I know you have one. I do. I can feel the connectivity like string theory stretched across universes. And I appreciate your efforts to further my vagina’s creative mind-body pathways and how you’ve helped usher many vaginas to the top floors of corporate America. I get it. I do. But please. Please. Stop speaking for my vagina as if your vagina and my vagina are friends. Our vaginas have not met. They do not know each other at all and it’s a little bit creepy.

You remind me of high school and the girl who ran for class president with all her ribbons and buttons and then won class president and spent the entire year lobbying for vegetarian selections in the cafeteria. Most of our class didn’t give a shit about vegetarian selections. We wanted better pizza with better pepperoni. We wanted new soccer balls. We wanted to keep our arts program that was losing state funding, but this girl just kept on yammering about vegetarian selections, when everyone knew she ate McDonald’s cheeseburgers on the weekends.

In a class full of oversexed boys, Willie was one of the most bizarre incarnations. He was on the smaller side, like me, scrawny, and usually clad in ill-fitting sweaters and corduroy pants. He wore his hair in a small, unkempt Afro, a stark contrast to the other black kids’ tight box cuts and fades. Willie talked and joked about sex even more than most of the other boys, but his role was more court jester and class clown than king and confident braggart.

His main act was “juggling [his] titties.” He’d cup his dark, spindly fingers under his chest and bounce them up and down slowly, as if each contained a huge overflowing breast that he could barely contain in his hand. Laughing uncontrollably, he’d cry out: “I’m juggling my titties, I’m juggling titties! Watch out, I’m juggling my titties!” Then he’d pantomime one of his “titties” coming off in his hand and pretend to throw it at the nearest kid. “Watch out, I’m going to hit you with my titties!” he’d yell as people screamed and dived away from him in every direction.

This joke never seemed to get old, to him or his victims. At lunchtime and recess, kids were often heard dashing down the hallway, their feet sliding as they careened around the corner, calling out desperate and giddy warnings to the others up ahead: “Watch out! Watch out! Willie’s juggling his titties again!”

Today, however, Willie’s titties were dormant under his lumpy gray sweater, at least for the moment. He sidled up to me where I sat, alone, at the lunch table. “Hey,” he said, “I got a question for you.” His eyes were hungry, his mouth a wide white grin.

“Yeah?” I said. I didn’t trust Willie. He had two other boys with him, who were both already on the verge of laughter.

“You ever had pussy around your neck?”

I squirmed on my stool—a sickly pale-green disk connected by a metal arm to the lunch table—and picked at a small piece of crud next to my tray. These kinds of questions always made me feel terribly small and uncomfortable. Around us was utter chaos, as usual, boys whooping and burping and punching each other, food flying, screaming, laughter. A combination of burnt pizza and cleaning solution hung in the air. My eyes rested on a large cherry pie stain on the lunchroom wall, and I thought about the question.

Pussy. The word offended me, and certainly made me nervous. Things I don’t understand often make me uncomfortable, especially if I sense they are important. At 11 years old, I didn’t understand “pussy” at all, although I could already tell it was tremendously important. I barely even knew what it was, and I was deeply aware and ashamed of my ignorance. All I knew was that it was a crude term for a woman’s private parts, but I had never seen one, let alone had one around my neck!

It didn’t sound possible. I had the impression that tightness was a virtue in a pussy, at least that’s what all the other boys were always saying. But all things sexual were very mysterious to me. My parents were both shy types who apparently thought sex was something magical, certainly not to be discussed. I gleaned what little understanding I could from the conversations I overheard at school, while trying desperately not to reveal my own ignorance, which I usually ended up doing anyway.

Where pussy was concerned, I knew you could stick fingers in it, or a penis, and probably a lot of other things too. But your whole head? That sounded absurd. And yet … I had also heard that you could “eat” a pussy, though there was fierce debate among the boys about whether one ought to or not. Some boys decried pussy-eating as disgusting or even “gay,” while others claimed it was a source of great pleasure and delight. I struggled with the terminology—surely they didn’t literally mean eating, did they? But at the very least I knew that “eating” a pussy involved the mouth. Perhaps then, I thought, as I wrestled with Willie’s question, if a person were to “eat” a pussy that was too “loose” (as I’d heard many, if not most, of the ones belonging to the girls in our class were), one’s whole head could somehow become lodged in there and one would actually have “pussy around [his] neck.” Still, it seemed unlikely.

