In the gym the other day, putting along, I’m suddenly told that a fellow gym-rat was arrested a couple days previous.
Martin and I have crossed paths in the gym many times for over a decade. I am not on a time clock, so my hours vary while his are set by his job, so it is just coincidental when we meet. He is more devoted to aerobic exercises and is usually across the gym plodding away on the parked vehicles dedicated to cardio. We chat in passing.
In the distant past he was a high school football player and rode the bench at a local university. He was neither big enough nor fast enough to be a real player. He was briefly part of the track team, involved in shot put, hammer toss, and other strength events, but again, he was not big enough to be a contender.
A while back we were bustling out of the gym at the same time, and he started some conversation: “Why am I hurrying? My daughter is supposed to pick me up, so I’ll be half an hour standing around out front! My damned car is in the shop and she is my taxi driver.” We walked onto the parking area and lo and behold there she was, standing next to her car. Martin said ‘Come on and meet her!” At the car we exchanged greetings and a bit of guffaw talk – “Well, now where do we go, pops?”
I’m 65 or so at this event, and somewhat beyond a refined connoisseurship of young females. My view is superficially philosophical; lovely, charming, and a decorative element viewed from a suitable distance. She seemed to be 16 or so, pleasantly endowed, casually dressed, friendly, and outspoken: not a shy wallflower. She’s not going to win a prize in a beauty contest, but she is certainly attractive and vivacious. Martin had said that she is a bit of an athlete, in soccer and basketball, as I recall. I suppose she wished that she weighed 25# less, but she has a nice little body and fits her jeans. In her next decade she will be setting admirers aflame, as she is a splendid invitation to some young ardent to have a rolling romp.
Months later the two of them are repeatedly in the gym together. She was very awkward at the exercises. She had never done them before and her Dad is talking her through some lightweight reps. She was game, but really not interested. She and I had a few chances to chat; nothing of interest or memorable, just a bit about gyms, and about how heavy is heavy, and we complain about the damned music.
A couple years later I was shopping in Safeway and she came over and started chatting with me. I know so few people that I don’t expect to meet or recognize anyone on my furtive little foraging expeditions. Out of context I was slow to place her, but she referenced her Dad and suddenly I knew who she was. She was newly enrolled in a local junior college, and Martin had given her the family grey Toyota Corolla. She is living at home, and she has a little job in the cafeteria, and she finds some of the classes boring etc etc. I’m standing there listening, thinking about whether to buy mushrooms, and idly admiring her animation. I hadn’t given her a moment’s thought since we last met in the gym. I don’t recall that Martin had mentioned her for many months.
Weeks later, in the gym, Martin and I crossed paths and he says: “Sylvie tells me she bumped into you at the store!” What can I say? “Yeah, we were doing some shopping.” Mentally I’m wondering, what the hell, I’m becoming part of the family? Why am I a topic of dinner table conversation? Martin and I proceed to chat about her lack of interest in her studies and he goes into a bit of a tirade about her choice of boyfriends. This is the time-honored topic of ‘youth today’. This is in stark contrast to the perfectly sensible life in our youth.
A year or so later Martin told me that Sylvie has dropped out of college, not quite completing the Associate Degree in Marketing or some such. He is disappointed, but optimistic. She will go back. She will wise up once she gets some experience in the real world.
“It’s that damned boyfriend!” He comments.
“What? The Musician?”
“Oh no! That was long ago, she’s had several since then. A couple of them were damned nice guys, but of course, she dumps them and takes up with these losers.”
“Well, don’t judge them too harshly. Think of what was probably said about you at that stage of life. Dumb, drunken, vulgar, uneducated, low-class failing athlete with a big ego and a hard on. Think about how your wife’s parents felt when you took their darling daughter out in that ratty coupe you had.”
“Yeah, I suppose I didn’t seem much of a prospect to them at the time.”
“At the time? What kind of a prospect are you now? How did you ever cajole her into marrying you? Was she out of her mind? Was she so desperate that you started to look good? Was she simply overcome with lust? Did you drug her? Look at you now! What on earth could have prompted her to settle on an unlikely victim like you? And then to stay with you all this time…an amazement! Does you wife have no sense of self esteem?”
“Jeeez! Thanks for the compliments!”
“Well, I’ve met your wife and I’m sure she looks in the mirror and wonders if she couldn’t have done a lot better. To women, men are like busses, if they miss one, there will be another in a few minutes.”
I was giving him a bad time; his wife is quite striking – not a beauty, really, but she was working as a real estate agent (before the crash). Climbing out of her Volvo in a power suit in full regalia she was quite a contrast to him in his torn t-shirt and gym shorts.
“Damn, you’re just full of cheer-up today. I just wish Sylvie would find some guy that seems reasonable. At the moment I wish she would find a decent job as well.”
“What is she doing? Isn’t she living at home? How good a job does she need to have? Does he work? Are they co-workers?”
Sylvie was working the breakfast and lunch shift as a waitress in a national chain middle-class restaurant located in many malls. The menu features 24-hour breakfasts, a selection of burgers and fries, and fried chicken for diners seated in orange plastic clad booths. She wears a uniform. This is basic waitressing, not a genteel Food Server of elegant dining. She is on minimum wage and tips, and works 6 hours a day and thus has no benefits.
“No, he’s on unemployment or some damned thing. He shows up in raggedy clothes, and off they go to hear some band or see a movie or whatever.”
“Sooner or later she’s gonna move out, and then you will have no idea what she is up to. You will miss the excitement. Without her in the house you will have damned little to complain about. Just think, 150 or 200 years ago, you and the missus would have had to find her a husband, arrange a marriage, provide a dowry perhaps. And then her miserable lot in life would be your fault. Nowadays a girl has to find her own way and make her own decisions and you are out of the loop. At this point you are superfluous.”
“Jeeezuz, I’m sure glad I talked to you today, you have really cheered me up!”
“She is not a kid anymore, and as a parent you can offer a bit of gentle advice here and there, but it is no longer the time in life in which you can boss her around. You are no longer the stern parent that can threaten or cajole – you can’t use the longstanding military technique: ‘I can’t make you follow directions but I can make you wish that you did.’ She is a pre-programmed missile at this point, your example and instructional guidance has been installed, but vagaries in the wind could send her off course. Relax, watch the fireworks.”
“Awww. For Christ’s sake, don’t cheer me up like that.”
It was an amusing exchange, and lasted all of 3 minutes. I have probably improved it in re-writing, but that was the drift of a parental exchange regarding the foibles and fates.
A year or so has gone by since that exchange. We’ve not had much to say about Sylvie. I have coincidentally driven by her place of employment several times, but not given her a moment’s thought. There is no temptation to stop in for a meal. I don’t eat in places like that. If I’m going to eat a meal out in the world I will find a little Vietnamese place for Pho, or a little bar-b-que joint or some other treat. Burgers and fries don’t interest me. I haven’t had a French fry in years, I think they are nasty, and wonder that such food items came to be a treat or even considered food at this point of human evolution. In my youth, in Suquamish, we grew our own potatoes and would dice a few after lunch and chill them in ice water all afternoon, peels and all, blot them dry, and plunge them into brand new screeching hot oil in a wire basket and sear them until dark brown on the edges. Dump them out of the basket onto paper towels, blotting the oil off and then toss the fries gently with salt and freshly grated Parmesan cheese. That’s the way to do it.
If I were to stop at this national chain restaurant, she might not be on duty, and if she were, wouldn’t that be a bit odd? For me to go in and have this not-quite-a-stranger serve me: wouldn’t that seem a bit awkward? Am I to expect better or worse service? Would we have to chat? And what would we chat about – me the old fart, and her working as the server-slave? How much should I tip for the overly friendly service? Should I be generous, or strictly 20%? It never occurred to me to eat there, but now that I think about it, I find the prospect a bit troubling.
Long ago, I frequented Dixie’s Diner – a family run little joint of a sort that hardly exists anymore. I, along with others, became a familiar face through repeated refueling pit stops. I was on my way to the University on my Harley around 9 a.m. and the diner would not be very busy. It was cheap and convenient to stop in and get a breakfast platter. Upon entry, Dixie would exclaim: “Well, there you are! Been expecting you! The special today is cheese omelet with grits! Can we get you some coffee to start with?” I would sit at the counter and wolf it down. They were only open till about 1:30. Tom, the husband-cook liked to go fishing, and they made enough money on the morning trade to take afternoons and evenings off. They would often serve fish for breakfast instead of sausage or bacon: a slice of salmon or sole filet. It was a great place to eat. Their mission was to fatten us up. When they found out I was a college student, he would occasionally tip me a wink and slip me a little extra. Tom would say something like: “I made a mistake on that order a minute ago, the guy wanted bacon instead of sausage patty, maybe you could use this.” He’d throw a couple slices of bread over it and wrap it in white butcher paper, no charge.
During that period I looked forward to breakfast every day. In the evening I would get a ‘free’ meal at the up scale restaurant where I was bussing dinner dishes. The crappy ‘free’ meal was part of the minimum wages the hired help received if a person worked more than 4 hours. I only had to buy one meal a day. All the while I was plagued with my colitis and several months later I finally collapsed.
So it seems one thing for a customer to become a regular and have Dixie or Tom hail you upon entry and then add some strawberries to the pancake stack out of a spirit of generosity and ‘doin’ ya’ right’; and wandering into a sleek food service emporium and distract the waitress with off-site familiarity. A waitress has to set a certain pace. There is a smooth groove earned by repetition, and a boundary of social interaction cultivated by repetitive and essentially vapid and meaningless cordial scripted skills. To have a familiar from the outside world appear within the theater of labor could be disruptive. It could throw the worker’s rhythm askew, perhaps interfere with the smooth progression of frozen product from microwave to hot plate to tray to table to gastro-intestinal processing. A sudden lack of attention could reduce efficiency, and that might be reflected in the size of the tip. The display of attention and/or affection to a member of the family or friends may make others feel slighted and less than welcome. Service and attention should be evenly distributed. Just as the portion size is standardized, so must variations in the allocation of faux earnestness be within limits.
The food service facility is located just off Interstate I-5. Diagonally across the parking lot is a large hotel/motel/casino with a huge sign. It frequently features bands from memory lane. Some patrons stop in the food service facility because it is considered to be in some way better and a bit less expensive than the fare at the hotel/motel/casino. The travelers frequenting the rooms for overnight stays are on their way someplace: perhaps doing some business from their ‘office’ in their official capacity as Road Warriors (sales representatives). Pilots and flight crews also stay over at this temporary housing facility because it is out of the flight path and reasonably quiet. There is a shuttle bus that will deliver them to and fro. These types of patrons are prime restaurant customers as they are well paid and that often tip well, in part because they can write off the expense.
Through a series of staff health care incidents, coupled with her accumulated months of seniority, Sylvie was moved to the lunch-dinner shift. This is a bit of a plum because dinner orders are larger and the tips tend to be more generous. It also means that she doesn’t get home until 8 or 9 in the evening. As a young lady, she occasionally stopped to have a drink or snack or participate in some event on the weekend. She can wander over to the casino, drawn by the noise, bright lights, and playful atmosphere. She doesn’t know anything about gambling; there isn’t even a deck of cards at home. Sometimes she gets home after midnight, to the consternation of Martin and his wife.
She had been given the family gray Toyota Corolla that dates from the early ‘90’s and had over 250,000 miles on it. A couple of years ago, when I last saw it, there was a broken taillight lens held on with fraying duct tape, and the front quarter panel that had some bodywork done was faded – the repaint was done very thinly. I gather it was still running rather well, but there were heater/AC problems, one door had to stay locked, and the window riser was erratic. It was an old car and falling apart. It also needed tires and a brake job.
Just before Thanksgiving Sylvie went out and bought herself a new Toyota coupe. Martin and his wife, the adults, are amazed and appalled. She didn’t ask for advice, or permission, and as far as they were aware she had very little credit. She had a credit card and a bank account, but they assumed that she was chronically near broke. How the hell was she going to pay for that car, and the insurance? She has been carried as an additional driver on their insurance. These are the issues that come to the mind of a parent.
“What the hell does she think she is doing?”
In the course of a family discussion, it seems that she simply put down $2,500 in cash and financed the rest. The car was a dealer demo vehicle with a thousand miles on it. The parental units are appalled!
“What were you thinking? My God! Where did you get $2,500? What are you doing? How does a waitress get that much cash? By waitressing you got $2,500?”
Sylvie is taken aback at her parent’s outrage about how she spends her money. She explains that she has been doing some occasional part time work in the evenings. She does some catering and provides special services for selected clients. This reply simply stirs up more questions and unanswered concerns. Just exactly what sort of ‘special services’? What ‘service’ could she possibly provide that would enable her to gather several, many, thousands of dollars?
On the one hand: it is none of their business. After all she is 22 or 23, and employed. On the other hand she is living rent free in their basement ‘guest’ room that is complete with bathroom and shower, and the adjacent ‘wreck’ room has a couch, refrigerator, TV/stereo, pool table, dart board etc. Because of her shift work, they only see her in passing as their paths cross. But, after all, Sylvie is their precious angel/daughter. Their son is prospering back east, with wife and child.
At this point I have set the stage and we will have to enter a realm of conjecture. My information is sketchy and third-hand, but the volume and temper of the dialogue reportedly started rising rapidly when she showed up with her new red Toyota the day before Thanksgiving. I suspect she was expecting congratulations from the proud parents of this independent daughter as they begin to see evidence of her prosperity and wise purchasing decision. Instead they are shocked at her furtive and un-discussed extravagance. An interrogation into her earnings ensues. I have no clear idea how much an evening waitress in a middle class feed trough may make, but a single person that is not paying rent and has few other expenses could afford to have a car. The $2,500 down payment seems to arouse some suspicion as few of the working class can save that much.
I gather that there were some raised voices, but she went to work on Thanksgiving and got back home about 11 p.m. The customers had a choice of turkey or ham and it was a busy night. The parents are waiting for her to arrive. The mother is upset for no particular reason, and Martin is pacing around. When Stacie shows up, at last, the interrogation begins. What the hell is going on? Why is she so late? Where has she been? Why didn’t she just get the brakes fixed and put some tires on the old car? How did she get $2,500 dollars? And who are the ‘selected clients’ and what sort of catering and special services do these people receive? How much does that extra work pay? Is this through the restaurant? Since when does that joint do catering? Is she gambling in that damned casino? Is she selling drugs? What is going on?
