What’s Love Go To Do With It?

The following is the transcript of Vicki Marie Stolsen with time on her hands, taking on pole, love, and the evolution of her Bachelor Ways. May 23, 2014 at FitPoling Studio, Panama City, Panama 

I lived in wonderful cities when I wrote The Bachelor Chapters, including Buenos Aires, Cartagena and Barcelona. I also lived in Medellin, which is where I landed on the first day of 2013, when I started to write the second draft. I wrote everyday for five or six hours, and then I’d walk to my gym for a workout. The gym was in a mall, and one day, I left the mall through a different door. That’s when I found a studio called Pole Fitness, and that was when I dumped the gym, and became a pole athlete.

Vicki Marie gets hooked on pole, Pole Fitness Studio, Medellín, 2013

Vicki Marie gets hooked on pole, Pole Fitness Studio, Medellín, 2013.

I’m crazy about pole—which sometimes is just crazy. Pole is painful, and often, pole is impossible. I’ve been doing this for sixteen months now, and from the beginning, whenever I train a new position or take on a new combination, there are two things I can count on. First, I’m wide-eyed and excited about how beautiful it is and how much I want to own it; and then I jump in and I’m clumsy and confused and certain I’ll never be able to pull it off.

 Thank God for my teachers, because they break it down into smaller parts and I learn to connect the dots, and because I try it again—and again and again—I also learn that impossible is often temporary.

Vicki Marie in Cartagena with Bianca Huls, pole and fitness diva from Holland

Vicki Marie in Cartagena with Bianca Huls, pole and fitness diva from Holland.

Pole makes me feel strong and it makes me feel sexy and it makes me want more. I want more combinations, I want more grace, I want more strength, and I want more results. I’ve come to view pole as more than sport and more than dance—I see pole as a way to be on the planet. Pole is about seeing what you want, and pushing through until you have it. Pole puts failure in your face every damn day, and pole teaches you to succeed by not giving up.

 What I also dig about pole: it is the ultimate feminist sport. Everyone knows that pole has its roots in strip clubs, and that the women who dance on poles for cash are stigmatized and denied social respectability. But not everyone knows about the global movement that began a little more than ten years ago. That was when women liberated pole from the red light districts, and planted it in the dance and fitness studios of our neighborhoods. Pole is hot—and not simply because we train half-naked, flick our hair, and shake our butts. Pole is hot because we make our bodies stronger, we make our limbs more flexible, and we make failure our teacher. Pole is hot because we make sexy normal and not shameful.

Urban poling happens in the streets, and in Cartagena, is happens at the crack of dawn before sweat and humidity take their toll

Urban poling happens in the streets, and in Cartagena, is happens at the crack of dawn before sweat and humidity slide you off a lamp-post.

It was destiny that I found pole while I was writing the book, because The Bachelor Chapters is also about making sexy normal and not shameful. The book tells the true story about a transformative moment in my life, which began a decade ago, following a serious illness. When I recovered, I took inventory of what had happened to me, and I understood that to stay healthy, I would have to change how I played my game.

I didn’t know exactly how I was going to do it, and unlike pole, I didn’t have teachers to guide me. So, I made it up as went, guided by wisdom and instinct and the drive to get it right. Along the way, I had to push through self-doubt and I had to wrestle with other people’s judgments, because I was forsaking some of our most inflexible customs.

My first audience, on the beach, near Barcelona with Pole Dance Factory.

My first audience, on the beach, near Barcelona with Pole Dance Factory.

 The first one out the door was that one we cherish without question; I became honest about the futility of romantic love, and I made a plan to find another way.

It hurts. You can't believe how it hurts.

It hurts. You can’t believe how it hurts. Pole Fitness, Medellín.

 By the time I hit my forties, I had been in love three times. That means that three times in my life, I told three different people, that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with them. That’s what we are moved to say, and that’s what we are called to do when we’re in love, because we imagine nothing less than forever.

Romantic love, partnership, and forever are the sacred trinity, and we worship without question and practice with faith. Despite divorce, despite serial monogamy, despite the excess volume of relationship wrecks, this collective faith that insists love means forever blindly ignores the facts of our lives. Why don’t we see that? And even if we did, what would we do about it? It’s

as if we have no choice to imagine anything else.

