Thursday, May 19, 2005

SHAME! (I'm gonna live forever...)

I was raised with a great deal of shame surrounding sex and nudity and my physical habitus in general. We were very modest people when it came to bodily functions. I can remember being scolded severely for walking in on my father in the bathroom, though I have no memory whatsoever of his being undressed--I don't think he was. I think he was fully clothed, and shaving. But in the bathroom and therefore off-limits to my four-year-old eyes.

Or maybe I startled him and he nearly cut his own throat, but the point is, we didn't do the nude thing. Bathtime was for getting clean--there was no splashing or blowing bubbles or enjoying the feel of the warm, soapy water against bare skin. Swimsuits were strictly one-piece, and as soon as I developed the nearest thing to the beginnings of breasts, they included the thickest, most resilient built-in bra my mother could find. On an nine-year-old.

Yeah, it was a look.

I can recall being sent from the room each time my infant cousin had his diaper changed, lest I spy what made little boys different from little girls before my psyche was ready to handle the information. Who knew what might happen to an twelve-year-old who'd seen a two-month-old penis, after all? Surely promiscuity, teenaged pregnancy and prostitution couldn't be far behind.

Does it surprise anyone that I rebelled? Could any thinking person truly be shocked that micro-bikinis became my swimsuits of choice as soon as I left for college? That in my senior year, I was called before the Dean of Students for skinny-dipping in the lake just off campus? THREE TIMES?? That I married a man who thinks nothing of coming to the breakfast table bare-assed as the day he was born, and has only recently agreed, with the growing embarrassment of our seven-year-old daughter, to at least don shorts for the morning meal?

Given what we know about human psychology, it shouldn't. But something happened the other day that tested even my very elastic shame boundaries--and I surprised myself. Apparently, those boundaries are even more stretchy than I'd thought they were, and I'm still trying to decide if this is a good thing.

I was carrying a couple of large, heavy boxes filled with discarded toys and clothes out to the garage for temporary storage. So I'm headed down the sidewalk with the bins. The one on top is sort of sliding around, and the lid isn't on very tightly, and I can hear the toys rattling inside, and I really don't want it to fall, because some of the stuff inside is breakable...but my sweats are beginning to slide down my hips...

I should note that I've recently lost some weight, and these sweats have always been a little big on me. I should also note that I only wear underwear on very special occasions.

It's a race against time and gravity. Can I get to the garage before either my pants fall to my knees or I have to drop the box on the sidewalk? Because I can't stop and bend or squat to PLACE it on the sidewalk...will lose the pants for SURE, then.

I almost made it. Would have, too, if SOMEBODY hadn't LOCKED the side door, necessitating a quick left turn onto the driveway at the last possible moment...where I came face-to-ermmmm...NOT-face with Mr. B, a nice, elderly gentleman of my acquaintance, collecting his mail at the end of HIS driveway, some sixty feet away. I dropped...NAY, THREW both boxes down, grabbed my pants, yanked them up, picked up the boxes and went about my business.

But the shame...the SHAME...the shame I just...didn't...feel for some strange reason...

I mean, yes, I feel badly that I may--or may not--have startled and embarrassed our neighbor. He didn't react, which means either he didn't see (hard to believe--you had to be there) or he's too much of a gentleman to even acknowledge my faux pas.

But actual shame about the fact that I accidentally exposed myself? Not so much. In fact, I have quite a bit more shame about having made the kids skip Little League practice last night because we were all too cranky and tired to deal.

What does this say about me? Am I deficient, or healthy? Have I swung too far in the other direction in response to what I KNOW was unhealthy in my upbringing?

I'm askin'...

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Inauguration Day

Hello. My name is Selah, and I'm a smut-writer.

Now, see, if this were a Twelve-Step meeting? All of the rest of you would say, "Hi, Selah," and then I would tell you how long it had been since I'd last written smut (six hours, forty-seven minutes at the time of this Inaugural Posting) and talk about the point in my smut-writing career at which I'd hit rock-bottom (frankly, it hasn't happened yet, but check back after I've received the highly anticipated rejection on the novella I submitted to a sought-after NYC editor...10 months ago and counting.)

Then I would get a little plastic chip thingy, and all of you would clap and be very supportive, and we would drink coffee and go home. But if this were a Twelve-Step meeting, the rest of you would be smut-writers, too, and I'm assuming that's not entirely the case, is it?

Well? Is it? Don't be shy. Nobody likes to be the lone perv in the room.

You think I'm being flippant, but really, not so much. There are whole, vast communities of people in which the writing (and reading) of smut--or erotica/Romantica™/erotic romance, if you prefer--is considered at least as troubling and problematic as alcoholism or drug addiction, and sometimes more so. Many, many folks think what I do is the moral equivalent of prostitution. That's why so many authors of erotica and erotic romance--particularly female authors--use pen names. I do.

Someday, when my kids are grown, perhaps I'll proclaim in my own name that it takes just as much skill, grammar, blood, sweat and tears to write a sex scene that moves plot and reveals character as it does to write a chase scene, a grand ballroom scene, or a zombie attack scene that accomplishes the same goals. Someday, perhaps someone will explain to me why the realistic depiction of violent death is more morally acceptable than the equally realistic depiction of an act that often leads to birth. Someday, perhaps NASA will invent a gadget that will once and for all dislodge the huge stick implanted by our Puritan forefathers in our giant collective ass. Until then, Selah March shall remain pseudonymous. Call me cowardly. It's hardly the worst insult I've weathered.

I was in high school biology the first time I heard someone point out that sex was the reason every last one of us is on the planet. At the time, it was a shocking concept. All at once, every member of the class was imagining the parents of every OTHER member of the class "doing it." I doubt I was the only one who spent the rest of the day counting heads and adding up orgasms. (Male ones, at least.)

Decades later, I'm still marveling at the idea that every person I pass on the street is the result of something so startling intimate and, at the same time, so screamingly public. It astounds me how hard we try, as a society, to stuff sex down and pretend it doesn't exist, when it confronts us at every turn. And I'm not talking Victoria's Secret and Internet porn, either.

That bride and groom that came out of that church a few blocks back? Here's a clue: they're not in it for the gift registry at Target. The chick with the double stroller down the street? Pssst. I'll bet she's done it doggy-style. And if she hasn't, I'll bet she's thought about it. Everybody thinks about it, unless they're actually doing it, but only degenerates like me put the images into words and make them come to life on the page.

"Have you ever seen one of those books? Disgusting. I couldn't believe it. Page after page of nothing but filth, it just went on and on, right to the end. Eighty thousand words...and twenty thousand of it was pure sex. I know! I counted! Who writes that stuff, anyway? Whoever it is, she must be sick. She must need help. Maybe there's some sort of Twelve-Step Program..."

Hello. My name is Selah, and I'm a smut-writer.