I rewrote Chapter 38 this morning

and then this afternoon, I rewrote it again. I had closed the manuscript last month; I’d celebrated the finish with a reading in Medellin and whiskey in tall glasses. Since then, I’ve launched my new career as publisher. I’m busy at my new job; there are marketing plans to coordinate, distribution decisions to settle, and the cover art design to complete. I’ve even hired Red14 Films out of Los Angeles to make the trailer—yes, the trailer—even a book needs a video and a YouTube channel to compete for legitimacy these days.

writing is invention Reinventing Chapter 38 for the miracle of a better story. 

So, while I work at my publishing job the manuscript sits dormant, but ready for release and a public life in the very near future. Impulsively, I cracked the spine yesterday. I was suddenly motivated by an immediate curiosity; after eighteen months, thousands of sentences, and four long weeks since I keystroked the final change—was The Bachelor Chapters really complete?

 After a month-long hiatus, I found that the story flowed smoothly, reading exactly as the page-turner I planned for. Until I crossed over to Chapter 38, and that’s when I saw it: somewhat clumsy, slightly confused and missing the mark. Chapter 38 was not bad, but I immediately realized it could be so much more. I’ve no doubt that the few people who’ve read the manuscript will applaud the change, and the rest of you who haven’t would feel the same if you had.

 The sweet miracle of writing is when the invention of ideas transfers from whimsy or opinion to solid form. When I set out to rewrite Chapter 38, I responded to the fact that something was lacking in the chapter—but I could not have told you what was missing, and I sure didn’t have a plan to correct it. Fixing becomes faith in a writer’s repertoire, something I experienced over and over again as I crafted the story. That may be the thing I love the most about my new art form. I have faith I will be able to concoct miracles of invention—everyday that I write—with only a laptop and expertise of the English language.

 Today I present my latest miracle; The Reinvention of Chapter 38. I surprised myself with the arc of the chapter and where it landed. I am beholden to another satisfying miracle of invention from my miraculous writing life.

 

CHAPTER 38 from The Bachelor Chapters: A Thinking Woman’s Romance

Shaun Madison was twenty-seven years old, but I didn’t know that the night he drove me home from Jason Sinclair’s party. Later, when he told me, somehow I heard twenty-nine. In 2005 I still had a bias against men in their twenties because of the obvious; they are men in their twenties.

 It’s just a fact that this is the apprentice decade of adulthood; it’s ground zero for getting it right and amateurs are everywhere. And then there was my own personal handicap; I had missed the entire decade from a heterosexual perspective. Twenty-something year old men were foreigners to me. I didn’t speak their language and I was certain there was no reason to learn.

Already though, younger men swarmed in and out of my bachelor chapters, discrediting forever the myth that heterosexual desire is aimed exclusively at queen bees below thirty. It was on my first date with Tyrone, when he confessed to his irrepressible erection, that I began my tour of duty with the proud army of men who saluted God’s truth; older women were just about as hot as it got. From that point forward, the thirty-something’s made it clear that they wanted me, and I instantly discovered that this is the decade where men perfect marathon sex.

I dated men of all ages, but the way things trended, my lovers were younger. I would have been labeled a Cougar if that title had existed in the early years of my bachelorhood. When I was inevitably accused of it, I rejected it like I’d rejected the unsavory booty-call. These were slams that stunk just as much as slut, casting women who have sex as lecherous or desperate. My title was bachelor, a term that elevated promiscuity to social acceptance.

The younger men in my life either preferred older women or did not discriminate. After Shaun Madison, it became clear that I could consider men from every adult decade for my bachelor pool. Born in 1979, this Jamaican American, Buddhist-mediating chef and Kama Sutra-inspired lover walked into my world, and gave me reason to revise my bias. We stood on opposite sides of a twenty-one year age gap, but with the grace of destiny, we stretched across that divide into a sensational sexual fit.

As the years moved along, and my collection of men expanded, I began to think of their birth years as vintages. The year 1969 was a good one for me, and over time, I continued to add spicy reserves from that season to my collection. Worthy varietals from my birth decade, the 1950’s, were in dwindling supply. Still, I continued to uncover those select Super Tuscan’s that shattered expectations, their silky flavor a mouthful to remember. Most of my tastings were from the 1960’s and 1970’s, and never a green batch among them. I was just lucky that way, like I had a filter that trapped quality.