“Well …” I said slowly, not wanting to commit myself either way. A small group of onlookers had formed around us. This was agony. What was the answer Willie was looking for? How I hated to be wrong! “No,” I said, “I never have.” It seemed to me that to say I’d ever had pussy around my neck would have been to admit being involved in some bizarre sexual act that I couldn’t even fathom. Since I had no idea what that might be, I couldn’t risk it.

“You haven’t?” Willie said theatrically, with mock surprise. For the benefit of his delighted audience, he repeated the question: “You’ve never had pussy around your neck? Are you sure?”

“No, I never have,” I asserted again, trying to sound more confident about my answer this time. “That’s nasty,” I added, as if to bolster my claim.

“Then how were you born?” Willie said. “What are you an alien or something?”

I still didn’t understand.

“Dummy, you came out of a pussy. Everybody has had pussy around their neck.” He looked smug. His two cohorts snickered at my stupidity. I was flabbergasted. He was right. I hadn’t even thought of that. Then he broke into a smile, cupped his hands under his chest and started bouncing them up and down impishly.

“Watch out!” he yelled, suddenly whirling around and charging toward the group of onlookers that had assembled to hear the answer to his strange and unsettling riddle. “I’m juggling my titties! I’m juggling my titties!”

And then, at last, I was alone again.

It wasn’t until years later that I realized that wasn’t the whole story. When I was born, before I could be delivered, my umbilical cord had become twisted around my neck, and I’d actually been born by emergency C-section. I hate to think of my mother being sliced open like that, and part of me wishes Willie had been right, but he was wrong: In fact, I never have had pussy around my neck.

Dear Texas,

Georgia O’Keeffe, the vaunted painter of periwinkle vaginas, once remarked of your landscape, “It is a burning, seething cauldron, filled with dramatic light and color.” I read O’Keeffe’s words and, Texas, I think she’s got you pegged.

From your Gulf Prairies and Marshes, that moist welcome mat for countless pirates, tycoons and explorers before me—to your tangled, pubic Pineywoods and fetid Savannah, I ache for you, Texas. Your Rolling Plains, your Edwards Plateau…Mmmmm. I can virtually run my finger down your vast belly. Although you are awfully big and grotesquely frustrating to get a handle on.

Why is this, Texas? Perhaps it’s because you’re always changing. At one moment, you’re a beacon of warmth and naked, Bacchanalian invitation a la Laredo Boys Town 1998, the next, you’re like the Summit in Houston. How so? Let me explain.

Like the Summit, sometimes, you are an arena filled with hope, Van Halen with David Lee Roth. You evoke nostalgia for Akeem Olajuwon dunking over The Admiral and you inspire memories of being eleven years old and chased on a scooter by Donnie Wahlberg of New Kids on The Block after pelting him and his bandmates with rocks for stealing our would-be girlfriends,

Other times, you become frustratingly similar to Joel Osteen’s faith-toaster, Lakewood Church, a veritable Six Flags Over Jesus where the destitute stumble in to put money in your capacious G-string, with only a hint of a lap dance and no champagne room in sight. I’d pick up my sling shot and my rocks again, but I fear Mr. Osteen may be equipped with more than a scooter and a entourage far more intimidating than Jordon, Jonathan, Joey and Danny.

Texas, you just don’t seem to know what you want to be. Do you want to be the bisexual travesty of nature Tila Tequila of Houston, or the homosexual travesty of nature Rick Perry, of the Governor’s mansion? You’ve gotta let me know. Do you want to embrace Dallas and Ft. Worth, the bloated, silicon titties of your Cross Timbers or showcase your fertile NASA mind? You know you’re capable of sending men and women into low-Earth orbit, then bringing them down with a septic splash after an exhausting interstellar session of toggle and yaw. You did say you were doing post-graduate work in aerospace engineering at nights. Was that all a lie, Texas? Or maybe you said it was medical school. Texas, what’s it going to be? Sometimes I feel like I’m sucking from the proverbial hind tit, here, Texas, a dying lone star, a black dwarf, like Emmanuel Lewis, without the cute cardigan.

