Dispatches

The Big Tease

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 DISPATCHES

 

The Big Tease by Vanessa Grigoriadis

Alyson and three of her friends from Maryville, Tennessee, were so excited to get to spring break in Panama City Beach, Florida, that they left home at five a.m, which was way, way earlier than their six remaining girlfriends. After the sun came up, a couple of guys in an Acura blew the girls kisses and then threw marshmallows at their car, one of which got stuck under a windshield wiper and turned all goopy as they drove farther south and the day got hotter. When the tank finally read empty, the girls stopped for fuel and provisions, which included Marlboro Lights, a case of Bud Light, a bag of light popcorn and a sticker, GIRLS GONE WILD. “Yeah, the ride down was as fun as being here,” says Alyson, a freckled blond who is a devout Southern Baptist and, she’ll tell you proudly, the first girl on her town’s golf team. “Well, it was almost as fun. But not quite.” It’s 10:30 a.m. and Alyson has just woken up at the Days Inn, a vast and completely booked motel in the heart of Panama City Beach (PCB, for short). Dangling a half-full water bottle of Kool-Aid and vodka from her pale blue nails, she meanders down to the beach along with her nine pals — most of whose bodies are more mature than Alyson’s (her face is still round and girlish) and who are maybe a little less daffy (she tends to say whatever’s in her head), but who all share her photo: Jessica who is not best dressed gets dressed.giddiness about being here, a sense of excitement that comes with having the independence to act freely, and maybe badly. In addition to Alyson, there’s Lauren and Lindsey (who are twins) and another Lauren, there’s a Jenny, two Sarahs, two Jessicas and a pretty Japanese newcomer to their hometown, Ayoko. “Another of our best friends was supposed to come, too,” explains Alyson, carefully laying out her tiny hotel towel on the sand. “But she was lame and bagged.” All of these girls are eighteen or almost eighteen, and they are all wearing pastel-colored bikinis. They’re high school seniors with after-school jobs as lifeguards or salesgirls at Baby Gap; eventually, they’d like to be lawyers or doctors or managers at Alcoa, which is where some of their parents work, back in Maryville. This week, however, they are all about Limp Bizkit, “shaking that ass,” camcorders, licking guys’ earlobes, henna tattoos, funneling (“bonging”) beers in hotel hallways, shots in the hot tub, tanning oil with glitter in it, “Truth or Dare” and “Wazzzzzzzup!” “Wazzzzzzzzup!” yell the guys, cruising the beach for babes. “Wazzzzzzzzup!” yell the babes, cruising the beach for guys. “This week is all about being wild wirls,” slurs Alyson, who’s already taken a few healthy swigs from her water bottle. “I mean, girls.” Even if you’ve never bought a copy of the $8.99 Girls Gone Wild video off late-night cable, the commercials — which invariably feature images of girls flashing in public, black bars covering their nipples — tell you everything you need to know about the sensibility of the species (although actually flashing is the domain of only the very most wild). The wild girl is the girl who carries around a lighter shaped like a penis and can bump-n-grind on top of five-foot speakers; she’s the one in halter tops emblazoned with PLAYBOY PLAYMATE, FLIRT or SLUT, apparel designed to be playfully ironic, but which also has the nifty side effect of making the girls look super-sexy. The wild girl is the girl who screams