by Jean Roberta
Here is a little snippet from my story, "A Dowager's Hump," which was published in Ripe Fruit: Well-Seasoned Erotica, an anthology featuring women aged 50 and over, edited by Marcy Sheiner (Cleis Press, 2002).
The narrator is a kind of Mary Sue character: a menopausal (or post-menopausal) woman who is not afraid of time because she doesn't believe in depriving herself of anything she really wants. She is bisexual, for lack of a clearer term. And in this case, she wants to show her distraught sister-in-law the pleasures of self-indulgence.
I came home from work on a day cold enough to freeze a witch’s tits, to use a vulgar expression. As I walked into my welcoming house, its warmth hit me like a burst of hormones. The phone was ringing.
“Margaret?” begged the voice on the other end. “I kicked him out. I hope you can forgive me.”
This melodrama from my ex-sister-in-law seemed to match the extremes of temperature in a Canadian winter. “Pfft,” I told her. “It was overdue. You’d better come over. Otherwise you won’t eat -- or you’ll binge.”
Sarah was pitifully grateful, and she arrived at my door before I had had enough time to confer with myself. Emerging from her parka, she looked sodden. She shook her brown hair like a cocker spaniel.
“Have a drink to warm up,” I told her, “then we’ll go out for dinner.”
She seemed childlike as she sat on my sofa, sipping a scotch-and-seven as though it could restore lost hope. I had catered to her taste: old scotch ruined by the adolescent fizz of Seven-Up. A good hostess, like a cruel
ancient god, gives her supplicants what they think they want.
I noted that Sarah’s breasts were fuller than they had been; she must have gained weight. I knew that she must consider this a disaster. We both sighed.
“I mean,” she was complaining, “I can see why he fools around. Men have this biological need to find younger women as long as they can. It’s just in them, no matter what they promise. But what’s left for us?” I glanced ironically at the framed print hanging next to my bookcase. It is a sepia-toned photo of Emmaline Pankhurst giving a speech on women’s rights, watched admiringly by her grown daughters. Sarah missed the reference.
“I’m thirty-five,” she complained. “I have to face it.”
“So you do,” I agreed. She remembered that the digits in my age were hers in reverse. She was embarrassed.
“Not that we’re too old for some things,” she assured me, politely ignoring the near-generation gap between us, “but we can’t pick up guys the way we used to.”
I was wearing my favorite royal blue knit dress with the pantihose that are supposed to stimulate my legs. I considered whether most male patrons of meat-market bars would like the way the dress skimmed my breasts and hips.
I asked myself whether Sarah would sputter with envy if I explained that I stay slim enough by eating only when hungry and by traveling on foot whenever possible. I realized that better food for thought was on the table.
“Do you want another man so soon, girl?” I asked her. Better to wallow in scotch-and-seven, I thought.
Now she looked deeply distressed. “I don’t want to end up like –“ she blurted. “You haven’t been with a man since David died, have you?” Cancer, my only successful rival, had taken my husband ten years before.
“Not often,” I agreed. “The ones I meet usually lack depth, so I don’t keep them long. They’re appetizers. But I wouldn’t underestimate the value of a good fuck.” Sarah stared, obviously wondering whether the combination of
alcohol and gassy bubbles had affected her hearing. I smiled. “I don’t need their money any more,” I explained. “Sometimes they need mine. I believe in noblesse oblige, of course, and I don’t mind helping them, but when they
assume I’m a fool, the romance is over.”
I could see that my thinly-veiled advice was whizzing past Sarah’s ears like pub darts missing their target. I reached for her empty glass, took it to the kitchen and refilled it.