Apr 19, 2009

In the Dept. of Outrageous Dinner Conversation, the award for most consistently strange and amazing, and often in-bad-taste anecdotes goes to our friend S, who arrived last night from Los Angeles, with her most recent lover, N.

If I were tweeting you this, in 140 characters, less the URL, the message might be something like, “one woman broad-squad wants (her own) penis for her 50th”.

S’s husband, D, who stayed with us a few months ago, knows about his wife and N and one of the revelations from last night was that S has recently been going to a therapist specializing in polyamorous relationships. Indeed, two therapists. One she goes to with her husband; the other with her lover. The common thread is that S loves both men, and actually there are others but I’ll get to that, and so the goal is to help these two men understand both her needs and her nature, as well as the awkward situation they find themselves in.

So far therapy has not been effective. When S goes off on one of her erotic adventures she does not say where she is going or with whom and, if pressed, may respond with a half lie or some banter from the therapists or does a little ideo-philosophic number on why it’s okay to be secretive AND polyamorous — although I always thought the hope and promise of being polyamorous was that you could be open. Anyway, as she goes out the door her husband says to her, “I know you’re going off with that Nazi, pseudo-intellectual, scumbag, fuck-face. I hope you have a good time.”

She always does.

By the same token the therapy has not worked for N who has no regard for D. “Well admit it he’s the classic, hippy-Jew-aristocrat, with a lot of money and absolutely no talent. I can’t understand what you see in him.”

S sees everything in her husband and loves him as best she can. They’ve been married for nearly 20 years. And if you met him you would say, how could she not love him? Although she is independent financially, still he provides her with access to material worlds, houses on this coast and that, exotic vacations — in sum real and imagined properties she would not have otherwise. But more important her husband is a really good guy. He’s very kind and also steady and reliable and full of dry humor, and if he hadn’t gotten caught up in allure of New York investment banking for so many years, maybe S would never have discovered her polyamorous needs.

Actually, that’s not true. My wife who has known S since college days will tell you that she was always like that but more so now.

By way of 9 to 5, S works for one of the top literary agencies in New York. She plays the viola in a traveling string quartet. Ten years ago she wanted to learn German — to explore her roots — and so went to Heidelberg, studied at the university and for a year volunteered at a methadone clinic.

My wife insists S is a “serious person”, which means someone who 1) reads books; 2) cares about literature, regardless of culture and can hold a discussion about literature for two and a half hours without moving; and 3) and most important, S reads poetry but doesn’t write it. For my wife that’s a slam-dunk indication that S is a serious person, along with the fact that S will say or do anything, which my wife has begun to do lately, in earnest.

And you understand S doesn’t do or say these outrageous things entirely for effect. It’s just her way of being, and so last night at dinner, the rest of us floating in North Sea Vodka, she broke a much-needed silence by saying, “my 50th birthday is coming up and I’m hoping to get a penis.”

My first thought was, ‘but you already have at least three that I know of, how many more do you need?’

I put that thought in a smile.

“No,” she said. “I want a penis, I want to know what that’s like. I really do. Haven’t you ever wondered what it would be like to have a vagina?

She said it as though the only possible answer was, “Of course I have, and I’m dying to experience the whole feemo, femmi, amazonio, cockamamie, hygienic business of being a woo-man…. Just as described by Charlotte Roche in Wetlands…”

That was roughly my answer.

“Oh you’ve read Wetlands,” she said, eyes lighting up and becoming oval, which I read somewhere recently means, for a woman, you want to be fucked.

I shook my head. Actually, part way through the book review I nearly threw up.

That made no sense to her at all. Why would reading all about the bodily liquidity of a woman not be interesting?

It just isn’t, I said. Nothing to do with women. I just think there should be a bare minimum of mystery, that’s all.

Meanwhile, N was paying close attention and even though he had not read the book or the review fully agreed with his polyamorotic obsession.

Incidentally, N is a professor of advanced languages at an Ivy league university and a consultant to various organizations that can benefit from his study. He’s in his late 30’s, quick witted, chatty, and always keen to talk about Israeli politics. He’s also German, as are nearly all of S’s lovers. His father was taken prisoner at Stalingrad and his grandmother on his mother’s side was Jewish. Several years ago he officially converted to Judaism and since then has spent considerable time in Israel. He considers himself anti-Zionist, which puts him at odds with S’s parents who both over-the-top Zionists.

With S’s parents, did you say? I did. He met them recently. Although introduced as a friend, S’s mother said to her, very slyly, ‘this is your fellow-traveler friend that you went to Jerusalem with last year?”


N would have you believe he is a comrade-in-arms with the working class. Perhaps, he was growing up, but not now. He lives in a rooftop penthouse in downtown Los Angeles, in the Rampart District, which if you know about such places, is well known as ground zero for corrupt LA sheriff’s deputies. I once wrote a story about a deputy nearly killed by his fellows, literally run down on his motorcycle by deputies in cars, because as an under cover agent in the department he had found some dirty dealings.

Which has nothing to do with N, although I find it vaguely ironic that he is at once comrade and constable. He lives in a rotten neighborhood, but in a penthouse. He says he doesn’t like cops but consults for some law enforcement agencies. He’s from the working class but he’s beginning to cool on Obama because of the new tax rates (From 33% to 36% for those making more than $250,000 a year).

At one point I asked him about Obama’s position on directing the American economy, and culture, away from growth and spending toward saving and investment. “Well, you see this is where I don’t know. I’m just over this threshold and I’m a little worried. I don’t think you should be taxed to death.”

This from a man who had said earlier that he was to the left of Obama and if forced to choose between being subservient to big business or big government would side with big government. All this said, I liked the man, and much I always assume women pick lovers who are much different than their husbands I found him very much like her husband, only younger and more forceful.

But I had to laugh when the question of S’s other lover came up. Call him Y, a 20-something, prize winning short story writer. In fact, S doesn’t like his writing but is attracted to his lack of sexual experience.

“That sniveling little slave,” said N. “No talent whatsoever. I just don’t see it.” And there was a long silence. Which was broken when S said she wanted a penis on her 50th. She was quite serious and said she’d even looked into having an operation.

The way she said it, so longingly, as though her life would be complete — “I want my own penis”. I don’t know why but I immediately thought of a brand new, 1957 red Thunderbird floating down the Sunset Strip, at midnight, with Whiskey-a-go-go at full blast.


Anjuli said...

If you wrote this in a novel- no one would believe it. This is the reason I always say- real life far exceeds fiction!

I'm amazed she is able to juggle all her lovers- just keeping my one and only husband happy is a full time job....but then again, maybe her concern is not their happiness but her own. :)

Anonymous said...

I just wrote a comment on a fine essay above. But my wife would have a dummyspit if I revealed things about some of her strange friends like you do about your wife's demure, classy friend in this tale.

I notice you do this revelatory business in some of your other works. My advice, for what it's worth -- Leave the role of gossip guy with a juicy story to Perez Hilton. Someone's life could be a shambles if they're identified by your colourful, less-than-veiled, wink-wink, nod-nod stories. It makes you look a bit nasty and petty, which -- unlike when you wear the humble satirist/ironic essayist hat -- doesn't suit you.

There are ways to make your "characters" less recognizable. Or maybe you're already disguising them, and i'm taking things a bit literally. Would that be the case? If so, pls forgive all the above comments.

Back to your tale, with S and N and D as their very own initials or someone else's. What a tale. I'm glad my wife only wanted a new computer for her 50th. Much easier to hook up to the works, too...