Pin Up GirlsBaile in Medellin with Monica who taught me about pole suave. Bless that girl.

Pin Up GirlsBaile in Medellín with Monica who opened my world to pole suave. Bless that girl.

 And just like everyone else, I wanted happily-ever-after, too—but reality kept dishing up a different result. With that first love, came that first heartbreak—and the incomparable suffering where I thought I was going to die. When I fell in love a second time, I was sure I had learned valuable things from round one, and I hadn’t lost my confidence that love guaranteed forever. We had a great run for almost ten years—but that’s not even close to forever. Another painful rip. Then the same result with the third love of my life. The bitter and common irony about each of those people who I promised to spend the rest of my life with is legend; I don’t even know them any more.

 I was forty-four years old when I divorced. Just to be clear, forty-four is middle-age, and I had put more than twenty years into the happily-ever-after cult, and there I was, right back at ground zero. Sure, I had many good years in my two long-term relationships, and I wouldn’t trade them for anything. But the results begged the obvious: why wouldn’t love stick?

First twisted handspring at Pole Dance Factory in Barcelona

First twisted handspring at Pole Dance Factory in Barcelona.

My husband was the third love of my life, and my second long-term relationship. He was also, the first man I loved. I came out as a lesbian when I was seventeen years old, and several years later, my first long-term relationship was with a woman.

It’s confusing to some people when they hear I was a lesbian, and then later, I was not. But it was never confusing to me. Love describes how we are connected to another person; love has no sexual identity. It’s not straight, or gay, or bisexual—love is simply love. Back in 1976, somehow I found the guts to let my heart lead me to the people I could love. For me, twice it was with women, and once it was with a man.

The face of first perfect pencil

The face of first perfect pencil, Pole Fitness, Mendellín.

My husband was a great guy, I loved him like crazy, and I married him because I was sure we’d be together forever. But anyone who has been in a long-term relationship understands that on the way to forever, you live day-to-day.

Vicki Marie reads excerpt from Chapter 3

After my husband and I split up, I had steaming, super-sexy, storybook affair with a woman I had loved more than twenty years earlier. We talked about forever, as well, but instead, it blew up in my face. That was when I got sick, and after I got well, I was determined to get real.

I looked hard at the evidence and my path was clear—romantic love was no longer an option for me, because frankly, love no longer appealed to me. I’d been there, I’d done that, I was moving on. Convinced of the facts, I committed to avoiding love, without regret. Still, there was one major wrinkle to smooth out. I was cool to be done with love—but I was not done with sex. No way. Sex had to stay.

My first trainer and inspiration; Catalina Tobon, Pole Fitness, Medellín

My first trainer and inspiration; Catalina Tobon, Pole Fitness, Medellín

But how was I going to do it? Between my husband and my girlfriend, I had been coupled for twenty years. I knew nothing about dating, and I didn’t know anyone who dated without a goal for the status quo. I was motivated to find a new model and answer a fresh question: was it even possible to find sexual satisfaction without falling in love?

I didn’t want to go steady. I didn’t want to be monogamous. Still, I was interested in something more meaningful than booty calls or anonymous sex. I wanted to know how I could get laid without getting screwed, and so I jumped into the email dating pool with this question in my head:

PTY_0144

Make sexy normal and there is no shame. FitPoling Studio, Panama City.

What could happen if I told every man I dated, that I didn’t want a boyfriend, and I didn’t want a husband, and I didn’t even want a one-night stand?

Vicki Marie reads excerpt from Chapter 26

There is something I need to make clear. My experiences led me to opt-out of romantic love—but that didn’t mean I didn’t need love. I needed it and I wanted it and I had it. I was blessed: I had more than my fair share. I had loving relationships with friends that spanned decades. I had a brother and a mother that really had been with me forever. Unlike my romantic partnerships, these relationships were enduring and they were going to be with me forever.

Finally. I live in a dance studio. Panama City

Finally. I live in a dance studio. Panama City

It occurred to me that we got it wrong. Our desire for love is human, but maybe it’s just too heavy for one heart to hold. Who can argue that very few people get away with it?

When I decided to opt out of romantic love, I elevated familial love. I changed the hierarchy and I changed my life. I already had multiple love relationships. And eventually, I had multiple sexual relationships.