I had almost crossed over into my fifth decade when I was tempted by the bouquet of an earthy 1985, an adventurous surfer-boy, while both of us were vacationing on the Pacific Coast of Panama. My surfer buddy was barely twenty-two when he smoothly hit-on me after dinner one night. He laid a steamy kiss on my lips, than strung a rosary of kisses around my neck. His passion was absolute and my arousal was immediate. The man was hot, and he had me, until that same passion broke the spell. “Do you know how sexy you are?” he whispered, before bringing me in for another kiss. I couldn’t answer with his tongue in my mouth, but I did the calculations. My tempting ocean athlete had been having adult sex for a mere twelve months: I’d been in the same club for twenty-eight years. Liberated I may have been, but the consequence of his question came at me like a bucket of ice water upended; in the shock of social context, the heat was just gone. I’d bumped into a virtual border and found a line I could not cross: the anti-age blow that I was older than his mom. We all draw the line somewhere; as individuals it’s our call. But in society others draw the lines and call the shots. We call those boundaries normal, but it’s a fact of history that sometimes normal is in need of a change.

“How old were you when you first had sex with an older woman?”

That was something I asked all my young lovers, and I learned quickly I was never the first—far from it—their experience had been initiated years earlier, always as adolescents. “I was fifteen; she was twenty-eight.” “I had just turned seventeen, and she was forty-one.” “I was dating her daughter—I think she was thirty-nine.” Of course I was stunned: until I heard it every time. My sex-positive bachelor lifestyle had uncovered a secret sub-culture of women breaking taboos—and often the law. These teenage lovers had adopted a code of silence: not because they felt odd about their desire for older women, but because they had to protect their adult lovers from the consequences. I was often the first person they had ever told.

If these were adult men with teenage girls we would label them predators and charge them with rape and put them in jail. By contrast, the truth expressed by all of these adult men was gratitude. They were grateful for their sexual apprenticeships. All these men were masters at sex, and every single one was proud he’d been trained. They felt fortunate to have studied early, that they had learned a valuable skill, and that they had become great lovers for the rest of their lives.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We are friends, as my long distance lovers and I often are

He and I stand to the left of convention: both of us holding bachelor titles, and to be clear, I’m referring to relationship status—not academic achievement. For the purpose of this post, suffice it to say that we are dear friends and mutual fans, both Americans, having met in Central America, which remains the backdrop and the sustaining link of our adult-style friendship.

He wrote a memoir, too—a laser look at a life that began way to young on the streets of Brooklyn—messing with the mob as way out of poverty, and then stepping into the army as a way out of jail. My friend became a career soldier with a CID title—a serious shit-kicker in that corps of cops whose duty is to police other soldiers. The budding criminal saved by a law enforcement lifestyle; it’s a compelling saga told well in his words. As I read it, it was easy to imagine the movie adaptation would produce a celebrity hero.

Training Days The author in training for the up-coming battles that will follow the January 2014 release of her memoir, “The Bachelor Chapters: A Thinking Woman’s Romance”

Our political views are polar opposites, and there is not even grudging respect for how we both understand that the world is framed. I was certain he was the first Republican I’d ever had sex with, until he clarified that he is no more or no less than a passive independent. Passive, because he’s not an activist; but he’s Italian by heritage, a New Yorker by birth and his conservative views are loud and proud and reported as fact.

It was the energy of that New York pedigree that drew me in; I gravitate to strong characters whose confidence is absolute. Early on we left the political discussions off the table, and instead enjoyed a raucous repartee of every other subject over good food, Pacific Ocean views and smoking-hot sex.

When he asked to read my memoir, The Bachelor Chapters, I didn’t hesitate, and sent him the last revision of the second draft on the same day it went to my editor, Stacey Donovan, in May. Of course I wanted to hear what he thought, and of course he agreed to call and tell me when he had finished.

When I moved to Barcelona for the summer, Stacey returned the second draft, with red marks bleeding thorough the pages. I was mortified; the second draft was a fist-pounding improvement over the original manuscript, and I was certain only minor corrections would be in order. “Trust your editor,” that’s my advice—and if you don’t—go find another. I took on her notes; I considered every critique. I got mad—more than once. Eventually I came to understand that the fury I felt for HER—was the fury I would never have to experience from my future readers. That anger reflex led to my smartest self-editing reflections: Am I saying exactly what I mean? Am I keeping the reader in the story?

Wiser people than me won’t be surprised to hear that after one more rewrite, the third revision soars above that second draft, and soon, let’s say January 2014—I’ll be recommending a “buy” on the title, and begin the gamble on the reviews that follow. In the meantime, I had reason to call my Brooklyn-born buddy yesterday, needing his opinion on the situation that has us both bound to Panama in Central America. We hadn’t spoken since I sent the manuscript five months earlier, and he hadn’t answered the text message I sent later prompting his opinion.

