Betty Duffy

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Three not-so-sexy stories

My husband and I dropped the kids off at Mom and Dad’s Saturday night and kept on driving all the way to Cincinnati to go out on the town. We don’t plan our dates very well. I always think I want to go to the symphony or something, but can’t commit to buying tickets, so when we get a babysitter, we always blow quite a bit of time deciding what we’re going to do. There was a movie we wanted to see, and near the movie theater there were several restaurants. So we walked up and down the street, checking out the plates in the sidewalk seating until we saw some food that looked good to us, and the restaurant happened to be right next to the movie theater, so it was also convenient.

We walked inside to put our name in, and saw a restaurant review hanging in the breezeway that called this particular restaurant, “Sexy Bistro.”

“I think we came to the right place.”

“We’ll fit right in.”

I don’t know if it’s a Cincinnati thing, or just particular to the clientele at this restaurant—trying to live up to Sexy Bistro’s reputation and décor--but our fellow diners were dressed to kill. Short skirts have made a return, it seems, since the last time I was out on the town. All around the bar, the skirts ended right below the bum, and men stood next to their dates with a territorial hand placed on the women’s backs.

For what it’s worth, the clothes were not club-clothes; they were designer labels. These people were expensive, and getting a closer look, they were also rather mature. Most of them over fifty, I’d say, which might have given my husband and I the upper hand where sexiness is concerned, except that with our last minute planning, I made a last minute fashion decision to leave my high heels behind and wear Birkenstocks and jeans. I have too much Indiana in my blood to walk around town in a pair of high heels and jeans. Someone might think I’m trying too hard (which doesn’t mean I don’t love foolish shoes—I’m just too chicken to wear them most of the time).

It was foolish, however, to think that anyone would have noticed. The hostess greeted us with a plunging v-neck mini dress and stiletto heels, then led us to our table next to an obnoxious blow-hard and his two bored companions. Blow-hard had hair plugs and spiffy glasses, and talked about his recent divorce settlement. He cussed a lot, and described the hot younger women he hoped to date, and made his companions look at their food and take embarrassed sips of their Chardonnay.

At the table on the other side of us, two froggy-face men in suede shoes, Cabana shirts, and jeans cut for college kids sat with women in the same get-up as the hostess. I had been thinking that the thirties were a difficult age, as a sense of panic sets in about fulfilling one’s potential before it’s too late. But I’ve never seen the fifties looking so difficult, everyone trying so hard to hold it together, interrupting their dinners to hug friends they see across the patio, making a scene to let everyone know they’re still in demand.

I felt like I’d seen all of these scenes before, like these people were on a movie set acting out the role of the bitter divorcee and the shamelessly flirtatious bartender—everyone playing a part that in the movie would have been played by someone thirty years younger. And in spite of the lycra skirts and diamonds, in spite of the braggadocio in the breezeway, this bistro really wasn’t very sexy at all.

I went to my book club Thursday, at a Mexican restaurant on the East Side of Indianapolis, in my old neighborhood. The restaurant has really good salsa, and for that reason, enjoys a robust patronage, but it’s located in a derelict strip mall with a seedy history. Several years ago, the owner of a lingerie store in the Mall was arrested for prostituting her live “models.” The area has undergone multiple sting operations over the years, resulting in a startling number of arrests.

Nevertheless, Thursday night, my friends and I sat on the patio of the restaurant, which faces a rather run down motel and the backside of a Taco Bell. We were discussing “The Elegance of the Hedgehog” and life. Shortly, I noticed a man and a woman walking up the alley together. They looked like a regular couple in shorts, sleeveless shirts, a couple tattoos here and there, and white tennis shoes. Her blond hair was in a pony tail, his grayish hair was buzzed, and they might have passed for a married couple taking a walk on a late summer evening, except that her walk was a little off, with swiveling hips and a rhythmic dip of her shoulders. She kept looking behind her, as though she were waiting for someone, and muttering under her breath in a way that suggested she was not in conversation with her companion, but rather, was stoned.

