Last night at my writers group, waiting for that potluck dinner bell, somehow the topic turned to nude beaches. A question of beauty. Faye told a funny story about a couple of gay friends who had gone to the nude beach and sunned themselves for the first time. One of them apparently hadn't thought the thing through and sunburned his dick. They discovered this when they tried to make love. KY Jelly doesn't fix everything. Where was this beach, I asked. In Georgia? Here in the Bible Belt? No, Florida. Florida? Oh, oh well. Yes of course. It would have to be Florida, or course, of course.
I mentioned that I wouldn’t mind spending time at a nude beach, not simply out of voyeurism, though that too, but because Nudity has a new interest to me. Since I am temporarily living alone I spend a lot of my time walking around the house naked just because I can. I have learned to wear an apron when I fry things, much the same way the gay guy learned not to sub burn his dick.
“No,” she said. “The problem with nude beaches is that I don’t want to see unlovely bodies. I only want to see beauty.”
“You mean you only want to see beautiful people?”
“I want to see beautiful men and beautiful women celebrating their beauty. I don’t want to see old ladies with boobs hanging to their knees and wrinkles.”
“Well,” I said, “I'm not that young at all, though so far I've managed to take care of myself. I don't make any claims to beauty. But the funny thing is, my ideas about beauty have changed a lot as I've gotten older. Sex, beauty, my idea of what is erotic. It's all different now. You get older, your hormones are different (all the ladies nodded and rolled their eyes) and what you think is erotic or sexy, that changes too.”
“Tell me you don't think young women are beautiful,” said Faye, who was by no means young herself.
“I do, of course they are, but they're not interesting.”
Adult drinks, the ones held in ladies’ hands, paused in the air.
“Young women are sort of, I don’t know – green. Unripe. Unsweet. I don’t see beauty as being so All That at my age, what I want to see is what is interesting. I want to see a woman whose body looks interesting. A woman who herself is interesting. Does this woman look like she would be an interesting lover? Do you know the Could You Would You game?”
Faye shook her head. I indulged that male pleasure of having all the eyes of the women at the table suddenly on me. I let the moment hang a little.
“Everybody plays this game. Men and women. You look around the room wherever you are and you look at the people and you see someone, maybe for you, a man, and you ask this - in a perfect world, maybe a parallel universe, if you could fuck that person and totally get away with it, would you? Not like, I'm married, or maybe diseases or anything no, or Jesus doesn’t like that, but just you're in paradise and can do anything you want just because you ant it.
“Like in a dream!” said someone.
“Like a dream. Just fuck him because you want to. Wham. Like that. You play that game?
“Everybody plays that game,” I said, “So when I play that game, I'm not looking for the most beautiful young thing in the room. I'm looking for a full grown woman who looks a little crazy and intense. Yoko Ono. Zelda to Fitzgerald. Someone interesting. Maybe a little scary. I try to imagine what she’s like. That's how I've changed. Women think when they get older they're not beautiful anymore, but what they don’t know is that men's ideas of what beautiful looks like changes when you change.
“But interesting doesn't mean beautiful,” said Faye.
“Serena Williams isn’t beautiful,” I said, “But those thighs. Oh my God. There isn’t a man, gay or straight, who wouldn’t love to go down on her just once and feel his skull squeezed hard between those amazing thighs.”
Some of the women looked shocked and it dawns on me that I’m going too far.
“I think smart men are sexy,” said one of the other women. “These days it’s so hard to find a smart man who is in touch with his feelings. A smart man in touch with his feelings is incredibly sexy no matter what he looks like.”
“What about this,” I said, plunging ahead, pouring a sober slug of ginger ale in my plastic cup. “What if you were going to make love with a man for the first time, and instead of him trying to prove to you what a great stud he is, he says ‘you can use my body to explore yourself. Use my male body to explore your desires freely. Any crazy thing you ever wanted to do with a man and were afraid to ask, now you can do it with me. Explore your desires through me.’ Wouldn't that be good? Even if he’s not young, and just sort of okay looking? Wouldn’t you like that?”
A woman picked up a napkin and pretended to fan herself.
“Some men think like that too. You think they don’t? You ever see this movie - Take This Waltz?”
Everyone draws a blank, they haven’t heard of it.
“It’s about marriage and relationships,” I said, “Sort of a really good chick flick. There's this scene, after all these women have finished a swimming class, because one of the women peed in the pool, really, and these women are all in the common shower room and they're all full frontal naked and they're all talking about marriage and what's good and bad about it. But these are real women. None of these are professional beauties. Black. White. Korean maybe. A couple of them of chunky. One of them's pretty old. Body hair. You know? Lumpy knees. Scars. Tits pointing down. Everything. And I just thought they were incredibly sexy. They were so real. I'd have been happy to do any of them - could you would you – damn if I wouldn’t. I wanted to walk across the room and lick my tongue up the TV screen. Uhhhmmmmm.”
“And you're the guy here in the group who write porno stories? said Rhonda, a younger woman with nerd eyeglasses and hospital scrubs.
“Not so porno,” I said. “Maybe that's why I don't have more readers, cause I don’t. I could write porn. Porn is easy to write, it's just formula and what I write isn't easy for me. I don't go for a story unless it has soul. See - porn and horror have similar narrative roots. They are absolutely the oldest forms of all fiction. You think cave men guys didn't sit around the cave fire waving their dicks at each other, telling stories about what great cocksmen they are and all the women they fucked and how they nailed them? Guys don’t ever change. Not in a million years. Or the shaman telling ghost stories to scare everybody at night? Sex stories and horror stories work when you care about the people getting screwed or beheaded or whatever. You have to care. Or at least I do, some people don't. I need to care. Bad sex can be way more interesting than good sex. I want to know what people think about when a man can’t get it up no matter how he tries, or a woman is worried if he’ll like her body. I'd rather read a real girls diary telling how she lost her virginity than any porn story any day. That's sexy to me. I think so anyway.”
Elle comes into the room tinkling a little hand bell. "Food’s ready. Come and get it. Use the paper plates, I’m not washing dishes tonight."
Faye stood and grabbed my arm. “We're not done,” she said. “Sit next to me.”