deliriously from her hotel balcony as some guys streak across the beach, and the girl who, if she doesn’t enter a bikini contest herself, cheers on other girls from the front row: The wild girl doesn’t discriminate on the basis of gender — as long as it’s sexy, it’s all good. One night, the ten from Tennessee planned to have dinner at Chippendales, but when they found out that there wasn’t one in town, they decided to go to Hooters instead. If there is one habitat in which the wild girl is most at home, it is the beach during spring break. She’s there amongst twenty percent of the college-age population, a self-selected group of partiers proudly carrying on a tradition at least three generations old and further popularized by MTV’s annual coverage of the event since 1985. These days, an approximate five hundred thousand students party in PCB each season, kids coming mostly photo: Best dressed Jessica hits the sauce early.from schools in the South and Midwest. It’s a crowd that attracts sponsorships from businesses like job site Monster.com (whose blimp drifts overhead) and Big Red (which dispenses free packs of gum at taco stands), as well as events like a WCW show and the taping of MTV’s Jackass (“We all got up onstage,” says the Lauren Who Is a Twin. “And then I kissed Stevo!”). Also in town to get their message across are members of the Campus Crusade for Christ, a clan of three thousand hardworking Christian youths here this week in mid-March to save a few sinners. Looking a lot like the wild girls, but sober and a little less scantily clad, these mostly female evangelists roam the motels to greet their peers, provide a free pancake breakfast every Sunday and transport breakers to and from nightclubs in their Campus Crusade van. They also administer thought-provoking surveys to their peers, asking questions like, “What happens when you die?” and “Have you prayed to the Lord today?” “Usually, I pray three times a day — once when I wake up, in my car on the way to school and before bed,” says Alyson, who even considered showing up with her own Christian youth group at the Crusade before she made plans to come to spring break with her friends. “But I didn’t last night. ‘Cause I was too smashed.” All of the action in PCB takes place on the main drag, Front Beach Road, a two-lane highway with sea and motels to the south and hair braiding stands, McDonald’s and bars to the north. It’s a cruiser’s paradise out here, bumper-to-bumper with kids hanging out of sunroofs, pickups spray-painted PANAMA BEACH OR BUST and motorcycles flying Confederate flags. If you’re a woman, you don’t even need to stick your thumb out on the strip: Cars nearly collide in their haste to stop for damsels on the sidewalk. It might be gallantry, but more likely it’s got something to do with percentages; though almost no one brings along a significant other, or friends of the opposite sex — it’s all guys with guys, and girls with girls — there are four times as many boys as girls here in PCB. “It’s a freakin’ sausage-fest, dude,” complains a buff Georgian, wearing a St. Christopher’s medal and a white Miami Heat visor the way you wear visors at spring break, flipped backward and turned upside down. He walks over to one of the Jessicas, a Kirsten Dunst look-alike who was voted her high school’s “Best Dressed” (she lives up to her title by accessorizing her bikini with a pony-skin purse). “Can I stand here beside you? Will that be cool?” “Why not, sugar,” she purrs, hooking his arm with her pale white one (it will soon be a fiery red).