On the Cinta Costra in Panama City, or as we refer to it: Urban Pole Paradise

On the Cinta Costra in Panama City, or as we refer to it: Urban Pole Paradise

With love on my side, The Bachelor Chapters describes my journey as I practice and refine my Bachelor lifestyle. There were many dates with many men; and there are enough juicy, adults-only descriptions of shameless sexual action to excite the cream in your coffee.

But the book is more than a kiss-and-tell romance, because The Bachelor Chapters is not Fifty Shades of Grey for Forty-Something’s. I get real about love, I come clean on adultery, and I spell out the differences between black and white men. I raise the curtain on lesbian and gay prejudice of bisexual’s, I describe the consequences of female sexual shame, and I remind every one of the timeless injustice of slut slander and stigma. I talk about feminism and fashion and body image: and I talk about aging. I was a middle age woman when I began my bachelorhood; there is a lot to say about aging.

We go in teams. There's no stopping us.

We go in teams. There’s no stopping us.

Vicki Marie reads excerpt from Chapter 38

And with that, we have come to the end of this evening’s story hour. I thank you for your time, I thank you for your attention, and I thank you if I have tempted you to add The Bachelor Chapters to your nightstand library sometime soon!

(shout out to Pole Dance Factory in Barcelona, Pinup GirlsBaile and  Pole Fitness, Medellín,

Fit Poling, Panama, and Biana Huls, Cartgena)

Graduation at FitPoling Studio in Panama City where I learned my new favorite pole trick: performing.

Graduation at FitPoling Studio in Panama City where I learned my new favorite pole trick: performing.

Order The Bachelor Chapters: A Thinking Woman’s Romance

“What would happen if I told every man I dated that I didn’t want a boyfriend, and I didn’t want a husband, and I didn’t even want a one night stand?”

That was the question to answer back in 2004, when I walked away from monogamy and gave birth to my bachelor life. I had made up my mind to cultivate sex—without love or stigma—so I de-gendered bachelor and claimed that slice of male privilege as my own. With that linguistic gesture, I became a respectable bachelor, and could no longer be called out as a promiscuous slut.      

“Vicki Marie Stolsen delivers a strong, smart, sexy story about defining one’s passion after years of following the rules. In this brave account of charting her own erotic map, Stolsen explores the power to be wildly curious and to declare one’s desires without apology. The Bachelor Chapters is a manifesto on becoming a connoisseur of sexual expression.”       —Elise D’Haene, writer, RED SHOE DIARIES 

With readers at Fit Poling Studio, Panama City

With readers at Fit Poling Studio, Panama City

The Bachelor Chapters tells the story of how my search for sexual satisfaction landed me in unchartered terrain along the margins of the mainstream. I wasn’t the first middle age divorceé to imagine emancipation and a steamy sex-life; what I didn’t imagine was how many ways my life would thrive when I did it.

Signing books at Ravenna Third Place Books in Seattle

Signing books at Ravenna Third Place Books in Seattle

     “Not only was it an enjoyable read, but it also explored important themes in a bold and unique way. As a woman, it touched me to read of many issues that unite us as a gender. However, the book also offers new and unfamiliar perspective on race, age, and gender that are both engaging and provocative. Race is explored through interracial love, however clichéd stereotypes are avoided. The Bachelor Chapters is an uncensored and intimate glimpse into the life and mind of Vicki Marie. But no matter what age, gender, race or sexual orientation you claim…there’s something in this book for you!   —Katrin Koscis, University Student, Toronto and Cartagena

In Portland at the Jack London Bar

In Portland at the Jack London Bar

Three months after the release, readers from five different countries have chimed in, and on this they agree; The Bachelor Chapters has enhanced their lives, too. Readers seek me out and explain how my story resonates with their own memories: sometimes it’s the part where I get real about love, or how I come clean on adultery, or when I parse the dissimilarities between black and white men. Or it might be the passages where I raise the curtain on lesbian and gay prejudice of bisexual’s, or how I describe the consequences of female sexual shame, or when I remind every one of the timeless injustice of slut slander and stigma.