Sylvie was a taken aback at this aggressive tone of questioning. She got a bit upset at this irrational snooping and prying on the part of her parents. About midnight she is near tears and becomes exasperated and furious. They have begun the inquisition and she is basically caught off guard and unarmed. In an exasperated rage she loudly gives them the truth. The truth, which she has been keeping from them, becomes her final weapon.
In one of his wry novels, Kurt Vonnegut discusses the power of truth, and his suggested operating motto was, “If you don’t truth me, I won’t truth you.” Thus the minor lies and delusions that propel an easier path through life may be maintained. All of us live with our illusions. Our views of life on this planet are thoroughly self-serving and we shelter our beliefs, ludicrous as they may be.
“I occasionally do some escorting!” Sylvie reveals. The mother is unfamiliar with this term. Martin is a bit worldlier – not as a participant; but men, with their lurid imaginations and endless curiosity are more familiar with the underground trade that revolves around pornography and the women mysteriously available for extraordinary renditions of sexual participation.
Sylvie is working in the time honored but scandalous sex trade. I am told that escorts often do not categorize themselves as whores or prostitutes. An escort is not patrolling cars in some unfortunate part of town. An escort may be a call girl, or a concubine, or just very discretely provide services on limited availability. Some escorts advertise on-line or in the back pages of certain publications.
Upon this revelation, Mother burst into tears and shrieks, and Martin blew up into a rage. He didn’t hit either of them, although he may have threatened to do so. Instead he started roaring and yelling and threw the dining table across the room, breaking a chair, and shattering the big sliding glass door. A picture careened off the wall destroying the frame and broke the glass. A vase toppled and was in pieces. The fresh floral bouquet was in disarray on the floor, and the carpet was soaked. He stormed around the house upset. Mother and Stacie cowered, holding each other crouched in a corner. Stacie grabbed her cell phone and dialed 911. Both of the ladies were terrified. They had never seen Martin in such a state.
Out in the country – the rural suburbs – if there is an emergency and the cops are called it can take an hour for them to arrive. When you may not need the cops they show up in 5 minutes. As the police came upon the scene, Martin was calming down, still upset, but rather spent. The police sized up what seemed domestic violence in progress. They felt that they arrived just in time to prevent a more serious physical altercation. It is likely that had they come half an hour later all three would be crying and holding each other and trying to establish some sort of reconciliation. However the cops showed up while he is still enraged. He was shocked and angry with Sylvie. He was mad at his wife – she should have done something! She should have suspected! She should have had a talk with Sylvie! Who knows what she should have done? Whatever she should have done she didn’t do it! And he was mad at himself for being fooled, cuckolded in effect. He was damned angry with the men that have casually paid his daughter who-knows-what for sex. Who are these monsters? How dare they! His sweet little angel child has been defiled and abused and degraded by these anonymous bastards!
The police decided to take him in – he spent the night in jail on a domestic dispute charge. In the minds of the officers this would reduce the risk of violence, and give the ladies time to recover from his unusual behavior that has been amply demonstrated by this outburst. The cops attempted to set the dining table upright, but it is broken, and twisted out of plumb. Martin was put in the back of the squad car with nylon wrist retainers and hauled off. Mother must go down and authorize his release the next day.
Several weeks have passed. I gather from my informant that Martin was released the next day and was required to enroll in an Anger Management course. Martin and his wife are suddenly involved in a Family Counseling program. After an initial session, Sylvie declined the invitation to participate with the parents in what she feels is their relationship problem.
Sylvie is in the process of moving out. She feels that she has been disgraced and humiliated. She feels this entire episode was uncalled for. After all, it is none of their damned business what she does. Her parents may suddenly care deeply about her decisions, but they never inquired or gave a damn what she did with her boyfriends – that were, in her opinion, all losers. She had a lot of fun with the boys and showed the boyfriends a good time when it seemed merited, and then went her own way. She has no plans of continuing in the ‘escort career path’. She considers it an opportunity to associate with a better class of men than she will ever meet otherwise, and also an opportunity to earn some real money. With proper precautions she believes that this can be safe and sane, and the job can be occasionally pleasurable. It is an admission of a fall from the grace of presumed innocence, however this pose of amateur unfamiliarity with versions of sexuality is a difficult role to play for young adults today. Thanks to the social transformation of pornography and contemporary entertainment it would be difficult to remain ignorant of the general scope of human activities even if the varieties have not been practiced.
She has become somewhat acquainted with a couple other ladies in the trade, and has considered leaving the waitressing job soon. The restaurant job provided her with an opportunity to try the escort job, but she feels she can meet enough paying, well-behaved and respectful clients in other ways. She insists upon meeting potential clients in advance to get acquainted: a coffee date, for instance. She also elicits references and attempts to verify employment etc. She assesses their personality and potential interests to establish an informal contract of expectations. She is never out of reach of her cell phone.
The foregoing is reconstructed from a third party intermediary. I feel a bit diffident about contacting Martin regarding this episode. I’ve not been to his house although his cul-de-sac is familiar. Months from now it may be easier to get a coherent story after the dust settles. Each participant will calm down and review their own responses and develop a comfort level within their role. Each will have their regrets, and reflect upon the correctness of their views and the appropriateness of their responses. In the longer run, they will re-unite as a family, the parents will come to silently accept her chosen activities, and next holiday may be more familial. Sylvie may change her mind and she may drift away from this ‘career’ decision.
In the long run, an escort is time-bound. A young lady in her 20’s can sell her youth for perhaps a decade. The prime product is youth – ladies in their 40’s or 50’s are not in great demand. Older men have a vampire-like interest in engaging young lovers. Younger men want to have sex with members of their peer group that would otherwise be unavailable to them.
Other cultures and other circumstances create other opportunities. In civilized Amsterdam there are the Fokken twins, now in their early 70’s and still working part time as prostitutes after 50+ years in the service of mankind. They estimate that they have each had over 250,000, perhaps 300,000 customers each, thus far. One has ‘retired early’ due to arthritis, the other continues part time because their state provided retirement allotment is insufficient.
In Germany, Molly Luft is the self-proclaimed fattest prostitute. She weighed around 385#, but is now reduced 100 or so. She runs a ‘discount’ brothel and has prospered for several decades. The brothel has a punch card, and after 10 visits a customer receives a free trick. She has been in the business over 30 years and estimates her personal tally at about 100,000 clients; the business is near a million clients.
Almost exactly 50 years ago to the day, I recall sitting in a not-very-elegant restaurant at a Formica corner table with ‘Toppy Tom’ and ‘Smoky’ Forrest. We were sharing a platter of crab cakes, and having a few drinks. The restaurant was noted for serving strong drinks and greasy food. It was located a block up the street from the tavern the bikers favored. The restaurant would let us in if we appeared sober and behaved appropriately. We were not to be intimidating the regular neighborhood clientele.
We were discussing motorcycles. A mutual scoundrel had recently acquired a rigid frame, sprung hub Triumph, partially disassembled, and it is stored in a shed out in the boonies. I had a Model A Ford Pickup and would be able to do the hauling, and perhaps some of the mechanical work.
‘Toppy Tom’ was a large framed rough-cut character, probably 6’6” and 290#. He had served some time in the slam and was on parole but he was working on a city funded sidewalk repair crew: jackhammer, concrete, pick and shovel labor. ‘Smoky’ Forrest was 5’10”, wiry, a smooth talker, and looked a bit like Kirk Douglas with a wolfish grin. He had been in the Army briefly as some sort of fireman and had recently been fighting forest fires.
Drugs were just starting to appear as recreational alternatives at this time. Both ‘Toppy’ and ‘Smoky’ were casually headed for ‘Speed’ dependency problems. The three of us were cruising fast, talking 90 miles an hour. There had always been some ‘speed’ around, but suddenly it was readily available, and several of the bikers were making spending money transporting and selling packets to riff raff that actually did the peddling. The bikers had somehow gotten into the supply stream of the time. Months later our little casual group was invaded and dominated by heavy-duty guys from California and the drug business became quite serious. Around then, I parted company with the bikers. I’ve written elsewhere about that, but briefly, several of the Californians were recruiting ‘hippie chicks’ through grass and speed and acid or whatever, and the girls would soon be turning tricks in order to keep their personal supply flowing.
Janet, our waitress, was a pleasant looking lady, late 20’s, blond hair with 3” of dark roots, snug fitting white blouse unbuttoned midway, a tight skirt, and nurse’s shoes. Very friendly with the customers, eager to get us drinks and another platter of crab cakes. ‘Smoky’ was quite taken with her and was in speedy dope-fueled small talk. Soon we learned that she was from Idaho, and had her GED. She had worked at this joint for almost a year; she will be catching a bus to her apartment after 8, and her cat will be hungry etc. It was just mindless getting acquainted sort of pleasant chatter while she was doing her job, hustling meals and plates to her dozen or so tables.
We were 3 or 4 drinks down along with a couple platters of crab cakes when it was time to settle the tab. I reached for my wallet to get out my share – probably about $7 in ’62, but Smoky said, “Put that away, I’ll get this one, you can buy me drinks some other time.” He took his wallet out of the leather jacket and put down a $50 (serious money at that time, wages were about $3.25 an hour; $1 would get 4 hamburgers at Dick’s Drive-In). He laid the wallet on the table with two additional 50’s showing. When Janet came to pick up the money she couldn’t miss the additional flash.
Smoky decided to pounce. “What are you doing later, maybe we could go someplace. Have some fun!”
“Oh, gee, I don’t know about that.” she said. Upon her return with the change she slipped him a little piece of paper with the many dollar bills – it simply said Janet and a phone number.
He gave her a big wave as we exited, and once outside he was joyous. “Damn! I’m going to have fun tonight! Gonna get me a pint of bourbon and make a call!” Later in the week he felt compelled to violate the Gentleman’s Code: “A gentleman never tells.” He went on a bit about what an energetic romp Janet provided and what a great time it was. They had taken a shower together, soaping each other generously, and went to bed with her hair in a towel turban, and rutted, and bucked and shrieked and roared. He insisted that I take her number. My memory is that the joy rate was $20, and he considered it money well spent. “She asked about you, but she didn’t want ‘Toppy’ to call.”
I didn’t get around to contacting Janet. I’m from Nome Alaska and dislike the water, and the idea of getting into a shower with some lady just didn’t appeal to me at all at the time. Also, I was silently and invisibly quite ill with colitis.
But we may envision this episode in Janet’s life as a somewhat similar storyline for Sylvie. In absence of fact, we can make up any story that suits us. Martin does not seem to wear the mantle of severe repressive morality. I have no idea what the parent’s individual sex lives may have consisted of, or the nature of their married relationship. Some men brag about past exploits and depending upon the conversational context. These tales may be rather vulgar and explicit. We are not acquainted with Martin or his family members to the extent that such matters would be discussed. Our conversations are limited to gym talk and comments on the weather.
If we consider the escort ‘career’ that Martin’s Sylvie has entered we quickly find that regular appointments for an hour are in the range of $150 to $250. Her $2,500 down payment may have involved as few as 10 dates at $200 each. Should she attempt to earn $50,000 annually it would amount to about 250 sexual incidents per year. Many long marriages go from beginning to end with far less sexual content than that.
An article about the Nevada Brothels mentions that the ‘soiled doves’ consider 10 to 20 episodes a day to be an informal limit. In other locations the pace can be dozens a day. Half the money goes to management of the ‘parlor house’. If these ladies were to work 200 days annually, this would amount to more than 1,000 sexual incidents a year. Many incidents don’t last an hour, and not all services are charged at $200; some are less and others significantly more.
The TV personality and founder of the ‘Moral Majority’, Dr. Jerry Falwell, has said: “Grown men should not be having sex with prostitutes unless they are married to them.” Some of Sylvie’s clients may be married, but this would be irrelevant to her role in providing services. People generally, and men in particular, demonstrate widely varying interest levels in physical expressions of sexuality in the course of a lifetime. In adolescence and young adulthood the species is in a peak period of ‘hot and bothered’, sometimes referred to as the age of “testicles in tennis shoes”.
On the other side of the age spectrum: decades ago I was acquainted with a person I thought of as an elderly gent – I now realize he was in his early 60’s and recently widowed, hardly a old fossil. He was regaling us with a tale of his dating life. He mentioned to the silver fox he was courting that he was not eager get involved sexually until they were better acquainted. She replied, “Yeah, well I’m not that eager myself, I’ve already had my sex for the year, would you like to sit and watch some TV?” This was in the Spring of that year, but in the November of their lives.
In my teens, I was far too shy, and then far too ill to fully participate socially. I had been a shy loner, and after my operation that personality fault continued until I got entangled. Because of my lack of discussable experience, and my uncertainty about what my role as a parent ought to be, I realized that I had next to nothing to say to my children regarding sex or related matters. My parents had never discussed such matters with me, and I continued the tradition.
We don’t have a clue regarding Martin and his wife’s instructions, rules, or information provided to Sylvie. There is some basic sex education provided in the schools, but I don’t know what that amounts to. It is probably basic discussions provided in a neutral tone through charts, diagrams, anatomical roadmaps, and basic health information regarding STD’s, condoms, and avoiding pregnancy. To paraphrase James Thurber: ‘when one is confronted with the actual sex act a schematic of the reproductive organs is as valuable as a map of medieval trade routes.’
Many states – the ‘Red States’ – have no sex education aside from encouraging total abstinence, and as a result these states have alarming rates of teen pregnancy, STD’s and HIV. In my high school, in the ‘50’s, around a quarter of the girls would drop out every year due to pregnancies. Often the boys involved were expelled as well. Guys were tossed off the football team, which to some was a fate worse than death. A few were able to get a couple of girls knocked up. Frequently a quick marriage resulted; the boy was 16 or 19 and the girl 13 to 17. Often the young ladies were involved in what today would be considered statutory rape with trolling military guys. This unfortunate and endlessly repeated comedy was simply cause for a shrug and headshake: just business as usual.
