled by the most beautiful gay boys who always bitch-slap my occasionally fearful face with the courage of their specificity, I have finally found my corner.  It’s calm here, and I am still completely anonymous.  I make it a point to be as sweet as Amelie when I come in, and I am always a generous tipper.  But no one knows my name.  They let me be.  And that’s somehow soothingly perfect.

Diagonally from its floor-to-ceiling window panes, I can see at least half a dozen of rainbow flags.  The parking is a bitch around here, but the stroll is always worth it.  And no matter what comrade of mine I’ve introduced to this place — a single mother with an unruly child or an ancient director with my father’s face — they all seem to find comfort, if not peace here.

“Reminds me of a Noo Yok di-nah!” a Russian from Brooklyn once correctly tagged the reminiscence of this joint while falling into the only round booth, and nesting his bulky body next to my bony elbow.  I could see it in his eyes:  A chord has been struck.

And it is true:  The leather-covered booths, plastic tables and chairs are squeezed against each other with economical consideration.  Identical bar stools, bolted onto the floor, look like a net of mushrooms sprouted after the autumn rain; and I’ve once, especially tipsy over a boy, spun on one of them while waiting for my smoothie with red cabbage.  (Shit!  I’ve become a hardcore hippie, in this California livin’ of mine!)

The UFO’s of lamp shades with single, off-white bulbs inside each light the place up with a certain light of nostalgia; but every kind face slipping in and out of the swinging doors of the kitchen reminds me that I ain’t in New York — any more!

But will you look at them?!  Just look at these faces!

There is the Zenned-out brown boy with gentle manners who insists on diamond studs that sparkle from underneath his backwards-turned baseball cap.  Underneath his crew-necks or fit t-shirts, he hides a fit but lithe body.  Sometimes, I catch him texting underneath the only cash register; but from where I sit, in those moments, he simply looks possessed by bliss, behind the tiny glass display of whole grain muffins.

The only older gentleman working regular shifts here has a quite voice.  He is not as effeminate as the other waiters here, neither is he flamboyant as most of the clientele.  When he tends to my table, I cannot always distinguish the content of his speech, but his Spanish accent is lovely.

So, I grin and stretch my arms to the other side of the tiny table. “I’m fine!  Thank you,” I purr, and wait:  Is this the day he’ll finally smile at me?

But this boy — is pretty, and I have never seen him before.  Dressed in the most perfect caramel skin, he has one of those faces that makes me regret not having a talent or even any predisposition for drawing.  His body seems perfect, and a pair of rolled-up jean shorts reveals a runner’s legs.  He carries just a touch of feminine grace, and oh, how the boys love him!  The entire length of my 3-hour writing session, they come in to quietly watch him from corner tables.  Some hug him while sliding their hands along his belt-line.  A sweet boy, he doesn’t seem to mind.  Men in couples flirt with him discretely, but I recognize their desire — for his youth and goodness — underneath the nonchalant gestures.

A woman with a complexion I would kill to have when I reach her age, has entered the joint shortly after me.  From the bits of overheard conversation, I figure out:  She lives in Laurel Canyon.  Has “a partner”.  A writer.

“130,000 people lost power last night,” she reads the newsfeed to the pretty boy, as he flocks her table.  He seems to possess an equal curiosity toward both genders; and if there is any hint of discrimination, it’s in his innocent desire to be in the proximity beauty.

Oh, right.  I nearly forgot:  Last night was messy.  When the winds initially picked up, I was willing to believe in the magic on some beautiful female creature blowing in, with the wind, to save this last hope of this forsaken place.  But then, my night turned tumultuous; and in my chronic want to flee from here, I thought of the more unfortunate souls, with not as much as a shelter of their car.  I checked myself in.

The morning ride to this joint was rough:  Fallen over trees, freaked out drivers and broken traffic lights.  But once I landed in my booth — and the angelic, pretty boy approached me — I remembered that I was always the last to give up on human goodness.  So, I hung around and recuperated in beauty.

And I’ve been hanging here ever since.

“I Wanna Li-Li-Li-Lick You, From Your Head to Your Toes”

“Mmm, LOVE ice-cream,” you said with an audible European accent that you weren’t even trying to hide.

Quite the opposite:  I bet it has worked to your advantage so far, because you don’t throw yourself against your need to control, to plan, to over think, to predict every moment before it happens — over, and over, and over again.  In our company of two, there is already one person who has done that idiotically throughout her youth; and frankly, it’s one person too many.