Private reading for the taping of the reality pilot, "Lumber Jills" in Panama City

Private reading for the taping of the reality pilot, “Lumber Jills” in Panama City

     “I read Vicki’s book in less than a week. I was mesmerized. There were moments I felt like I was reading my own story—mine’s not quite as glamorous though. I instantly connected with Vicki’s desires to make her own choices and not feel shame. I left a marriage with a man, entered into a relationship with a woman and have since, dated both. Vicki was able to put into words what I felt through the process of “coming out” again. I will re-read this book. —Julie B., Publisher, Woodinville, WA

Family showed up in San Francisco for the reading at Hotel Rex

Family showed up in San Francisco for the reading at Hotel Rex

The Bachelor Chapters is not Fifty Shades of Grey for Forty-Something’s, because my romantic tale is fact driven and could never be managed like fiction. There are more than a handful of scenes where the sex-action fires up the page, but at the same time, this mid-age memoir strives to normalize sex as it broadcasts the truth: sex is rich and rewarding even without love or partnership.

Publication party at The Lobby Bar in Seattle

Publication party at The Lobby Bar in Seattle

   “It has been a while since I sucked a book down so voraciously. The combination of your excellent writing style, brave and confident Bachelor life, humor that I can hear as if you were talking right next to me, and most of all—the truth about us humans spoken so honestly and accurately. There is more, but I am no writer. I wish I had read this book when I was thirty. Thank you for this gift to women’s sexual freedom. Enough shame already. I’m going to give both of my thirty-something daughters a copy.”   —Tamara Cottongim, RN, Ashland, Oregon

Making strangers into fans from Los Angeles to Colombia

Turning strangers into fans from Los Angeles to Colombia

Last Friday night, I did a reading in Panama City, Panama, where I have lived since January. That makes eleven readings, six cities, and three countries so far, and next month we add Toronto, New York, Boston and Chicago to the club. What sounds jet set and glamorous is actually intimate and down to earth. As an unknown author with a new business to run, I am in the grassroots phase of wooing readers one-by-one. As I get better at presenting, the audience questions have deepened, and every exchange with each person teaches me exactly why the story I wrote actually matters to the world.

"Ladies Night Out" in Panama City

“Ladies Night Out” with The Bachelor in Panama City

     “Was not sure what to expect with this book. What I got was more than I expected. The authoress openly tells her story of a chosen lifestyle which is out of the norm, in a way that unexpectedly imparts lessons. Yes, it is hot but also teaches the freedom of a non-judgmental lifestyle. In addition, it also explores the value differences placed on male and female social behavior from a standpoint that most people do not give much thought to. She lives her life in a bold, brave, confident style in everything she does to include business, hobbies and sex. She looks to no one for validation. Such strength is rarely encountered and I sure did not imagine I would receive life-learning moments from a book about sex, love and adultery. Read and enjoy.” —Jackie R., Retired, Panama City

Siren founder, Susie Lee, and guest collaborators in Seattle

Siren founder, Susie Lee, and guest collaborators Amanda Manitach and Jim Demetre in Seattle

It’s too early to call it momentum, but something is resonating, and some of those readers have influence. Because of them, I landed a monthly gig on Huffington Post, which is in the can and ready to launch. I sign on as an advice columnist for the new dating site, Siren, set to release next month. The Bachelor Chapters will contribute to the Barcelona and Guadalajara Book Fair’s in the fall; we’ll be in Cartagena for the Hay Festival come winter. It just seemed good business to channel that energy into a crowd funding campaign, which means we’ll be on Kickstarter soon with a pitch to fund the Spanish translation.

College students in Medellin, Colombia made it clear they want a Spanish edition

College students in Medellin, Colombia made it clear they want a Spanish edition

If you’ve read the book, you’ll remember that potent revelation that I describe while in Paris with my girlfriend:      

“We were a team and we were competitors in collaboration toward rapture. At that moment in my early forties, I started to understand sexual response as not simply pleasure, but as capacity. I could not believe how much I was capable of feeling.”

Recording the audio edition at Rare Bird Lit in Los Angeles

Recording the audio edition at Rare Bird Lit in Los Angeles

The business plan for The Bachelor Chapters echoes the wonder of that epiphany. At this moment in my mid-fifties, I’ve come to understand business as not simply moving product, but as generating energy. My vision for this book will take me to the some of the world’s finest cities, bring me face to face with adventurous readers, spawn an on-line audience through an influential blog, and allow me to offer expert insight to take the edge off of dating confusion. I’m counting on more energy to follow, and I’m not at all shy to tell you where I expect this to land: in bed with a seriously smart production company and their team of brilliant screen writers, making history with a sizzling hot series about a promiscuous, middle age, lady bachelor and her lovers.

