Jack’s Naughty Bits: Holly Hughes, Clit Notes

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Jack's Naughty Bits

don’t often go to the theater, and when I do, I usually hold my nose. Both the predictable lack
of verisimilitude on stage and its rare opposite, the Brechtian Verfremdungseffekt, make me decidedly
uncomfortable and occasionally nauseous. Maybe it’s the excessive eyeliner on the players,
maybe it’s the way voices take on a vaguely mocking tone when projected, maybe I just have a
deficient gene that tells me I’d rather read Othello a hundred times than sit through
it in Stratford-on-Avon, Central Park or anywhere else.

The upside of this unnatural distaste for theater is that when I do like a play, I really
like it. The first time this happened I was already in college, seeing a production of Holly
Hughes’ The Well of Horniness. Having never heard of Hughes, I was utterly
unprepared for the hour and a half of raucous mischief that was to follow. Nymphomaniacal
lesbians from the Lambda Lambda Lambda sorority trying to seduce even married women into
their nefarious ranks: now that’s drama! I finally realized what I had been missing in my
theater-going experiences: the outspoken, incisive ribaldry of Holly Hughes.

I have only been fortunate enough to see one other Hughes production, Dress Suits
for Hire,
which is perhaps her most beautiful and enduring play. That’s why I was so
excited last year to hear that the scripts of The Well of Horniness, Dress Suits and
three other Hughes’ plays had been published together under the title Clit Notes: A
Sapphic Sampler.

If you were to judge from the cover of Clit Notes, where Hughes is standing full
and frontal, clad in nothing but leaves and vines, you’d think she was some comic portrayal of
Ceres, goddess of the harvest, or maybe a sardonic Primavera, rescued from the clutches of a
Botticelli canvas. And though I know it’s just a bit of Hughes’ irony, a parody of the
reproductive for a few lambdic laughs, I have to say that the plays contained within do seem
to give birth, not only to a new theatrical genre (noir lesbian comedy), but to an enviable
identity politics based on bald honesty, gentle self-mocking and the tenacious pursuit of sex.

* * *

From Clit Notes by Holly Hughes

I’ve never been what you’d call a morning person.

I’m the kind of person who wakes up so stunned by sleep I can’t remember my own name.
But now it’s starting to become my favorite time of the day.

The difference? It’s her.

Now I get to watch her slide out of the sheets into the new day. Her legs — they’re
always longest in the morning. I’ve never known anyone who could get so naked before! She’s
not in any hurry to do anything about that nakedness . . . It’s a little present she gives to me,
this time. Her standing, back to me, light coming through the palm trees, running over her
swimmer’s shoulders like river water poured through cupped hands.

That’s the moment I remember who I am.

That’s the moment I come back to the body I thought I’d lost to my father.

Then she swings around to face me, and Jesus! I’m blinded.

Whatta set of knockers!

Now I know why they call them headlights. Until I started going out with her I never
realized: tits can be a source of light!

I know there are people out there who get uneasy when I start talking about my
girlfriend’s tits. Hooters. Knockers. Winnebagos! I know there are readers who’d be more
comfortable if I described my girlfriend’s mammalian characteristics as “breastssss.”

But I can’t do that. She doesn’t have breastssss. Thank God! Breastssss are what those
ladies have . . . You know who ladies are, don’t you?

Ladies are the people who will not let my girlfriend use the public ladies room,
thinking she’s not a woman. But are they going to let her into the men’s room? Nope. Because
they don’t think she’s a man, either.

If she’s not a woman and she’s not a man, what in the hell is she?

Once I asked my father what fire was, a liquid, a gas, or a solid, and he said it wasn’t
any of those things. Fire isn’t a thing; it’s what happens to things. A force of nature. That’s
what he called it.

Well, maybe that’s what she is. A force of nature. I’ll tell you something: she is
something that happened to me
. . .

© Holly Hughes