No, sir!  You are one to live in the moment.  Honestly. 

And you do it with such swagger — never for the sake of exhibitionism or selfish gratification; never for the sake of better opinions or for the sake of having to impress.  You dwell in consequences of your easy charm.  You watch your life happen and unfold, delivering its opportunities to the the tips of your impeccably polished shoes, like the wet tongue of a tidal wave.

Because where you come from, time moves differently:  It never matters more than one’s sensibility, and it definitely does not dare to contradict one’s pursuit of pleasures.  And so tonight, you took your time:  warming up my curiosity with your easy, manly smiles and just a couple of caresses along my arms with the flat surfaces of your nails.  The entire night, your gender training revealed itself in my open doors, extended hands, offered-up shoulders; and your gentle guidance of my high-heeled footstep over ditches and uneven pavements.  It is your second nature — to be a gentleman.  To be a man — is your first.

“We have a saying about a true — how you say it? — ‘gentleman’,” you told me earlier in the night.  “Don’t say much — and enjoy!  Yes?”

Yes.

Naturally, you would walk me down to my car after midnight; and with you, I wouldn’t even argue.  I wouldn’t feel an urge to defend my independence or flaunt my financial capabilities:  It’s not in your — how you say it? — “gentle” nature to undermine my life choices anyway.  So, I didn’t have to test or forewarn, with you.  That evening, you were my man alright, and it was somehow (finally!) also perfectly alright for me — to be your woman.

So, why — when you began to devour your chocolate ice-cream sandwich, after calling my elevator — did you suddenly resemble a young boy on a summer day spent on a river bank with other sunburnt rascals?  As I watched you, a thought flashed:

“ADORE.”

It was more of a memory, really.  A memory of a young man — utterly adored — who could wrestle my body or mind into submission with his weight or a single flex of his arm muscles; but when the battle was over, I would walk out of his bedroom to find him armed with a fork and a focus, dissecting a sweet I had made for him a few hours prior:

“Mmm, V.  So good!” he would always say with his mouth full and a blue-eyed gaze of someone caught in the midst of his defiant joy.  “Have some!”

I never would.  Instead:  I would adore.  

Yes.

Or the sound of another, who could kindly cradle me to sleep; then slip out into the kitchen and lick spoonfuls of honey and peanut butter, chugging them down with cold milk.  If I heard his commotions in my sleep, I would smile, always — I would adore! — then, toss myself headfirst into heavier dreams.  In the morning, he would be back in his manhood, older than me; and I would wonder if I had dreamt it all up, about someone like our son.

And yet another — tougher, stronger, always in control:  If he ever rested in my bed at an hour when the August heat finally gave it a rest, I would bring him platters of chilled watermelon and frozen berries; and while he lapped-up, and feasted, and moaned — the same way he had done with my body — I would rub his heavy head on my lap.  And, while he slowly landed:  Oh, how I would adore!

Yes…

When the elevator arrived, quicker than it would throughout the day when delayed by other mortals, naturally, you held its door open with one arm, while the other continued to maneuver the quickly melting sandwich around your mouth.  You would bite and nibble, lick the corners of your lips.  I leaned against the cold rail and chuckled, finding myself in the midst of my easily accessible, habitual adoration.  The gaze you shot me was somewhat of a warning:

“Don’t say much — and enjoy!  Yes?”  

By the time there was nothing left in your hand but a wrapper, we had arrived at my destination.  I peeled my behind off the rail and made my way to the doors, anticipating, as always, their opening.

“Where are you going?” you said, with a tease and an effortless control.

Quickly you examined the wrapper in your hand for any last bits, crumpled it up, tossed it into the corner; and before I could manufacture a scold or an excuse, you pressed me back into the rail with the now free hand — while pushing every button on the control panel with the other.  I laughed.  You smiled that easy, manly smile again, moved in on me, looked-up for cameras — and began to maneuver my lips around your mouth.

At first, I kept my eyes open, looking out for an accidental mortal every time the doors slid quietly in their grooves.  But you didn’t bother:  You bit and nibbled, licked the corners of your lips — and of mine.  You dwelled in consequences of your easy charm, now backing them up with skills.  With your eyes on me, you’d push more buttons; and I would laugh — again! — into the collar seams of your impeccably white t-shirt.

And by the third time we arrived to the eighteenth floor, I closed my eyes and pushed your back against the control panel…

You tasted like chocolate.