     
 DISPATCHES

 

The gender imbalance may be a downer for the guys, but it’s a treat for the hundred thousand-odd girls who saved up their allowances to come to PCB (for the Tennessee girls, it cost three hundred dollars each to spend the week). For the first time in many of these girls’ lives, it makes no difference if they’re short or tall, white or black, fat or thin: They are desired, even by captains of the football team, guys who normally wouldn’t stoop to asking them about math homework in the cafeteria. And it’s all because they were the type of girls who were wild enough to come down to spring break. “This has been the best two days of my life,” says Alyson. “At least, my life so far.” “It’s so fun here,” agrees the Lauren Who Is a Twin. “Back in Maryville, there’s nothing to do — we see movies and hang out with the same people we’ve been hanging out with since we were five. Here, there are so many things to do and all these guys to meet — these big, athletic guys who have the best bodies ever!” Jessica may still be flirting with the guy from Georgia, but after a long day at the beach, most of the other girls have gone back to their room. Sprawled across the green-blanketed Days Inn beds, they’re all either passed out or staring blankly into space as they sip the Hi-C and rum slushies that they made in Jenny’s blender. MTV, as always, is blaring in the background. “What would you all do,” muses Alyson over the blare of the new Nelly video, “If I had sex with a different guy every night?” What you never see on the beach: someone reading a book or magazine, even a glossy one. What you see instead: the Miss Hawaiian Tropic Bikini Contest and the Nair perfect legs contest, or a game of “Musical Men” (the men are the chairs and the girls are the players). The wild girl enters some of these contests, or at least dirty dances with a guy, or two guys who sandwich her, as someone’s boom-box blares Juvenile’s “Back That Azz Up” in the background. Or if not with a guy, she’ll dance with a girl, like when Twin Lauren caressed the taller Jessica’s thighs and mimed eating her out while a bunch of guys looked on, pumping their fists in the air while they muttered, “Oh, shit. Oh, shit.” Being a wild girl means you drink all night and start up again first thing in the morning; there are no restaurants in the hotels and hardly any fast food joints have breakfast, so you can get a good buzz on by noon, especially if you’re lying out on the beach in the semi-hot sun. “Lindsey, are you fucking hammered?” Alyson asks, around 12:30 p.m. Lindsey, lying face down on her lilac towel, doesn’t answer. “Yeah,” says Alyson, eyes as shiny as her oiled thighs. “I’m pretty sure I am too.” Most importantly, however, being a wild girl means not walking away when guys start to chant, “Show your tits!” “Show your tits!” chant guys on the sidewalk, while you drive down the strip. “Show your tits!” chant guys in cars, while you walk on the strip. “But I haven’t got any,” wails Twin Lauren, who’s beautiful, ebullient, five-ten, with honey-blond hair and long legs but who, indeed, has no tits. “Whaddya mean?” yells a spiky-haired guy in a yellow shirt that reads YOO-HOE, hanging out of an Explorer’s passenger seat. “God didn’t give you any titties?” “Well — ” she says, shifting her weight from foot to foot. The guy’s eyes glint: She’s not walking away. As is true in New Orleans during Mardi Gras, it’s tits for beads in this town, and so negotiations commence. Lauren inspects the ten plastic strands that hang around the guy’s neck over his big silver cross. She wants the ones that are purple, but purple is the hardest to find in the bead stands and therefore most popular with girls, and the guy knows this as well as he knows that Lauren’s chest really isn’t that big. So he offers her green, in honor of the upcoming St. Patrick’s Day. She says no way. He says he’ll do the purple if she and her friend Sarah will both flash him, but Sarah’s rather drunk and she’s stumbling over to the curb and now, well, she’s fallen down. Finally, an agreement is struck: Lauren will kiss the guy — with tongue — for two strings of beads, the green and a “groovy” red. She puts her hands on his shoulders. “Wazzzzzup!” yell all the guys watching from the car, as they smooch laboriously. “Wazzzzzup!” yell all Lauren’s friends, all except Sarah, who is running up from the curb to get a closer look. “This is wild,” Sarah manages to say. “Wow, was that guy ugly,” says Lauren, giggling as she walks away. “But I really wanted those beads.” “See, all these bitches want to show their titties,” says a nineteen year old with a Kid Rock tattoo on his bicep who is watching this scene from his perch atop a garbage can, camcorder at the ready to catch any free-swinging breasts. “But they got to act all, ‘No, no, I don’t wanna.’ ‘Cause they’re bitches.” It’s a strange economy here at spring break, and it’s not always clear what’s being traded. If the girls give it up for nothing (no beads, no excuse), they’re not wild; they’re just sluts. They’ve got to tease and bargain to stay in the game. But one wrong turn in that negotiation, and they’re not sluts, but something worse: cockteases, chicken, bitches. And though every girl will tell you that these kinds of guys are “disgusting,” that girls who flash are “trash” and they’re “not prostitutes, for Chrissakes,” they don’t always ignore the requests, and more often than not, they comply in some fashion — it’s as if they think it’s the least they can do for this bounty of male attention, all of which they soak up, whether it’s gallant, crass or gape-mouthed with awe. Some of the girls are less interested in attention than others. Like Jenny, for example, who goes hunting, thinks George W. Bush is “the shit” and doesn’t drink as much as the other girls but “pretends that she does.” Then there’s the Jessica Who Is Not Best Dressed, a quiet, mild girl with a new belly button ring. Lauren Who Is Not a Twin professed not to want any part of the goings-on until, one night, she saw a guy wearing some beads that she just couldn’t resist. Much wilder are Twin Lauren and Best Dressed Jessica, who will kiss guys they don’t really know, enter most bikini contests and dance on any object elevated more than two feet off the floor. But even they can’t compete with the wildest girls, the only girls on the beach bold enough to wear a thong — the professionals. You find them mostly at the infamous wet T-shirt contest at PCB’s Club La Vela, which bills itself as “The Biggest Club in the World!!!!” (It’s not.) So wild are the girls here that the party organizers must remind them not to “skin to win”: public nudity is photo: Campus Crusaders for Christ leave their footsteps in the sand.a three-hundred-dollar fine from the city, and they’ve been cracking down. “Remember, no showing your titties, and no showing your stuff,” shouts an emcee with dyed blue hair who goes by the name of “Scotty the Party.” A dozen ready, willing and well-endowed girls nod and shiver in the late-afternoon chill. One by one, each woman walks onto a slightly raised plywood stage in the middle of a kidney-shaped pool, surrounded by a crowd that’s mostly men but also features some whooping girls, dancing sexily in an attempt to mimic the moves onstage. A couple of the contestants here are college girls, from Indiana or Kentucky, but most aren’t. A few, like one blonde with an astounding body but light brown teeth, are professional strippers or otherwise involved in PCB’s underbelly. (“See the brown teeth?” says one of Scotty the Party’s minions. “That’s from smoking crystal.”) Most of them, however, are career partiers, spending their lives going from resort town to resort town, like Shannon, a twenty-two year old in pigtails who says she’s made ten thousand dollars for two months of shaking that ass. Contestant by day, nightclub promoter by night, Shannon spends most of her time selling fifteen-dollar club tickets in PCB’s most populous section of strip — they call it “the war zone” because of the fierce competition among the Christian Crusaders and panhandlers, T-shirt shills and Shannons. Shannon takes the stage, and Scotty the Party shouts: “Say, ‘Scotty the Party, make me wet please!'” “Scotty the Party,” says Shannon, drawling breathily and running the tip of her tongue over her top lip, “Would you pretty please make me wet?” Scotty the Party douses her with baby oil. It’s a better alternative to water, he’s found, because the girls have to rub it in to their shirts to make them translucent, and they rub slowly and seductively, with hands exploring curves and lingering on nipples. “Oh, yeah, this makes you feel good you’re a man,” he yells, nodding his blue head wildly, as Shannon, in only a pale pink velvet thong and a scrap of white T-shirt, expertly swishes her hips from side to side, then falls to her knees and spreads them wide apart. She lifts the shirt almost to the nipple, and the crowd goes wild. “Can I get an ‘amen?'” shouts Scotty the Party. “Amen!” shouts the crowd. Shannon wins a cool one hundred dollars, plus another fifty for coming in second in a bikini contest earlier today. “Alrighty, now let’s all get back to what we all do best: drinking!” Scotty the Party shouts into the mike. “But don’t forget to come back tomorrow, because it’s the same time, same thing, every day.” He grins. “Just different women.”

