Thursday, September 1, 2011

Suspended Sentence

“We need to talk right after I get back.”

“One of the two finalists will have to pack up and leave immediately. The winner will be announced right after this commercial break.”

“The two founding members of the Group for Human Rights disappeared five years ago. Their relatives have been unable to get information about their whereabouts.”

“The average wait time for an emergency examination by a doctor is three hours.”

“We never reveal the results of a test for HIV over the telephone. Patients must come in to the clinic.”

“I don’t know why you’re so worried about it, babe. It’s natural for women to get pregnant.”

“I’ll call you some time.”

“You know Cheryl and I lived together for a few years, don’t you? I hope you don’t really expect me to stop seeing her.”

“You are hereby sentenced to be suspended by the neck until dead. Have a nice day.”
[Actually, that last part was probably not uttered by any judge in a courtroom.]

I sometimes wonder why anticipation has such a good press. Being left dangling for hours, days, weeks, months or years is excruciating.

As Simon and Garfunkel sang: “The nearer your destination, the more you're slip-slidin' away." (If the slip-slidin’ involved a lot of sexual teasing combined with a lot of lube, though, it could be fun.)

Waiting for something you really want and seem reasonably likely to get (a surprise party, sexual release) is a delicious form of anticipation.

Like “submission,” “anticipation” can be defined in such contradictory ways that either it doesn’t seem like a good thing, or it doesn’t seem genuine to every observer.

Anticipation could be defined as the state of being alive. We never know for sure what is coming next, even though we can be reasonably sure of our final destination.
Many people who teach or perform in public get “stage fright” to greater or lesser degrees. (It gets milder with practice and experience.) Still, a performer can never be sure how the audience will respond until the very moment. And individual members of an audience will respond differently in different settings.

Years ago, I was invited to read some of my erotica during Lesbian/Gay/Bi/Trans Pride Week. Knowing how controversial sexually-explicit writing was and still is, I agreed on one condition: I would preface my reading with a general introduction to the genre. I didn’t want the audience (especially latecomers) to walk into a room in which a fiftyish woman who does not look like a porn star would be describing an orgasm (apparently from memory), and wonder why no one from the local psychiatric facility had shown up yet.

I was amazed when over two dozen people came out in pouring rain to hear my talk and reading. I gave my mini-lecture, followed by several short passages from my own stories, and got thunderous applause. There was no hostility whatsoever. Absolutely none. During the following group discussion of the seizure of sexually-explicit material from the U.S. at the Canadian border, the whole audience seemed to love the idea of Canadian-grown erotica as a means of outwitting the border guards.

I felt like the diva of the hour. It seemed I had been worried for nothing.

Now I am scheduled to give a more scholarly talk as part of the “Queer Initiatives” series at the university. My talk (a paper I submitted to a journal in 2007, and never got a response) is called “Blood on the Page: First Menstruation in Two Coming-of-Age Narratives.” Note that this is a virgin essay, never before read aloud (or as far as I know, read silently by anyone but me).

Today I was taken aback to learn that my talk is being advertised as part of the “Homecoming Week” celebrations of the university’s centennial (founded in 1911), probably because my talk was scheduled for that week. Menstruation and coming home to the Alma Mater – the significance of life-cycles? I just don’t know.

The anticipation (mostly my own) is building. I really don’t know what to expect.

The suspense keeps life interesting. :~)


  1. Hi, Jean,

    Are anticipation and suspense the same things? I'm not sure. If something is "dangling" as you put it, but you push it out of your mind, there's no anticipation involved. We're the ones who create the tension (or the delight) by dwelling on the future.

    I'm sure your talk will be - interesting! I do hope your audience is as sympathetic as it was for your reading.

    And hope you're enjoying your birthday trip, too!

  2. Congratulations on the success of your erotica talk. I hope that your new audience is as welcoming and open to hearing what you say.

  3. Homecoming? I can see where that might be a bit awkward. But to have been there in the more pioneering years in Canada to bring out issues like lesbian sexuality and erotic fiction, that was a great privelege and challenge and no doubt took a lot of guts. Things are relatively easier these days. I think.



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