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.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Etta spurned for silence

The song that roused me from bed this morning was the Rolling Stones’ “Beast of Burden.” My normal routine is to set the alarm for a specified time, and the radio to go off 5 minutes later. I have to get up to turn the alarm off, but usually I return to bed to lay there a long, comfortable interval (sometimes even past the 1-hour shut-off point on the radio alarm) before finally getting up. The one constant is the radio station, set to New York’s Q104.3 — the classic rock station.

I’ve gone through various stages in my radio listening — classical music in junior high/early high school, oldies in late high school/early college, classic rock in late college/grad school. My fantasy is a blues-format station, but aside from a great 6-hour block the Phoenix jazz station used to play on Sunday nights, I’m left to internet radio. And you think I can get that with my dial-up connection?!!

... Hear no evil ...
A fast connection — or rather a good connection — is also on the mind of Mick Jagger. At least in this morning’s wake-up song. As I caught a few of the lyrics this morning (I’m notoriously bad at deciphering them from the rhythm, chords and tune), I had to chuckle. Yet another song my parents doubtless wouldn’t have let me play around the house.

While chatting online with Wedding Date last night (something my connection will permit), the topic of parental censorship came up. There are two particularly memorable cases from high school. The first was when, sometime after the revolutionary purchase of a television set (circa winter 1993), I started watching Seinfeld on the sly. This wasn’t exactly a problem in and of itself, but sometimes when they returned from a midweek church group, my siblings would watch with me. And as luck would have it, one group viewing concerned Elaine’s faked orgasm. We got to finish watching that night, but Seinfeld, too, was finished in our household.

The other instance of parental censorship involved Etta James’ “I Just Want to Make Love to You.” Part of the excitement of finally having a TV in my very own living room was the joy of television commercials. Indeed, several from my high school years are still vividly etched in memory. In one jeans commercial, a guy brings roses to his girl. As he nears the house, a female form in the upstairs window is seen falling backward with what looks like another man. The flowers wilt instantly. The “real deal” of course, is that she’s struggling to pull on too-tight jeans, and in the process knocks over a fedora-topped dress form curiously stationed in her bedroom.

Selling the song
But mostly I remember the ads for their music. Sometime between 1993-1996, Diet Coke ran a series set to classic songs I was guaranteed to melt for. There was the honeymoon-suite ad with “Makin’ Whoopee” (how subtle, eh?), the bubble-bath ad with Mama Cass’ “Dream a Little Dream of Me,” the sunbathing-waitresses ad with Bobby Darin’s “Beyond the Sea” … And the lynchpin: Lucky Vanous as the shirtless construction worker behind an office “Diet Coke Break.” Soundtrack for their lustfest? Etta James and “I Just Want to Make Love to You.”

Not only did I call up Coca-Cola to ID every song used in the commercial series (particularly the Lucky spot), I even bought the Lucky Vanous calendar. To date, the only beefcake calendar ever owned by Anna Broadway.

My parents forbade neither the purchase nor the display of the calendar, nor even the purchase of an Etta James CD, but they did intervene with audible playing of the song (at least when they were around). Since I was still, in those days, considering law as a possible career, I tried lobbying for the non-salacious nature of the content. Being the well-versed romance-novel reader that I was, I was familiar with more historic forms of the genre. And in these literary specimens, I argued, use of the phrase “make love” applied to scenarios we might today call “making out.” Since Etta had recorded this song circa … 1960 … this was a clear (dare I say “prima facie”?) instance of that usage. Alas, I was outdone by the arguments of a certain opening sax riff.

I Just Want to Make Love to You
‘I Just Want to Make Love to You’ from At Last
Since I’ve quite remiss with Spooning Forks, it’s only appropriate to give “I Just Want to Make Love to You” the treatment. It’s truly a fitting tune for the feature, based on the recent conclusion that I am, above all things, a retrosexual. Not to be confused with instances where this word is applied to the antithesis of the metrosexual, a retrosexual is that woman who relies on 1950s methods of winning a man. Etta is clearly one.

She wants to bake his bread! Make sure he’s well fed! No matter that she sounds like she’s conducting a strip tease; there’s no sexual innuendo in this. She wants to wash his clothes!* … And of course make love to him. But since she doesn’t intend to keep him indoors, there are many places where this might be done. The kissing, that is.

I don’t care about the later classic-rock cover of this; there’s no way a band could sing these lyrics as convincingly as Etta. How does a man sound macho while singing about wanting to keep a woman “well-fed” or baking her bread? Either he sounds like the straight escapee from the Queer Eye cast, or he mutters his way through those lyrics to manly guitar solos … or it comes off as innuendo. And I’m sure that’s not at all what the song’s author (Willie Dixon) had in mind.

I mean, we retrosexual women, we never have things like sex on the brain …

Not sure when my next blog will be; tomorrow I start full-time (and early-morning!) training with the friend whose wedding precipitated such a crisis, as I am also the replacement at her office. We’re winding down the end of this month’s contest, however, and yesterday’s comment section generated quite a fine round of poems. Check ’em out if you haven’t already, and get all final submissions in today. Reader voting on the winners starts Friday.

*Incidentally, a metaphor my A.P. history teacher would have instantly suspected. “Laundry” was his favorite metaphor for sex: Laundromat = brothel, washing the laundry = getting it on, etc. We never did clarify what dry-cleaning was, however …