Shortly, a man with a middle-class demeanor, driving a nice white pick-up truck pulled up to the walking couple and said to the woman, “Hi, Gorgeous.” The two men spoke quietly to each other, and the woman walked to the other side of the truck and got into the passenger seat, hugged the driver passionately, and they drove off.

The man with the buzz cut, went back to his apartment across the street and played fetch with his dog in the front yard for a minute or two, before going inside. Occasionally, he would come back out the door, throw a couple sticks for the dog, as though he were waiting for someone, and then go back inside.

I don’t see this kind of thing very often. A woman used to meet dates on the church steps across the street from our old house, but I could always make myself doubt that she was a prostitute. Maybe she really was just meeting a friend. This time, I had no doubts that while we discussed our book and ate quesadillas and tamales, a woman was being sold.

About a half-hour passed before the white truck returned, bringing the woman back.

Sunday, after Mass at my parents’ rural parish, the kids wanted to play on the playground across the street. There’s a covered corkscrew slide on the playground that spins around and down for a couple of stories. My son went in the top of the slide, and I waited for it to spit him out the bottom, but it took longer than it should have. He had stopped himself inside, and when he finally came out, he looked a little spooked.

“There’s a terrible picture in there,” he said and went on to describe what he had seen. I hushed him so the little kids wouldn’t hear, though just about all of them had already been down the slide. It just so happens that this kid knows how to read so he could put the pieces together.

I climbed up into the slide to see what he had seen and read, and there was, written in sharpee, a pretty graphic diorama of a particular sex act with some words telling how it’s done.

I like to think that I’m not easily scandalized by the earthier aspects of humanity. In its proper context, I believe that sex is important and good and is a part of life that every human being has to learn to navigate in accordance with their vocation. People say that the way they navigate these issues is no one else’s business, and yet the things people do in their bedrooms have a way of getting out.

I know that men have been buying and discarding women since the beginning of time. It happens in the upper classes and the lower ones; among the old, and among the young. I’m aware the sometimes women are privy to this game, and encourage it in the ways in which they dress, and in what they’re willing to offer for sale. I know there are adult worlds where anything goes, where people’s bedroom behaviors could exceed the limits of my imagination—and when that world reaches out from wherever it hides and stings one of my babies (in a place where babies should be safe, right under their mother’s nose), I feel myself becoming a bit of a prude. I feel myself wanting go into those bedrooms, and those sexy bistros, and those back alleys to turn over a few tables. You are sick, Culture. You are sick, sick, sick.


Janet in Toronto said...

Sad post, but so eloquent. I feel much the same way when I see young teen girls at the local private school with their kilts hiked up thigh-high over white legs and green knee socks. It's so unnecessary, and I want to shake them and say that any guy who likes you because of this isn't worth it. I"m sure my mother said similar things to me and I shook it off.

We're starting them so young these days, this hypersexualization of girls (and boys). I have teen sons, and I just want to keep their eyes covered. And you can't even escape it at mass these days ... sigh.

Emily Sara said...

Going to college in small town Indiana, I understand especially the last story. A lot of my friends work with trafficking, mostly based in OH, but the idea that anything could corrupt this small community, planted in the middle of cornfields, is saddening to me.

Peter and Nancy said...

I've definitely gotten more protective since I became a mother. Compounding the problem is the fact that I volunteer with a ministry to women who work in our local sex industry. It's really gets under my skin at times, especially when something happens that boldly demonstrates how little people value themselves and others. I can't remember who said it, but someone (G.K. Chesterton?) said that every man who walks into a brothel is really looking for God.

Hope said...

With stuff like this I try to remember what a friend often tells me; that it is more important to face the darkness within than out there. Of course much easier said than done. And harder to do. I didn't believe her for years.