     
 DISPATCHES

    To guys, the constant parade of different women is what makes spring break spring break: this one with a lime g-string and double-Ds, that one with dyed red hair and a new tongue piercing she can’t keep in her mouth, tomorrow’s girl with the dark skin and metallic string bikini that sparkles brightly when struck by the sun. Even if there’s no sort of official sweepstakes going on, guys are perfectly content to create their own, rating the girls from their balconies: “Blue shirt: five! Blondie: four! But you in the black, you’re freakin’ smoking: nine-and-a-half! Gimme dat nasty dat sweet dat gushy stuff!” Up close, the comments are just as forthcoming, more observational than analytical: “You got on a black bra,” “You got little flowers on your undies,” “You got a thong under those sweats, man! Let me see that tho-o-ong!” As far as the guys are concerned, this kind of commentary, including the egregious use of song lyrics, is completely justifiable. It’s the only recourse they have, after all, because here’s the big secret of spring break: they’re not getting any. Sex seems so close here, what with all the dancing and strutting and body-oil rubbing, but for all the stories about how Brad’s best friend’s frat brother had an orgy at the Holiday Inn, there are in fact few reports of sex at all, just a blowjob here or there — “and then the girl threw up on my dick!” “Whenever a guy starts taping me with a camcorder, I always look straight into it and say, ‘I did not sleep with this guy,'” says Shannon, “’cause you know that’s what he’s telling his friends, when the reality is he didn’t get play, and certainly not from this chick.” It’s as if Britney Spears, that virgin queen with the second-best-known thong in the history of America, has inspired a generation of inverse Victorians: If 150 years ago the most buttoned-up, proper citizens were the ones having wild sex behind closed doors, now the most flamboyant exhibitionists might be the ones guarding their chastity most closely. Here at spring break, the whole scene is just one very long tease: girls dance on tabletops with the ease of professional pole dancers, are willing to tongue each other or maybe even flash their breasts, but they are not all that interested in doing anything else, especially if there’s not a group gathered about. None of the Tennessee Ten actually have sex with anyone during their trip, in part because they’re not interested, and in part because the logistics would be a challenge. The motels’ policies insist that patrons wear plastic bracelets after six p.m. so no visitors can stop by for some hanky-panky. “It’s like we’re damn kids,” protests Alyson. “We’re not kids!” Spring break at PCB: It’s like watching a porn movie in which the characters decide just to talk. But that makes sense. Spring break really has nothing to do with actually getting to know the opposite sex — it’s about you and all your girlfriends having wild experiences together, the kind that you can play back at home for friends on the twins’ dad’s Panasonic camcorder. To go have sex with someone, you’d have to leave your friends and find some obscure hotel room — which MTV Spring Break never shows — and there’s nothing wild about that. As much as it is about writing the mythology of your young, wild life, it’s also about trying out your future as a woman, determining just how much to bare, how much to preen and when to pull back and walk away. Spring break is also about tuning into the aggressiveness of the music that’s constantly playing on the beach, a thumping, macho rap that pumps the guys up and penetrates through everyone’s drunken haze. It’s about the night that Alyson woke up at six a.m. because one of the girls was peeing in her suitcase. She had been the last one out the night before, staying up with three guys who no one really knew, and now she could not stand up straight and kept mumbling something about “not taking anything.” Alyson had to put her in a cold shower, and even then she seemed something other than drunk. The other girls woke up, too. They put washcloths on her head; someone suggested they give her a few shots of tequila. “What did they do on 90210 when Valerie got slipped the roofie?” Alyson wondered. The girl they were worried about slept through most of the day and still couldn’t remember anything about the night before by late afternoon, when she finally inspected her arms and found lots of bruises and a carpet burn on her elbow, though she felt all right down there, so she didn’t think anything had actually happened. Later on, she just got ready with the rest of her friends for another spring break night, with hair curlers, aloe moisturizers, MTV in the background and “Who took my purple earrings?” “Where’s my cute underwear and bra?” cries Alyson, pulling clothes out of her suitcase. “I want to wear them, in case I have to take my clothes off.” Padding around the room in various states of undress, Alyson and her friends explain that most of them have boyfriends at home — all are in college, because they consider high school boys too immature. “I won’t tell my boyfriend about stuff that happened down here,” says Alyson, sitting on the side of a bed on which Twin Lauren is lying face down, completely passed out, with a towel around her torso and over her head. “Not because