Vicki Marie’s Sexy Summer Reading Series: One Chapter A Day
THE BACHELOR CHAPTERS: A THINKING WOMAN’S ROMANCE
Cara and I decided to meet at Betty Lin, our favorite boutique, downtown on Second Avenue. I was being fitted for my red lambskin pants, and Audra handed them over to me on a hanger.
“I think they’ll be perfect,” she said with a big smile of confidence. Cara was chatting with Betty, and Audra joined them, while I went into the dressing room for the moment of truth. I had bought the exquisite pants in Vancouver, during the height of my depression, when I was underweight. They were the same pants I had worn in Chicago, the night Kyle spun me out of my shoe. I had quit smoking since then, and added a few pounds, and my fingers were crossed that they could be taken out and still fit. Betty had recommended Audra Stone, the rock star clothing designer who specialized in leather and fur.
As I walked out of the fitting room, the three women shouted their approval. Fire engine red and hotter than hell, the pants once again fit my body like a tailored second skin.
“Vicki Marie! I have the perfect shoes!” Betty darted across the floor to retrieve them, while I balanced barefoot on tiptoes in front of the mirror, checking all angles, enthusiastic with the fit and the incomparable feel of the pliable skin.
I slipped on the red Jimmy Choos and Betty tightened the red metallic laces, and then tied them off, up my ankle, in a Roman-wrap. The sandals were nothing more than an elevated sole with laces, outlining my naked, white foot on a high-heeled podium. The extreme gloss of the enamel soles and the sparkle of the reflective laces echoed the shiny red paint on my toes. The hot shoes and the sizzling pants screamed with the same sexy spirit. Not only were they clearly made for each other; they came to life on my body. These weren’t just shoes. These were bait.
I went into the dressing room to change when my phone rang. Lamar Taylor was on the line. “Baby, you’re not going to believe where you caught me,” I sang, looking at my reflection in the mirror, stripped down to my panties.
“Well, it’s the middle of the day, so I know you’re not naked,” he flirted loudly, in that big voice of his. “Au contraire, Officer Taylor. Half naked is the honest truth. I’m in the dressing room at Betty’s store on Second Avenue. I just bought a pair of Jimmy Choos. Open toe. And they’re red.”
The first time I had Lamar over to my house he told me about his first adult relationship with a sports reporter.
“She was a sweetheart, and said she was in love with me,” he told me. “She always made me feel special. Always looked for ways to please me. She knew how much I liked a woman dressed in red, so she would spoil me, and surprise me with new pieces—just because she was thinking about me.”
“What happened?” I asked. It had been more than twenty-five years.
“That’s when I got injured, and got cut from the team. I thought she only wanted me because I was a player. My career was over. I figured she’d dump me, so when I left town—I didn’t tell her. I never saw her again.”
“You never even told her?” I was mortified. How could he be so cruel?
“In the NFL, women always said they loved you—and then hit on your teammate when you got hurt—or if he got a better contract. Same game in college—I’d seen it a million times. It’s what I knew.”
This guy was dangerous, I thought, warning myself. A vaporizer.
“I saw her broadcasting on national television years later. She’d gone all the way. I called her folks, and talked to her mom.” That’s when Lamar learned the woman had spent a year or more looking for him. “She always wore red. I love a woman in red—and red toes? Now, that’s sexy. That’s just the best. Toes should always be red.”
Men like to look at women. They are hardwired for the view. It’s an autonomic reflex that provides a moment of pleasure and makes them feel like men. When I was a young feminist, I had been taught that this was objectification and was always offensive. The pleasure it provided to men reduced women to objects with no minds, no identity, no agency; they were solely objects of consumption. And I still agree that without a level playing field—without economic equality and without sexual emancipation—the visual objectification of women is profoundly problematic. But in the United States of America, after thirty years of social change, that paradigm has shifted for women like me.
I had made it off that uneven field, and I had season tickets in the sweet seats. I was economically independent and I was a professional powerhouse. Because I was unequivocally emancipated, I had the latitude—not to mention the motivation—to invite the male gaze. I was in sales and I had learned to maximize every edge I had. I dressed to attract attention; fashion and style became part of my brand that distinguished me from the competition. I kept it classy, but I wore clothes that emphasized my sexiest attributes. I had been blessed with shapely legs and a heart-shaped ass, and my ensembles highlighted my genetic assets. Short skirts, tight pants and high heels were my staples. Padded bras compensated for my tiny tits, and equipped me with more curve than licensed by my DNA. I’m not even close to cover girl pretty; my nose is oversized, my lips unfashionably thin, and I’d been camouflaging the indignity of a female face cursed with gaping pores and unsightly hairs every day of my post-pubescent life. But with my blonde hair, my tight frame, and confident attitude, I learned I could pass for one of the beautiful people, especially when I was in motion. I had developed a runway-strut, influenced by dance and perfected by the awareness of an admiring audience.
It wasn’t until my forties that I intentionally cultivated my style as a brand, and exploited the fact that men liked my look. Besides, it was creative and it was fun. Flattery was a daily occurrence that came from all ages, all classes, and all races. Even homeless men on the streets of Seattle complimented me on my style, and when they did, I met their eyes and thanked them. I never failed to thank every man who interrupted my day with a compliment. Community service, I called it. My gift to all men, everywhere, was a fleeting moment of manhood. I honored the impulse that a man has to look, and finally, in my forties, I quit fighting the truth; in business and in life, there was power in being noticed. It was just a fact, and feminism be damned, I decided to make it work for me.
Often enough, my male admirer would comment that I had surprised him. “I’m so glad you weren’t offended,” he might say. “Women don’t like to be complimented,” another would insist. “Women usually think I’m a creep,” or, “Women assume I want sex.”
“Women don’t like offensive or rude comments,” I said, describing the real problem, “but women enjoy a sincere compliment. Women adore a gentleman and we all know how women love to be admired.”
That was an overly simplistic explanation, and unfortunately, optimistic. I had a beef with my sisters, as well: too many were unrealistic, and some were outright cruel. When a woman walks out of the door in an outfit that highlights her sex appeal she is asking for attention. Of course she’s going to invite noise—there are men out there! I’m not defending lewd remarks from a man, but I am upholding the courtesy of a compliment. Besides, awoman who dresses her best but shuts down admiration is not even close to honest regarding the assault on her dignity. The real story about these women is that they’re annoyed that they can’t choose who looks at them. Too often, if a woman doesn’t like the source of the compliment, standard practice is to ignore, shun, or even humiliate the offender. Why can’t women manage the fact that fashion broadcasts good taste and sex appeal with a polite thank you, instead of a live grenade?
Once upon a time, it was good manners for a man to compliment every woman he greeted, and equally good manners for a woman to receive the gesture. I’d argue that chivalry civilized us: men liked to look, and women liked to be looked at. It was part of the social contract to welcome a compliment from a gentleman. Men like Lamar Taylor and Kyle Ross were exciting to me because they didn’t just enjoy the looks I put together for their benefit—they expressed it—with hungry eyes and shouts of praise. They weren’t sneaking peeks; they shouted to the mountains in their appreciation. Toni had been the only other lover in my life who had been vocal in her desire for my body and my style. I was thrilled to have that energy in my life again, and I was elated to know, that in spite of my arrival to the middle age of life, I had cultivated a fan club that was cheering me on.
TOMORROW: Chapter 49
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.