Manifesting success with guerrilla product placement at Powell's Books in Portland

Manifesting success with guerrilla product placement at Powell’s Books in Portland

     “I am happy to see a woman live out of the box, challenging what you are supposed to be, to be who you are and feel free. A book full of surprises and encouragement for women to explore, feel curious and feel free. A must read for every women and a should read for men if you want to get to know women.” —Maria Contreras, owner Pole Dance Factory, Barcelona

Pole is the ultimate feminist sport because we make sexy normal and not shameful

Pole is the ultimate feminist sport: just like Vicki Marie’s challenge in The Bachelor Chapters, pole women are making sexy normal and driving out shame

The book is my story, but I already understand, its success will not be about me. Nobody has to be a bachelor to get the meaning of this memoir. Readers see themselves in these pages, and in spite of flaws and fears and episodes of utter dismay, they like who they see.

I wrote a book about courage

Quote

It’s a conventional tale, but has characteristics that make it spicy: after divorce, the middle-age protagonist launches a grand experiment to elevate her desire for sex—unhinged from love, or even monogamy—from the disgrace of sluthood assigned to women; into the respectability of bachelorhood granted to men.

        “What happens when a forty-four year old woman, decides to make sense of a divorce, recalibrate her heart, and sets out to find sexual satisfaction without falling in love?”

IMG_0064 It’s a true story, one that has no doubt been lived many times, by many women. Such a path is not common, but it’s also neither unique nor groundbreaking. Yet, because of the bias that follows women who stretch toward a lifestyle outside of partnership; because of the unequivocal hierarchy that we attach to long-term monogamy; the stories of those women’s lives, and the relationships that are developed, have been at best marginalized, but more often, they are demonized.

        “What would happen if a woman told every man she dated, that she didn’t want a boyfriend; and she didn’t want a husband; and she didn’t even want a one-night stand?”

Those were the questions I wanted answers to. It was not the first time in my life I had strayed from the parameters my culture assigned to female sexuality. I had come out as a lesbian in 1976, when I fell in love with my high school girlfriend. I lived the first fifteen years of my adult life as a lesbian, and I had a married-like partnership for the last ten of those. It was not easy to be a lesbian back in the beginning, but it was possible; with courage and community, women dismantled the proverbial closet board-by-board, and nail-by-nail.

When I was thirty-three, I fell in love with a man. I knew there would be consequences for merging into the mainstream, so I found a new closet to bide my time, until I once again had the guts to own the facts of my life and honor my heart. When I came out, many in my extended family of same-sex activists were horrified by what they understood to be betrayal, just as I had expected. No matter that I had served on the frontlines of gay liberation for years. At best I was tolerated for my transgression; at worst I was ostracized. I was confused by my social identity, but not by my heart; sure I was in love with a man, but did that make me straight?

        “What would happen if a woman could have sex; without lying, without cheating; without shame?”

I wrote a book about courage, but not until I solidified my status as a female bachelor; not until I left a career in business where perceptions always matter; not until age graced me with the wisdom to know that judgments opposed to my lifestyle said more about the jury than they did about me. The book is particular to my life, but the journey described is universal: look fear in the face; over-ride self-doubt; stand above the distraction of critics; and live your passion.

The book goes on sale next month, and from the beginning, I wanted a piece of the profit to benefit young people in pursuit of their passions. Higher education was the category I picked, having had my own life-changing entrance to college funded by the enlightened legislation of the Federal Pell Grant Program. Access to education is political when marginalized groups are left out because of income or discrimination.

Donating funds from the sale of my story to benefit young adults mapping out their own courageous plans was the perfect synergistic match, and so I picked a scholarship fund that was founded more than twenty years ago specifically to compensate for discrimination aimed at lesbian and gay students.

Only, I hit a hurdle with the scholarship fund I chose to receive my donation, and my proposal was respectfully declined. My book on courage speaks too frankly about sex. Sex spells risk. After twenty years, the scholarship administrators are experienced with risk. Sex—partnered with students—will offend some donors, and will also prevent some educational institutions from advertising the opportunity to apply. And with that, this venerable fund that was founded to compensate for discrimination against queer youth, has little choice but to reject public affiliation with a life story that—ironically—describes one woman’s struggle to overcome discrimination.