I’m afraid of him — I just don’t want to hear the bitching. I mean, he wouldn’t be so proud.” A few of the girls tell me they’re virgins, and the rest have only had sex with one person. A couple say that they think they might have had orgasms, but the others thought sex was an altogether unimpressive experience and say that they much prefer back massages. Most of their hearts were broken by the guys to whom they lost their virginity, so now they take sex seriously. “It’s not the kind of thing you can give away to just anyone,” says Best Dressed Jessica, who says that she goes on two or three dates a month. “Not like guys ever take no for an answer.” “You better tuck in your bra strap,” says Best Dressed Jessica to the other Lauren, who has just put on a tight blue top. “It’s hanging out the back, like always.” “You better get up and dry your hair,” the other Lauren tells Twin Lauren, poking her inert foot. “Or it’ll look like shit.” The ten of them may be particularly mindful of the repercussions of sex given that Lindsey, twin to Lauren, turns out to have given birth five months ago to a baby girl, Sydney. The father is the guy to whom she lost her virginity; she wasn’t on the Pill, and says that the condom broke. Scared and ashamed, Lindsey didn’t tell any of her nine best friends until the twenty-fifth week of pregnancy: “She didn’t even tell me,” says Lauren, “Because she thought I would look down on her, which I never would have done.” Finally, Lindsey gathered them all at a diner off the interstate and broke the news. “Yeah, it was the worst thing in the world when it happened,” says Lindsey. “But now I can’t imagine life without Sydney.” “Our folks pretty much freaked when Lindsey told them,” confides Lauren, who has finally gotten out of bed. “We’re just not the type of family where things like that happen. But they’ve been great since then, really supportive.” They’re taking care of Sydney this week so Lindsey can have fun and even helped set up a room for the baby, the room that Lindsey and Lauren used to sneak out of after their 12:30 curfew not one year ago. Lindsey’s boyfriend is now living in Lindsey and Lauren’s house, but he is still not allowed to sleep in Lindsey’s bedroom. As for outrageous party animal Twin Lauren, who may be only twenty-three minutes older (more outgoing, less punctual, more academic), she’s in an altogether different situation: she’s a virgin. “I’m part of the Church of Christ,” she says, hooking on every female spring breaker’s necessity, a strapless bra. “I love God, and the plan — for now, at least — is to stay pure till marriage.” It’s a bit hard to reconcile her pledge of purity with the fact that two hours ago, she was simulating cunnilingus on Best Dressed Jessica in front of a crowd of breakers. “I may believe in God, but I don’t believe in judging what other people do, being petty about people’s drinking or dancing or sex or anything like that,” she says, by way of explanation. “To me, being judgmental is not Christian.” After everyone is ready in their shiny tops and platform shoes and jeans with big holes in the butt, all the girls from Tennessee go to see Mystikal perform at Club La Vela, except that when they go to the club they hear that Mystikal’s plane is delayed. So they head over to Sharky’s, way down at the other end of the strip, standing in line for half an hour under the big sign saying WAZZUP SPRING BREAK before they wind their way through the club, pinkies linked so they won’t lose each other. Here, a “Spin the Wheel” party is already in full swing. The big, green, wooden wheel has a variety of activities on it, like Show Your Butt or Kiss a Girl, but the guy who is running the game keeps using his hand to stop it at Get Naked, so that the girls have to flash. “Who else wants to spin the wheel?” yells the emcee into the crowd of caterwauling women. He chooses the eager Alyson from all the way in the back; she climbs up on the stage and spins the wheel, and, lo and behold, the needle lands on Get Naked. “Show your tits!” yells the whole crowd, except for one girl in the front whose voice can be distinctly heard goading the emcee to “Show your cock!” Alyson lifts her blouse up high, her face disappearing behind it. “Wazzzzzzzup!” she yells. And there it is: After everything has been said and done, Alyson is the wildest one of all. It might seem like a small thing. After a week of body shots and mimed girl-on-girl action, why should one flash make Alyson (who prays three times a day) the wildest of them all? But you can see it in her face; she’s crossed a line. And her friends are giggling, thrilled, horrified — “Omigod, she’s one of those girls!” cries Not Best Dressed Jessica, in a hysterical voice somewhere between laughter and shock. All eyes are on her, the boys’ as well as the girls’, and if Alyson’s not quite a pro, she’s closer. It’s hard to tell from her facial expression how she feels: Drunk and happy? A little scared? Waves of attention are pouring over her, like ocean water slapping at someone who is wading deeper in. Her face pink from the sun, she stands there with her legs spread, her mouth open, her shirt pulled high, yelling along with the rest of them, taking it all in.

     

For more Vanessa Grigoriadis, read:
The Big Tease Sand Blast Voyeur Dorm

©2001 Vanessa Grigoriadid and Nerve.com