This Is a Man’s World. This Is a Man’s World. But…

“You’ve gone completely boy crazy!” a former male lover scolded me last night.  “Even I would make a better lesbian than you these days!”

Yah.  Maybe.

But then, excuse me… ahem:  What’s that part called?  That part on a man’s lower torso, right at his hip joints?  That V of a muscle cave that slides under the wide band of his underwear and down to his crotch, like an arrow commanding for a yield?

Don’t get me wrong:  I adore women.  Worship them.  To me, there is no higher aesthetic — no better divinity to obey — than the curves of the female nude.  And the way they are all soft, malleable to the touch, each one entering the space like a foaming wave, with its indistinguishable yet very detailed aromas:  It makes you want to grab a pen or a brush, or an empty sheet of music.  Suddenly, you wish for talents that just aren’t in your nature.  You want to name things about a woman; but so busy is your mind soaking her up, so breathlessly humbled you are when she soaks you — you fear wasting a single minute on letting the mind depart in search of the right words and, god forbid (Shiva forbid!), lose her.

I watched a boy do that to me the other night.  LA-LA was still in its San Franciscan mood — something he “did NOT sign-up for!” when he moved here six months ago — but as I shivered in the fog, hiding behind my frizzy hair and wrapping myself in the wide bottom of my gypsy skirt on a very San Franciscan street of my neighborhood, he couldn’t stop talking.  Name that tune!  Name that perfume!  Name it!

“I’ve never seen a purple skirt like this before — this much purple!”

“What exactly is the color of that feather earring peeking through your hair?”

“That’s one unusual jacket!”

The darling boy-child was overwhelmed:

“You are…” — he kept saying, then lingering for the next big adjective he could remember from his undergrad.

But they don’t teach you the swagger of a man back in college:  How to approach the unpredictable nature of a woman; how to size her up, then seize her with the exact words she’s been dying to hear since the beginning of her sex.  When and how to touch her, how to hold her down without crushing or offending; without letting her slip down and in between your fingers.  Where to tap.  Which buttons to push.  How to make her breathless or wild.  How to unleash her humidities, to let her want to soak you.  How to make her stay.

So, my dear boy-child struggled, visibly; working overtime to memorize and to decipher — to possibly impress — not even knowing that by the mere choosing of him that night, I already found him enough.

“You are…” — and he searched my face, my collar bone and the modest canyon between my breasts with those dark eyes he’d inherited from the other hemisphere, while unconsciously chewing on his lower lip.  (I could make a meal of that thing!)

But while he lingered, I too found myself devouring his youth.  The long-sleeved, slate-gray henley shirt with just the two top buttons undone clung to his shapely chest; and all I could do to keep myself from reaching across the table was to rewrap my shivering body in “this much purple” of a skirt.  I could see the swelling of his pecs underneath, and I suspected that the tautness and the give of him was a testament to his youth and regiment.  He was still in the midst of figuring out his own shape, his style — of coming into his own; but it would take a love affair with a woman — a woman with an experience for pushing his buttons — to learn about how this whole thing he’d inherited worked.

And he stood so tall!  (I love that, about men.  The way they can hold their ground, with all that body mass; some with a very laid-back grace, others — with an adorable apology for taking-up so much space.)  When the boy-child walked me home that night, I measured myself up against him, and while still shivering, took the liberty of figuring out how I could fit into his side, for the first time ever.  I looked for my nook — an intimate invasion along the body of a man I have not yet explored.  This way?  Or maybe, if I put my head here and catch my hand on his back pocket?  Or, can I push my hip against his upper thigh and balance in his stride?  While I adjusted and nudged; moved, shifted, and held onto, my hand slid along his lower stomach.  I rested there, studied it:

Excuse me, but… ahem:  What’s this part called?  This part — this V — on a man’s lower torso, right at his hip joints?  This groove leading to my life-long addiction?

But then again, this is the very first chapter of my life in which such open admiration of his kind has started.  I’ve begun to admire men’s shapes, not just conquer them.  I’ve started examining their skin, like some curious continents, with histories I no longer flippantly dismiss due to my own anger, or angst, or pride.

“Where is this scar from?”

“This beauty mark, above your lip:  How long have you had it?”

Name that tune!  Name that scent!  Name it!

I find them funny, charming and intense; childlike — wonderful! — with having to give me what my worship of women cannot.  Suddenly, in the company of men, I’ve begun to rest.  Because for the very first time, they are — enough:  Good enough and then some.  They are enough, for me — yet so differently magnificent! — especially when they are sufficient, in their own skin.

