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 PERSONAL ESSAYS



   I was twenty-three and my biggest claim to badness was my roommate, the stripper. Beautiful Roxie — who left her slips and garter belts draped on the window grates, who trailed around our apartment in tap pants and nothing else while eating peanut-butter sandwiches and reading romance novels, and on whom I had my first ever, unrequited, bi-curious crush — never let me watch her work at Scores or the Pussycat Lounge. But the burlesque act, which I had paid fifteen dollars to see her in this night, was different. This was art. They had choreography — look, all six left legs moving in unison — and this was a nightclub, not a strip joint. This was deemed safe for the roommate. But when Roxie did that big shimmy, it wasn’t the production values I loved her for.

   Unfortunately there was nothing else for me to love in this place. The nightclub was in midtown and I was surrounded by middle-aged men in suits. There was no hope of meeting the soulful bass player of my dreams there that night. But as I neared the bottom of drink number one — paid for with seven of the ten dollars I had left after paying the cover charge — I knew there was one thing men like this could do for me.

   “Can I buy you a drink?” said the middle-aged man in a suit standing next to me. “You don’t even have to talk to me, I just find you very attractive and I would love to buy you a drink.” Perfect. I planned to spend exactly five minutes talking to this guy for the sake of good manners and then get rid of him. It’s not that he was ugly or smelly or slurring, and his British accent was sort of interesting, but he was ten years too old and much too boring for my tastes. There was no way I was going to kill the night hanging out with him.

   Right.

   An hour later Jerry had bought me two more drinks and I was starting to like the sound of my own voice. I pointed at the dancers on stage. “To hell with that feminist crap about objectification and power — I mean, look at them, they’re goddesses. I think it’s a . . . a . . . a celebration of everything that is woman. I mean . . . look at them.”

   He was looking at the dancers, and at me looking at the dancers. “Are you attracted to them? If you could sleep with one of them, would you?”

   I explained to him that I was straight, they were my friends, and even if I did secretly want to sleep with my roommate — oops, I mean even if I were attracted to one of them — it would just be too weird.

   “But what if there were no consequences?” he asked. “Would you do it then?”

   But there always are consequences, I told him, so why bother even thinking about it?

   Right on cue Jerry said, “Because you only live once,” which every girl knows is code for “have sex with me now.” Of course Jerry hadn’t actually propositioned me, he’d just suggested I proposition my roommate. Maybe Jerry was a kindhearted man who wanted me to be more self-actualized. More likely he wanted ringside seats. But the conversation stirred up questions that usually lay dormant. I generally thought that my crush on Roxie had more to do with her than it did with me: everybody had a crush on Roxie. But now I was wondering, for the first time in months, if my feelings meant I had some sort of tendency.

   Jerry leaned in dramatically. “I’m straight, okay? The last thing I need is some guy doing it up me bum. But a few years ago at a nightclub, I saw a guy giving me the eye and I felt something for him. Like chemistry. He followed me into the bathroom and I sucked him off right there in the WC. It was one of the hottest experiences I’ve ever had. I haven’t done a man since then, and I don’t want to, but I never regretted it for an instant.”

   He had me. Having wound up, he delivered the pitch.

   “Listen, there’s this fantastic place I always go to when I’m in town — it’s a massage parlor, real classy, beautiful girls, they give you the best massage you ever had, and then they finish you off, if you know what I mean. I want you to come with me.”

   “I’m broke,” I told him. “No way.”

   “Don’t worry, my company will pay — client entertainment on the old expense account. Come on, live a little.”

   In the taxi I did my best to create the impression that I was not a horny lesbo slut. Not too much of one anyway. I didn’t want Jerry getting carried away, even though that was obviously the point. I didn’t like Jerry, and I might not like the massage parlor, but that didn’t matter. I’d never get another offer like this in my life. Saying no would be like seeing a hundred dollar bill on the ground and not picking it up because I’d rather have two fifties and a scoop of ice cream.

   We stopped in front of a townhouse on a tree-lined street in the East 60s. The interior was a velvety nest of red curtains, gold tassels and more wall sconces per square foot than a furniture catalogue. I half expected to see nude zaftig women fanning themselves in an alcove. Instead we were greeted by an overweight, middle-aged woman wearing an orange flowered muu muu and holding a wireless phone.

   “Jerry, we missed you! Rachel’s here, she can’t wait to see you. Oh, and this must be your friend — it’s wonderful to meet you.” She air-kissed both my cheeks. “Don’t you worry, we’ll get somebody for you in a jiffy. Now, you just have a seat, and Rachel will keep you company while Jerry and I take care of business.”

   She swept me into a waiting room and shut the door, leaving me alone with Rachel. Rachel had long wavy hair and wore an elegant floor-length dress that exposed all of her back and hinted at gently bobbing breasts. Rachel did not do women. Drat. She poured merlot and chatted about her life as an aspiring writer, her plans to save money and go to an artists’ retreat in California. I believed her. My pervy roommate was from a Mayflower family, and I was sure that in a few years Roxie would quit dancing and her naughty double life would fuse back into a respectable whole.

