Vicki Marie’s Sexy Summer Reading Series: One Chapter A Day
THE BACHELOR CHAPTERS: A THINKING WOMAN’S ROMANCE
In business I was better than most at what I did. I was the revenue engine at my company and I had mastered the game; I had cracked the code that led to success and power. It had been neither a plan nor a desire; it was simply a circumstance. I was unemployed, and had applied for a job. I became good at it, but I actually worked for years before I understood my position at the table.
“When does this stop?”
I was talking to my boss in his office. We had worked together for ten years; he had thirty years in the business, and I’d clocked in fifteen. We were discussing my projected sales for the upcoming year.
“My numbers go up every year. When does this end?” I asked him. “Where is the point when that’s no longer possible?” I’d been analyzing my record, and the question jumped off the page. “You must know—where is the top? What do other sales people do?”
I’ll never forget how I felt when he answered. If knowledge is power, then the truth blew my circuits.
“I can’t answer that for you, Vicki Marie. I’ve never seen anyone do what you do. This is your game, now. I’m watching you.”
I was trained as an artist, and I was self-taught in business. My expertise manifested slowly, over more than a decade of persistence. I had no clue what I was doing in the beginning, and I disliked it for years, because it’s a long slog in commission sales before one sees real benefits. But because of the way I was wired I was driven to win; I paid attention and eventually mastered a skill set which I could apply to my entire life. Business taught me to be open, because success came from listening. Business taught me to accept rejection, because success came from not taking it personally. I was already creative, but it was business that taught me that success came from imagination.
The autumn of 2004 marked the fifteenth anniversary of the start of my commercial printing career with my company. I was a seasoned professional, riding the wave of a growing economy. I was healthy and recovered from the depression that had been triggered by the divorce and the desertion, eighteen months earlier. It had been tough, but success was ascendant again in all aspects of my life.
It turned out that it was the first date with the French Cowboy that marked the true beginning of my bold, new life. I had defined myself as a bachelor, and with Dion, I had a mentor as well as an ongoing relationship. I continued to rely on both email dating and networking to cultivate the multiple relationships I wanted. By adopting a business attitude to my first dates, I became less affected with the dates that failed— for any reason—and I was also having more success.
I had playfully asked the company owners for a trip to Hawaii as an anniversary gift, and was thrilled when they said they would be willing to pay my expenses for an industry trade show to Chicago, instead. It would be my first trip to Second City, and as a blues fan and nightlife diva, Chicago had been on my travel list forever. I booked a room at the W on Lakeshore, and got down to the business of researching the best restaurants, salsa clubs, and cultural venues for my five-day trip. I was off to Chi-town solo so I would also be looking for what the Midwest had to offer date-wise. I changed my “home” to Chicago on my Nerve profile and spent several weeks interviewing potential escorts for action.
I exchanged emails with a man named Brian, and he met me at the hotel bar my first night in Chicago. Brian was fair skinned, with gold-rimmed glasses, and wild, sandy colored hair that hung above his shoulders. He wore a sport coat and blue jeans, and drank a beer while I sipped on a glass of wine. There wasn’t a hint of chemistry between us during that first drink, but he was easy-going and friendly, and he filled me in on some of the attractions I shouldn’t miss while I was in town.
I was getting ready to order another glass of wine, when Brian surprised me, and told me he had tickets to the show at Buddy Guy’s famous blues club, Legends. The energy at our table changed in a heartbeat. I leaned in toward my date, riveted by the dream that had just landed in my lap, “You’re taking me to Buddy Guy’s? Brian Rodgers, you are absolutely my favorite man on the planet!” Brian laughed at my outburst, and told me he’d decided immediately after he read about my taste in music on the Nerve site.
“My dad had a stack of 78’s—all blues—he loved Bessie Smith and Billie Holiday,” I told Brian, describing my early memories of dad sitting at the bar in the dining room, snapping his fingers and tapping his foot: a drink next to his elbow, a cigarette burning in the ashtray.
I didn’t just take after my father; I was the female version of J.C. Stolsen. He could be gregarious or wily, and when dad was telling a story, he had all the energy in the room. I used to tell people that it was my dad who taught me to party. It had been six years since his death, and I missed him more than I would admit. He’d checked out too early, and long before he died he left a trail of pain. Our relationship could never be resolved, but there was one blessing from his early death: I could love him again.
“I made this for you,” Brian said, on the drive to the club. “Welcome to Chicago.” I took the CD from his hand. The cover was a portrait of me that he’d taken from the profile photo on my Nerve page.
“Songs for Vicki Marie,” I read the title under my portrait. “No way, Brian! What have you done?”
I cracked open the box and read the playlist: Marvin Gaye’s, “Sexual Healing;” Aretha Franklin’s, “The House That Jack Built;” Buddy Guy’s, “Five Long Years.” Every artist on the playlist was one he’d culled from my Nerve profile.
“I can’t believe it! This is amazing!” Brian beamed back, taking in my thrill at his gift. “You are something else, Mister Chicago!”