Sometimes with you, I feel like a 10-year old boy, road tripping to Amarillo with my parents in 1984 to see Twisted Sister at the Civic Center. My teeth sweat with anticipation. “Ama-fucking-rillo!!” shouts Dee Snider. Then cops, then show’s over, with nary a chord struck. Cock tease. I protest in agony that we’re not gonna take it, but in the end, I always do.

Maybe this is why I’ve left you so many times. Well, I’m back now, Texas. And I’m hoping you’ll have me, if not forever, then for just this one night

I’ll finish up with another line for you from Georgia O’Keeffe: “There was quiet and an untouched feel to the country (that’s you Texas) and I could work as I pleased.” You and Georgia must have come across each other much earlier, because I certainly don’t get an “untouched feel” with you, but I do always believe that I can work with you pretty much as I please. It may seem crazy that I’m starting and ending these sappy scrawls to you by channeling Georgia O’Keeffe. But it really all comes down to art. And while Georgia creates her art with easels and acrylic, brushes and canvas and you create your art with an ill-fitting thong and a pole at the Yellow Rose Gentleman’s Club on weekdays from noon to four, you both serve as infinite inspiration for me. Well, that and of course, you’re both named after States.

Cautiously,

Tyler

I’m a night person. I pull all-nighters. No, I don’t do speed (although I might as well). I simply hit an hour of no return and there I am watching the clock roll into the future. Bringing in the next day. Telling me I made one more.

2am.

4:30am.

Usually, if I get to bed before 10:30 then I’m good. But if I pass that time then who knows what’s going to happen.

1:30am.

3:20am.


As of late, I’ve been night binging. Like a junky. But I like the night. I like the deep black and find comfort in it. I like the silence that the light of day doesn’t offer.

In my latest binge I’ve reread Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Strange Pilgrims; John Fante’s Wine Of Youth; A.M Homes’ Things You Should Know; and Ishmael Reed’s The Free-Lance Pallbearers. Last night I started Annie Proulx’s That Old Ace In The Hole.

It’s pretty good. Annie’s a brutal unflinching writer. I love her to bits. I want to kiss her lesbian lips.

Muah, Annie. Muah, baby.

A few of these nights were spent talking to Zara Rose Potts via IM. A dear person in this life and any other. We shared notes on our respective countries. We talked politics, food, world accents, volcanoes, earthquakes, and the man/woman predicament, among other things.

I now know that fish and chips sounds like fush and chups on the New Zealand tongue. And what Americans refer to as screwing is rooting over there.

Rooting!

I told her that I don’t refer to sex as screwing but call it handled.

“Like in, ’Yeah, I handled her,” I told her over the long wire across the sea that divides us.

We had a good laugh. I told her she could have it, pass it around her town that in my mind is covered in green and distant gold.

We got off the line one night and she told me: “Kia ora.” 

A nice sentiment indeed.

Kia ora, Zara

Just waiting for the chocolate.

I’ll gobble them up and wink your direction.

Dimples and all.

Kia ora, Zara.

Kia ora.

* * *

I live in a cluttered neighborhood full of bleached houses and faded cars.

And action.

One night I sat in my driveway and took in the sights. Cats, like ghosts, floating across the street. A couple of dudes walked by smoking, the tips of their cigarettes sparking red like lightning bugs. I heard one of them say: “She’s a bitch.”

The people across the street opened their door, pulled out their lawn chairs and started drinking beers. They fired up a joint, throwing back their heads and blowing their hits into the tree they were sitting under.

The pot hit my nose and took me away in soft memory. I wasn’t the only one that was up at 3:30 in the morning. Burning through the day.

Night people.

We’re nuts. We’re going crazy.

I stood up and noticed the glow of a casino.

From my house I can see the neon pulse of the Eastside Cannery. It wasn’t too long ago a friend came into town and we stumbled in there and ended the night in a blur of smiles and flashing hands. I woke up, head spinning over the pale splash of the Boulder Strip, and shoveled in a huge plate of dry eggs, hash browns, and bacon in my hurting mouth.