   Rachel seemed the same type, a smart chick having an adventure in the sex trade. I felt like her co-conspirator, a role I preferred to that of customer. As we joked about the massage parlor, I believed I was seeing her in a way her clients couldn’t. But the louche setting stroked my curiosity — what would it feel like to touch her? — and I found myself in the state of titillated limbo I felt with my roommate: satisfied with one form of intimacy, hungry for another.

   The arrival of Sue put an end to my longings. During the hour-long wait, I had hoped to be entertained by a bisexual cross between Rachel and Roxie, not the acid-washed, permed and peroxided creature who just said hello in a New Yawk accent.

   “Well, ain’t you lovely!” Jerry said expansively. Easy for him to say, since he was going to spend the next hour in the hands of beautiful Rachel. “We really appreciate you coming out so late at night.”

   “If it hadn’t been you, it woulda been somebody else.” Sue smiled cheerfully through coral lips in a face that was tanned the color of a fake Louis Vuitton handbag. “I haven’t woiked on a woman in months. I don’t know why more goils don’t do it, it can really broaden your career!”

   So much for my sex appeal. And Sue wasn’t even my type. She was a Spice Channel clone, purpose-built to inspire cheap heterosexual lust. But as I checked out her mass-market bod, I began to think that she might have enough sex appeal for both of us. Her breasts spilled over her top like puppies in a pet store window that couldn’t wait to be picked up and played with. And she had the canine good-sport attitude one presumably wants in a cheap lust object. She would do. More to the point, she would do me.

   Jerry and Rachel went to one private session room while Sue led me to another.

   “You get yourself ready,” Sue said. “I’ll be back in a minute.”

   She shut the door and left me alone in the room. In the middle of all the fake mahogany and insipid gold cupids stood a huge, clinical-looking, white massage table. My stomach twitched. A lifetime of cock-teasing had done nothing to prepare me for this moment. I took my clothes off and lay face-down on the gleaming vinyl slab.

   Sue knocked and asked, “Are you ready?”

   I couldn’t see her from where I lay, but I heard the rustling of clothes being taken off, then tan skin and a narrow strip of black pubic hair filled my field of vision. No tan lines. I got a flash of buttocks while she reached for something behind her, then back to disembodied beaver. She poured oil onto my back and started “massaging” me. Clearly this was not her main talent, because it felt more like the low-impact rubbing my mother used to wake me up for high school — except Sue’s thang was hovering dangerously close to my face. My mother would never wax herself like that.

   Yikes! Thinking about my mother and a fierce bikini wax at the same time made me unbearably anxious. I shut my eyes and tried to relax, but my feelings lurched every moment from horny, mucky excitement to lethal self-consciousness. I had sudden deep compassion for teenaged boys everywhere. I didn’t know what to do. So I lay perfectly still and asked Sue how she got into the business.

   “Well, I’ve always been real friendly,” she said while kneading my buttocks. She started out as a stripper, but after a few years the high heels gave her knee problems, so she looked for work in a related field. I agreed that high heels were great, so sexy, but just hell on your joints. And suddenly, in spite of Sue’s friendly fingers stroking my inner thigh, we weren’t a trick and her john but two women talking about shoes. By the time she worked down to my feet we were chatting about lipstick, and I registered the occasional odd sensation (was that a nipple grazing across my calf?) as a novel counterpoint to the familiar hum of girl talk. Any minute I expected us to bond over cramps.

   But before we could, she pulled lotion between my last two toes and asked the dreaded question: “Do you want to turn over?”

   Of course I did, but as soon as I sat up everything changed. There she was, in super-3D: the precision pubes, the tight body, the astonishing rack. I was fascinated by her breasts. As a flat-chested straight chick, I hadn’t been close to a pair of large naked breasts since high school gym class. And Sue wasn’t hiding them behind a locker door, she was flaunting them. Her brown nipples blinked at me like big spaniel eyes.

   I felt embarrassed for staring at her, until I realized that’s what I was here for. For the first time in my life, I had permission to stare at another woman’s live naked body. I asked if I could feel her breast.

   “Sure, honey,” she said.

   I reached out and touched it gingerly. It was warm, firm, and so much larger than my own that it seemed a different body part altogether. I moved my hand around the side and in toward the center. It just went on and on, a gigantic mysterious orb. Finally I reached her nipple, which was obligingly erect. I couldn’t believe I was turning her on.

   “You have incredible breasts,” I said.

   “Thanks, sweetie,” she said. “I always wanted double D’s. They’re the best present I evuh gave myself."

   I was devastated. They felt the same as they had a moment before, but it was no longer possible to think of them as a miracle of flesh. However, as I told myself every time I took my shirt off, there’s more to a woman than her breasts. I persevered. I kissed her.

   She let me. Her lips were softer than a man’s, with different flowery aromas. I felt as if I was getting away with something. I kissed her slowly and wondered how far she would let me go.

   I touched her hair — a bad move; it felt as if it were going to break off in my hands — and then boldly reached for her ass. It was smooth and firm, one of those magic asses that spring from thighs without a dimple or fold. I moved my hand forward across her high little hip and onto her stomach. “You have a great body,” I said, and I meant it.

