Disclaimer: I’ve been crazy busy and admittedly sidetracked, so I haven’t kept up SCA like I should. To ameliorate this issue presently, I’m posting my first HuffPost article, “Notes of a Filthy Young Woman.” Mom, Dad, Grandma — maybe y’all have read this, but please don’t do it again. Thanks!
Notes of a Filthy Young Woman
Before Cindy, there were at least a hundred women. Maybe more.
There was Giselle, who sat by me in a linguistics course and confessed to me her academic frustration in windy little Germanic whispers: “Gott, if da prof mentionz morphemes vun mare time, I’ll phonetically fomit!” She smelled like a well-kept duplex of college women who shared designer lotions and bowls of Chex Mix on a Sunday night — wild, domestically organized and melon-ish. I looked forward to her mid-class utterances — her chin an inch away from my shoulder bone, my knees like irregular verbs shifting to accommodate the present tense of my groin muscles.
There was Pamela, a coworker of mine at Pizza King. She loved to tell me the messy sex-details of her failing marriage. Late at night, once the dinner rush had died and all there was left for us to do was smoke and ignore the collage of pizza crusts, pepperonis and sausage crumbles on the floor, Pamela would divulge, even act out, her marital tribulations. I’ve never looked at breadsticks the same. Pamela found me comforting. To be honest, I was honored. In her grease-stained baseball cap, her platinum-streaked hair burgeoning in loops from the back; the way her thick eyeliner was etched around her eyes like a preschooler’s first bout with coloring ovals; my goodness, I found her sexy.
There were plenty of women: public transportation riders who’d smile at me across the bus-aisle; janitors, secretaries, lawyers, pedicurists, fellow students. There were ladies dumping high-grade octane into the orifices of their minivans, their offspring making blowfish-faces on the side windows as their mothers, shifting stance, proffered wishful gazes in my passing direction.
These gazes, in retrospect, probably expressed envy toward my childless, carefree young-adulthood. Or maybe these looks meant nothing. But, to me, they equaled lust. Restrained lasciviousness. All in one look.
All in my imagination.
Then, one evening, “Cindy from Philadelphia” sent me a Myspace message telling me I was a cutie. A cutie! I remember rereading the short message — Hey! I think you’re a cutie! — 10 times, at least. Maybe 26. Never was I so excited to be labeled as something descriptively equivalent to a tutu-clad pug or a fantastically fat infant. A cutie, for God’s sake!
What intrigued me most was that Cindy saw me first; had liked what she saw and responded. Kablam! Not with a passing smile. Not with a sway or a blink. Not standing in front of a Chrysler Town And Country or setting a can of Pabst in front of me, bending needlessly too forward; but with three words — You’re a cutie!
I was enamored.
Over the next few months, Cindy and I spoke regularly on the phone. During that time, I moved from my chilly mouse-ridden house in central Indiana to a remote island off the coast of west Florida. Cindy was a speech pathologist. We spoke a lot about linguistics on the phone. After all, I’d just barely passed the course (Thanks a lot, Giselle!) and, being a writer, I felt very much like a lingual nincompoop.
“It’s all descriptive,” Cindy told me one night. “Linguistics has a lot to do with how you speak in regard to where you’re coming from.”
I asked what had prompted her to contact me on Myspace. After a slight pause, Cindy said, “Well, you were there. I didn’t have to make eye contact with you. That was nice. Does that seem odd?”
I didn’t answer. I had just come from a long line of imagined relationships. What could I say?
Of course, I didn’t find it odd that Cindy flirted with me online. It’s much easier to disclose one’s feeling to a computer screen than to someone who might slowly back away. Or run. Every day, I invented steamy scenarios around the activities of my mundane life so that I wouldn’t have to deal with such disappointment face-to-face.
Right away I told myself I’d never tell Cindy certain things: For example, I would never admit that I used to scour gay bars — all two of them in Muncie, Indiana — trying to hook up with any woman who noticed a stain on my V-neck; that I’d settle, eventually, for some gal who claimed to enjoy Jane’s Addiction, for example. Someone who also liked dancing. And blinking. And oxygen. Then the two of us would stumble out of the bar, secretly rehearsing the other’s first name, toward my house. Once through my bedroom door, I never ceased being amazed by the awkward moment when she froze, her mouth agape in a silent horror gasp, while I excavated a shoebox out from a drawer.
No, I would never tell Cindy that, more than a few times, after scavenging around in my sock drawer to excavate a shoe box — “Do you prefer battery-operated or not?” – I’d turn around to find no one there.
I thought these incidents had something to do with my looks at first, the way my jelly rolls caught the light in my bedroom, transforming them into wide monster grins across the front of my t-shirt.
But I learned soon enough that, really, it was the state of my bedroom — old mail shoved into the slats of venetian blinds, a plant that had sprouted from an old Reebok; dust and dirt and ash and bloodstains. A habitat fit for forensics.