I’m far from certain what a parent should provide. At some point it isn’t a parent’s business. The young people need to get acquainted, go out and have fun with friends, and once out of sight they are out of parental control. A parent doesn’t know what goes on and doesn’t know the local moral codes of various social groups. Within a school there are various tribal alliances and each has it’s own behavioral strictures.
I taught briefly at Garfield High School in Seattle in the early ‘60’s. This school had, and still has, a predominantly black student body. The classrooms frequently had several pregnant young women. They were not expelled, and as near as I could tell, there were no shotgun weddings. The culture of the times seemed to be accepting – the girls might finish high school as single parents. I started out appalled, but soon I was indifferent as well.
Steven & Heather
In the mid-80’s my beloved ‘black iron’ gym closed and I began to frequent a different gym – I was still employed. The new franchised gym was in the vacant space of a deceased supermarket. It was a large gym, mostly filled with cardio equipment, stationary bicycles, stair-steppers etc. In my previous gym we devotees of the ‘chapel of black iron’ wore very ratty workout gear, torn t-shirts, sawed off jeans. The new gyms were an outgrowth of the burgeoning fitness craze and the lean bodies were often clad in colorful body suits that were snug and revealing. The young lady’s body suits were combined with a one-piece dancer’s leotard or camisole over the top. In the crotch area this resembled a thong. Often the young ladies appeared to be as colorful as tropical fish. One of the young ladies in regular attendance was called ‘The Thong Goddess’ by some of the guys. They would suddenly show some enthusiasm for cardio by operating a machine behind her to watch that trim little bottom, while they fantasized about the unspeakable acts they would inflict upon her preciousness if only they could get up the nerve to speak to her.
Steven was one of the big guys in that gym, heavily muscled and loud. We, the big boys, were relegated to the far wall that was lined with weights. He was a freelance construction worker and a housing boom was on! He was in his early 40’s, I guess, and a talkative character in an uneasy marriage – his wife was a well-built blonde, a striking figure, and also loud and outspoken. I saw her a couple of times, she would stalk in wearing high heels and start discussing the family issues in public, loudly. I got the impression that they rather enjoyed arguing and may have enjoyed the making up even more than the argument. When he was around we soon learned more about their family than was necessary: their vacations, their car problems, their damned son, their lazy daughter, etc.
That year, during summer vacation, the 14-year-old son was going to a sailing camp at Lake Tahoe. The daughter, Heather, was about 11 perhaps, and was going to stay a month with an aunt at a ranch in New Mexico. Steven thought this was a great arrangement. The New Mexico Aunt’s family were strict Mormons, and had horses and livestock. Maybe they could get some work out of the girl.
Steven’s wife had decided to clean and paint the kid’s bedrooms while the kids were gone. There had been continual arguments about the kid’s messy bedrooms, particularly Heather’s bedroom. Steven was enlisted to help move the furniture, and do some cleaning and painting. The son was returning first and that room went smoothly.
Heather’s bedroom was a disaster with moldy food, dirty clothes, stuff scattered everywhere. She had been told that they were going to re-paint the room: she had picked the colors, under duress. An attempt was made to organize books, magazines, shoes, clothes, and plush animals. Which clothes still fit? What should be washed? What should be tossed? There were bags of crap. It progressed a few hours at a time with much muttering about the unsightly and unsanitary hoard shoved under the bed and tossed in the closet.
Steven would get home from working at construction, pause at the gym to lament his fate, and then haul trash. He finally began to move the furniture to the center of the room, a bookshelf, a desk, a couple of chairs – one of which had been invisible in the clutter – and the bed. The bed needed to be dismantled, the box spring and mattress were to be set out in the hallway, and the bed frame knocked apart. Under the mattress a surprise was found. There were several recent porno magazines of the sort that were readily available behind the counter in franchised ‘Stop & Rob’ stores that have gas pumps out front. Magazines with titles such as Purely 18, Live Young Girls, Lollypop Teens, Finally Legal.
Steven is pole-axed, just stunned to find these in his precious daughter’s bedroom, and his wife is aghast and shocked and soon in tears. The daughter was just beginning to develop breasts; the mother and daughter have had a little talk about the onset of menses. Suddenly here are these quite explicit magazines with attractive young ladies with shaved pudenda and coyly posing – showing it all, playing with dildos, and performing sloppy blowjobs and having sex with men that have enormous cocks.
Suddenly the parents in her bedroom realized that their innocent little daughter may not be innocent – she might be physically innocent, but intellectually she is aware of sexual activities that are portrayed as normal, but some of which are outside the realm of what the parents have engaged in. They are in shock. What are they to do now? What are they to say or do when she returns? In their mind, she might have played doctor, or a game of show-me-yours, but the magazines are basically a how-to manual for dildos, blowjobs, muff diving, anal intercourse, and abusive activities with gags and handcuffs, for instance.
In the gym Steven was quite vocal on the issue. Who would give such pornography to a little girl? Why would this be circulating among her classmates? She can’t buy this stuff: it is behind the counter! Who is buying the magazines and passing them out to 5th graders? And of course, he has to discuss the size of the dicks displayed – Steven has 19” biceps but there is no known exercise to build a 12” dick. A man has to be born with this random genetic trait. He was in the military and has seen hundreds of guys in the shower, but never seen anything like the equipment displayed in the pictures. He somehow feels inadequate. Who are these freaks of nature? I recall him commenting on the shaved girl’s pudenda. “Christ! I’ve been married 20 years and still have no idea what the hell it looks like! Never occurred to me that a woman would shave that! It’s creepy!”
Where do these attractive girls come from? What tangled family life led them to participate in this circus act? One assumes that the ID and medical status of the girls is recorded, but are these girls just walking around on the street of LA? Are they recruited in some way? How much do they get paid? Are they forced into this activity? Are there pimps or procurers? Are the girls from Los Angeles or Russia? I became curious about what the pay scale may be for young girls of 18 or so for an appearance in the magazines, or in the endless supply of fornication videos. There isn’t a published pay scale, but informally there are statements that seem to reveal that the pay is just a few hundred dollars. I guess that the capitalist principles of supply and demand have determined that there are a large number of maidens available and none of them can command enough money to establish a significant and regular income.
On the home front his wife sits, sobbing at the lost innocence of her precious daughter. Inevitably, in her mind, it seems that in some way it is her husband’s fault, or at least the fault of men and their crude and offensive behavior. Unfortunately, while she is brooding upon the low-life and vulgar aspects of men that may have been revealed to her in the past, Steven happens to mention that some of the portrayed incidents are kind of hot. It was clearly the wrong thing to say at that point. Another flame of argument ensued. Suddenly he was sleeping a few nights in a motel, no doubt temporarily as they love the make-up sex. I moved on to another gym in the mid-summer and never gave this incident another thought.
I had not, at that time, thought about how the family reaction might have been quite different had the magazines been found hidden in the boy’s room. Young damsels are thought to be naively demure and thus unaware of the procreative chaos of the male assault awaiting them upon approaching a semblance of physical maturity. A young man of 14 or so is about to become eagerly curious about the nature of sex and female attributes. If Steven’s son was discovered to have the magazines, it would probably have been treated with less emotional uproar.
It is no longer possible to be as innocent and ignorant we were in the ‘50’s when I was in my teens and early adulthood. Living near the tiny town of Suquamish – an isolated rural area – there was hardly a hint of sexuality. The National Geographic would occasionally have exotic tribal scenes in which ladies might display breasts. In high school there would be occasional, but all too rarely, very worn magazines furtively passed around. Mad Magazine was one such, but it was devoid of sexual content. More to the point there were less common magazines such as Nudist Garden that showed both sexes coyly participating in badminton or picnics. The naughty bits were retouched, or hidden behind a hand or shrub. I recall viewing a couple of issues of Playboy, probably borrowed from someone’s father. The nude centerfold photos of the time were quite discrete, and the luscious young ladies depicted were thoroughly made-up to hide any blemish. The lighting for the photography was complexly organized and while nipples and bellybuttons might be visible, the pudenda remained hidden. Soon other magazines became more daring and explicit. By the early ‘60’s magazines such as Hustler were offering full-beaver gynecological imagery.
There was no newsstand in Kitsap that would enable a young man to buy an issue of such revealing images. There was a drug store in Poulsbo that had a small magazine rack, but Playboy was behind the counter. Mad was not available there. The Nudist magazines were on a high rack at the Seattle ferry terminal; an adult had to request the step stool to acquire an issue.
Heather, Steven’s daughter, would be 24 or so today. How did they handle this odd but not unique crisis? What became of her? Was this exposure at a young age influential? Or was it just a childhood memory forgotten? Did she move on to safe but energetic sex with friends? Or did she provide Porn Star sexual sessions with young men in her life? It would certainly be to the astonishment of the young men. Was she repulsed by the whole idea? If she thought the magazines were a true depiction of what men were about, perhaps she wanted nothing to do with any of those activities. I suspect that the magazines were being circulated surreptitiously among friends – in this case probably girlfriends. No doubt there was a brisk trade in naughty magazines amongst the boys, and inevitably some were diverted.
This little incident was about 15 years ago, but is still pertinent and current. Within this time interval, however, there has been a huge change within the pornography industry. There is no way to estimate the extent of the change in availability and content, but comparing the quaint photos of 19th century “Ladies of Negotiable Affection” of New Orleans’ brothels, for instance, with the exaggerated explicitness of today’s free porn on the internet reveals a stark contrast. The faded amber photos of ‘Dawson Dottie’ or ‘Klondike Kate’ of the 1890’s Yukon seem amusingly staid and quaint. In today’s harsh light and superior evolved fashion consciousness – who would pay for a session with that pudgy middle-aged sagging female?
As an old fart sitting in the little physical rowboat that I have paddled in the shallows of what now seems a vast sea of human sexual activities, I can reflect upon how a tiny trivial batch of information and interactions in the prime of life has led to a superficial grasp of the topography of the extent of the ocean’s possibilities. I can lean over the side of the rowboat and scoop up a teacup of experience to contemplate. Had I been in better health, had I not been so shy, had I not spent most of my life feeling like a misplaced Martian on this planet, there could have been considerably more to be experienced.
I was very shy and isolated in high school. I was incompetent in sports, bullied, and lacking any transportation. I went to the local drive-in movie once in a sedan full of guys to see a black and white sci-fi movie. The rural drive-in was a party playground for local youth and young adults. On the way to the snack bar during intermission I recall that there was inexplicable hilarity at the back of the parking area. There frequent gossip about exploits and activities at the drive-in.
Sally Salamander was briefly in school when I was a junior. She was a dark haired, happy-go-lucky big-breasted young lady that had been in school, gotten pregnant, disappeared for a while and reappeared briefly. Her child was never mentioned: adopted I guess. Sally was one of the few people in the school that spoke to me. She said nothing more than “Hi”, but she was friendly and outgoing, and seemed much more mature than the other students. She was taking stenography courses such as typing.
She soon dropped out, but she would pick up girlfriends in her Uncle’s big ’48 Pontiac sedan. There was an attempt to enforce a no smoking policy on campus, but the girls would all light up as soon as the Pontiac was in sight, and then the six or eight would pile into the car laughing and shrieking. In retrospect I assume there was plenty of alcohol in the car. There were no drugs in rural Kitsap, but there was a lot of alcohol available.
Sally had a reputation as a loose woman and a heavy drinker. She had been found half naked and passed out in the locker room. She had been escorted off the field as drunk and disorderly at a football game. She was delivered to her parents after being found unconscious in the back of a ’49 Ford that was involved in a traffic accident – driven by two sailors. Her exploits were an occasional topic.
Sally was frequently at the drive-in where young men would ply her with alcohol. I gather that several guys would pick her up and prime her with sloe gin and Coke. At the theater they would proceed to get her smashed and coax her out of her panties and indulge in what is now called a gangbang in the back seat, with her putting up little or no resistance.
At one of these celebrations of beastliness, an acquaintance of mine got involved. His name was Richard, but he was called Ritchaaaard! He was a pleasant sort of fellow trying to learn to be a bad boy by hanging out – trying to fit in with a wilder bunch. When he got over to their car he had to start to catch up on the drinks – getting a solid slug of gin in his waxed paper cup of root beer. It was necessary to drink quickly because the alcohol would loosen the wax coating and liquor would stain and drain through the cup seam. He was soon loaded and caught up just as the action was getting under way. First one young man and then another and then yet another climbed in the back and jumped up and down on Sally. These so-called sex acts were probably one-minute quickies. She was drenched in cum: bombed but somewhat conscious. Suddenly it was Ritchaaard’s turn. He was slow to jump and suddenly he was grabbed from behind and his face plunged down into her drenched pussy. Despite his efforts he was held there a while, and Sally started laughing, swearing, and shrieking about the episode. As he was released he threw up all over her and the interior of the car. He ran off, pulling his pants up. The story was everywhere and he didn’t live that episode down; “The guy that throws up on girls.”
A couple years later, I was in college, bussing dishes in the evening, and spotted him with a pretty and demure young lady. They seemed to be on a date, having a nice dinner. My thought at the time was, “Well, good for him.”
Reflecting back, was it good for Sally? She was involved in activities demonstrating a lack of concern or awareness regarding consequences, a youthful participant in what were considered adult activities without forethought, planning or guidance. She was just going with the flow, enthusiastic in what would seem to be self-destructive behavior. It was easy path to superficial popularity.
I have no idea what became of her, but the script she was participating in and her role in the theatrics would not seem to lead anyplace but personal disaster. Sally was a willing participant to whatever extent she was capable of rational decision within the turmoil created by her willingness to debase herself.
The Blind Girl I remember:
When I was about 15, living in an impoverished rural town that is now filled with members of the cul-de-sac tribe, there was a blind young lady. I thought of her as an older woman, but she was probably in her early twenties. Not a pretty woman, built like a fireplug, living in her parents house and leading a rather sheltered life. I remember her playing with her cats on the porch on a nice day. She had several very friendly large grey and black cats.
Some local rowdy young men would load her into a car and “have their way with her” and then cheerfully drop her off: raped, roughed up, stunned, disheveled and lost within a few yards of her house. The hilarity of the story was embellished with the acting out of her flailing and groping as she tried to get her bearings and find the way to her mailbox and driveway, with her panties on her head. I gather this happened repeatedly, and, of course, she became pregnant and was shipped off to some facility.