No more whiskey, I told myself. No more fucking whiskey.

* * *

The late night also brings on a slew of commercials that you won’t see when Regis finally shuts his mouth.

Enter Girls Gone Wild. They own the late night. Young college chicks pulling off their silky bras and ripping off their skimpy thongs. Bodies twisting, turning, and bending over for your viewing pleasure.

These videos are big business. It’s straight porn. Make no bones about it. Porn, folks, porn. Sure, no johnnys flying around winking at you and sinking in, but porn nonetheless.

“We’re looking for the hottest girl in America,” a girl announces, her tits taking in some lame sun.

Then you get hit with a barrage of chicks pulling all kinds of stunts: flipping over. Kissing each other, slowly pulling down their best buy and revealing the goods.

Vagina.

It’s hysterical.

Totally hysterical.

But I remember those days.

Young reckless days.

Girls snapping bras and throwing them across the room. Strangers splayed in front of me laughing from the buzz of cheap beer and whatnot.

Girls bending over in front of me and going: “Reno, what do you see?”

Those videos sell for the obvious reasons.

Sex.

Sex.

Sex.

Like religion and cockroaches.

They’re here for keeps.

For better or ill.

* * *

Another amusing thing you’ll see when you stay up late at night is the infomercials that take over the TV. People who need this must need junk.

It’s pure Fool’s Gold.

Soaps that clean everything – even your dirty soul.

Mops that can wipe away your latest crime.

Quick cash cuts that will pull you out of your current predicament.

Make-up that will make you prettier than your eyes are telling you.

Knives that cut through tin cans and then slip through a piece of fruit with ease.

Those Jesus swine telling you their mud smells better than yours.

Cookers of various kinds that will make you look like a five-star chef. Or a one-star chef – depending on if you follow the directions correctly.

Exercise machines that will fix your flabby arms, chicken legs, flat ass, and bulging mac n’ cheese-filled gut. 

Dudes with big muscles, twisting and curling. Shiny skin, greasy jock hair, and dumb flat smiles. Girls in tight colored uniforms bending over, stretching back their arms pushing out their fake Vegas tits. Their faces the same: tight with make-up and stupid nervous. Hair pulled back. Cheap cheerleader smiles.

It’s High Art.

But the one that rules the night and is stamped on a thousand channels: ExtenZe.

Now, according to the commercials your performance is bumped up a few notches. The pills give you some extra fire, some extra zest. So, when your lady friend hits your bed you’ll have the ammo to knock her boots out of the proverbial park.

Smack.

Going, going, gone.

Homerun, baby.

Daddy’s home.

You’re alive again and not that limp shell of a man you were before you started popping pills.

Got to love science.

Wait! And the best part: your willy may get bigger. Oh, yes. And what man doesn’t want a bigger johnny?

What man?

* * *

Again the hours tell me the night is coming. Again the cats slipping across the gutted street looking for some shit. Again more books eating what’s left of my Mexican brain. Pick up Dylan Thomas, Carver, Cheever and Tomas Rivera and put them in my hungry I-want-it-all mouth.

I don’t know moderation.

Unfortunately.

Again those sleek steak knives and machines that will tighten up my ass and lift my sagging arms. Again, I’ll remember those slippery girls telling me things I could never tell my dear mother.

I’ll do away with the for-sure cash payouts, the make-up, the fuck pills, and those Jesus con-artists that make my Jesus as appealing as a dead rat.

And I’ll be there. Eyes wide. Watching like a child. Taking notes. Shaking my head. But maybe wanting a mop to clean my dirty soul.

Hey.

Hey, hey.

Goodnight, folks.

Sleep well.

Okay.

When I was a little girl, I liked two things: getting naked and touching my vagina.

Nothing wrong with that. Totally normal. Completely natural. Yet, not so appropriate during dinner parties with my parents’ friends milling about the living room eating Brie cheese on water crackers.

I had a knack for unveiling myself at the strangest times, in the most unlikely of places. There’s a photo of me, age 5, standing on top of my tricycle seat, trying hard to keep my balance, wearing nothing but a red bandana on my head. In another shot, I’m chasing our dog around the backyard wearing my baby doll’s dress, which basically comes up to my neck, and no underwear.

