The sight of several posters in my neighborhood never fail to infuriate me: Total XXX announces one billboard on the right when I’m driving to the Whole Foods on National Blvd. It pictures a really hard-bodied woman with fake everything and a leering smile. Best Gentlemen’s Club in LA, boasts another on the walk to the movie theatre on Pico (a strange fact of life in LA is that the mile and a half walk to the movie theatre takes less time than driving there and winding one’s way down in a queue of cars in the fume-ridden parking structure.) You hail a cab in New York to get someplace fast. In LA, if it’s close you are far more likely to arrive on time if you walk the ugly mean streets that were never designed for the human foot. Or the human anything.
The gentlemen’s club called the “Silver Reign” is closest, across the street from Staples, in back of a little mini mall that features a Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, a burger joint that’s been there forever, and is next to “The Wag’s Club” a doggy day care center, that won’t let you come in and look around. I tried once. You have to have an appointment. (Henry isn’t allowed there anyway, because we have yet to do the dirty deed on him.)
I think they should switch names. “Silver Reign” is a nice name for a plush and expensive place to house man’s best friend for the day. “The Wag’s Club” is a far more appropriate name for a place to observe man’s worst enemy having a sexual encounter with a pole.
Whatever they are named, gentlemen’s clubs (also known as fraternities, stag parties, men-in-funny-hat lodges) have long had a tradition of hiring spicy entertainment to liven the boys up.
I was in an all woman’s book club once. No strippers appeared. Nobody talked about naked men. Sometimes on someone’s birthday at Conde Nast, though, which was 95% women, there was some crummy cake from the erotic bakery and a lot of tittering when the slice containing the penis was served. I hold fast that no men were actually exploited in the baking or eating of those cakes.
In recent years, in my coed writing group, I remember overhearing a group of actors and writers talking about online porn. I marched myself right into the middle of the men and declared, “my husband doesn’t do that!” He visits woodworking websites!” They all laughed at me. One patted me on the back and said, “Mary, you’re living in a dream world!”
That evening, when I went home, I asked my husband if he ever did online porn—if he was part of this massive, online gentleman’s club. When he blushed I was totally shocked. I’m still shocked. Especially since I don’t know the password to his computer. Or his phone.
What does it mean that you never see a poster of a guy with a loin cloth and a huge, ever-erect artificial dick on your way to the movie house? Most of the time, “XXX-rated, fully exposed,” is going to mean a woman’s body is exposed and vulnerable. Not a man’s.
If sex is for sale, the majority of sellers are going to be women. Is this the same old, same old gender inequality?
Or do we have a long way to go baby?
I just googled Writer’s Block.
Along with all the mental symptoms, I also suffer from a full range of physical symptoms, because the form of Writer’s Block I get always comes with physical symptoms, as if the mental symptoms weren’t bad or extreme enough.
First the mental: Every sentence I write sucks. Every sentence I write sounds stupid. Sentences grind to a halt. There is no flow. Today I looked at something I wrote yesterday and it made absolutely no sense. I was writing in a foreign country where I don’t speak the language.
For a couple of weeks before the block went into full throttle, and I was writing at a steady pace, my hands began to hurt; my arms to ache. My fingers swelled. I couldn’t get my aquamarine ring on. My neck often hurts, so I ignored that symptom. And then, something I’ve never experienced before, the feeling that some monster’s hands were grabbing me by the waist digging strong fingers in the kidney area; any moment I expected to be lifted off the ground and thrown—where else—out the window.
I’ve read that Graham Greene wrote 300 words every day in fountain pen. Did he write his allowed amount, then start counting the words, perhaps smudging them with his cigarette stained finger? I’ll never know. Of course he didn’t have Internet to distract him. Just opium, nicotine and prostitutes.
Last Sunday, day two of the block, I bought another copy of Travels with my Aunt, (not one of his masterpieces, but a fabulous book and movie) because I can’t find my old copy and I’m going to start reading it three hundred words at a time. Maybe this will help with my writer’s block. Maybe by the time I start doing this exercise, my block will be over.
The New Agers have it right when they say, positive affirmations only. Here are some of mine:
I am ready to continue writing Man Woman Dog.
Man Woman Dog flows freely.
This is the best draft ever.
Something good will come of this!
And finally, most pitifully: You will live through this.
I also wonder if there is some correlation between the fact that my main character, who when the book opens, has not written or drawn anything in two years (I’m on day six and ready to off myself!) has gotten over his writer’s/illustration block and is happily working again in New York, while I’m sitting on my ergonomic stool in West LA eating my guts out? Does somebody always have to be suffering in my small, cold little universe? The real one I live in or the imaginary one I write in?
D.W. Winnocott, the great British psychoanalyst, cured Samuel Beckett of his writing block. But I’m not Samuel Beckett. My shrink’s on holiday, and thinking one has the same problems as a genius is not only delusional, it’s highly depressing as well.