There is now a splendid gated estate on the site of her parental home, the old stump farm now nicely mowed. The last name of one of the young men involved with the activity is now on a huge sign on an auto repair-tire sale store near the new freeway.
A poem that seemed poignant and relevant to me 45 years ago, referred to ‘the black mirror of a blind girl”. The poem was by Stuart Z. Perkoff, a “Beat” poet, now long forgotten, but his chanting accompanied by electric guitar and harmonium still haunts me.
What am I brooding about? Inquiring minds want to know.
Why wasn’t God Watching?
Why wasn’t God Listening?
Why wasn’t God There,
For Georgia Lee?
The 10 photos
My first part time job at college was assisting in an annual inventory count in an electrical supply warehouse. There was a mile of steel shelves, filled with bins, boxes, and tagged units. Each of us was given a clipboard and printed inventory list for each shelving unit. Copiers had not been invented yet and the sheets were printed on real printing presses. We were to go from left to right on the top shelf, and then right to left on the next shelf, matching the item name and then the count. Sometimes the count would be a unit, and sometimes the bins would contain dozens of fittings to be counted. We were using wheeled stepladders to reach the upper shelves. One of my coworkers was up the ladder wobbling at the top shelf and happened to brush his hand on an envelope that was covered with a heavy layer of dust. In the envelope was ten 4X5 black and white photos depicting a sailor and a lady progressing from clothed and hugging to naked and reclining on a couch with him on top, depicting a sex scene. He kept his jaunty white sailor’s cap on from start to finish. This was quite a disruption for the guys doing the inventory. Such was the state of pornography in ’58. The photos – production prints – were probably from the era of WWII or the Korean War. No one had seen anything like it.
There were rumors of ‘Stag Films’ but these were not common. The films were advertised in the back of various magazines. The short films had saucy titles and were often sold in bundles: five films for the price of three, shipped in a plain paper wrapper. The films were silent and came in 8 mm or 16 mm formats. In about ’61, I saw a few Stag Films at a bachelor’s party celebrating the marriage of one of the bikers. Several films were shown at party central – a rented house that we rather trashed during the festivities.
For all the talk about the stag films, they were silent and quite short. The story lines were idiotic, and the imagery was not particularly explicit. These were not fancy productions; probably shot in an afternoon with no re-takes. Judging from the costumes and hairdo, some of these films may have been shot shortly after Edison invented the kinescope, certainly some dated from the flapper era. The films had been copied and re-copied endlessly. The ladies were attractive but rather ordinary and the male performers were utterly ordinary. The only ‘star’ widely known today from this naughty-nudie vintage venue is Betty Page, and I don’t think she was in these films. The films were not in good condition, probably passed hand to hand for a decade or more. Despite the low-keyed attempt at luridness the films were boring.
The films had been available for several decades and were delivered in the mail, which influenced the nature of the erotic content. The films may as well have shown the couples playing cards. The films were sent in the mail and the advertised illusion was that these films were naughty and forbidden, but the reality was, I suspect, that the films passed the Comstock standards that prevailed at the time. The Comstock Act of 1873 made it illegal to send any “obscene, lewd, and/or lascivious” materials through the mail, including contraceptive devices or biological information.This law was repeatedly challenged, and major court battles took place in the 1960’s. For instance, Henry Miller’s books were forbidden import until the early ‘70’s. At our little showing the commentary of the viewers provided the entertainment and that was not elevated discourse.
As a Junior in Art School taking ‘advanced’ figure drawing, an old professor (his name escapes me) had a reference book available which demonstrated compound lighting – how to illuminate a model to reveal form. The 3” thick book probably dated from the ‘30’s. Photographers were standardizing the methods of lighting portraits and the figure. How can the lights be placed to best observe and render the model? However, Artists over the centuries had devised a wide variety of lighting schemata despite the lack of flash bulbs and electric photofloods. Rembrandt was noted for his dramatic lighting for portraiture, often called ‘refrigerator lighting’ – as if looking into a refrigerator. The book was of interest because both the male and female models had all naughty bits retouched out of existence – nipples, genitalia, and even the navels were removed, although the butt crack remained. Faces were also retouched to be defect free. The representations were of some other humanoid race of asexual semblances.
Early Porn Magazines
Long ago – ’64 or so, I briefly shared a studio with a somewhat older Artiste. He had quite a stack of porn magazines of the time – black and white photos, goofy little titillating story lines. He referred to the magazines as ‘pound cake’. The depictions of both men and women were hairy; the women were often with unshaven legs and armpits. Some were obviously shot in Europe. The actual sexual apparatus was barely visible. As a minimally experienced shy guy I found the portrayal to be discouraging. Where or when was I going to meet or get involved with such blatantly sexual beings? The magazines were occasionally a source for a figurative pose for a drawing or painting. The characters were slim and well endowed; but most people on the planet are not physically elegant to the extent that they prompt universal lust at a glance.
In the late 70’s I became acquainted with Kohlmann. He was one of the rapidly increasing batch of itinerant multiple degreed gypsy intellectuals, moving from one institution to another on one or two year contracted teaching positions. I had recently been put in charge of all the campus copiers, and had an analog copier that would both enlarge and reduce images. He had need of reductions of maps and charts regarding regions of Africa. The reduced copies would be trimmed to fit and then be taped together. Additional arrows and information would be felt penned. The final handout or transparency template could then be copied. Projects such as these are now done on computers. Through these projects we became sort of friends.
During the acquisition of his last degrees, Kohlmann had been a ‘full fledged hippy’. The timely publication of “The Joy of Sex” by Alex Comfort and “The Kama Sutra” had significantly energized the sexual indulgences of his acquaintances. Upon completion of a doctorate he joined the Peace Corps, long hair and all. He was trained and sent to villages in Africa to work on sewage and water issues. During his hippy phase he had been an advocate of the free-love hippy lifestyle. He discussed his dream of going to Africa and getting back to the ‘natural sex’ of the untrammeled native villages. In the villages he found to his dismay that the missionaries had certainly done their work, and whatever spontaneity and variety may have existed had been reduced to little more than missionary position quickies.
The villagers were dressed shabbily, and were very shy, discrete, and reserved. They had been so thoroughly indoctrinated in Christianity that spontaneity and simple physical joyous expression had been eradicated. He became enamored with a charming dusky maiden of his dreams, but he had to spend a lot of time initiating her into any form of pleasurable variation in their romantic play. He was quite disappointed at the loss of his dreams of an earthy paradise. He felt that the churches had gone to a lot of trouble to eradicate an area of significant pleasure in exchange for difficult lives that contained far too little joy between birth, disease, and death.
The lives of tribal people are in an unpredictable transition. The old ways are now largely forgotten leaving cultural shards, and the present is a cruel rendering of adaptive poverty and hardship, much of which was not part of the culture until virtually yesterday. The Peace Corps workers were minimally sheltered in tents and awnings and the natives lived in traditional mud and wattle huts sporting sheet metal roofing, often made of flattened oil drums and miscellaneous cans. Water was free for gathering and hauling, but far from pure. The entire world was an outhouse; the hygienic rule was that anyplace 20 feet away was a suitable squat. There was very little money and few jobs that made even a pittance.
It was said that there was no prostitution until the churches came and money was introduced. When Kohlmann was in residence there were a couple of young widows that would provide sexual services for barter or small change, and it was quite perfunctory – they weren’t selling the illusion of pleasure, they were desperate for food and medicine. The white folks – Corps and officials – were sole source for valuables. This sort of dependency relationship is common – in Alaska the early whites traders and the churches very quickly altered whatever the traditional values may have been, and very soon the gift of syphilis was widely distributed.
Kohlmann’s reflections upon the disappearing lifestyles in Africa reminded me of the demise of the Eskimo that I had witnessed as a child, and the sorry state of the local Suquamish/Salish Indians squatting in poverty in rural Kitsap of my teens. The types of lives, arrangements for the allocation of resources and the life of hunter/gatherers is shredded by the new and improved modern intrusion, but life is lacking the assurance that was previously provided for the indigenous. The natives are not here for a visit. Nor are they participants in the dream of a momentary earthy exotic romantic paradise. They are reduced to abject and inescapable poverty that is perhaps not much different than life before the invasion by aliens. These ghostly outsiders that suddenly control the resources have shredded the earlier tribal life.
Several years ago I became briefly acquainted with Jim, one of the early soldiers in Iraq. He was between tours. As I recall he was on leave from his second assignment, waiting to be sent back for the third. He was a young, fit, but very edgy military guy that was living in his mother’s spare bedroom during his weeks off. He was so antsy that he came to the gym to simply wear himself out. He did very intense high speed and exhausting sessions that lasted a couple of hours.
We chatted several times. He had thought he had served his time, but through some terms of his contract, he was called up and re-assigned to Iraq. He hated the war, hated the Iraqis, but enjoyed the team aspect of being a soldier. He had no job prospects.
He knew nothing about Iraq or the Muslim religion or the civilian life prior to his arrival. He didn’t speak a word of the language until he was taught the couple dozen key phrases to shout at people when shoving them around, or threatening them when forcibly entering the houses. He had nothing good to say about the people or the country. He despised the lot of them. “What the fuck’re we doing there?” his repeated question.
There were two aspects that filled him with disdain.
On street patrol, in searing heat and in random unforeseeable danger, they had to enter storefronts and businesses and look around for weapons. Many of the businesses, particularly the Tea Shops, had TV’s mounted on the wall. In the Tea Shop’s men would sit much of the day, doing nothing but sipping sweet tea, playing dominoes and watching endless pornography, some of it ‘live’ from Berlin or Amsterdam.
Jim found the hypocrisy of this behavior beyond comprehension. Here were these severely religious men that won’t let their women show their faces or so much as an ankle. The wives are kept prisoner in the house, and only allowed out when accompanied by a male relative. Meanwhile the men are at ease watching gross pornography involving white women. White women (called flashlights) were infidels and beyond concern and existed outside the men’s strict religious principles, which they flaunted by praying 5 times a day.
In the evening or early morning the soldiers on patrol could hear the wives being raped and/or beaten. The men often had 3 or 4 wives and abuse was just part of the marriage. Those of the Shia branch can purchase wives as young as 9 years old. Mohammed had a wife of 9, thus this was acceptable. While prostitution was part of the TV programming, it was hidden in town. Widows that had no one to provide support were wandering the streets in a Burka. They would wear a red sock that they could discretely flash, signaling that they were available. This was very dangerous because prostitution was potentially a beheading or stoning offence, but they had no other way to make any money. Through a loophole in the Islamic Code, (Mut’ah) a man can temporarily marry a woman for an hour or more to have sex and not be a sinner in Allah’s eyes. The women have no similar religious relief.
Men could sell their daughters as temporary brides with no repercussions, although the loss of virginity disqualifies the girls from marriage in the future. Women are of little value, and their fate is not important. Marriages were arranged between families, not a result of the romantic customs of our society.
Recently one report in the little news we actually get from Iraq: one of the Sunni Imams has announced that it is permissible for Sunni men to freely rape Shia women of any age, and they also may be kidnapped and sold into prostitution or shared freely amongst fellow warriors. This amounts to rape and sex slavery as weapons of war. No weapons aside from assault are necessary.
There was great emphasis on virginity of the young brides that was to be demonstrated by the blood on the marriage bed sheets from the act of defloration. This illusion could be perpetrated by several opportunities for fraud. Elder religious leaders or local midwives can verify the presence of an intact hymen for a fee prior to the wedding ceremony. The illusion of virginity may also be created by an operation called hymenoplasty, which if done in England, France, or the USA might cost $900. This is a minor bit of stitchery done in a daytime clinic visit a week or so prior to the ceremony. There are also traditional ruses involving the insertion of a small sheepskin bladder containing bloodlike liquids. Recently there has been an insert-able ‘artificial hymen’ containing a gelatin capsule guaranteed to rupture and release a suitable sheet staining liquid. This device is imported from China, which has its own regional customs. Thus the daughters sold into prostitution may be redeemed through conspiracy.
The military’s dependence upon an extensive array of contractors has been an invitation to set up auxiliary services such as prostitution. One story from Jim involved an American food service vendor that opened a Chinese Restaurant adjacent to the Green Zone. The contractor imported many young Chinese women for staff, and sexual services were provided in a warren of tiny rooms in the back. There were separate entrances for US Forces and local Muslims.
This kind of double duplicity drove Jim into fits of anger. He spent much of every day wondering, “Why the fuck’re we there? Protecting a bunch of pious savages!”
Viet Nam, Cambodia, Thailand
Eddie was in the gym erratically. When he was in town he would be a regular for a week or two and then he’d disappear for weeks or months. He had been an Air Force Tanker pilot, but had retired after 20 years. He had been a standby pilot for a major airline but after the Iraq war broke out there was suddenly a demand for independent pilots that had security clearance – namely former military cargo pilots. He went to work for one of the independent contractors. He would never say who, or exactly what or where he was flying, but the itinerary involved unmentionable cargo delivered to obscure places not mentioned in the news. He may have been, probably was, involved in the ‘extraordinary renditions program’. He would hedge around the topic, not willing to go into any detail and not admitting anything. He was well paid and was having a great adventure while working as an independent contractor for a corporation that worked silently for the CIA or other governmental agencies.
His hobby seemed to be hooking up with local hookers wherever he went. When he found out I was an artist/writer he decided that perhaps I was a kindred spirit – what with the nude models and all – and he felt compelled to tell me about some of these incidents. For instance, he was pleased to chat about an available and striking woman in a bar in Kazakhstan. She was from Hungary and was featured in some European porno magazine. She kept a copy in her purse to show to clients, to demonstrate that she was a real pro and worth the extra pittance per hour.
One of his fondest memories was of the floating brothels in South East Asia (Cambodia or Viet Nam). He said these were known as “Flowerboats’. Poverty stricken farmers would often sell one or more of their young daughters into prostitution – there were traveling procurers willing to pay a few hundred dollars cash. Depending upon the nature of the handshake contract, some daughters would be expected to send part of their earnings home. Once out of sight, the procurer would begin the ‘breaking in’ process of introducing these 7-9 year olds into the sex trade. By the time they were delivered to the Flowerboats they would be adept. Uncooperative or rebellious daughters might be blinded by a local medicine man. Blind maidens might be trained as fortunetellers. Blind girls were welcome on the Flowerboats because local custom was that a blind girl couldn’t tell what the man looked like, and thus all men were treated with equal enthusiasm. If the blinded girls were not attuned to prognostication or didn’t display sufficient ardor, they were simply dropped over the side. Inexpensive replacements were readily available.