Still, I kept talking, wanting to talk, with Cindy because she had found me first. We’d already had tons of conversations over the phone and she hadn’t even seen me in person yet, let alone my new Floridian bedroom/unintentional greenhouse. I decided I’d try to be a cleaner person. So I cleaned my house — drove out the Palmetto bugs and washed the linoleum floor by hand with balsamic vinegar because Cindy had told me vinegar is a good, environmentally-sound cleaning aid.
I was hopeful about Cindy and I, sure, but not until I was certain it was love — real love — would I willingly admit certain things about my life. I figured it best to keep my mouth shut about the fact that I was a filthy, lousy housekeeper and a dirty-minded dyke. I had no lascivious looks from Cindy with which to make an assumption. When she flirted on the phone, I thought I could hear how she felt — she’d coo sometimes, or do that weird “W talk”, asking if I was “awwight.”
I wasn’t sure where we going, the two of us. It was all vewwy new to me.
“I love you,” Cindy said one night. She was laughing at a joke I’d made over the phone about how nasty the fish in Florida were. I was trying to work into the conversation my inability to clean by making the gulf coast seem like a hotbed of bacteria tides, trying to downplay the trash strand that was my own bedroom. Mid-chortle, she blurted, “I love you.”
Then it got silent. She asked, “Do you think that’s odd?”
I wanted to say that I’d always figured True Love and Convenient Compatibility to be not much different from the other. True Love is the long scenic, troublesome route between points A and B whereas Convenient Compatibility is the interstate bypass. But, without my own basis of comparison, I decided to keep mum. After all, I’d watched so many lesbian and gay (and straight) young friends crash and burn in relationships based on singular common interests. I always figured that I wasn’t the “settling” type. Hell, I’d witnessed a good friend of mine put up with her partner’s six twitching, near-bald, incontinent “rescue” cats out of love. Her face bloated, not from comfort weight but from Prednisone, my friend would talk to me over the phone and have to stop, mid-nosebleed, to tilt her head back. “Gotta make sacrifices,” she’d say. Sniff, sniff. “For love. You’ll understand someday.”
My friend’s selflessness was rewarded one morning by her partner taking off, silently, for no good reason whatsoever. With nary a “Goodbye” or even a valid excuse, such as “Take care, I’m off to marry a calico” or “I’m leaving you for that hot chick who works for Animal Control,” her partner just up and disappeared, faster than the Cheshire cat.
Yes, I definitely was not the “settling” type. I didn’t like what I saw when friends of mine settled. It was messy and bloody. Ruthless. To me, they were all being sacrificial lambs to the gods of Deception, Lust, Impulsivity, the ASPCA, and/or Cesar Millan.
I couldn’t bring myself to tell Cindy all this — my theories about True Love, my whacked-out imagination. I was honestly interested in what we might become; who I might become as someone’s significant other. A calmer person? Someone whose libido relaxed once it realized it was getting laid on a regular basis? I was curious.
One night, while we were chatting on the phone, I told Cindy, about Pamela and Giselle; about how I regularly mistook kind expressions from strange women as looks of late-night carnal covetousness. It all just came out of me, the whole ugly, hypersexual truth. Then I blurted, “Do you think that’s odd?”
“Yes,” she replied. “Extremely.”
We were silent. Her instantaneous response — “Extremely” — shocked me; hurt even. Still, I felt a bit of relief. “I’ve never told anyone about Giselle and Pamela and all the janitors, truck drivers, and soccer moms before,” I said. “So thanks.”
More silence. I kept talking: “It hadn’t occurred to me to talk about my furtive hyper-sexed imagination. Well, that’s not true. It did occur to me. But I always figured it was just there; something to keep quiet about but too authoritative to inwardly deny.”
“Go on,” Cindy whispered.
I told her that, years ago, it had been hard for me to admit I was gay in Midwestern, corn-fed Indiana. When I finally did, I left a letter in an embossed pink envelope in my parent’s master bathroom that read: Something Special from your Darling Little Girl.
Then I took off for three days.
But my big fat uber-desirous imagination? Well, that was something I couldn’t fathom admitting possession of. Like a Coolio album or beige granny panties.
“It’s odd, that’s for sure,” Cindy said carefully, “but not that weird. I mean, there are weirder things…in the world.”
I froze. “What do you mean?”
Cindy said, “Well, you just have some crooked sense of self, you know? You’ll probably grow out of it. We’re still young.”
I paused, thought for a moment. Really? That’s it?
Good enough for me.
In my mind, all the women before Cindy — the professors, the gas station attendants, the professional rugby players — they all at one, in my mind, glared at me. Stop thinking about yourself, they all said. And be a good girl to her.
So, in a deep, faux-sultry voice I changed the subject: “What are you wearing, baby?”
Cindy told me, in explicit, sensual detail, what she had on: a Polo shirt, Dickie’s work pants and camouflage knee-high socks. While she spoke, images danced in my head: A sexy woman operating a forklift; a babe in pastels shouting “Fore!” on the ninth hole; the mid-bush pearly whites of a hot Army vixen-sniper.
With all this in my mind, I fell backward onto my trash-ridden floor and grinned.