But, still.  Ahem…  What IS that part called?  That part, on a man’s lower torso, running parallel to his hip joints, but then detouring to heaven?  What IS — that V?  Name it.

Keep Your Pants On! Seriously.

O-kay!  Let’s just have it all out now, shall we?  Some broads — come with a past.

A huge past with multiple mistakes and redemptions.  The type of a past that often makes them fascinating, mysterious, and desirable to the other gender; and inspiring to their own.  She is that broad who is often flocked by male companions; whose lovers remain friends and whose friends wouldn’t mind a toss or two in between her sheet.  Getting a light in roomful of strangers for her long cigarette requires a single gesture:  perhaps, an eyebrow raise, or a parting of her lips.  She knows the power of her hair flip and the ability to regulate traffic — and to save hearts — with the shape and extension of her leg.  Typical to the feminine fashion, she may not know what she wants exactly, in the moment; but once she does — she knows very well how to get it.

Oh, she is fantastic!  Seemingly, she’s tried everything and would often surprise you with unusual skills, like spitting fires or riding tigers.  Or a stick shift.  Or a tractor and a tank.  She makes for a phenomenal traveling companion; because even if her standards of living have been raised high, she can easily let them go for the sake of an adventure.

Her style — has been tested for years.  She lives in her garbs, not just wears them.  They are her second skin.  Clothes are meant to have fun with — or be taken off.  Her scarves turn into blouses; skirts — into dresses; sarongs — into head wraps; and she always wears killer pants.  She is the one with the closet full of men’s dress shirts — small mementoes of her loves — and she can twist your mind with desire when she shows up to your bedroom in nothing but a raincoat.

The maintenance of her needs — hygienic, spiritual and financial alike — has been her own responsibility.  So, she will never burden a man with seeking solutions.  She needn’t be rescued, don’t you worry about her:  She’s got it covered, in spades!  Now, secretly she may wish to be cared for — by a failed parent or a capable partner — but you’d never know it until she’s down with a stomach flu or a broken ankle.  And I bet you, even then she’ll feed you her routine of:

“I’m fine, I’m fine.  Forget about it:  I’m fine!”

But being a power broad comes with tremendous consequences.  Any human existence filled with self-examination and high standards causes a few discomforts on the part of its witnesses; because it is hard to keep up with those in pursuit of personal perfection, isn’t it?  First of all, people with fascinating lives can be painfully annoying to the rest of us, because they reminds us not only of our failures but of our lapses in our own pursuits.

“Who the fuck does she think she is?!” some of us may wonder.  “What is she:  Invincible?”

Probably not, but her failures have not stopped her.  She will be the first to admit to her fuck-ups (and she won’t even cover them up with a diplomatic excuse of “a lesson learned”).  But somehow, she hadn’t lost the view of the big picture; so despite the detours and the surmounted losses, she is still seemingly well on her way.

To others, she may be inspiring (especially if she can downplay her power with “just being SO nice!”)  But even then, she doesn’t seem to aspire to that.  Because her friendships have been tested for years; and she’s learned that her true friends don’t give a flying fuck as to what she does with her life, as long as she is happy.  So, seeking their approval hasn’t been on the list of her needs in a long while.  As for others, if they want a piece of her — she’s down with it.  She will choose the ones to mentor, but as far as “inspiration” goes, she’ll leave that in the hands — and eyes — of her beholders.

O-kay!  Shall we continue having it all out now?

Here, we can all agree that a power broad’s dating life — will be painful.  But then again, it is painful for most of us, right?  Yes.  Hers, however, will be struck with an obvious loneliness, because her dating pool has been diminished by her pursuits, and not many partners can keep up with those.  Had she been a man, of course, her desirability factor would shoot through the roof; because “powerful men attract women, powerful women repel men”.

“Who the fuck do you think you are:  spewing out such generalizations?!” some of you may wonder.

Actually, I’m not the one spewing them out.  Last night, while hanging out on the couch of my Bohemian brother in a cloud of an apple-spiced hookah, I came across this lovely bit here, in the good ole New York Times:

When It Comes to Scandal, Girls Won’t Be Boys.