I slipped the disc into the player, and the first chords of Al Green’s “Take Me To The River” poured out of the speakers. The man had made me a playlist; that had been Toni’s talent. I smiled, thinking about how my life had changed. Yes, my life had changed. And yes, I was a fan of email dating: because of moments like this—it was all about moments like this.
Legends turned out to be an authentic, venerable dive without a breath of pretense. The band was excellent and the audience loved every note they played. Brian was not a dancer, but he toasted his approval when I excused myself several times to join the other dancers in the house. I had landed in Vicki Marie heaven—shaking it to live blues—on the South Loop of Chicago. I was living a dream.
I was mouthing a lead guitar, and spinning sidewalk steps as we walked to his car, when I turned to my guide, “Take me someplace fabulous for a cocktail!” Brian called it perfectly by rolling up to the Drake Hotel on Chicago’s Miracle Mile. The Drake was legendary during the city’s nineteenth century industrial rise, and was designed as a five-star property in its day. The opulence was still spectacular in the twenty-first century, and I was dazzled by the décor and the history of the expansive bar. Brian and I chose a small settee in the middle of the space, raised a toast with our cognac, and reveled in the luxury of the room.
Brian told me about his recent email dates, and his hopes of finding a woman to love. I heard about his last serious relationship, which was still recent enough for the strain to show on his face. Sipping the cognac, cocooned in the privacy of the space, I listened to his history with tenderness and compassion. In our short time together, he had impressed me as an unabashed romantic: artistic, intelligent, witty, and kind. But he hadn’t picked women that valued him for who he was. Brian voiced a common refrain, something I’d heard from dozens of men. He had been snagged, again and again, in that chick-trap where he was criticized continuously. It’s a loser’s game, and it’s played out relentlessly on too many monogamous teams.
How have we come to view relationships, and therefore love, as a contract of hyper-personalized expectations and entitlements? When our partners inevitably fall short, we tend to practice cruelty as a response to our disappointment. I realize that both men and women are capable of inflicting injury, but there is a particular brand of this brute behavior that is practiced with impunity by women. At these moments we are at our worst, but you can’t tell us that, because these are the moments when women are dicks. And everyone knows, there’s no talking sense to the dick in the room.
Somehow, in the monogamous model of we-are-one, women have misinterpreted our partner’s responsibility in fulfilling the forever-after agreement. Parity takes a backseat behind a common expectation: “Take care of everything I need, or want, or can’t get for myself—because that’s your job, now, baby.”
There’s a problem when women feel entitled to having all of their needs met through the agency of their beloved. For starters it’s not possible, and secondly it’s just not fair. But love is a contract with many clauses, and women can feel entitled because the fine print has placed an unfair burden on them: the 24/7 grind of kids, house, and husband: who can often be mistaken for a kid in the privacy of his own home. She has been recruited as the general manager of the domestic corporation, where she is constantly training new recruits (the kids), maintaining the infrastructure (the home), planning the budget (the cash flow), projecting future operations (college, vacations, the grocery store), and organizing the ADLs (Activities of Daily Living), for the corporation. Eight out of ten women are also working outside the home, many in demanding professions; and many more are in dead-end jobs that suck the very life out of their lungs. Imagine the serious she-needs that aren’t getting any attention. There just isn’t enough time.
This little nuclear cocoon is the perfect storm for disappointment, and our GM is not taking that bitter blow without a fight. Enter cruelty that manifests in the slow torture of accusations, incriminations, and above all, criticisms. I call it the Fall Short Syndrome: “You are not this…”, “You are too that…”, “Why can’t you…”, “You never do…”, “How can you…”, “Who do you…”, and “You’ll never be…” The Fall Short Syndrome presumes absolute authority about everything, including what a man should think, wear, say, do, and become. When women assume the position of ultimate arbiter on all things at all times, and in fairness everyone expects her to, being the GM of the familial enterprise, she often overlooks the fact that her partner is another complete person with his own ideas about his position on the planet. Most of us have done it, but we don’t see that it’s our problem. He’s the problem. If only he would do everything, exactly the way we want him to—then what would happen? Is that when we women get what’s been missing?—romance?—hot sex? — happily ever after?
I invited Brian to my hotel room on the fourteenth floor of the W on Lakeshore. Brian was looking for love and partnership, and he understood, without judgment or obvious disappointment, that my road was different. We were not going to be a match. Still, our evening so far had been a treasure. Brian was a gentleman, who enjoyed pleasing the woman on his arm. He had given a perfect stranger a memorable evening in a legendary town, and I had enjoyed every minute of his company and every venue that had been our backdrop. I wasn’t quite ready to turn down the volume on my first night in Second City, and in the splendor of the W Hotel, Brian gave me the best reason a girl can have to keep the volume up high. Did I say the man enjoyed pleasing the woman on his arm? Not half as much as he enjoyed pleasing the woman on his face.
TOMORROW: Chapter 23
Copyright Vicki Marie Stolsen, 2014, Forever Forty-Four Publications, Publicity Rare Bird Lit, Tyson Cornell, Tyson@rarebirdlit.com, Distribution by Ingram, Available online and in bookstores in paperback, eBook, and audio format.