   “I’m real lucky,” she replied. “Even after two kids everything stayed put.”

   Two kids! The middle-class white girl in me — okay, it’s all of me — was appalled. Did the kids know what mommy did for a living? But this was no time to think about childcare policy. I put my finger on my lips and went “shhhh” like a Barry White song, then reached over and kissed her. I had to get my mood back, and with my mouth planted firmly over hers, there was no risk of her talking. I kissed her harder than I had before, exploring her mouth with my tongue. She tongued me back, going farther into my mouth than I had into hers.

   We pulled away from each other, finally. I leaned in, but she put her hand on my shoulder and gently pushed me away. “You’re sweet,” she said. “You just relax and let me take care of you.”

   I reclined on the massage table and she started to touch me, but we were interrupted by a knock on the door. “You girls having fun in there?” Jesus, it was Jerry. “I had a lovely time with Rachel do you mind if I pop in and say hello?” Of course he wanted to watch, but I had enough to worry about without him leering. It was too much. I tensed. Sue noticed.

   “Gawd, Jerry,” she said. “It’s her first time! Why dontcha wait in the parlor and ask her all about it later.”

   Sue turned back to me. “Poor guy, he can’t help himself, can he? Now you just lie down and have yourself a good time.”

   I lay back again and she smoothed oil over my chest, then cupped one of my breasts in each of her hands and gently squeezed my nipples. They were instantly erect. She squeezed harder and I started to get that swimming feeling between my legs, but I was strangely detached from my senses. The words “mother of two” and “plastic surgery equals self-mutilation” echoed in my mind, and I felt guilty about my secret contempt for her. But in spite of it, a reel of soft-focus porno had been slipped onto my mental film projector. I watched myself glisten cinematically while Sue the archetypal Hot Bisexual Babe spread oil down my Frightened-But-Eager-Neophyte belly.

   She worked her way lower and lower. The thought of her hands approaching my pubic region made me squirm, but she ran her fingers lightly down the sides of my hips and onto my thighs, completely bypassing the crucial area. I made a little moaning yelp of protest.

   “Nawt yet,” she said. “Ya’ gettin’ frisky, aintcha?” Jesus, that voice — it was like phone sex with Edith Bunker.

   “Mmm, you’re such a tease,” I said in a Playfully Pleading Acolyte voice. I writhed artfully, hoping this would encourage her to make me writhe uncontrollably. But Sue seemed to think we were still in the female bonding part of the session.

   “Gawd, you think I’m a tease?” she asked. “Even in juniah high I couldn’t say no. I remember my stepbrotha hittin’ on me and I was like, okay, let’s go.”

     “You slept with your stepbrother?”

“Shure,” she said. “It’s not like we was really related. Besides, he was cute. And he had a big one — ya’ shoulda’ seen it.”

   She giggled and looked at me conspiratorially, but I couldn’t share her enthusiasm. It was practically incest. Every time she spoke she seemed less like a sex goddess and more like a case study. Why couldn’t she just shut up and do me? Then I caught myself: How many guys had I suspected of having exactly that wish about me? There was nothing I hated more than that maddening feeling of being wanted and ignored at the same time. But here I was doing exactly the same thing to Sue. Even though I was a chick who knew better, I had sunk to dude maneuvers.

   Sue was still looking at me expectantly. I had to say something, something sexy yet supportive, but I couldn’t think of anything.

   “Uh, you go girl,” I sputtered. I knew I was being insincere, but as soon as the words left my mouth I heard an ugly edge of sarcasm. Sue heard it too.

   “Gee, I bet ya think I’m a real slut, dontcha?” I opened my mouth to protest but she cut me off. “It don’t matter. Almost everybody thinks I’m a slut. Maybe that’s just what I am.”

   There, I had done it. Without quite intending to I had insulted her and killed off my arousal for good. Completing the mission was inconceivable. But Sue was a professional. She fixed me with a look that was equal parts resignation and defiance, then shrugged and put one hand on each of my thighs. “Open wide,” she said, and applied her mouth to my pubis.

   I was getting exactly what I had wished for: she was shutting up and doing me. I’d had enough drunken sloppy encounters before this to know the feeling of disliking, even despising, the person who was doing me. But I’d never despised myself quite so distinctly. I had abandoned caution and suspended my empathy in pursuit of a sexual thrill, and this is what it amounted to: a strange woman’s head between my legs, her tongue flicking against my clitoris, and me feeling nothing. No joy, no excitement, just the awareness that I didn’t want her and she didn’t want me. Given my sad state of arousal, Sue could be stuck there for hours trying to finish me off. It was too grim to imagine. So, for the first time that night, I behaved like a nice girl. I faked an orgasm. I did it for Sue.  


©2002 Jennifer DeMeritt and Nerve.com, Inc.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Jennifer
DeMeritt
is a comedian, pseudo-intellectual and reluctant smut peddler.
She has performed at HERE, The Westbeth Theater Center, Gotham Comedy
Club, The Atlantic Theater and numerous dives and art-holes in New York
City. Her writing has been featured in Bust magazine.

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