Inspired by the recent Twitter scandal of a one inventive politician (although not so, when it came to metaphors), the piece was dedicated to badly behaving male public figures.  Although never in the mood for sex scandals, even I haven’t been able to ignore the recent missteps by the few politicians unable to keep their hormones from affecting their ethics (or even, their common sense of judgement).  And yes, the Times bit particularly focused on why women rarely find themselves in such predicaments:

“Female politicians rarely get caught up in sex scandals. Women in elective office have not, for instance, blubbered about Argentine soul mates (see: Sanford, Mark); been captured on federal wiretaps arranging to meet high-priced call girls (Spitzer, Eliot); resigned in disgrace after their parents paid $96,000 to a paramour’s spouse (Ensign, John);  or, as in the case of Mr. Weiner, blasted lewd self-portraits into cyberspace.”

And so, along with the Times pontificator Sheryl Gay Stolberg, I found myself wondering last night about the reasons for such an obvious statistic.  Still, as at the time of every one of these scandals, I wasn’t tempted to wag my finger at the male politicians:  I come from a collectively horny nation — and family; so passing judgements would make me look like a hypocrite.  But that is the very reason that a broad like me would never run for an office, in the first place.

Because you see, I AM that woman with a past; and that past comes with consequences.  I would never want for my fuck-ups (NOT “lessons learned” by the way!) to resurface and tarnish the dignity of my beloveds — or of my political party.  I surely still want to create change in this world, but I just might have to do it via my career as an entertainer, a writer, or a philanthropist — but NOT a politician!

The Times journalist seems to agree:

“Women have different reasons for running,” she writes, “are more reluctant to do so and, because there are so few of them in politics, are acutely aware of the scrutiny they draw — all of which seems to lead to differences in the way they handle their jobs once elected.”

Last night, I decided to leave it to the big dogs to pontificate on the gender-related statistics and differences.  In the mean time, while I continue to aspire to my personal perfections and altruistic objectives (some of which are indeed drawn from my rich past), I must surrender to my own consequences:   my very limited dating life; the loss of acquaintances to their judgement and fear; and the departure of my suddenly repelled male companions while I give ’em all my routine of “I’m fine, I’m fine!  Forget about it:  I’m fine!”  But such is the pickle of life, ain’t it:  A man or a woman is free to make choices, but it is consequences of those choices that make a man — or a woman.

“Rum, Bum-Bum-Bum: Man Down!”

She was beautiful as shit, and very well-endowed, in her humanity.  But the one thing that had made me fall for the creature — head first against the tiled floor of an empty pool (SMACK!) — was her ability to always say what she meant and to say it with the precision of a sniper:  (POW!)

There was a gap though — a space where she lingered while choosing her words carefully and squinting her dark African eyes at her speaking opponents.  Half a generation older than me and so many exotic heritages apart, she had patience — in spades.  So, while I would be stepping on toes of the speaker — some over-read academic whose fear of our female flesh would make him work overtime at spewing out big words with which he hoped to dominate and conquer — while I would be wedging in my objections and stuttering with my youthful wrath (and with having so much to prove!), my girl would just hold there.  She would hold her fucking ground, my brothers and sisters — like Joan of Arc before her tribunal — and she wouldn’t fucking move!

It was so bloody impressive — it gave me a hard-on!  It was like watching one of those big cats at their hunting game:  You know better than to intrude, because you suddenly become aware that that cat’s evolution has not been contaminated by a century of junk food, bad decisions and hedonistic behaviors utilized to shut out its guilty conscience.  The cat is on top of its game:  It’s perfectly equipped — on point! — and it never has to work hard at proving jack shit.  And you know, for certain, that when the time is right for that one outrageous pounce — meant to capture, never to just tease — the poor victim won’t have enough time to even utter a prayer.

Well, it was like that, with this girl.  She would watch the poor sucker who overcompensated his boner with words, words, words — BULLSHIT! — and she would seem so chill.  Her glorious brown body appeared perfectly relaxed.  There was no verbal jab in the world that could make her shiver with wrath; no words capable of making her lose her composure; or even shift your weight.  Okay, maybe — may-be! — occasionally she would raise one eyebrow; but even that was barely noticeable.  You had to be in dire love with her to notice that change.  Which I was.   So — I did.

And when she would pounce — OH, LORD JESUS! — it was so much fun to watch!  If the asexual academic had been presumptuous at all about his vocabulary and degrees, the moment my girl unleashed:  She destroyed the fucker.  Because you couldn’t tell by her youthful face, which she insisted on wearing without any make-up, but she’d had years of education and a lifetime of reading to back her up.  She studied language for a living, working as an editor at every publishing house with its focus on radical writers:  female and foreign and black!  (FUCK!)  And just for fun, on weekends, when others got busy shifting around their patio furniture for barbecues in Brooklyn — she wrote poetry.