Eddie had quite a story about spending $50 for an entire night of fondling eager blind girls. One highlight was watching the blind girls wrestle in a large tub filled with cooking oil. Slipping, sliding, laughing, grabbing and flailing at each other with dildos, and so on. In addition to what was going on with the floorshow, there were TV’s over the bar that showed endless pornography, often child porn, but also bondage, rape scenarios etc. It was great entertainment in his opinion.
Eddie, the pilot, responsible for millions of dollars of high tech equipment, and long trained for performance, had seemingly no compunctions about taking advantage of the pleasures to be had in brothels of the world. No questions about the well being, past or future, for these creatures on the planet that were available to amuse and please him.
I started this mess off with a little story about Martin and his daughter Sylvie, but as I got to thinking about the issues involved the story kept expanding. I don’t pretend to know doodly about sex in society. I barely remember the urgency of it, and only have vivid recollections of a handful of treasured incidents.
We would rather not admit that the flaws in others that may fill us with misgivings are, in fact, our own. We would rather engage in self-delusions that are often the key to happiness. The longer we can go without changing the less likely change becomes. A life is a limited timeframe, and the sort of self-awareness necessary for personal change is seemingly not widespread. And as one ages some changes inevitably occur, until subtle behavioral changes are overwhelmed by the simple fact that the body simply no longer functions as it once did. We don’t get to start over, fresh, young, and full of vigor. Soon enough, in fact all too soon, our ability to pursue the physical exploits that were casual and taken for granted in early maturity becomes mere ghosts of past possibilities.
Within our little white middle class social structure, there seems to be social concern regarding the realm of the loss of virginity for young ladies. However, in contemporary pornography there is a huge demonstrated interest in the depiction of defloration. Evidently white guys sitting at computers love to engage in this fantasy activity. The harvesting of innocence is a routine life passage but is also an unpredictable occurrence. Defloration may be widely varied in actual personal realities. Since other people are involved in the earliest experiences there can be many effects. Unfortunately, young men are eager but inconsiderate, and many young ladies may also be eager, but no one can predict the sort of effect that these experiences may have in the passage of time.
Was Steven’s daughter, Heather, stimulated or terrified at the prospect of sex as depicted by the pornographic magazines? I don’t know how that all worked out – it is none of my business – but it was a matter of great concern to Steven and his wife. Their mutual outrage at the exposure would seem to indicate that they had in mind a gentler, more personal exploratory process for the passage into maturity. Not that they wanted to intervene and control the details of this initiation, but they hoped for an experience that was discrete, private, personally intense, and meaningful.
I suspect that both Martin and Steven’s notion of how the daughters should proceed would be a progression from a few intense friendships extending to some physical familiarization and leading to a romantic union through marriage, preferably a pleasantly loving union that lasts decades. This sort of arrangement is actually relatively rare, in fact. More than half of all marriages end in divorce and many that don’t end in separation have internal faults leading to varying levels of disgruntled muttering and avoidance. The middle class white folk notion of a proper marriage is historically a recent phenomenon. It was encouraged by the rise and intertwining forces of our capitalist system.
Within our political system there is constant references to ‘family values’. In current examples we have an odd sort of denial of reality. Hardly any family serves as the golden ideal. If we look back to the earliest American settlers – the Puritans for instance, the marriage strictures were rather severe and women were often rendered simply house slaves, laborers in the man’s house, and were easily replaced. The women often died in childbirth. There is now a significant battle over reproductive rights. Some states have denied women’s reproductive freedoms and related health care issues. We might hope this is the last of elderly white guys managing the roles of women. It is arriving on the scene, as the role of capitalism is increasingly debated.
The role of romance within the social structure of the middle class has become one of personal self-realization. In the not very distant past we were led to believe in our own immortality. We were all going to heaven if we would just follow the religious rules. Our roles were set for us through the status of our birth. Individuals were serfs or slaves with little or no opportunity to rise within society. One of the attractions of rampant capitalism was the ability to shift social status through hard work, or education, or demonstrated capabilities. While this personal advancement may still occur, the ruthless boom and bust cycles of our current financial system destroys the wealth of the lower classes while enhancing the accumulations of the already wealthy.
The capitalist crisis that seems to occur in every decade of history has led to the erosion of ‘family values’ and the related myths of ever advancing economic well-being. Our personal narratives are rendered a shambles. Up until recently there were few if any personal narratives of distinction. The encouragement of ‘shopping around’ for personal happiness through romances, gratification, and love linked marriages was dependant upon the now discredited promise of our increasingly ruinous financial system. We were groomed for the pleasure of new sensations, and the search for marriageable mates became a personal quest. Very recently in our past, and in many societies today, brides are simply bought or have negotiated values and alliances. Until very recently this bartering of women was almost universal.
Lasting love in our disruptive financial environment has become difficult. Romantic alliances are based on an individual feeling of mutual desire. We can change our roles and change has come to be desirable. We often want to avoid boredom; all manner of diversions can be purchased if we have the freedom to change jobs, locations, and mates. However the precarious personal reality for many is of desperation and financial ruin. Capitalism and romantic love offer the ceaseless promise of escape to a better world over the rainbow. But a general sense of the lie inherent in that promise is growing. The system of promised rewards has broken down, and left us with too many broken hearts.
The Pending Deaths
Big John, an acquaintance in the gym, has been noticeably in the dumps for several weeks. Men don’t talk about serious matters in the gym: the weather, honeydew lists, pickup trucks, a bit about high-light-reps vs. low-heavy-reps etc. John is well into his 60’s and has been trying to keep his weight below 275# for decades. All weight loss is temporary. We have been together in the gym perhaps 100 times: our schedules overlap occasionally. He has seemed a bit depressed for a while, but it is none of my business. But over a period of months, the story comes out in bits and pieces, and I attempt to reconstruct it.
He tells me of his two friends, both dying. They are unrelated but friends of long standing – 40 or more years. These people have cycled from friend status to acquaintances and then back to friends. His immediate lament is that he is running out of people to talk to. His peers are ‘passing on’ and none of them asked to go down the path they are on, which consists of extended lengthy debilitating illnesses and treatments. The reality is that even if the treatments and medicine are effective his friends will not be the characters they once were. There is no returning to past vivacity. Soon it will be Big John’s turn – each of us will get a turn.
Who are these people? What is their life? What was the story?
He speaks of Marylyn, a tall, broad hipped, vigorous lady in his memory. They were in high school together and had dated briefly. She quickly realized he was not for her. His interest in girls at that time was physical – getting a wet kiss, a handful of tits. She was on to that scam and stayed unencumbered through both high school and college. She became a teacher and later a counselor, and then some sort of administrator. She was a woman of wit and accomplishment.
Her first husband developed a taste for drink and it became part of his job. His Frat-boy skills and his capacity for drink led him to prosper. He also fooled around a bit, eventually giving Marylyn the clap a couple of times.
She divorced that lout and demonstrated that she had learned a lesson and in her late 30’s remarried to a hell of a great guy. He was some sort of supervisor in the Postal Service and a bit of a scholar of Shakespeare, and an appreciator of classical music and opera.
John didn’t have contact with her during the first marriage, but their paths crossed frequently for the next 30 years. He admired the pair, actually was in a bit of awe of them, and they had some great meals and long talks on the back deck with a bit of wine and crackers with cheese.
The husband died on the job. It was some sort of heart problem that laid him low, about 5 years from retirement. Marylyn rebounded quickly and proceeded to hire a contractor to re-arrange the house a bit, which enabled her to rent half the house to college couples. It became an apartment with a shared kitchen, and, of course, some couples were great and some were not.
John and his wife had many meals with Marylyn and met some of the couples. They talked of pets, gardening, cooking, politics, gossip. What do friends talk about? A couple of years ago it became obvious that something wasn’t quite right, and suddenly, she was undergoing treatment and was soon hospitalized. She is dying. The conversations now revolve around her concerns that the cats are fed, that the yard is kept up, and memories and laments of the past. All of this is weighing upon Big John.
The other dying friend is Bob, declining fast and in considerable pain: often a zombie from the drugs as his spine is eaten away. Bob was quite a colorful character. He was a wildman in his youth and the source of considerable uproar to those entangled with him: a couple wives, a few kids, and several girl friends were stirred into the chaos he created. In high school and as a young adult he was a charismatic and energetic performer in the Elvis, Carl Perkins, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley mode. This inevitably led to alcohol and drug abuse, and, of course, numerous infidelities, car wrecks, minor arrests, lost wallets and so on. He was a hell of a lot of fun.
Big John was dealing with his own family and job issues, and observed most of this chaos from a distance. He had occasional contact with Bob, but couldn’t begin to keep the storyline straight. As Bob matured and settled down a bit they became closer friends. He admired the second wife and wondered what the hell she was thinking – sticking with Bob, the loose cannon. His girlfriends seemed to be either nice ladies on a fling, or worn girls on a downhill slide. Bob seemed oblivious to their merits or faults.
In his 40’s Bob became ensnared in court cases regarding his lack of support payments for some children. At the same time his ‘rock star’ career was falling apart – it is not an old man’s game. He knew or was known by thousands of people. They were all acquaintances, not really friends now that he was off-stage and not buying the fun. But he created a business that was perfect for him. A job made by him for him. He was out all hours, checking the talent, making deals, breaking promises and staying high. He had become a Booker/Manager/Agent for bands, venues, and vendors. He made an ok living for a while, until he became ill.
Bob is now in his 60’s and he has a growth between some deteriorated spinal discs and he is in a state hospice. John says it is an awful place; noisy, the food terrible, and the minimum wage staffs speak little English. People die every day, and Bob will be exiting feet first on a wheeled cart soon. Despite all this John goes up to see him every few weeks. The only visitors are Big John and the one son of Bob’s that will still speak to him. John and Bob had a few great times together long ago, much to the wives’ chagrin. Now, if John calls the desk early in the day, the medication can be reduced a bit and Bob will be uncomfortable but awake and they can swap memories. Bob has a lot of goofy stories of the stars of the past and flock of various adventures.
Recently John is troubled by a promise he made to Bob. It was a joke at first, but Bob has repeatedly insisted that John promise to “go get laid for me and come back and tell me about it.” Bob’s deathbed lament is that he didn’t have enough sex, despite having ravaged dozens of more or less willing females. Now he would enjoy hearing of someone’s conquest. He doesn’t have computer access, and the institution forbids porn. Whatever pleasure or respite porn would give him is out of reach. In the last few years before he became disabled, Bob would occasionally engage a prostitute on his prowl for moneymaking opportunities, or call an escort service and have one sent over. He admits that his performance was an embarrassment, but the simple joy of holding and fondling was money well spent. The illusion of a relationship made him blissfully feel like a man, despite his erratic performance.
Bob had asked his son to take on the mission, but the son is far overweight, and has very possibly never managed to have sex. The son is overly religious and also a bit of a ‘stick in the mud’. In fact, the visits may be prompted by some misguided religious obligation. Father and son were almost strangers until the hospitalization. Big John is a bit rotund, so for him to call the son a blubber-butt would seem an odd assessment.
Big John is in full stall mode at this point, when he relates his dilemma to me, with a bit of hesitation and embarrassment. On the one hand, going off to have exciting sex with some young lady is an enticement, and on the other is the concern that he would get arrested, or that his wife would somehow find out, and also that his equipment wouldn’t work satisfactorily and that he would be embarrassed or disgraced.
My immediate suggestion for resolution is to lie. Make up an incident with some lurid details and forget it. Or simply stir up the wife’s pudding and tell Bob about that. But as it turns out, the story is all too common: as elderly adults they haven’t had intercourse in years. And John is reluctant to lie to his friend. Somehow lying doesn’t seem right, and a promise is a promise, but on the other hand he can’t bring himself to take direct action.
Recently, in the media there have been lurid reports of scandals regarding on-line advertising of the euphemistically titled Escort Services. Supposedly some of these Escort sites flagrantly advertise underage/child prostitution. The largest site in the world, Craigslist, finally closed down its’ participation in Escort ads due to the harassment about what were unfounded accusations.
I had become interested in this storyline a few years ago – it just seemed bogus to me. And in my casual review of the ads, I was never able to spot any under-age escort offers, a lot of sad and sorry looking ladies offering services and also a few striking females, but no kids. Craigslist decided to close the venue rather than spend vast sums in legal fees defending a low profit aspect of their business. A later investigation established that undercover cops hoping for the entrapment of johns in fact placed the few ads that appeared in large cities featuring under-age girls. Private investigators had been paid to substantiate a very minor problem by the highly profitable do-good fund that insisted there was a problem. Now that Craigslist folded, the organized Fun Suppression League is attacking other venues, and, again, there is no evidence, but that doesn’t prevent wild claims. A recent factual investigation reveals that there are about 800 arrests annually in the US of under-age prostitution suspects, none of which are related to on-line advertising venues. This would not seem to be a national scandal. The churches, movie stars, and right wing organizations fuel the attack dogs.
My suspicions about some news stories are aroused because in the past I had fallen for a widely reported wonder cure for schizophrenia and spent more money than I could afford on this treatment for Jan. A couple years later, after it had failed, I tracked down a report revealing the scope of the deception, and the dereliction of the investigative responsibility of the media. I have become quite suspicious ever since, and there have been many similar media escapades. There was a huge ‘scandal’ regarding child abuse in day care facilities, and innocent people were ruined or jailed as a consequence. There was also national hoopla regarding ‘Missing Children”, supposedly kidnapped in some sort of sinister white-slavery conspiracy. Photos appeared on milk cartons, despite the fact that almost all missing children are tangled in some divorce visitation rights escapade usually initiated by the father, and the kids are returned within a few days. Certainly, here and there, some isolated child goes missing in criminal and crazed activities, but this is not an example of extensive national criminality. Locally there was a huge blow-up about Satanic Circles and child sacrifices. The lurid press reports went on for a couple of years. Fellow church members confessed under duress and may still be in jail. The entire episode was entirely a product of overly active troubled minds, fantasy, and lack of calm rational fact checking. And, of course, we have the entire War on Terrorism, and the Afghanistan, Iraq War and similar national disasters based on vapors.
