So it was a beautiful fall afternoon, the sun was shining, the weather was unseasonably warm and I headed out to what I knew was going to be a pure vanilla event so much so that I had my kid in tow. In fact I had planned to go mainly because she could go with me. It was a chance to nurture her as an artist and in a way be creative freaks together. Hell it was the type of event that encourages people to be creative in the most mainstream of ways. It was filled with artist types which many would or I at least I foolishly assumed came with a certain amount of acceptance and open minded view points. With my 14 year old Lily in tow we stood in line, met a few folks, and eventually joined the fray. After taking a seat people talked to each other about their art. Eventually I was asked what I write. I stated mostly satire and social commentary; but I’d be focused on a literary fiction novel for the month of November. When asked if I had been published I admitted that I was editing something that I classified as erotica that would be available on Amazon (this is still an open debate, I’ve been told it is romance, and even mainstream fiction with strong sexual elements. I’ve chosen to classify it as more explicit in order to not shock people who read it.)
It was not my first trip off the freak show train that is my life. I knew enough not to say I specialize in fetish lifestyle works, that I have multiple relationships of a questionable nature for most folks, and mostly enjoy making fun of myself for barely being able to manage it. Besides it was as the saying goes not that kind of party and I had no intention of being perceived as “that” kind of guy. Still all they could remember for the next little while was the last topic…”Sex”.
You could literally hear the five women across from us gasp, cast judging looks in my direction and all of them boldly stated and adamantly agreed that they NEVER would write erotica. I can literally feel their skin crawl when I think about it. Which is funny because within 5 minutes they all admitted to at one point reading romance or erotica, some even copped to having considered writing some even though I’d not mentioned the topic again. The gent next to me to his credit and trying to make light of the awkward reactions said he tried once but it turned out to be comedy. So why were they so quick to judge? Why can’t sex be funny? I encouraged him to write something funny about sex convinced there probably is a market for such works. (I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell can to mind although I didn’t feel that I should point it out as an example)
My opinion for what it is worth is it was shocking even in that crowd because sex is still a great taboo. People are unable to relate to sex as a fact of life, as wants, longing and desires within the confines and moral structures they deem acceptable as part of a healthy existence. Maybe I read too much into the topic but considering I judge responses, reactions, and body language for a living I don’t think I missed the mark much. God forbid if they knew I talked to my daughters about safe sex, birth control, not putting themselves in dangerous situations with men, the risk of perceptions & people’s reaction to the topic, the last one is advice I should have followed.
Shortly thereafter a person I knew to be a like minded soul and whose work I’m a fan of joined the table. The introductions resumed, the conversation moved from topic to topic for the next 90 minutes and while being very careful I also didn’t feel shunned. Lily and I had a wonderful time and enjoyed the company of the folks we were with. Learned a lot, had some fun and made plans to attend a few future events. I thought nothing of the earlier exchange until later. After all I talked about Shakespeare and Vonnegut, Proust and Dickens, Dumas and Stephen King; about football, baseball, family, theater and school. None of which should keep a person from being able to run for public office or show up at the PTA meeting. Corporate board meetings are edgier.
As the event drew to an end we made our way to the door. After we got in the car I learned a woman at the table had pulled Lil aside as we left and inquired to the nature of our relationship. It was little more than a pause in her stride and a whispered question. My kid is smart and has been taught to be guarded in general “He’s my dad. Why?” The response was the woman was just wondering. Lil went bopping on down the stairs.
When she told me something about it bothered me. Perhaps it was just a concerned soul wondering why a young girl was there with a middle aged man. If she had listened to our conversation I made several references to her sister being run back to school by mom, about her choice to change schools, her desire to live somewhere else etc., about well we’ll have to ask mommy etc. I don’t think I referred to my wife directly other than as mom and in fairness I’m a heretic and don’t wear a wedding ring. Then again I wasn’t flirting, cavorting or carrying on with anyone in any way.
Maybe I’m just jumping to conclusions. Maybe I’m being hyper sensitive. Maybe this is all just a sign of a guilty conscience about my art and my lifestyle. It could be but I doubt it. As I talked through it with the Blonde I hypothesized the reasons. Because Lil and I talk like adults debating a point not like a parent telling their child what to believe. Maybe because she typically calls me Mal not dad…it’s not uncommon to hear Hey Mal can we or “god damn it Mal I told you…” usually in jest but not always. Maybe because I let her express unbridled opinion and yes she does swear but she also uses 5 dollar words. We are not ones to stand on ceremony and polite civilities when a “Well Fuck” properly communicates the sentiment. And after a bit of lamenting about how it was eating at me late last night. The Blonde offered “maybe people need to mind their own damn business”. Funny but for perhaps the first time ever that one hadn’t hit me, it was nothing new. I had a much more direct interaction a few years back when out with Diva who was 16 at the time.
Later when the Chesty Blonde asked Lil out of ear shot of me if she had fun “Yeah, writers are weird but not weird like us. We’re way more fun. And oh I like Dad’s friend. She was nice, smart, and I think she was a little shorter than me which is freaking awesome. “ From the mouths of babes as the saying goes.
Before I get off my soap box here’s the irony of the entire thing…no one else in the room had ever met me before, I was not there as Malflic, actually I was quite the opposite so there could be no preconceived notions (not that they knew what Malflic was any how). If anyone did by chance see any of my pieces associated with my presence the most objectionable points they could have taken would have with my business views or economic and monetary policy opinions. All of which are subject to zealot like arguments, but that was not the case. No one wanted argue business efficiency or the effect of the Euro on the economic slowdown all they remembered was that I admitted that I had once upon a time written something about sex.
So putting a little humor on it to close things out here’s how I’ll handle the stunned looks next time
1) You’ve heard of 50 Shades of Gray? Well I find it grossly inaccurate and am researching an academic text to correct the misnomers and dangers of that particular fictional work. I believe my outline will be used first to teach an alternative sexuality class at Cal Berkeley beginning next spring.
2) I’m currently working on a collection of eroticized bible stories for the Christian romance market. My Rabbi thinks it will be a huge hit.
3) So you have a problem with married couples having hot sex? You’re husband must be thrilled
4) I am widely published author and considered the foremost authority on sex between… pure bred beef cattle. I’ve got a best seller is called “BEEF T Ality” on sale at Tractor Supply stores nationwide.
5) No, no, not Erotica! Luxotica you know the eye wear company!
6) Did you know you actually are my target demographic? Yep 28-52 year old white middle class females. I’m surprised you haven’t read my stuff actually. Maybe I’m missing part of my market. So what gets you hot?
7) Actually the book is called “Call Don’t ask a survey of American men who cheat on their wives because they are up tight prudes”
Despite the bitching and the joking and a moderate amount of anxiety after the fact I really did have fun. I got a new life experience, I got to spend time with my kid, have an important teachable moment later, meet some new folks I liked, and spend an afternoon with another writer I enjoy . Plus in true Malflic fashion I’m sure I made at least a few pairs of panties wet; granted it was because I scared the piss out of them but hey wet is wet so I’m still counting it as a win.