“Did I want to dance? Of course I wanted to dance and that’s not all.”                                        —Erica Jong, Fear of Flying

Warning: living can be sexy. Warning: Living can be sexy

I wrote a book that describes the self-doubt, the social ostracism, and the balls out courage necessary to stand one’s ground when faced with the facts of a life that cannot be folded neatly into social convention. Written forty years after Erica Jong published Fear of Flying, The Bachelor Chapters is also a story that spotlights social change and social stigma. I did not write this book for my own self-aggrandizement; the story is often unflattering and conflicted because it is so bloody honest. I called upon courage and audacity to write about my life because I recognized that my experiences had a larger purpose: that my obligation is to brighten the path for the young women and men behind me.

When you buy my book next month, you will partner with me, because I’m not abandoning my plan to donate ten percent of the profit. Why would I? There won’t be the publicity I had hoped for, but after this episode, I’m even more convinced that proceeds should benefit the next generation. Together, you and I will fund access to higher education. Thanks for your support. So many young people need us. Now, enough with the bullshit. Let’s dance. And that’s not all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m a writer, and my craft requires a reader

My job is to weave the tale toward a universal truth—to give the reader a reason to turn the page: a reason to care. Many months ago, the memoir I call “The Bachelor Chapters” quit being about my story, and instead, became a story. That was my plan, and after eighteen months, thousands of words, and as many decisions—I’m calling it “done.”

I’m releasing the book in January 2014—but I celebrated the final manuscript last Wednesday with a reading at Eco-Bar, in the mountain city of Medellin, Colombia. This place is one of my home’s—a place where I live and write—but only for two or three months at a time. Like Cartagena, Barcelona, and Buenos Aires, in Medellin I have a small and growing community of locals and ex-pat’s: as well as service provider’s and neighbor’s, dance teachers and bartenders. No matter where I live, I always have bartenders. And I always have dance teachers.

The audience on Wednesday night represented a keen reality of my global lifestyle—I have many young friends in my community—and I mean twenty-something young. These adults were born between the early nineteen eighties and nineties—the years I was the age that they are now.

A crowd of locals and a few ex-pats listen as Vicki Marie reads "The Bachelor Chapters" at Eco-Bar in Medellin, Colombia

A crowd of locals and a few ex-pats listen as Vicki Marie reads “The Bachelor Chapters” at Eco-Bar in Medellin, Colombia

 

So when I picked up the microphone last week, before I was welcomed by a few dozen polite listener’s, I took note that there was not a single person born before 1980 in my audience; and three quarter’s of them were natives of Medellin—a city and a country very different from my own.

The story I tell in “The Bachelor Chapters” features a forty-something year old woman, who decides to change the game on romance and love, in a thoughtful and deliberate way. This is a story I could not have written before now, because it depends on wisdom and life experience and reflection culled from more than fifty years of birthdays.

Reading a book out loud is very different than acting, which I had done long ago. Because I don’t memorize the text, because I have to keep my eyes on the pages, I have little interaction with the audience. There is the occasional glance into the crowd to emphasize a point or a good line—but the experience is essentially a one-way performance. I have no idea during the thirty minutes of airtime if my audience is engaged, bored, or merely exercising good manners.

I had great doubts that the mixed crowd of young men and women would relate to the story, or be persuaded to pay attention to the fruits of my labor. Their lives are so different than mine—I am the age of their parents—and we all know the decade of the twenties is when we break childhood bonds, and exercise adulthood. Parents lose relevance, at least for a while. It’s just the way it works; it’s what has to happen.Vicki Marie reads "The Bachelor Chapters" at Eco-Bar in Medellin, Colombia

Vicki Marie reads “The Bachelor Chapters” at Eco-Bar in Medellin, Colombia

 

So, it is with shock and awe that I report that “The Bachelor Chapters”—the story that is bigger than my life—captivated and inspired young adults in a way I never could have imagined. Women and men—yes, men—came to me afterwards, and told me they wanted to read my book. The enthusiasm and appreciation gave me the miracle of affirmation and the sweet scent of success. I did it. I hooked readers. I transcended self. I tapped into human relevance. I wrote a good story.

