I wrote this a while back. A fictionalized reflection on being “The Porn Chick” at a party. It’s not always like this–as a matter of fact, this past weekend with new people wasn’t weird like this at all. But sometimes… it’s different.
ONE TRICK PONY
I’m at a party in Brooklyn amongst a tightly packed crowd of graduate students, most of whom are significantly younger than I am. We are shouting over music blasting out from the kitchen into the tiny backyard to hear each other’s mostly inane conversation. I’m here on the hunt: the woman throwing the party is one of the few women in my experience who made her romantic/sexual interest easily discernible to me in our first conversation. She is stunningly beautiful and jaw-droppingly intelligent; we met at a literary conference for PhD candidates (I’m not one–my boyfriend is). And she likes me. And my boyfriend. She’s been so mired in her final papers that this party at her place in early May is my first opportunity to see her in almost three weeks. I trekked out here after brunch and much drinking, exhausted by an already-overfull weekend, to see her, knowing full well that it would probably be a long night of awkward greetings with people I didn’t know while the object of my desire was busy hosting.
I was right. Here I am, in a strange borough, alone with my flask of bourbon amidst a sea of unfamiliar faces. I’m pondering just leaving–I’m tired anyway and it’s already one a.m. It will take me hours to get home. But then out from the kitchen appears the girl I’m after. She is wearing a classic-cut dress with a cherry print and she is so gorgeous I can’t find my spine or announce my departure. I drift her way, insert myself into her conversation, and when another guest arrives and she flits off to give hugs, I am left with a small circle of young men who are doubtless here hoping for the same thing I am: her attention.
I swig from my flask and ask the appropriate questions: names, occupations, something superficial based on T-shirt or beverage choice. I get compliments on my flask, which I accept graciously, wondering if they really think I’m stylish or if they recognize that I’m too cheap to bring a bottle to share. Within a few minutes, the “So, what do you do?” moment presents itself. I’ve already had this conversation with three other men and one woman–the roommate–tonight. I sigh inwardly. Here we go.
“I’m a writer.”
“Oh really? What do you write?”
This is where it always gets tricky. Do I want to dodge the question or flash my cards?
“Oh, lots of things. Working for a few magazines, have a blog, doing some book proposals. I’m all over the place.”
“Cool. Well what kind of stuff do you write about?”
Another swig of bourbon. “Porn.”
Eyes light up. One guy grins expansively. “I love porn!”
Earlier I’d gotten an, “Interesting…” from another guy, and a series of topical questions from the roommate. Now, the group seems very interested. What the hell, I think. If I’m trying to woo the hostess, I might as well make myself memorable to the rest of the party.
“I love porn, too,” I tell the guy. “It’s weird, but it’s pretty great.”
His friend asks what’s weird about it. “Well, you know,” I intone, never sure how to fully explain this one. “It’s a whole fantasy world, and fantasies are sometimes fabulous but sometimes fucked up. I watch a lot of both.”
“Me too,” says Excited Guy (who might very well be Too-Drunk Guy, but there are many of them here, so let’s stick with Excited Guy). “I’d say that up until a few months ago I was a pretty established porn addict. And I mean, it’s a totally fucked-up, misogynist industry, but I love it anyway.”
I laugh at his cute-but-unconvincing feminism. “It’s not nearly as fucked-up and misogynist as a lot of people want you to think,” I say. “Don’t feel bad for watching it. But DO pay for it. Please, just a small portion of it. Buy it instead of pirating it.”
“What?!” he gasps. I’ve hit a nerve.
Within a few minutes I learn that this young man supports pornography only in a moral sense–not a monetary one. That he finds one of the appeals of online porn is its unpredictability and depravity. That he masturbates more when he’s in a relationship. I find his candor refreshing, but not particularly interesting. But I answer his questions patiently.
This is my party trick.
Later on, I’m in a similar situation with two other men. I’ve already forgotten both their names, but we’re deep into a conversation through which I’ve learned that they are in the same band and very interested in writing webisodes. They’ve been enjoying some of my porn-related anecdotes. The drunker of the two and I get deeply immersed in a conversation about how we miss nineties music because back then, metal had a soul. The party’s hostess drifts toward us, leaning into me as we talk. I trace my fingers along her back and hope that she enjoys it. She doesn’t show any outward signs of noticing.
The conversation winds back around to porn. One of the guys is declaring his everlasting love for me. Over the course of the night, he will declare this love over and over, to me and several others. The hostess grins at me. “Will you show me that Rocky Horror parody sometime? I need an introduction to porn,” she says.
“I would love to,” I answer, lost in her big brown eyes. My hand traces the line of her neck and shoulder.
“…wait,” says the guy who’s in love with me. “Are you… taken?” I look up. He’s staring at me and the hostess. “Are you really going to break my heart before we’ve even gotten to know each other?” he asks me.
“Um…” I look at her. She giggles. “Should we do this? Should we blow the lid off this thing?” I ask.
“Let’s do this,” she nods.
“Ok, liftoff.” I turn to the guy. “We’re kind of dating. Me and her.” I nod in her direction.
“…and she has a boyfriend…” the hostess provides.