You’d think I’d be the type to go to Burning Man, boobs bouncing around a bonfire, but I’m not. I’m actually rather buttoned up, and I’m not sure why, or how I went from being a little girl who relished her birthday suit to a woman who often wears a bra to sleep.

It’s not like my mom tried to rain on my “I hate clothes” parade. She never punished me or scolded me or told me I was going to hell. She had been sexually abused as a child and was determined to make me feel good about my body, to normalize sexuality, to empower me.

When I was 16, she even gave me a “back massager,” and told me to put it “down there.” Her feeling, God bless her, was that if I learned how to give myself pleasure, then I’d be able to tell a man how to pleasure me one day.

She didn’t warn me that no man’s fingers would ever be able to vibrate with the same velocity as a vibrator or that certain men in my life would actually feel threatened by it. My college boyfriend once hid my “back massager” to see how long it would take me to notice it was missing. Two days.

Still, I never stopped masturbating, not for him, not for anyone. To me, it’s always felt sacred, something that’s all mine, something no one can take away from me. I know that sounds super dramatic, but I’m serious. For most of my life, I’ve told myself that I wasn’t smart enough, pretty enough, whatever-the-fuck enough— disgracing Stuart Smalley and all his fine work—so there’s something about making my body feel good that smacks of self-love and basic survival. It’s gotten me through two bad relationships with men who didn’t like to kiss me or go down on me, and it’s helped me last long stretches of no man land.

Recently, I had a relationship, well, relationship is too strong a word, given he didn’t want to call it anything, so I’ll just say, recently, I fell in love with a man who rocked my world sexually. He lives in LA and I live in NY, so we didn’t see each other that much, but, man oh man, when we did, the first thing he would do was tear off my panties and dive down, and then he would stay down and keep going, and I would keep going, and it was amazing. Turns out, I’m multi-orgasmic. Who knew?

When it ended, I cried and cried and cried.

I cried because I missed him, yes, and because I thought we had potential, blah, blah, blah, but more because I didn’t want to give up how he made me feel. When people had asked me about him, I would say, “He makes me laugh and come all the time. What could be better than that?”

Nothing. That was the problem.

When I went back to my “back massager,” it wasn’t the same. Sure, it still vibrated at ungodly speed and with unhuman consistency, but it wasn’t him. It wasn’t warm, even with the heat on. I tried watching porn to get me going, to keep me going, but I got bored. There’s only so much in and out and strings of spit you can watch before getting disgusted.

And then it occurred to me, this whole time, my whole adult life, I thought I had been a good lover to myself, but my vibrator had been doing all the work. I didn’t know how to love myself at all.

When I was in seventh grade, pre-vibrator days, my mother came up with a slogan for me to run for Vice President: “Don’t Dance Around The Issues, Vote Kim Auerbach for Vice President, She Bops!” not knowing “She Bops” is another way of saying “She Masturbates.” When I asked my mother what “masturbate” meant, she said, “Well, Kimmi, you know how when you were a little girl you liked to touch your vagina, well, it’s kind of like that, it’s not polite to do in public, and it’s important to wash your hands after, you don’t want your fingers to smell like vagina, but Kimmi, sweetie, there’s nothing wrong with masturbating.”

Well intentioned, I know, but it set something up. It set up the notion that vaginas smell bad. I’m not blaming my mother for my distant relationship with my vagina or for my addiction to my vibrator or for my tolerance of men who don’t like oral sex, but I am realizing that that kind of message can shut you down and make you self-conscious.

I don’t want to be shut down or self-conscious. I want to get naked and touch my vagina. Pure and simple. So, I’ve put away my “back massager,” and I’m choosing to kick it old school.

After all these years, I’m finally learning how to give myself the pleasure I thought only a machine or man could give me. Granted, I can’t rip off my own panties, and I can’t lick my own pussy, but my fingers, well, let’s just say, they’re doing a fine job, and while I do think it’s a good policy to wash my hands after, I like when my fingers smell like vagina, when they smell like my vagina.

I may never bounce my boobs around a bonfire in the desert or balance naked on a tricycle ever again, but I plan on reclaiming that little girl, on being free again.