Some shifted the mundane — she displaced the real.

And she would win.  Always!  Because she wasn’t too hung up on the meaning of words.  Language, to her, was meant to be played with.  Otherwise, it was all dead.  So, true to that same feline fashion of hers, she played a gentle tug o’ war with concepts — tapping them, scratching the surface, or sinking her fangs into their gist — like a bored cat amusing itself with a caught prey before feasting on it.

Don’t get me wrong:  She had her truths.  Better than that:  She WAS all truth!  Love, dignity, sex and ethics — those were non-negotiable.  Not a thing to play with!  But words themselves — those little rodents and birds — were way too much fun to not fuck with.

Back then, I had once confused a man for the love of my life and I worked so hard on earning him.  At first, I tried on my ultra-feminine version:  All high heels, and eye-liner, and ruffled skirts that carefully ended at my knees.  I thought:

“Maybe he would love me more that way!  Maybe if I’d waxed, tamed my eyebrows, painted my nails in pretty pink; if I spoke with Americanized inflections and curtsied when he picked me up at Grand Central.  MAYBE!”

But after a year of still not being enough — of all that uncertainty and self-doubt — I began forgetting that I always hated make-up, especially in pink; and that I treading daintily — just wasn’t my style.  So, I gave myself a boy cut, loaded my closet with flats, white tank tops and tight jeans; and began taking the train into Manhattan thrice a week.

One day, my girl and I had stepped out onto Madison Ave, to do some hunting.  It was one of those spring days that breathed down New Yorkers’ neck with warm air and smells of budding cherry trees — but the sun had yet to come out.  We strutted southbound.  My girl lead the way.  Despite the promise of spring, she had zipped-up her hoody; and not tempted for a second to absorb the one New York season that reminds its natives as to why they choose to suffer there for the rest of the year, she hurriedly strutted to our decided destination.

A Nuevo-Rican  had come from behind us at a pedestrian crossing and studied our asses, in creepy silence; and when he realized my girl was one hot number underneath that zipped-up hoody, he began to whine, nasally:

“Ooh, mami!”

“Fuck you!” my girl shot him down over her shoulder and stepped off the curb, long before the light had changed in our favor.  POW!

Then:

“So, what was your definition of ‘forgiveness’?”  Just like that, she was back to me.  She was back — with me.  MINE!  I’d been out of breath for thirteen blocks by now:  from trying to catch up to her, like that poor Nuevo-Rican doubling over behind us, at the street light.  Not waiting for my answer, she resumed:

“Forgiveness — is like courage:  It is only committed for your own sake.”

“Forgiveness is like courage,” I repeated in a half-whisper, as if asking for her hand in marriage.

“NO!” she threw over her shoulder again, like a fuck-you to those who were unable to catch up.  “Forgiveness IS courage.” 

And off she went:  strutting, leaping, pouncing and leading the way, half a generation ahead of me and through strange, exotic histories in between; running every red light and giving me the most generous go-ahead of my life.

“Don’t Go Home With Your Hard-On!”

the best of you

I like more than you think.

the others don’t count

Charles Bukowski, One for the Shoeshine Man

“Do you know which word you say the most?” he said.

“Oh here we go,” I thought.  “Another one, trying so hard.  SO hard!  Why can’t he just let me be?”

But he didn’t wait for my answer:  “Grateful!” he said.

I hummed, surprised: I guess I’ve never learned how to receive a compliment.  

I’ve always had the skill to listen, you bet cha; and to admire them, pro bono.  And over the years, after enough cynicism (which I camouflage with my wit), I’ve even learned to rebut their self-serving inquiries, with unexpected grace.

So, when they say:  “So, what do you do for a living?”  

I read:  “I need a shortcut to your character.”

They hear my accent and too quickly spit out:  “Do you like it better here or over there?”  (Some even dare to over-enunciate.)

This one, I’ve learned to back-up with a comedic routine because no one wants to sit through my nostalgia or watch the ruins of an immigrant’s life.  They want me to be “grateful”.

“How old are you?” they say; then startle themselves, linger to recover and quickly add, “…if I may ask?”