“…and she’s kind of dating my boyfriend, too. I guess.”
She looks at me, wide-eyed. “Are we dating, do you think?” she says.
I smile. “I like to think so. But it’s a little early to tell.”
He looks from me to her, then back at me, then back at her. “Wait, what are you… What are you saying?”
She giggles and begins to explain things to him, slipping out from under my hand. I wonder vaguely if she’s interested in me just because she finds this polyamory thing so appealing. She’s spent one full night with my boyfriend while I was out of town, but, so far, only two drunken evenings in bars with me. Maybe she’s straight and masquerading as queer, I think. But it’s impossible to know, or to figure it out, at a party like this. We’re all too drunk and the music is too loud.
I take a sip from my flask. It’s gotten to that part of the night at which my life has turned from a party trick into a circus sideshow. The porn card is professional, so I’m open about it for the most part. It shocks people, but it’s what I do. But personally, I try to keep my private life private. Unless I’m trying to impress a girl or drum up blog followers… or am halfway through a flask of bourbon. I definitely don’t bring up my relationships unless someone very specifically asks. Not because I’m ashamed of it, but because I realize that when you look at it from the outside, my life appears oversexed to the point of ridiculousness. Circus clownish. It’s not that I care what others think of me, but it’s so more pleasant to get through a party or a night at the bar, or really any social situation, without people staring at me with eyes wide and mouth agape. Much less pointing and staring and repeating the last half of my sentences back to me, as this guy now is doing while the hostess laughs.
A few hours later, as I’m beginning not to care that it will be at least five in the morning before I get home if I leave right this second, nor that the prospect of staying later might be awkward since I’m obviously just one of many vying for the hostess’s attention. I find myself dancing in the kitchen, flask in hand. Someone pulls my hair from behind. I turn around. It’s a guy I’ve been bumping into all evening but who I haven’t yet spoken to.
“I like your hair,” he shouts over Lady Gaga.
“Thanks,” I yell. My voice is hoarse.
“It’s a nice mixture of blond and red!” he says, nodding to his boyfriend.
“I like to think so,” I smile, sipping the dregs from my metal friend.
“So, is this your natural color?”
“I have to ask then, since you’re a natural redhead—”
“Yes,” I cut him off. “Curtains match the carpet.” I’ve been asked this question so many times since I started college that I don’t even have to hear the whole thing to be certain of what’s coming.
He laughs, “Ok, I had to ask. I dated a guy once who had bright red hair but his pubes were blond! Weird, right?”
I explain, as well as I can over the pounding music, that many redheads have all blond body hair, eyebrows, and eyelashes. I got lucky with my flaming bush. He laughs. “So, did I hear someone say earlier that you write about porn?”
“Yeah,” comes another voice. “She’s my soul mate.” It’s the guy from outside who’d never met polyamorous people before. “But we just met and she already broke my heart. She writes about porn and she’s beautiful and she drinks whiskey from a flask and she has a boyfriend and a girlfriend.” The burning bush guy stares at me.
I turn back to the dance floor in the kitchen, sipping bourbon. The hostess is dancing with some girls and looking radiant. I wonder, if someone set up a series of flaming hoops between her gyrating body and mine, if I would jump through them. Maybe. After all, I’ve already told at least three people that if they want free porn I’ll give it to them in exchange for a 500-word review for my magazine. “I have stacks of DVDs at home,” I’ve said. “Anything you want. Are you into boobs? Anal? Blowjobs? Lesbians? Just name it. I’ve got it. And I don’t want it.”
So it goes. I manage to get home before 6:00 am somehow and sleep late. The next night I’m at home trying to catch up on the huge amounts of work I let slide that weekend. The party hostess calls. “I know you hate the phone,” she begins, “but I didn’t get to talk to you nearly as much as I wanted to last night. Thank you so much for coming! I hope you had fun!”
“I did,” I say. It’s true. It was a great party. “I met some cool people. Your friends are interesting.”
“Did someone say he was going to marry you or something?” she asks. “I seem to remember something about soul mates.”
“Yeeeah, that was Michael, or Matthew, or something. I’m bad at names. He was pretty excited about the porn thing.”
She laughs. “Everyone was. I didn’t know how to answer all their questions, though. I don’t know anything about porn since I don’t use it at all. Like, at all. There are some things I’ve never… learned to do for myself.”
I let that sink in. The tragedy of that statement; the reasons so many women end up in ugly situations with men, why they think they need a constant relationship or bedfellow because they don’t know it’s ok to get themselves off. Or even how. Or that using porn to help might be ok. This must be changed, and here is my target audience offering itself to me for tutelage, and maybe some necking. “My darling,” I say, “if you want an introduction to the world of porn, you know I’m here to help.”
She pauses. “I’ve always heard such awful things, you know? I just don’t know if I could handle it myself. Would you watch some with me to help me figure it out?”
I smile, really smile, for the first time today. “Of course I would. Anytime you want. I promise it’s not as bad as you think. I’ve even got some movies made by women. I think you’ll like those.”
“I can’t wait,” she says.
When we hang up, I’m elated. I may come across as a one-trick pony until you get to know me, but at least that trick has some merit.