Grandpa

My grandfather is a difficult man. He has expressed, over the years, hatred of every type of person from women (father of three daughters) to African Americans to homosexuals to Native Americans. The worst human being in his view is the liberal female politician, since she is crazy, stupid, and in power.

He’s always been cool with Martha Stewart, though.

He’s in his 80s and health issues start to pile up now. 6’4″ and hale for most of his life, working in construction since childhood, he’s only started to seem “old” in the past few years. His mom lived to 89 with a retiree’s diet of vodka, Twinkies and “Wheel of Fortune,” but he’s outlived both his father and brother by many years.

For a long time I had nothing left to say to my grandpa. I couldn’t forgive him, as an adult making my own way in a still-sexist world, for raising my mom and aunts to think they were useless girls.

I couldn’t forgive him for programming my brilliant mother to see herself as emotionally troublesome and useless outside the house.

Now, many years have passed and journeys taken. I don’t necessarily believe in forgiveness, especially towards someone who has never sought it from anyone in his life. This is not a post about how I can see the old guy’s point of view, generational differences, letting go of anger, blah blah blah.

I don’t have much emotion left, and I do not excuse a man of any generation for holding his daughter as lesser than a son.

But.

My grandpa’s having a tough go right now and I had to admit to myself that I do care. Here’s why.

He’s John Wayne.

I know that sounds like I’m romanticizing, but it’s true. He looks just like him. He hunts, builds, tilts his head to one side before making a joke. He has this restrained way of refusing to express an opinion, (assuming it’s about a subject close to home, and not Hillary Clinton).

He was still working on his own roof at, like, 70.

Maybe I’m still influenced by one time I was hanging out in his shop with him and a cousin. I was 9 or 10, and I heard him mutter a swear word – my grandparents don’t swear. Next thing I know Grandma is taking him to the hospital because he’s cut the tip of his finger off on his table saw.

Another fingertip went about fifteen years later. Context: He was 65, 70. I date men now who can’t go a week late on their haircut without complaining, and god forbid you need help with anything involving a drill.

I quote him when ranting about Seattle’s inability to deal with traffic and public transit issues.

I get the same pissed off, “Get off my property” rebellious anger when dealing with bureaucrats – they don’t teach you that in the postwar world. It is deep and it is genetic. A pacifist, I wonder sometimes at my quiet inclination to maybe, quietly, get some shooting lessons. Just in case.

Where does this come from? Many will say, attitude is not genetic, but they’ve found now that trauma impacts your DNA. Can roofing a house at 14 give you a feirceness you pass on, even if to a “dumb” granddaughter?

He does not see me as dumb. But I feel that if I had taken his opinions seriously, growing up, I would have been. I feel I had to make my capability a non-issue.

Maybe he’d say his dad made him feel the same way.

I’m trying, struggling, to express a true dichotomy. Is it love if someone is woven through you? Even if that person has, at best, come to respect you in your third decade because you gave him no option?

Even if, at best, he has forgotten how to hate and now just wants to chill the fuck out.

I have no words of redemption for my grandfather. But his ethos has influenced mine. Not the hate, but definitely the determination.

What can I say? John Wayne was beloved for a reason, Republican bastard though he was.

Maybe he’ll make 90 and I’ll read this to him.

Why It’s Okay To Not Be “Fun”

As a writer of naughty stories I am on the very outer ring of the planetary system that is public female sexuality, with women who take their clothes off onstage being in the center, models, singers and actresses closely orbiting them, and those of us who only assist others in imagining sexual activity as the little asteroids. And even I, an asteroid, encounter men who hear that I write erotica and immediately assume I am either a sexual enchantress or that I am ready to have sex with them right now.

These attitudes explain why most of the burlesque performers I’ve met tend to have thick walls up. A lot of men still aren’t sure what a woman’s sexuality is for. Just because a woman engages in a sex-themed artistic activity does not mean she wants to have sex with you.

Anne Hathaway’s polite refusal to let Matt Lauer discuss her lack of panties is a beautiful example of drawing boundaries around one’s sexuality without letting someone classify you as a prude or a slut.

This prude/slut thing is the crux of my point.

A couple years ago I had an argument with a male friend about whether or not I’d join him and his buddy at a strip club. “But you like burlesque,” he protested, not understanding that a strip club and a burlesque show are about as different as two forms of entertainment could be. I’m not putting down stripping, it’s just not my bag.

A burlesque routine has a story or a concept. It’s choreographed and costumed by the performer herself. The best routines have a joke or bit of social commentary squeezed deliciously in. Most importantly, burlesque tends to be about what the performer finds sexy, not what she believes her male audience is going to find sexy. You’re either in on the joke, or the turn-on, or the challenge, or you’re not.

I find that entertaining. I don’t find strip clubs entertaining. It took most of my twenties to reach a point where I can say that and not feel defensive, un-sexy or un-fun. I know that I’m fun, in fact, experience thusfar suggests that I am very fun. Just not with that guy who was mad at me for not going to the strip club.

I want every little college girl trying to be a liberated American woman to know that she doesn’t have to be a Girl Gone Wild to be hot. Sometimes you wonder about the Muslim argument that our liberation is not so liberated.

I was disturbed when Cosmo argued in their February issue that more women are going to strip clubs with their boyfriends because they want to be seen as “fun.” If I knew that every one of those guys was reciprocating by going to Chippendale shows with these women, I’d feel a lot better. Somehow I doubt it.

Magic Mike
Channing Tatum and Matthew McConaughey made me squeal with delight in Magic Mike, but maybe that’s just me.

Even more odd was the article’s suggestion that women are more aroused by a lap dance from another woman, than they are by a Chippendale-style male strip tease. Sure, the Magic Mike thing can be goofy. But a straight woman is attracted to different things than a straight man and usually those things don’t involve another woman’s breasts in her face (not always, but usually). The same thing applies to porn. More and more women are watching porn, whether solo or in a couple, but c’mon, these movies are not being made for women. You have to dig through the proverbial bins searching for something that has a decently attractive male lead or a scenario that might bring a tingle to the lady-parts.

Shouldn’t we be demanding entertainment that appeals to us rather than bending our sexual tastes to what’s available? It’s like, there’s nothing to eat, so I’m going to eat cardboard and say that I find it delicious.

Sex is supposed to be fun. Burlesque and strip tease and pole dancing and belly dancing and naughty stories and dirty movies are supposed to be fun. If you’re not having fun, it’s not you. It’s them. So say so. If he doesn’t get it, trust me, the next guy will.