Sunday, July 13, 2008

Bad Girls Aren't What You Think

I was having drinks with a neighbor last night--a neighbor who reads my blog--and she asked me, "Do you think you have to have sex to be a bad girl?"

I had to stop and think. I write a lot about bad girls and sex because it's interesting and, let's face it, titillating. Titty-lating. In my wild woman research, I like my bad girls to be independent, strong-headed, vain, eccentric and promiscuous. I'm drawn to that personality type. Sexy women are fun.

But celibate nuns can be wild bad girls, too. Of course they can, if they've got a rebellious spirit. In fact, all kinds of women these days have a bit of the bad girl in them, and they're not necessarily polyamorous bisexual babes like Pixie.

Under the influence

I'm not even sure anymore if I know what a bad girl is. We're living in an excellent era for women now in our industrialized world, with so many of us free to run around and do crazy things, things that not too long ago would have marked us as unhinged. Also last night, I watched the 1974 John Cassavetes film A Woman Under the Influence and was reminded that back then, women who didn't behave themselves were locked up in nuthouses, shot full of thorazine and given so many electroshock treatments that all the sex, fight and talk was blasted right out of them. And it was their own family and friends who were committing them.

Now, women can do whatever the hell they want. And it's not just about the sex. Me, for example, I'm enjoying a lot of travel without Dave this year. I went to Greece in May with a girlfriend, am going to Las Vegas for a long weekend this month with another bunch of girlfriends, and am planning a solo yoga and surf retreat in Morocco in September. When I tell family and friends about my travels without my man, they're a bit incredulous yet amused. "Where's Dave?"

I know another woman--a kind and decent sixty-something woman who used to work as a dinner lady at her sons' Catholic school--who plans to take up karate lessons this summer: "The lady who runs the karate class said, 'Don't worry, I'll take care of you,' so I said, 'Righty-o, I'll give it a go for a few weeks and see if I think it's fun." I imagine she'll be smashing bricks in half soon.

And another woman I know abandoned her husband and children for six weeks this summer so she could travel alone in Portugal and Spain. (OK, she's a Spanish teacher, and working on improving her language skills but still...six weeks! I'm a bit incredulous yet amused.)

She emailed me her thoughts:
"Being a writer, you might appreciate the number of authors I have met on this trip.

"It started in Lisbon. I was standing in front of a clothing store, looking at the display and a woman approached me. She smelled heavily of tobacco smoke. She asked me, in Portuguese, 'Do you appreciate poetry?' 'Yes,' I replied. She then told me that she was a poet and that she survived by selling her poetry, and asked if she could recite a poem for two Euros. So I said sure, and she recited the poem and then gave me a copy of it, which she signed.

"In Spain, one of my professors has published a number of books, one on brujeria (witchcraft) in Spain and the history of people's memories of it, and how the Inquisition accused certain women of it. He has also published a collection of short stories that he says took him twelve years to write.

"One of my classmates is a man from the Dominican Republic, Jose, now living and teaching in New Jersey. I was talking to him one day, and I told him about my stay in DR and the nuns I work with. We talked a little about Trujillo, the dictator/sex addict/murderer who ruled the Dominican Republic for over 30 years. Several days later, Jose casually mentioned that he was invited to the Dominican Republic for the release of his collected poetry, and that he also has two books coming out in the fall about Trujillo.

"OK, number four: One of my companions here is a Puerto Rican woman named Ada, who lives in Indianapolis. She got divorced about five years ago, and about a year ago, a woman she works with fixed her up with her widowed Mexican father. Herman has also published poetry and participated in poetry slams.

"And, last, but not least, number five: I was in the cafeteria one morning having breakfast. I was joined by a Canadian couple, and the husband told me the story of the book he spent ten years researching, a nonfiction account of the Trekkers, exploited workers in Western Canada during the Great Depression. He has promised to send me a copy of the book when it comes out, and I shall have a nice surprise for my husband."

Although my friend says she feels like her life is out of a Hemingway novel this summer, she also says she misses home. "Even though it's been very rich and rewarding, and I know that my teaching will benefit greatly from what I've learned here, it's been difficult--lonely, I suppose. But I am a freak for the insight I get upon re-entry--and I think this one is going to be a doozy."

Friday, July 04, 2008

Pixie: Skittles' Historical Re-Enacter

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