For years, I’ve watched other women get coquettish or cutely offended by that question, some acting more sincerely than others.  And I would often lose my own hard-on, on behalf of the poor suckers who still had to shag them, eventually.  And I’ve tried that coquettish act myself:  It reminded me of waiting for my motha in Soviet hair salons while trying on lice-infected wigs.  Contagious — but what a fucking act!  And how boring!  

So, I always tell them my age instead — straight out, hard! — because whether it’s enough or not enough, it has most likely already been determined.  Or, it’s in the works.

No matter how habitual, how well-practiced their routine, when they look at me for the first time, there is a glimmer of curiosity.  Perhaps, they are relieved that they don’t have to hide their gazes any more (or their hard-ons):  They’ve already spoken, so they’ve gone beyond creepy.  So, they soak me up, scanning my modest endowments.  Some lick their lips.  Others just smile like 7-year-olds in love with their preschool teachers.  (Oh, you darling darlings:  How I adore you!)

And before they begin comparing me to others — for I know no man who hasn’t been changed by “that one woman” — I let them look.  I revel in it.  

Oh, how I wish there were a way to have this electricity of the initial attraction last!  To last past the mundane habit of hearing them pee with open bathroom doors; and past their own disappointments in my inabilities to live up to “that one woman”.

And when they look, men tend to need more time.  They don’t have the lightening-speed askance of a woman who scans a suitor while simultaneously going over her own list of prerequisites.

“Check, check, check,” a girl is always thinking.  (Trust me, I know:  I do it all the time.)

But men are not like that.  They either go with their gut or they go with their habit.  Those who are gutsier, will ask you an unusual question:

“Those earrings:  Where are they from?”

Or:  “You aren’t from around here, huh?”

(I prefer for them to be surprising.  Always.  It gives me a hard-on.  Or for me, to be surprisingly interesting — to them.)

The simpler types — God bless ‘em!  Really! — they always speak in quotations; and I often wonder how many back-up choices they’ve already earned on their speed dial that night, with that same routine.  What chaos, I think; but somehow I don’t mind it.  Most likely, they’ll soon get distracted anyway — and let me be.

“If beauty were a minute — you’d be an hour.”  (Oh, c’mon:  Why don’t you mind my laughing at you?)

“I like perfection,” another threatened me recently, while whipping out his phone; because his arrogance must work like a charm on other women.

“Is that why you’re talking to me?” I responded.  (What did I tell ya?  I’ve learned to rebut, you bet cha.  But still, I prefer to be surprised.)

“Are you gonna make me chase you?” another one commented on my impressive stunts in heels; and even though I’d outrun him, sooner or later, he decided to follow me for a long enough to get my number.

“Yep.”  (Don’t you know you aren’t supposed to waste your breath in marathons, buddy?)

But those who stick around for the first date usually tend to take their time figuring me out.  They study me, like an ancient spiritual text, of no particular religion.  They shuffle through universal concepts and bigger theories.

Like that adorable one, catching me off-guard with my own speech tick of “grateful”.  The entire night, he’s been wanting to play the tug-o-war of “You, Me, You, Me.  Me, Again.”  He was young and ambitious, quite contagious and still altruistic.  He was so beautiful to look at, in the way that only the young can be.  And in those moments of his trying so hard to like me — or to be like me; to get the gist of it all, to figure it all out; to stand on his own, but then dive into his empathy head first; to equate me, please me, surprise me; to make me laugh, to make me vulnerable; to get me; to earn me:  I found myself grateful, indeed.

Because I knew better than to hold onto him:  No one lasts.  Or they haven’t lasted so far, and I can’t expect them to.  But I can expect them — to be.  I can let them be, just as they are.  

And because, for a change, someone was letting me be as well, I suddenly felt surprised — at my own magnificence — and I wanted so much to return the favor!  

And yes, I already knew that the electricity of the initial encounter wouldn’t last, but I reveled in it, if only for that night.  But secretly, I began harboring a glimmer of hope that maybe it was my turn — to be “that one woman”.   

Boys Will Be Boys. Thank Goodness!

Boys, boys, boys.  Men and gentlemen.  Players.  Soldiers.  There are so many of you in the world — and thank goodness for that!

You beautiful creatures that are born as our sons, then grow into our men; but then again, despite of our occasional complaints, so many of you remain our children — even as our husbands and lovers — and so many of us would NOT have it any other way!  Because when you stumble out of our beds early in the morning, scratching your bodies — youthfully supple or gracefully aging — when you clumsily rummage through our cupboards, then reach for your favorite cereal (which we’ve memorized long before learning your Social Security Number, or your mother’s birthday); when you pout, whist still barely awake and unaware of your age — you make us, women, wonder about the little boys you used to be; and in that moment, you are indeed — our sons.