So I suggested that Big John go through the Backpage site and select some ladies that seem to be of interest, ladies that regularly advertise and are thus really in business, and print out the ads and pick one out. I suggested that John could simply call up a few ladies and chat briefly with them, and select one based on tone of voice and friendliness. After all, some of the ladies in the ads are offering companionship as one of the general services. These ladies are professional hostesses. Establishing some sort of quick and easy rapport is part of the business, and whatever might transpire, they have seen it all before. Big John in all his naked awesomeness is not outside the realm of their experience, and aside from inflicting multiple stab wounds, he would just be another customer on a busy day in the oldest profession.
I also suggested that he consider going to an Asian Massage Parlor (AMP). Some of these establishments feature a variety of services beyond hot oil massages. It would seem reasonable to assume that AMP’s listed in the Escort ads would offer entertaining variations such as soapy rubdowns. It turns out that Big John has never had a massage aside from a rare Ben-Gay backrub by his wife when he was in pain. Patrons of chiropractors are often referred to massage therapists for further manipulation and pain relief. Many staunch descendants of Nordic stock consider such treatments to be a character flaw and a sign of weakness.
I had a part time employee, long ago, that was a big fan of AMP’s. Every payday was AMP day. He had a favorite place and would chat about the inappropriate-for-public-discussion joys of little Asian ladies walking down his back and sitting on his front. He was disappointed that I didn’t want to go along with him. I didn’t think it would be appropriate for the boss to share the same AMP, although, as I recall there was a special discount if he brought in a new customer.
On a trip to Vegas his parents had introduced him to the joys of massage. They were staying in a fancy casino, and his father had arranged for carte blanche services, including the spa facilities. He was around 14 at the time, and despite some misgivings, came to greatly enjoy the massage – which I presume was not sexual. In the military he was stationed in Korea and quickly learned of the wonders of the AMP, and when finally stateside, he found similar businesses available. He was an odd and solitary guy, trying to get a job in law enforcement. I recall him talking dreamily: “The massage parlor is so much cheaper than being married, and where would I ever find a wife that would make me feel that good whenever I wanted?”
In the late ‘60’s, as the Viet Nam vets came back to the states, there were sad little reconstructions of AMP’s in areas such as Ponders, near Fort Lewis in Tacoma, for instance. As an occasional drinker in biker dives – out slumming – it was not uncommon for GI’s to brag of their exploits while on R&R in Saigon or the Philippines. This often revolved around AMP’s or strip joints that featured back room accommodations to entertain our heroic fighting men. Whatever country is fighting, all sides are involved in providing exploitable pleasure-dolls for the conscripts. What we would consider under-age in our genteel and judgmental culture is often irrelevant to the survival factor in countries shredded by military action.
Big John was not in the military. He married while in junior college and then set off on several jobs, none of which provided him with adventure. He settled early, had a couple kids, and now some grandkids. This whole episode is none of my business, and I am surprised at how I got recruited into advisory capacity. At the moment I have no idea what he is going to do. I know that he got a prescription one of the Viagra style drugs, but I’m not sure how he intends test drive the medicine. I have recurring images of his hulking hairy body in some thoroughly mismatched attempt with a randomly selected 20-something lady wearing nothing but a big smile, a few tattoos and a shaved pudendum. The contrast in expectations, experience, age, and physical condition could be hilarious. On her part it would probably be a routine episode ripe for opportunity to offer special services to empty his wallet. For him, it could be a difficult realization of the losses accompanying aging.
As a gym rat – I’ve been in gyms over 5,000 times – I have seen far too many naked men in the locker room. A young and fit athletic guy is to be admired, but the sagging, bulbous, hairy, stooped, aching older gents are not an attraction. All of these guys have some sort of sexual past – one plays like boogie woogie and another plays like Debussy, yet another has operatic climaxes and the other one doesn’t quite make it to the chorus of the first verse. There is no way to tell at a glance, and actually it is of little interest. It is an aspect of life that is private and ultimately sadly tragic as it all fails in maturity. At the very time of life it would be of most value, it is inaccessible.
I’ve met Big John’s wife – Dolores, I think – and she is suitably drab, in a floral housedress, standing in sandals next to her worn Toyota. She is built like a fire hydrant. There is a whiff of a glimpse of the buxom round-faced blossoming beauty she may have been back in those long ago days. The vision of Big John coming home this afternoon and taking her to the bedroom for a hurried shedding of clothes and an hour of sweaty, sighing passion would be a marvel to observe. We would have to turn our eyes from the spectacle. Mere poetry could not suffice to describe the amazing aspects of a lifetime of love and physically shared joy. Unfortunately I have been privy to the fact that they haven’t engaged in such activities in a decade or so. And now he is about to attempt a tantalizing infidelity for the sake of a promise, and this adventure seems ill fated.
Life in the Cul-de-sac
In the gym there is a hushed conversation. The storyteller is a lady in her 30’s, a bit of a fitness buff. I had no comment at the time, but it got me to thinking.
A friend of hers was arrested the other day. A couple of days before that arrest a pair of youngsters were involved in what may have been a sexual incident, behind a house in the cul-de-sac community.
The young lady involved was a child of about 10 or 11. The young man is about 13. It is unclear whether it was a rape consummated, or assault, or harassment, but some unfortunate and perhaps inappropriate activity occurred. The girl ran crying into the house with no pants on, wearing only her tiny little training bra.
The police were called: the bra seized as evidence, the clothes outside were gathered and statements taken. The young man – a boy, actually – is hauled off and questioned by the police and counselors. He was briefly placed in juvenile detention, and then released to his parent’s custody.
A couple days later a neighbor lady saw the boy walking by the scene. She was very disturbed by the incident, outraged in fact. She raced out of the house and started yelling at the young man. He paused as this adult ran up to him shrieking. I gather he attempted to apologize and smooth the episode over, but she will have none of that, and she whipped out a kitchen knife she had hidden, one arm behind her, and she stabbed the boy in the gut. Actually she inflicted an abdominal flesh wound and then cut his arm on the rewind.
She was under the impression that he was about to go back for second helping of rape with the vulnerable girl.
The cops were called, there’s a bit of blood, and a medic unit showed up. The boy is taken to a local hospital and there were some stitches, tetanus shot, etc. The wound could have been serious, but the wound was not life threatening. The lady was arrested and charged with assault with a deadly weapon. She was released on bail a few days later. She was calmed down with some counseling and medications, and was contrite and sorry. She has admitted that she over-reacted and had been prompted into such a rash act by an incident in her past.
The boy is back in school. He has no previous record, and is considered a good student and amenable to counseling and therapy. The girl now attends a different school and is in counseling. Her main concern is about the return of her little training bra. It had a little blue bow that seemed special to her. The lady with the knife is back at work as a shipping clerk.
Many wealthy citizens buy houses in gated cul-de-sac ‘communities’ because they are seeking security, safety, and sheltered solitude. There is an illusion that life will be calm and that children will be safe. Despite the close proximity of neighbors, there is often little actual community. Everyone works or attends school. Neighbors are not friends because there is little interaction. The computerized security gate may prevent theft, but it does not exclude aspects of common human behavior.
More news from Cul-de-sac Tribe
I used the above little episode as a form of handout a few years ago, when I was exhibiting regularly. One person told me his family’s similar story of living in the cul-de-sac.
His little family had a bit of an inheritance and they put that down on a charming house in a cul-de-sac. The payment rates were affordable at the time. Both he and his wife were working, and their daughter would attend the local high school that was thought to be significantly better. Unfortunately the daughter began hanging out with a group of fellow students that closely resembled the riff raff that had surrounded her in the previous school. The parents had hoped the change would lead to her becoming socially adjusted to the upper middle class lifestyle of the new location.
As she attended the high school the situation deteriorated, and she became surlier and was skipping school. The parents were both working. The parents found it almost impossible to become acquainted with their neighbors, on the one hand they were gone all day, and on the other, in contemporary society every household has different interests and actually have little in common aside from location.
The daughter became involved with a young man – a drop out, and this led to her giving him the security pass code for the main gate. Suddenly houses throughout the community were being entered, robbed, looted, and damaged. The daughter was informally keeping track of what times people came and went from their houses and relayed the information to her boyfriend. He and his buddies would break in and loot the house. After several incidents a security camera was set up and it became obvious who was involved in the break-ins. Once the culprits were nabbed it came to light that the daughter was supplying the information that enabled them to raid the houses with impunity.
As this was revealed, the family became pariahs; considered terrible parents and in some way involved in the incidents. The daughter promptly ran away, living with other youth in the adjacent city, location unknown. The parents would like to sell the house, but financing has proven to be impossible because the value of the house is about 40% less than the loan obligation, thus the sale price won’t cover their current loan. They are financially stuck in this neighborhood, surrounded by people that won’t even acknowledge their existence, let alone feign friendliness.
They were awakened late one night by shouting and shrieking next door. Peeking out they saw a fight between the next-door neighbors. A husband was vigorously beating his wife and she was putting up a pretty good fight. They called the cops and the fight was broken up and the participants were hauled off on domestic disturbance charges. However their intrusion into the squabble was universally unwelcome.
Across the circular drive, a gentleman they had waved to in the past suddenly lost his job. They had waved to him in passing but never spoken to him. He celebrated the unfortunate freedom from work by going in the back bedroom and blew his brains out. The widow and children now live in the grandparent’s basement.
These are just a few examples of the peace, quiet, and joyous life in the suburbs.
The Virgin Birth?
A couple of years ago, in the gym I was told that one of my co-lifters was in ‘big trouble’. He was one of the local “tuffs”. To be “tuff” in Gig Harbor involves a form of improvisational street theater that consists of driving around in a loud Honda coupe, with blaring rap music, wearing baggy clothes and drinking beer out of a can. This pretense wouldn’t last two seconds in Compton or Detroit or even in parts of Seattle.
A sixteen year old young lady couldn’t get her father’s car to start in the church parking lot, and accepted a ride graciously offered by a couple of these ruffians. Evidently the young men decided it would be an enhancement of their outlaw status to terrorize, assault, and perhaps rape this virginal maiden (a church youth group leader and A student).
I will call the young lady Sarah. Her father is a deacon – some sort of honorary official in a large evangelical church. A very proper and erect gentleman, dedicated to good works, and also an insurance salesman. When he heard of the car difficulty he called a fellow parishioner, a mechanic, to please stop by and see what the problem might be with the car. There is a spare key hidden in the front bumper. When the mechanic got to the car it started instantly and he could detect no problem.
At the time, the incident merited a shrug. The car was fine, who knows why it wouldn’t start – maybe not fully in Park, or an ignition switch becoming intermittent. Not cause for alarm. However, a few months later, Sarah has missed a couple of periods and she furtively went to the doctor feeling queasy. In a matter of moments the doctor determined that Sarah was pregnant.
A couple of months later she was beginning to show, and she announced the fact to her parents. Her behavior had been noticeably deteriorating for a while. Suddenly she was caught smoking, and she had been quite broody, uncharacteristically silent and uninvolved in her previously active participation in school and church activities. The parents were aghast at the announcement and Sarah was not at all forthcoming about how this came to be.
The Deacon engaged a local cop to investigate. The cop is a church member. Sarah refused to answer questions or incriminate anyone, however the suspicion landed on the local “tuffs”. Both before and after the presumed conception they had been involved in minor nuisance charges. They are certainly visible. Sarah refused to charge them with rape. A bit of background questioning of her fellow students revealed that she had not been known to be dating or friendly with any fellow students. It had become obvious to all that she is quite pregnant.
The deacon arranged to have a ‘professional’ troubled teens counselor meet with Sarah. The counselor was from the mega-church franchise main branch. The counseling sessions did not go well, and Sarah refused to continue. The parents had very reluctantly discussed the option of abortion with Sarah, but by the time they had come to a bit of flexibility in their severe pro-life ideology it was a bit late for an abortion, and Sarah had already decided to have the baby.
Sarah had spent some weeks each summer with relatives in Idaho. The Aunt and Uncle had a small ranch, a couple of horses; some chickens, raising a beef annually. It was mutually decided that Sarah would go live with the Aunt until the child was born. This change of venue was a relief for the parents – out of sight out of mind. Sarah had become increasingly sullen and difficult. She had quit attending school and abandoned the church.
Sarah has refused DNA testing throughout the pregnancy and after the birth. She has also refused to return home, and has settled in with the Aunt and has found a part time job in a local shopping mall. She has never revealed who the father was, and has no intention of returning to her parent’s house, although they send some support money every month.
Shortly after the two “tuffs” were questioned and, in effect, accused of rape, the parents of one accomplice shipped him off to live with strict Mormon relatives in Utah. He has not been heard of since. The other “tuff”, the one I’m slightly acquainted with, has continued in his swaggering and erratic behavior. His Honda Coupe was seriously creased on one side in a drunken escapade, and he now has a dramatically clad post-punk style girlfriend. He seems to have stopped working out in the gym. He has put on about 30# around the belly and is busily filling in a set of ‘full sleeves’ of tattoos.
Episode #5 Big Bill
The other day I had to go into town for fasting blood work tests. As an elderly professional diabetic this is an annual pilgrimage. The tests don’t seem to reveal anything of consequence, but it does involve leaving the house sans breakfast, coffee etc, and by the time the ceremony is over I am starving, and my blood sugar is rapidly declining; so I am hungry, ill at ease, a bit dizzy and quite grouchy. On the way home I stop in a neighborhood café, a type of place that is rapidly disappearing. McDonalds is filled, but this little place has plenty of well-worn seating and nicely sticky tables. The traditional food is actually cooked by humans. It is so traditional that I can order biscuits & gravy with eggs over easy, and an Americano with an extra shot.
