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, June 29, 2005

Get a robe!

The New York Observer this week has an article about the latest fashion phenomenon (well, I hope it’s only a New York fashion phenom): the man-crack. The illustration shows it all, depicting a swath of city the headline calls “Nude York, Nude York!” (Too bad it doesn’t have a better ring; that “D” just stops the tongue.)

I’ve seen man-crack — in fact a friend’s father’s man-crack (gulp) — and it ain’t that hot (even if the weather lately is). At least the aforementioned peepshow was strictly inadvertant. And according to the article, that’s the more-authentic, “hard core” mode of flashing. It’s the calculated flaunting that’s the slightly less respectable trend.

Apparently since we women have tried to rule the world like men and abandoned most of our trademark modes of wielding power, you’ve added turnabout to your rulebooks and started pirating our fashion. (So speculates the Observer.)

But here’s the thing: I don’t want a man like me, I want a man! That’s why computer techs are so hot — ’cause you can fix things that I can’t. Things that make me sweat and fret about the state of my precious baby, they can confidently put to rights (or so I tell myself when my monitor starts to flicker like an aging strobe light; don’t mess with the fantasy, yo!).

The thing is, attraction’s like a dance, and I don’t mean a chorus line. If you’re both facing each other and you want to find a way to move together, you have to take the opposite kind of steps (one steps forward, one steps back). Your moves are different but complementary.

I’m a sucker for dance, I am. In fact it was a very-hot dance with Swinger #1 that first gave me the fevah ... well, down below. But the thing about dancing is, the drama is often achieved in tiny increments; little flourishes injected into an otherwise fairly disciplined engagement between two bodies.

Amelie showed us something of that as well, in the intensity there when the lovers finally meet. But how do they greet? Do they suddenly tear off each other’s clothes in a scene hot enough to set local-weather records? No. They exchange a series of little kisses — on the jaw, on the temple, but never on the mouth, at least at first.

And you know, in this age of casual porn consumption, where sexual satisfaction becomes a thing we stalk like big game, I think there’s something to that. But don’t take my word for it; Dave Hickey said it best (speaking of an Andy Warhol film:
In this new flick, the camera just sat there, trained on this guy who just sat there too, sideways to the camera in a chair, like Whistler’s mother’s gay nephew, getting a haircut. That was it. The barber was out of the frame. All we saw were his hands, the scissors, and the comb, fluttering around this guy’s head. Clip-clip! Clip-clip-clip!

We couldn’t fucking believe it. This was really boring. Mesmerizing too, of course, but not mesmerizing enough to keep us from moaning, keening almost, and swaing in our chairs. Clip-clip! But we kept looking at the screen even though we knew, after the first minute, that this was going to be it: that it was just a guy getting a haircut. Still, we watched, and it just went on and on. Clip! Clip-clip-clip! In truth, it was no more than five or six minutes, but that’s a long time in a movie, approximately the length of a Siberian winter. ...

Then it happened. The guy getting a haircut reached into his shirt pocket, pulled out a pack of cigarettes and casually lit one up! Major action! Applause. Tumultuous joy and release! Chanting even. And the joy may have been ironic (it almost certainly was), but the release was quite genuine. I remember every instant of Henry lighting up that cigarette and the laughter I could not suppress. Because it was fun, and amazing to realize how seriously you had been fucked with. The haircut continued at that point (clip-clip!), but we were alive now. Fifteen minutes earlier we had been dozing through Brakhage’s visual Armageddon. Now we were cheering for some guy lighting a Lucky Strike.

Clearly Mr. Warhol was onto something here. It was stupid, but it was miraculous, too. His film had totally recalibrated the perceptions of a roomful of sex-crazed adolescent revolutionaries into a field of tiny increments. It had restored the breath and texture to things and then, with the flip of a Zippo, had given us a little band in the bargain — and by accident, I have no doubt.
That, friends, is a little picture of what true ecstasy is like — not a thing you can trap in some corner by using the edgiest techniques, but a burst of laughter that explodes from within your gut at the moment when you least expect it. The ecstasy in a delightful surprise. Maybe the answer isn’t to speed things, but to slow them down and savor a little.