And there is no higher praise to your manhood — and all the abilities, endowments, talents and skills that come with it — than when a woman chooses you to father her own child.  Because somewhere along loving you, we begin to daydream about watching that same sleepy face reappear in the cribs of our firstborns (and that pout!  oh, that pout!).  And when it is time for our children to start stumbling out of their beds, we will weep at their resemblance — to you.  It’s ALL dedicated to you! 

Because we too wonder about your teaching our sons how to throw a ball or a punch; how to shave (or whatever else you, boys, do behind those closed bathroom doors:  we love you, but we don’t really want to know); and how to choose the right socks or the right girl.  And we too desire for our daughters to worship you more than they seemingly do us; to adore you enough to look for you in their choices of men who, of course, will never be up to your standards.  (Because it’s always different with daughters:  They turn our men into pussycats.)  

You stubbly creatures of the opposite sex:  How you can break a woman’s heart with a mere aloofness or a deficit of attention; but then to build her back up with a single curious gaze that so many of you still don’t know how to execute without being unnoticed.  Please don’t ever stop giving us compliments, even if — and especially if — they won’t get you anywhere!  Don’t censor your praise of our hair, or eyes, or earrings — compliments that make you sound like an admirer of beauty, even if you haven’t figured out its source.  You often have no idea why a certain woman makes you turn your head (while hundreds of others can pass you by unnoticed).  And even if your compliment doesn’t earn you our time or phone number, please know:  It is never taken for granted.

The rougher men who have suffered through difficult lives and mean jobs:  You still have the ability to inspire a woman’s fantasy about being lifted with those capable arms of yours.  Some of us fall in love with women:  their grace and softness, and the way they manage to always smell so sweetly.  But for those of us who still adore the other gender:  It’s your physical ability — your capability to always be stronger than us, to stand taller, to be more ready — that makes us worship you until heartbreaks.  And when you do those things we needn’t know how to do (change a tire, fix a sink; negotiate with a mechanic or a cabbie; catch a fish or play the stock market), you make us feel safer.  And for that rare, fleeting sensation in life — we are forever grateful.  (A little secret though, boys:  Some of us have learned how to do those things, but we’d rather watch you take over.  Thanks.)

Those smooth players who choose to move through their lives as gentlemen:  How ever do you know where to buy a suit and when to tailor a jacket?  Who’s taught you how to be decisive about our first date’s destination and time; and how to settle the tab without making a fuss?  When do you make up your mind on whether or not you will ever wear cologne or the style of your underwear?

Your stubborn choice of your own higher standards — your substance — will continue to turn us on until the end of civilization.  Don’t ever stop getting our doors and chairs; lifting us over puddles or carrying us out of fires.  Continue to show up on time, to come through with your word (a man’s word!); to tolerate our emotions and to guard your own.  Insist on asking for our opinion on those pastel-colored Banana Republic shirts, but remain authentic to your taste (and always devoted to your collar stays!).  Know the best dry cleaners in town but don’t mind us if your dress shirt — is the only thing we want to wear while fixing you a sandwich.  Do send us flowers and hand-written notes.  Do make the first call, but allow us to keep the illusion that we — have the last word.  And the sooner you let us have the remote control, the sooner you can take us to bed.  (But you may also proceed on the couch.  Or the floor.)

And when you do undress us, fumbling with our buttons, or bra hooks, or garter belts — all too dainty for your rough, manly hands — continue to study us as if we were a work of art (perhaps, while unawarely pouting).  Or your dream car.  Or your dream girl. 

Oh, to the modest smile of Paul Newman and the intelligent squint of Robert Redford; to the swagger of George Clooney and the slight indifference of Clark Gable; to the promising ability of Steve McQueen and the effortless power of Bill Clinton; to the mastery of Obama’s self-deprecation and the reserved grace of Eastwood; to Denzel’s esteem and Jay-Z’s universal rule:  To you — we sing our odes and griefs!  To you — we give our youth and dedicate our sex.  Because no matter how many times you break our hearts, it is YOUR love that we continue to seek; and it is ONLY that love — that makes us better women.  And thank goodness for that!

(But don’t you worry:  We will always return that last favor, no matter how late in life:)