During my brief time as a cook on a tugboat (feeding 8) I had to quickly learn how to fix biscuits and gravy. It was not a staple in our house. In Nome, Mother would occasionally have some gravy left over from roast game (duck, goose) and the gravy would be poured over corn bread or re-heated French Fries. In the cooking of breakfast sausage or grilling burgers there are often bits and pieces and these can be scraped off the griddle and stored for a day or two. I would then take a pound of butter and render some roux. I would add the crispy chunks with perhaps several shredded and scorched sausage patties to the flour/milk/ roux ‘gravy’, and season with pepper. The biscuits would be fist sized from Bisquick. It was a very popular item. When I see it on the menu I often succumb to the temptation and order the platter. However in this century I think the ‘gravy’ comes in a five-gallon bucket and the cook just heats up a glob.
At a diner I frequented in college it was biscuits & gravy every Thursday – lots of sausage and thick gravy. Thursday morning was B&G and woe betide the man that didn’t want that. Guys would leave the house saying “Ah gee dear, I’m not hungry this morning so I‘ll just pick up something on the way to work.” The place was packed on B&G day. The diner I’m patronizing today is serving very ordinary biscuits & gravy; but it is a recipe in which the standards are not very high, at worst it is edible and at best it will put a pound on you (it is sometimes referred to as ‘heart attack on a platter’).
The scraggly looking young man serving had to make 3 trips to get the meal to my table, first it is the food, then he forgot the utensils, and then he had to wander around to find a catsup squeeze bottle. I leaf through the ‘Little Nickel’ and wolf down this undistinguished ordinary classic breakfast. As I slowly finish mopping up of the last of the gravy I sip coffee and look around at the other diners.
Most are regulars, local repeat customers, and are a bit paunchy. In contrast to the silence in fast food emporiums there is quite a bit of banter – “Hey Tim, how ya’ doin’ ?“ ”Is Jim out of the hospital yet?” “Want your regular?” People get up and get their own coffee refills, load their own plastic doggy boxes and so on. The dingy, busy environment reminds me of other places I would occasionally frequent long ago. There were a lot of little diners like this before corporate enterprises put most out of business. This place could be transferred to Nome and fit right in, neither better nor worse.
I sit and sip coffee before getting up and bussing my own dishes in the bins. I look across the room and this plump and sagging gent looks familiar in his grey hair, ratty baseball cap, checked shirt, suspenders, baggy pants, and very worn shoes.
It gradually dawned on me that he used to work at UPS, in another department, and that our paths there would cross occasionally. That was 20 years ago. Suddenly he looked up and our eyes met. He sort of recognized me, and we both nod a bit of a greeting in acknowledgment. At that moment I can’t remember his name, or what he did – something in the maintenance department. I sat staring at my coffee a little longer and get up to leave, and as I turned around from the bussing station he made a slight invitational hand wave.
I had to walk past his booth anyway, so I paused to greet him, figuring it will only take a moment and it is the polite and social thing to do. He waved his hand toward the empty seat across the table, so I sat and we begin to chat. I have been 12 years out of that job and he left a couple years later. He wants to exchange gossip about that ‘hellhole’, but I haven’t set foot in the place and have done my damndest to forget the entire 30 years wasted there. He was full of chatter about people I can’t remember or never knew.
He mentioned that his wife, Beth, died shortly after he retired. They had long planned to get a used motor home and travel, but just a few months after he quit, she started complaining about gut aches and fatigue. She hated going to the doctor, hadn’t seen one in years, but she finally eased her body into the doctor’s office and underwent about 100 tests. She had massive cancerous tumor growths all through her abdomen. It was inoperable, but she gamely went through treatment, lost her hair, turned yellow, and died within months. He had to take care of her; bathing, wiping her bottom, rolling her over to prevent bed sores, rubbing cream into her skin, and so on.
He was getting a bit teary talking about ‘Old Beth’. “She was one of those 3G women that are hard to find.” ‘3G’ stands for Good, Giving, and Game, which translates as pleasant and relatively virtuous, generous in time and attention, and ready to go along with whatever the game turned out to be.
I met Beth 3 or 4 times at UPS functions. A stocky square built lady, probably quite a foxy female in her tender youth. She had that low raspy ‘whiskey and cigarettes’ voice, a loud laugh, and a bit of a naughty mouth. She certainly filled a bra: could have put books on that shelf. She seemed to be an earthy, outgoing sort of person. I can sympathize with his loss, although I had no idea what their relationship history may have been.
Bill wants to talk to someone this morning, a peer that hasn’t heard all about it before, and I’m the guest or the victim of the recitation of his poignant history. Briefly – he is alone and lonely. During the several months of Beth’s illness he became the resident help. She wanted to die at home, and there was little hired help available. He started in as caretaker with some reluctance but as it progressed, it became a very meaningful activity. It brought them together in a manner that had been missing. As it became apparent that she was dying and was not going to recover, he could at least make her more comfortable; adjust the pillows, provide oily massages, bathe her, monitor her status, sit and talk, and admire her bravery in the face of death.
As the inevitable end approached, Beth became significantly weaker and Bill’s chores became more complicated and required more lifting. Beth could no longer sit up in a chair, or walk to the bathroom, for instance. Bill was 66 at this time, and his back began bothering him, and sciatica in the right leg developed, coupled with carpal tunnel problems, reducing the strength of his grip. While he was out on a shopping trip, she expired. He missed her passing, and spent months in mourning depression with reduced physical abilities.
Bill’s doctor suggested that he might benefit from some therapeutic massage to relieve the sciatic pain. Bill had fond memories of his attempts at massaging Beth – she enjoyed his ministrations despite his ignorance in technique. He began going to a Massage establishment located in a mini-mall a mile or so away. It was part of an adjacent chiropractic clinic. Every couple of weeks he would receive treatment, however after a few visits the Therapy Center changed ownership and became more of a spa, with a wider variety of services. In his view it was becoming frou-frou and woman oriented. He became uncomfortable about his attendance although his sciatica continued to inhibit his walking.
Beth and Bill had occupied the house for 20 years, their two kids went to high school, and one of them went on to college, tuition free at UPS. One is now back east happily married and the other, his son, is lazing about down in northern California involved in some marijuana growing enterprise. Bill doesn’t approve, but what can he do? His son is living with a very unusual lady: she makes the movie star that played Olive Oyl look voluptuous. They have been a couple for several years. Bill just doesn’t get it; she’s nice, but incredibly thin. “You could whittle a more voluptuous figure out of a yardstick.”
As the kids abandoned the nest, Bill and Beth got a dog and fenced the yard. The evening drill was that he would walk the leashed dog as dinner was being prepared. He would set out, rain or shine, umbrella, heavy coat, or shorts and tennies. Whatever the weather he and the dog went on the constitutional, and he’d talk to the dog about his day, about the damned boss, that crappy job, the idiots he had to put up with, politics, and plans for the future. On the way home he would have a plastic bag of warm dog poop in his pocket – his reward.
Several months after Beth passed, the dog escaped the yard. The fence had become quite weathered and frail. The dog had never been out of the yard unleashed and unsupervised. The dog was hit by a car within a hundred yards of the hole in the fence. Bill hauled the carcass to the local vet, but the dog had to be put down. Now he was really alone.
Every aspect of the house reminded him of better times, when life had some order and made sense. He and Beth had planned on traveling but he didn’t want to travel alone. A realtor that was a neighbor down the block approached him and offered to take care of the sale of the house. In very short order the house was sold for almost twice its appraised value.
A nice young family moved in. This was just before the entire economy crashed. Bill didn’t want to carry the contract so he took the money and bought CD’s at 4% at the bank that financed the deal. A few months later this proved to be the best investment he would ever make. Before a year had passed the nice young family had lost the house, the realtor had lost his house, several former neighbors were – and still are – in foreclosure of one sort or another.
He now lives in an apartment building often occupied by students. It is a small apartment but he has been there for several years and has become acquainted with a few of the other residents, all much younger. None of them expect to live there long – they are starting life as adults and he is at the other end of a lifetime. He has become quite fond of some of his fellow apartment dwellers. However, a month or so ago there were police swarming the place. Amber, one of his favorite fellow tenants was in a domestic abuse altercation. Amber’s boyfriend had been in several forms of trouble, and in this instance he was drugged or drunk or just obstreperous and bruised the young lady. The young man stormed out, only to be intercepted shortly thereafter by the police.
Amber decided to go live with a friend, Diana, to recreate her life and find another place to live. As a lovely young lady she will soon find a new beau. This was all very sudden, and, damned fool that Bill may be, he offered to help her move. Many boxes had to go down three flights of stairs into to awaiting vehicles. She had recruited a couple of additional porters and fueled them with pizza and beer.
Bill was coming up on 70 and while he still felt hale and hearty, by the end of the move he began to feel pain in his back and leg, despite the mystic curative powers of delivered pizza. The next day he was in significant pain in the small of the back and the sciatic nerve running down the right leg was excruciating. Despite the Advil and Aleve and Aspirin, he once again started thinking about massage. The place he attended several years ago is now a lady’s fitness spa, but not far away is a small occupational therapy massage parlor. The suggested treatment was $50, which seems reasonable considering the level of pain.
There was none of the hot stone, acupuncture, candles, and soft music ambiance. The masseuse gave him very vigorous, deep, and painful workouts. After several sessions he was feeling significantly better, but he continued the treatments. One afternoon after the hamstring/buttocks procedure, he rolled over for the front thigh treatment. He was embarrassed because somehow he was confronted with an obvious erection – the first in many months, years perhaps. He had no idea he was still capable of such a display. The masseuse is a lady in her late 30’s, pleasant looking, but not a beauty, but she has, of course, seen similar phenomena before. She said, “I’ll take care of that for you, if you wish.” Before he could decide what to say, she had the towel off him and proceeded to apply creamy lubricant and stroked it up into as stiff a rod as he’s had in decades, and soon he shot off a load in the air. He is excited – surprised. He had no reason to expect the handjob, no reason to think that it would be possible.
As he dressed to leave, she said, “I don’t usually perform that service, but I saw your need and was glad to help you with it, but normally I charge an additional $50 for that service. If you want it in the future, schedule a bit more time and expect the extra fee.” Bill was suddenly confronted with a slight problem, his leg was still bothering him a bit, but now he has two legs bothering him, one short and stubby, and the other to walk with.
Bill decided to continue with the treatments for a while. The extra expense was manageable, and the pleasure of it undeniable. After several episodes she offered to introduce him to a special ‘prostrate massage’. This would involve crouching face down on the massage table, with his ass in the air. She would wear gloves and with lubed fingers slid into his anus she would gently exert rhythmic pressure on the prostrate gland. Her other hand would be slowly massaging his erect penis, dangling down. It is similar to milking a cow teat. His discharge would be onto a folded towel. He is tempted as this may be utterly, exquisitely, exciting.
I’m not shocked by this talk, but he is clearly concerned. He assures me that he never cheated on his wife. He was almost a virgin when they married, and she was likewise close to being a virgin. They were happily married for 50+ years and they had what he thought was a full and rich physical experience. It never occurred to him that a woman, his wife, might give him a hand-job and he had never heard of a prostrate massage. Suddenly he is upset and unexpectedly lonely and horny. For all the mutual fondness in the marriage he is now wondering what did he miss? What could they have done? What else were they too uninformed, or reticent, or too hesitant to attempt? He has been awakened in his apartment by the energetic rutting in other rooms. He has heard the shrieking, laughing, grunting, and the bed bouncing, slamming the wall in youthful exuberance. He can’t remember making that much noise with Beth. “These kids today sure know how to have fun.”
After Beth’s death several friends arranged introductions to what they thought might be suitable ladies for him to get acquainted with. There are far more widows than widowers. None of these elderly women were of interest at the time. He didn’t want to discuss flower gardens, diets, operations, and adult children, or grand or even great grandchildren. He was still in mourning – still in a bit of mourning now, several years later. The idea of ‘dating’ and potentially becoming physically friendly with these frail silver haired women just seemed wrong; indecent in fact.
We had entered the realm of chatting ‘mano y mano’ regarding a very personal matter. It is a topic that is rarely discussed. What is an old fart with failing strength and flagging interests to do? What is an old man’s role in life while awaiting death? What, if anything, is to replace the enthusiasms of youth? The old philosophical cliché: ‘A life unexamined is a life not worth living’ is often trotted out as if this was a guide to defined action, but a detailed examination may reveal that the life is not worth a tinker’s damn. Whatever thin gruel of pleasures available for the elderly may be, they may not bear the light of examination – that which one would like to do is probably not possible, mentally, physically, or emotionally. When and if we pause to reflect upon a life well spent, we often find ourselves envious of those that apparently gave life damned little thought, and simply plowed a deep but ragged furrow. If we believe that a life may bear examination, does that mean that death might also need to be examined?
Big Bill and I worked as strangers for the same institution for about 20 years, but in a brief chat in a café, I am suddenly enmeshed in his life. He was troubled and willing to chat about it with a familiar stranger – as unemployed old farts we have things in common. At the moment, he is concerned about the legality of the massage services he has encountered. I don’t have any specific experience to relate, however in my research into the tales of the brothels that were common in the 1800’s through WWII it seems his fears are a bit overblown. After all there are, and long have been, the so-called Asian Massage Parlors that surround nearby military bases, and these humble facilities offer a variety of pleasurable soapy rubdowns and related full-on sexual entertainment. While his current provider is a fully licensed professional therapeutic massage practitioner, there is probably no legal restriction on activities regarding consensual treatments behind closed doors. Were she to place a large sign in the window complications could be created.
At UPS there was briefly an instructor in the School of OT & PT that had a bit of notoriety in the gossip channels. She was a short, outspoken and energetic woman that was conducting ‘Sexual Therapy for the Handicapped’ seminars. She had created her own little booklets, complete with rather amateurish drawings of masturbatory techniques, for instance. Advanced students could sign up for training in the field of Sexual Therapy, and this was a bit of a scandal – young ladies learning to become escorts etc. At this point I wish I had kept one of the booklets as a memento. A movie was recently regarding a young man permanently bed ridden that didn’t want to die a virgin and delegated his mother to find a woman to introduce him to the sensual delights. This is an unfortunate but not unusual situation for an increasing number of individuals living with a wide variety of handicaps. Many wounds, injuries and illnesses in the past killed quickly and surely. Today’s medicine enables survivors to live extended lives: often with seriously circumscribed interaction with others. Opportunities for developing physically intense relationships, even attaining minimal privacy, can be very difficult for the bedridden or for those hooked up to monitoring equipment. Some care facilities try to maintain a community atmosphere for social interactions, but physical romance or mutual sex play is suppressed. While randy free-range teen-agers seem to figure out the physical aspects, instruction and practice may be needed for many of the disabled, paralyzed, or limbless individuals. When Mortimer Snerd, the ventriloquist dummy, was asked if he’d like to sit down in front at the theater he replied: “Gee I don’t think I bend that way.”