Our business complete, I changed the topic. “So, wtf—did you read my book or not?” “Yeah, I read it,” his voice slowed down, and I thought I knew what was coming, “as soon as I got it.”

“You were gonna call me, r e m e m b e r—and tell me what you thought!”

“Yeah, yeah—well—I messed that up completely,” he confessed, as confident men often do. No excuses, no BS. These people still exist.

“So it would seem. So give it up now. Whaddya think, baby?”

“Well, I thought…” he didn’t so much drag out the sentence, as take a deep breath for the spate of condemnation that followed, “…I thought, what the hell are you trying to do here—lose all your readers?” That was what I expected, and he didn’t stop there.

“I mean you sound like—now, don’t get mad—you sound like an angry, white woman! You hate white men, you hate straight women—who’d you write it for—? —a bunch of lesbians who hate everyone?” Like I said, no bullshit from this man: just a little breather between facts.

“You’re doing this to get your story out—and to sell books,” he reminded me, “and how are you going to do that when you rip everyone apart?” It wasn’t a question as much as a critique, and when I thought he’d slowed down the steam, I jumped in with the obvious.

“Oh come on—I hate white men and straight women?—that’s what you got out of it?”

“Well, you do!

“I do not!”

“You do, too! Come on! It’s in the book!”

“Hell-ooh?—there’s like, one paragraph where I take on white men—but there’s no man-hating in the book—I’M HAVING SEX WITH WHITE MEN IN THE BOOK!”

I knew I wasn’t going to change his mind—but I was practicing the battle. I’m going to hear this again when the book hits. And when the book flies—I’m going to hear it a lot. And that’s not the half of. There are big, plump, cherry-picking opportunities to find offense with my fifty-shades-of-worldview that make up, The Bachelor Chapters. Two minutes with my guy and I’ve already decided; I need a trainer.

“I’m just telling you what I read—and it’s on the very first page!” he staked his position with that irrefutable fact. That’s exactly where it was.

And with that, I had to decide all over again, I had to cue up the questions, I had to bear the echo that familiar nagging voice: is this how I want to start? Is this going to cost me? Is this going to marginalize me before I even qualify for the game?

And there’s still one possible answer that always falls first: it just might.

So, today, right here, right now: I’m going to publish the first page—the preface, the prologue; the one way—out of a million ways—I decided to start my story. You tell me what I’m risking.

 THE BACHELOR CHAPTERS: A THINKING WOMAN’S ROMANCE

The Prologue

You want to know what I think is cool about black men? They’re not white men.

Hear me out. I’m not saying it to offend; I only say it because it’s true. For readers who aren’t white men, my point is old news. What’s also old news is that so many white men won’t get it, because the point is just that: so many white men don’t get it.

They don’t get that the world has been laid out for them. They don’t get that the cards are stacked in their favor. They don’t get that they are at the front of the bus and in line to take over the wheel. I don’t write this to pick a fight, or debate the merits of my claim; I write it to testify to the fact that there’s nothing quite as irritating as a misinformed white man with his denial on display. The rest of us are weary when these dudes won’t own up to the reality that they have privilege, and we are bone‐tired of their inane insistence that the field is level, and they are self-made.

In my life—lived first as a girl, next as a woman, and for many years as a lesbian—the field wasn’t near level; there were ruts and sinkholes and shifting sand. With no other option, I finessed the terrain and played the game of making it in the white man’s world and calling it mine. Of course, it’s mine too; in spite of the obstacle course that just kept on giving. The black men I’ve come to know don’t need to be convinced about the uneven playing field or the truth about blockades and double standards. They made their plays in a whole other ballpark, in a game with a different set of rules, and where the odds were also rigged against winning. But they won, too. It’s just the truth that the big game of life is played in the white man’s world with the white man’s rules; and what’s cool about black men is they can’t annoy me with either innocence or stupidity that somehow that’s not true.

That was one discovery that I made about Black America when I began to date black men in the first decade of the twenty‐first century. At that time in my life, I had set out to save myself, one more time, from my presumptuous culture. I was forty‐four years‐old and single for the first time in twenty years. I had just recovered from a serious illness, the debilitating side effect of a personal crisis. After I got well, I decided to adopt a new lifestyle, making it up as I went, guided by wisdom and instinct, and the drive to get it right. I didn’t have all the answers, but I had a direction and an advantage. I wasn’t just starting over; I was starting smarter.

But that came later, and this story won’t make a lick of sense, or deserve your attention, until I set the stage and you’re clear on what happened before.

(chapter one follows)