Celebrating a successful reading of "The Bachelor Chapters" by mounting a stump: a Vicki Marie tradition that usually involves a chair

Celebrating a successful reading of “The Bachelor Chapters” by mounting a stump: a Vicki Marie tradition that usually involves a chair

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He called me fat

or more specifically, “gorda,” because his language is Spanish. We were in front of the vanity after sex, the mirror reflecting the shining skin of tropical heat. My skin used to be pale, the evidence reduced to the twin territories that mark the bikini I wear everyday now that I have a pool on my roof. The new color I carry is toast—exactly the shade of browned white bread that my brother and I would smear with butter, before Saturday morning cartoons, after mom went to work.

His color is always the same: toward coffee, with cream, smooth on the eyes in the same way that milk interrupts the sharp bite of black. The sun bears down everyday on the coast of Colombia, but the wardrobe of my lover, and the millions who’ve always lived here, elevates fashion over temperature. Blue jeans, long sleeves, and even skullcaps defy the elements when the mind considers style. Clothes and hair—personal style transcends poverty in Cartagena Las Indias. People care about appearance and they celebrate it in others—you know you’re on when your chico’s shout, “bacaaaannnnooooo!”

superman vista

I’d been in Bogota for only a quick trip, but the days on either side added up to a week without contact. We’d reunited in a fierce embrace that began at the entry next to the washing machine, pushed through the long kitchen and into the front room, before shaking the wall behind the bed. Reunion sex is conflated with the reacquisition of territory. People will say that absence makes the heart grow fonder, but what I know for sure, is that it makes the dick stand harder.

 I had splashed water on my face, bent over the bowl, slick beyond capacity in a climate where a body can’t compete against the twin assault of humidity and anaerobic passion. When I stood up again, the adoration in his eyes matched the white smile that split his face. The reverence was non-verbal and blessedly familiar; it was almost a year since we first discovered that bilingual communication had been narrowly defined to language. It was in that afterglow moment, our eyes locked in the mirror, when, “eres gorda,” left his lips and pierced my lungs with that breath-stopping reflex.

He called me fat!

In my culture that’s a slur equal to the offense intended with bitch, cunt, slut or whore. The fact that his smile was lit with love, or that his culture held nothing but authentic desire for every pound of flesh that took female shape, failed to register against fifty-four years of  American fat-phobia. The previous hour of adult-rated choreography evaporated like vapor, as I pursued a panicked inventory of my naked reflection.

I’m an athlete by most standards, driven toward self-competition over a lifetime, with a catalog of solo sports. I’ve taken toward pole fitness recently, and the reality that reflected back at me was tough strands of abdominal strength. I carry the pride of a six-pack, female version, where my belly is framed with the clear diagonal tracks of tissue. When I’d had medical treatment in December, the weight loss had almost hollowed my gut, and rigidly defined every muscle that I’m made of.

I had filled out since then, and the hard angles had softened. That had been true for several months, and I looked healthier with the re-sculpting of meat. I’m writing a memoir, The Bachelor Chapters, so I know that memory is arbitrary, and even inaccurate behind the veil of time. I looked no different than I had the prior week; but there was indeed change since February, when the combination of aggressive weight training, and the consequences of treatment, had dramatized my figure. It seemed clear from his comment, that during our separation, my lover’s memory had pulled the February file.

There are many things that haunt woman’s psyche and self-image. So many of us are friggin’ smart—intellectually conscious of our cultural mind-fucks—yet still at war with them in the streets, in our happy hour laments, and in our language on the page. At middle age, I carry wisdom as my trophy; a vessel of accumulation from a life lived paying attention to each lesson. I command the desire of young lovers in multiple countries; I cultivate a lifestyle that reverberates the so-called youthful endeavors of dance, adventure, and creativity; I am more authentic and more satisfied in my fifth decade than ever before.

The fact that a finger pointed to flesh can preempt more than fifty years of common sense, supersede the radiance that follows sexual satisfaction, and challenge the veracity of my own eyes, illustrates more than anything I know, the weight of culture. It’s my terminal luggage. My best bet is to keep it stowed in that locked bag, where it trips me up occasionally, until I push it once again into the corner, and out of my way.

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