Bill had not given such matters any thought whatsoever. Was his masseuse a trained Sexual Therapist or Sex Surrogate? He had no idea. He assumed that a licensed LMT had some sort of professional code, but what did it permit? My guess would be that some LMT’s may engage in these service opportunities and others will not. No doubt there is some controversy regarding such quality of life enhancement treatments. Our fellow citizens with rigid moral or political alignments will object – in their view, tax money should not be spent on providing pleasure to a bunch of handicapped retards in the state funded care facilities. This would be similar to the uproar surrounding sex education or birth control provisions for teenagers. Natural urges are to be suppressed and pleasure is to be controlled, and postponed. People are not animals; the natural expressions are to be socially acceptable and moderate in urgency and expression. The physically challenged should spare us the embarrassment of their clumsy inabilities and be denied the opportunity to express such basic needs. This includes the elderly, who may be suffering from multiple inabilities – some are apparent and others may have emerged so slowly as to be invisible.
God put us here on earth to suffer. We live, we die: life for many is often full of pain and discomfort. A Buddhist proverb: ‘Pain is inevitable, suffering is not’. All of us have unknown and often undetermined capacities. We have the potential to become characters within our capacities, but at any point in time the sum of our latent abilities are minus whatever happened to us: whatever ensnared and reduced us to our present state. We become whatever we settle for through factors such as boredom, age, illness, genetics, previous unfortunate decisions, or chaos that may be either internally or externally created. There is also the context of the society we inhabit. For a Viking or pirate, the measure of a man was defined by his ability to rape and plunder. In our current society that sort of behavior is reserved for soldiers, but the vast supply of sexual imagery and pornography that permeates many aspects of life has increased expectations in the young.
Bill mentioned some of the changes that have occurred. He is puzzled, confused and feels entirely out of it. His apartment house has many college students as tenants. Recently he was out back placing his garbage in the dumpster. The young adults living there are not noted for their concern with neatness, and there is frequently a bit of trash scattered and milling in the wind. A short time ago Bill noticed some ‘girly’ magazines on the ground – magazines similar to those that created havoc in Steven’s household when the issues were found in Heather’s bedroom.
Bill bent over, picked them up, and casually leafed through them. He was embarrassed to have them. He was afraid someone would see him looking at the naughty bits. He furtively rolled them up and took them back to his apartment to further his studies. He had seen Playboy in magazine racks but had never bought one. These somewhat frayed copies of ‘Barely Legal’, ‘Purely 18’, or ‘Panty Play’ were an eye opener for him. All these incredibly young looking ladies – kids, in his mind – posing provocatively, fondling their bodies. In some features, somewhat older gents with enormous schlongs are ravishing the delicate young ladies. What the hell is that all about? There was simply nothing that explicit available in his youth and now it is everywhere.
Bill is certainly not alone in his confused reflection upon the presentation of sexuality and the very limited experience that he had in his long life. That sort of activity, lust in general, is now long in the past. It was a good life, settled and a bit staid. It never occurred to him to encourage his wife to participate in a threesome, or anal, or vibrator dildos. She didn’t suggest such experiments and looking back he wonders now what her response would have been. Should he have been more aggressive in encouraging variety in sexual activities? How would he have done that when he had no idea that people actually could fit together that way? Wouldn’t some of the depicted activities be uncomfortable at the least? It didn’t seem right or necessary. After all they had been deeply fond of one another, and they managed to have two kids. Wasn’t that what they were supposed to do? Are the girls and guys in the magazine simply momentarily diverted with the novelty of it all? Will this sexualized younger generation end up with the same end result: a calm and fond marriage?
Big Bill’s close observation of the magazines yielded another topic. The young ladies have shaved their naughty parts, occasionally leaving a small decorative patch – a ‘V’ or ‘Star’ or little mustache. He had no idea that women would do such a thing or that it had become fashionable. He remembers a couple discussions with his wife regarding female shaving. When she first went to work, in the early 70’s, as they were courting, she got a prized job with a local manufacturer. Her job was front office receptionist/file clerk and she dressed appropriately in blouse, skirt, and pantyhose. She had to shave her legs and armpits. It was customary at the time. It was a nuisance, a chore. When she transferred to working in the assembly/production area that paid more, she wore blue slacks and shirts provided by a laundry service. She became very intermittent regarding the shaved legs and armpits. Only shaving for dress up occasions once or twice a year. Bill didn’t mind, as long as she was happy.
When they first married he was so inexperienced about women that he was unaware that women actually grew hair that had to be shaved, he was surprised that women were not hairless. Of course she had a wonderful little pubic bush that was one of the joys of intimacy, toying with that tactility. It had not occurred to him, and perhaps not to her either, that the bush could be shaved. It might be trimmed a bit to be invisible in a bathing suit but not shaved clean. Until he found the magazines he had no idea what a vagina looked like. He admits that he was never curious about it either. Most young men just urgently want to get up in there, to hell with the details.
The men in the magazines are often shaved as well, frequently with only a bit of body hair on the chest. I have been involved in gyms and around aspiring bodybuilders and I am thus familiar with the men’s shaving ordeal that involves recruiting a helper or girlfriend to shave the back and other unreachable areas. Some guys find the growing out process very uncomfortable, prickly and pimply, and they may continue the body shave for decades. I’m told that some females prefer the smooth clean body revealing the muscles. I’m also told that other women are quite fond of men’s irregular distribution of body hair. Some men are quite hairy and literally have a pelt. It is a genetic trait.
Many Spas provide depilatory services. There are several hair removal techniques. In the past 20 years or so a heated wax technique has become popular. It is commonly referred to as a ‘Brazilian’. The thick layer of the cooled wax is yanked off the skin removing the hair. I’m told that this is quite painful at first. There is also a laser light beam unit that kills the hair follicles. This is irritating and done in small patches. There are also depilatory creams that remove hair, and of course, there are various types of razors.
Just a bit of research leads to various genital interventions. To my surprise, and I’m sure to Big Bill’s dismay, quite a sizeable number of young demure damsels are paying a premium for vaginal improvement surgery. In some publications the view of the vagina is modified via Photoshop, an easy matter to clean up the vagina by editing the labia lips out of existence or re-tinting them to a lighter flesh tone. This has led self-selected sexually active females to have plastic surgery on these delicate body parts to render the lips smaller, symmetrical and decorative. It has long been possible to have the vagina tightened for a snugger fit, to enhance the sexual sensation. This is occasionally undertaken after childbirth.
Both Big Bill and I are elderly and there is little likelihood that we will ever see a vagina again unless heaven or hell is decorated with them. In our prime it never occurred to us to criticize the aesthetics of an available vagina. Now that vaginas are featured in magazines and porn films we can but wonder: has some group of young men become connoisseurs of the artfully trimmed? Have they decided that the plain old natural vagina is in some way objectionable to their sexual appetites? Have they decided that they are simply not going there? How many men are making comments about how ugly and deformed an individual’s labia seems to be? Are the women undergoing surgery because of rude comments regarding their natural appearance?
By and large, men are ignorant rude low-life, but it will be a shock to no one that the dialogue amongst unsupervised males is often crudely judgmental. The vaginal naughty bits are privileged territory and are only available for assessment to the few intimately invited. Women’s breastworks are covered but apparent, and often the topic of ribaldry among aesthetically sophisticated casual male observers. A significant number of nubile women undergo various surgeries to adjust the size or alignment of their cleavage. Most commonly they are enlarged, quite often very significantly. Some women have their natural sizes reduced because carrying around large breasts can be a chore and result in neck, back, and shoulder pains. Gravity has an effect on the breasts and some women decide to have them surgically lifted to create a more youthful or comfortable profile.
Several years ago I worked out in a gym that was frequented by a college swim team. Their workouts were quite different than mine. They were creating a trim lean muscularity. I would see members of the team occasionally. I became very slightly acquainted with Estelle; a rather small but very fit young lady. Weeks or months would go by without our workouts coinciding. When she graduated, her training for the swim team ceased and she was no longer in the gym frequently. One fine summer day she was back, transformed. She had a ‘boob job’ for a graduation present and had gone from a rather flat-chest to wearing a pair of cantaloupe. Even I couldn’t help but just stare. I have no idea what her aspirations or goals in life were – don’t even know what she was studying, but apparently one of her dreams was to be strikingly voluptuous. One of my co-lifters said: “A whole lot of sail on that little skiff.” In her pneumatic glory she soon disappeared from our gym, probably off to the big city with her new degree and fresh pulchritude.
Surgical enhancements have become quite common. In past decades the primary appearance enhancement was ‘nose jobs’. Young ladies that won the genetic blessing of a beak-like proboscis could have it reduced to the classic ‘Irish’ turned up little button nose. Sometimes this would look out of place with the rest of the features. Facelifts have become more sophisticated and detailed. Even middle class ladies such as Karen’s sister can afford to have a facelift for a more youthful appearance. Body contouring has also become common, often done with liposuction that removes a layer of fat, often around the tummy or ‘love handles’.
Different regions of the world prefer various types of treatments. In the USA the first choice is Botox injections to smooth facial wrinkles, and breast enhancement, but in Brazil it is often buttock enhancement and reshaping. In Korea and Japan there are eyelid treatments to make the eyes appear to be more Western. In the Far East there are also operations for lengthening the legs. The operation must be quite an ordeal: the bones are cut and a gap created. The legs are held in place; full of pins, and a stretcher device holds the legs at the new length until the bone grows over the internal stretcher plates and screws. Months of agony result in several inches of additional leg length. Those that feel their face to be too round can have jaw surgery to narrow the lower face for a more almond shape.
The USA, Europe and Australia lead the way in vaginal trimming, but in some religious groups – Islamic generally – there is brutal vaginal cutting of young girls, cutting away the clitoris and labia. This has a long history and is very slowly being suppressed, although it continues to maim many thousands in surreptitious and crudely executed mutilations within the religious community, often in temples, done by non-professional but experienced practitioners, sometimes with a used razor blade, or broken glass. This is perpetuated through a tangled web of religious belief in the necessity of controlling or eliminating lustful activities, and the male privilege enforcing a joyless loyalty. The victims often are left with serious scarring, lack of physical pleasure, leaking urethra, and difficulties in childbirth from scar tissue.
Men are not immune to body modifications. Many get liposuction, hair implants, Botox, or body hair eliminated. Male models and bodybuilders often have cosmetic surgery to enhance the display of abs, biceps, and calf muscles. Until very recently in the Western cultures, circumcision was universal, supposedly for compliance with religious traditions or in response to largely fictional cleanliness issues. Evolution devised a nicely functioning penis and trimming part of it away seems counter-productive. Some men, aspiring porn stars, have their scrotum tightened to eliminate droopy balls flailing about in the sex act.
There have been recent procedures for men to gain penis size through several types of operations. There have also been several patent medicines that are advertised as penis growth supplements. The fact is that none of these claims have been subjected to rigorous scientific testing and happen to be untrue, but wishful thinking continues. Most men are incapable of fully participating in the sex act by the time they are around 60 or so. Despite all the anecdotal chatter about men in their 80’s remaining randy old goats, the evidence of this isolated performance is damned slim. If this anomaly does in fact exist it doesn’t seem to have led to treatment for those that have already got a dead soldier in their shorts.
For those that feel that an erection is absolutely necessary for their self-esteem, there is an operation in which two flexible inflatable tubes are inserted lengthwise in the penis, and a small air pump is installed in the scrotum. With rigorous pumping the semblance of an erection can be created – an erection that will last until the release valve is activated. The performance reports are mixed. On the one hand it is certainly an erection, and on the other it is generally unsatisfactory because sensation is dramatically reduced. Yes, the gentleman can have some activity resembling sex, but he will feel little if anything.
There is also a vacuum pump device that will yield an erection of sorts, coupled with a contracting ‘cock ring’ to maintain the erection for a few minutes. The vacuum devices are often advertised as a penis enlargement device, which is probably momentarily effective. The vacuum process is uncomfortable to the point of painful, and the cock ring prevents the blood from circulating and is uncomfortable to the verge of painful as well. The erection can, in fact, enable some sexual activity, but the penis is about as sensitive as a sore knee. Most men acquire the pump with high hopes, but after a few unsatisfactory and uncomfortable episodes, they give up in despair. A lifetime of involuntary celibacy is the result.
For gentlemen who are still somewhat functional there are the widely advertised ED medications such as Viagra, Cialis etc. These are somewhat effective during the transitional phase between fully and enthusiastically satisfactory erections and the inevitable dead soldier that leads to solitary morbidity. The ED medications have side effects: achy and insensitive erections coupled with headaches, dizziness, sometimes blurred vision, mouth dryness, etc. Statistically most men find the side effects and the very temporary performance enhancement simply not worth the couple’s mutual frustration as the man’s libido and ability collapses over a matter of several months or a couple years. Patients renew the prescriptions (at $30 a pill) a few times and then resign themselves to their sexless fate. Thus the advertising is relentless as there is no lifetime commitment to the products. New suckers must be recruited constantly to keep the corporate profits in the 50% range. There are also hundreds of bogus supplements containing various vitamin and herbal concoctions. Since there are no regulations regarding ‘natural’ supplements these products can make wildly optimistic lies with impunity.
Most men have significantly reduced testosterone by 40, and many have next to no testosterone by age 60. Personally I have become an expert in testosterone supplementation because of my endless workout schedule at the gym. As a man of 55 I found that the addition of testosterone by injection is the equivalent of getting the windshield cleaned, the world is a brighter and more entertaining spectacle. It does not restore damaged sexual performance, but it does improve the quality of life generally. I have spoken to quite a number of gentlemen about testosterone therapy, but they have each decided that they are not interested, and as the years have gone by their dour view of life and physical deterioration simply continues. This is ‘free’ under Medicare, but they cannot be bothered.