Sexless in the City

Sometimes reading romance novels doesn’t quite prepare you for a love life...

For this 30-year-old urbanite, love is always a misadventure: The Harvard Lickwit, Hippie the Groper, the 5% Man, and the Ad Weasel. These and many other men wander in and out of her life — but never her bed.

Friday, August 06, 2004

A reader heads-up

For a few days now, I’ve had a combination of Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles and Getz/Gilberto in my stereo. With all the cinnamon rolls I’ve been baking (batch three is rising now; each batch has not two but three risings) it’s meant a lot of time to mull over lyrics. And my conclusion?

Aretha’s low-key power belt “Baby I Love You” epitomizes the age-old confusion and frustration between men and women (but especially men with women). Which brings us to … this week’s Spooning Fork.

‘Baby I Love You’ from 30 Greatest Hits (sorry, no iTunes link yet)
At first glance, she’s singin’ a man’s fantasy. I mean, here is a woman who wants to put out: “You know I’m gonna give it to you … I wanna see you with it.” But as the song continues on for two verses more you start to think she’s kind of a tease. There’s all that damn singing. He must be thinking, “You wanna give it to me? Fine, do it!” (Or rather, do me — but you get the point.) And all this talk about love. Eight times she says it — and that’s just one verse/chorus!

The real kicker is when she gets to the second verse: “If you feel you wanna kiss me, go right ahead — I don’t mind” (I just won’t stop singing so you can). Maybe she’s one of those women who wants to be kissed into silence … Oh, but wait — that’s a romance-novel trope.

When verse three comes around and she starts to talk about him leaving her, it has the sound of a self-fulfilling prophecy. I mean, who really wants to be with a lovey-lovey-lovey-lovey-dovey woman with promises of the action to prove it, when she spends all her time merely talking about what she’ll do? (Come to think of it, she did warn him at the beginning: “Don’t be afraid, baby — just ask me!”)

For the woman, of course, all this talk probably amounts to extended foreplay. And there are moments throughout the song where the ecstatic pitch of an “Oh!” has just that connotation. But the song fades off at the end like an unfulfilled arousal (go figure).

‘sexless NO MORE’?
In other instances of the such misunderstanding between the sexes, this week I received a very thoughtful email from one of my readers. Actually, I can’t say that he’s a reader — certain things about his email did suggest otherwise — but at least he read one of my recent ads on Craigslist. And by God, here’s a man willing to address my “predicament.” He’s a quick one, though. Very savvy to the whole e-dating thing.

He clearly gets the importance of pictures in making a stranger seem less, well, strange. So he very kindly sent me his headshot.

Both of them. (Imagine late-night stand-up drum routine here: “buh-doop-AH”).

I should have known from the shady subject line.

Standing on the corner...
The strangeness continued when, perhaps an hour later, I was walking to dinner at my friend’s apartment along Atlantic Avenue. A bare-chested, well-muscled man behind me is pushing an empty shopping cart in what surely could pass for an avant-avant garde Chippendales routine. For about a block the sound of the wheels bumping over uneven sidewalk is so loud I can practically feel him staring at me. Sure enough, at the next corner while we wait for the stoplight, he strikes up conversation.

“Are you homeless?”

I pause a beat to absorb this bizarre pickup line. Perhaps it’s the way I was hitching up my too-loose pants to keep from exposing several inches of underwear. “No — do I look like I am?” Maybe black (the color of my monochromatic attire) is the new street wear.

He responds with another question: “How come you’re so pretty?”

I chuckle. As if I can help it! But then, most men on the street seem to think I’m hot. I’m convinced it’s basically a circumstantial thing: sidewalk + woman = very sexy lady. Isn’t that the point of Bobby Darin’s classic tribute to the leer? Walking down the street turns any gal into a Very Fine Woman.

In a strange way, this man seems more transparent about the whole beauty-power dilemma I crudely tried to discuss the other day. And he seems harmless enough. How fast could he pursue with shopping cart in tow? “Because God made me that way,” I reply. I satisfy him that, yes, there’s genetic precedence for this in my mother’s fine looks, and leave the conversation at that. Sometimes lots of talking, as Aretha showed us, is a good way out of things. But other times there’s no exit better than drifting into silence.

Which is why Oversexed in the City (as friends suggested I call him) won’t be hearing back from Anna Broadway.

Aretha Franklin
30 Greatest Hits
Ray Charles
Ultimate Hits Collection
CD mp3
CD mp3