However, I was thinking of taking my laptop over to the psychoanalytic society that’s a few blocks away and sitting there at one of their long cool tables, something I have done in the past, though my library membership has expired by now. And it will cost me a hundred bucks to renew, provided I can talk them into letting me write there, only the shrinks are supposed to use the tables, but last time I asked, they were very kind. I don’t feel capable of talking anybody into doing anything at the present moment. All I can do is sit here and stare.
FYI: if you have gotten this far, you have read twice as many words plus as Graham Greene wrote every day in fountain pen in his long, sexy, smoky life as a genius.
Me, I’ve written nothing whatsoever today except this. And this doesn’t count.
Like millions of others I have read The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, thrown away garbage bags full of crap inspired by the question, what sparks joy?
Sparking joy is a concept every woman understands. I asked my husband if any of his clothing sparks joy.
“What are you talking about?”
“Do any of your shirts spark joy? How about your collection of crew jackets?”
“Let’s not exaggerate, Marcus.”
“So let’s throw them out, you never wear them. They’re not sparking joy!”
“They’re collectors items!”
We left it at that.
The tidying maven tells us when you clean out your closets you will have an encounter with the real you. Myself, I had a memory. I was eleven. And I wanted a certain fake fur coat.
One didn’t see an awful lot of polyester fake fur then. Children wore wool car coats, or wool knee length coats with brass buttons. I had a navy blue double breasted wool coat lined in plaid that would probably spark joy in me today, but back then, it was just another dull, dutiful coat, acquired at my rich Uncle Earl’s clothing store in Oklahoma City where we got things free because my father, his baby brother died, and we were the poor relations.
This white fake fur coat began to appear in the schoolyard of South Highlands Elementary School. I saw one of them, two of them, up to half a dozen of them. This coat was the coat of the moment. It fell below the butt; it zipped up the front and had a pointed hood. It was bordered around all the seams with this fabulous piping. My friend Ruthie possessed one. My friend Kay possessed one. Her father was one of the partners of the department store that had the snazzier clothes than the one my father left behind when he died and where I got my clothes. And it was there at Selber Brothers, I discovered on a scouting mission one afternoon when I took the trolley downtown after school, a whole big rack of them. The coat cost $39.99. And was, I knew, four dollars and ninety nine cents more than my mother’s housekeeper Aline made in a whole week, moping floors, cooking dinner, waiting on us at the table and so forth.
But I wanted this coat that was as far away as the moon. I believed this coat would change my fortunes on the playground. I believed this coat would make me popular. Prettier. Less prone to insult and getting beaten up by the stray bigoted child who would call me a lover of dark skinned people or a Jew and stuff pine straw down my throat. And whom I would never rat out for fear of reprisal.
I might have had a dollar in change in my piggy bank. I knew better than to ask my Grandmother who would just offer to make me a coat. One simply did not ask my mother for anything. It was like the Ten Commandments.
Thou shalt not ask thy mother for anything. Mother was tired. Mother was sick, had to work, hated to work…
Nevertheless, I did end up asking her for the coat. She turned me down. Once, twice. She shut the door of her bedroom in my face. She sent me to my room. She told me she couldn’t afford it. She cried and made me feel guilty. But I still kept asking her for the coat. I had to. I was begging for my life. The life I wanted anyway.
Miraculously, I got her to buy the coat.
I remember when she gave in, when we walked over to Selber Brothers to get the coat. And I put it on. I was filled with the great desire to show myself to the world. I was eleven years old and I had this wonderful white coat. I put the hood up, I probably danced around.
My mother looked at me in the coat and said, “It’s not right, it doesn’t look good, you talked me into it, I can’t afford it.” And probably lit a cigarette and blew smoke on it.
If she didn’t exactly make me hate my beautiful coat, the first and last thing I ever asked of her, my punishment was, that the coat changed nothing. It was myself I hated even more. Still I wore it, I wore it till it turned grey and fell apart and then one day it disappeared. And I went back to wearing wool car coats with toggle buttons.
Clothing contains our body and our body contains our desires. Perhaps that’s why women romanticize–often make a fetish of–our clothing because it is a way to contain our deep desires. Or a way to wear them in plain sight disguised as something else.
To this day, asking for anything I want fills me with dread and often guilt. I want to be like Mother Theresa who only needed the worn nun’s habit and her spectacles, or was that some other martyr?
Be careful when you clean out your closet. Be careful what you wish for.
But be even more careful what you insist on. It will haunt you all the days of your life, and if you have the misfortune of actually possessing the object of your desire, someone will make you feel guilty for your desire and take all its pleasure away.
Tidying my closet, I accidentally threw out the only pair of sweat pants that has ever sparked anything close to joy when I wore them, and cut the hell out of my hand on a wire hanger. My friend Susan says housework is dangerous. I agree. So, be careful if you read that book too.