I do not envy you raising children in these times. (I'm sure every generation could say that.) My daughter was able to be a little girl in dress and the rest although I have to say my issues around sexuality got communicated anyway and that was painful to face and is a long story to something healthier.

I did so much fear based parenting and I often wish I had known people like you, who have the ability to be bigger picture parents, to show me an option to fear. Although at the time I most likely wouldn't have believed you because I had such need to be right.

Getting older I feel more powerful, in a good way, I think. More in my body, more at home with myself. Although I do miss my perky breasts and am astounded at what gravity really can do.

Being paid for sex is incredibly degrading. At the time being wanted by someone was better than not being wanted at all. Which was really sad but true.

BettyDuffy said...

On The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary: "She transformed their sorrow, annulled the ancestral curse, and brought our first mother's pangs to an end, painlessly bearing Christ as a virgin."--somehow, this is a comforting thought. It's nice to meditate on the sinlessness of others sometimes.

Nancy, you are doing such good and difficult work. I can't imagine the heartbreak you encounter.

Hope, I wish that I didn't parent out of fear. THere have been a number of circumstances around here lately that have impressed upon me that I can really never let my guard down. No one is going to protect the innocence of my children but me, and even I can't protect them from everything. It makes me feel tired just thinking about it.

Janet, starting young, and lasting through old age. Everyone must be sexy these days. It's so weird.

mrsdarwin said...

I'm a pretty peaceful person most days, but the thing that can keep me up at night is worrying about my children in a sex-saturated culture. We've been looking online at houses in another city, and thought we'd found one that we really could love -- except that when we checked the registered sex offenders database, there was someone listed as living right next door to the house we were considering. It concerns me that my family's views and sexual mores are an anomaly in this day and age -- but you know, I think that would have been true in every day and age. "They'll know you are Christians by your love" includes sexual love as well.

Hope said...

I mistakenly thought I could protect my children from everything. You are wise to know you can't and are protecting where possible. I think there is healthy fear (what I gather you have) and unhealthy fear (what I had.)

I went to extremes. If I had had that experience with the playground equipment I would have banned our going to all playgrounds believing I could prevent it from happening again. I bet you aren't doing that so that's what I mean when I say you see the bigger picture.

Dorian Speed said...

Hi. I am commenting because what I usually do is think, "Oh, that's so good...SHARE" on Google Reader, which means my sharing bar is at least 60% Betty Duffy.

Great post.

MrsDarwin, I commend you on checking the sex offender registry BEFORE having the house under contract. That's not what we did a few years back, and we were fortunate that my husband happened to lose his job the same day that the sellers told us, "nope, can't back out just because of Pervo the Fence-Peeker".

BettyDuffy said...

Dorian, I am honored to take up any space on your share bar. Thank you. I have also been enjoying your Catechist chat series, because I am an uninspired Catechist who would be happy to back out if the DRE didn't track me down every summer. Anyhoo, I've wanted to comment many times, but my comments tend to be stupid when I leave them, so I've tried to cut down. Anyway, the one that most sticks in my head is the one about wanting to be cool with the kids by mentioning U2--because I have done just that.

Mrs. D...I still can't wait for the big reveal on where you guys will end up. Hopefully not next to pervo the peeker.

Hope, I've got you now.

Seraphic Spouse said...

Ugh to the playground equipment. Why would anyone want to deliberately stealth-teach sex acts to children just having fun in a playground via sharpie? How truly odd and sick.

BettyDuffy said...

SS, It makes no sense to me either. But from now on, I will always check out the equipment before I say, "Go play." I will also bring my own Sharpee, so that I can scribble out whatever I find.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree that our "culture" or really lack thereof has become quite sick. Being a healthcare provider in a rather large hospital, I pretty see it all. What gets me the most these days is the "low hanging pants" and have to keep them on by holding on to them trend. Unbelievable. People throw around their sexuality like a sporting event these days. Morals? ha!. Scares and saddens me what our kids futures hold. Gotta keep praying.

Dorian Speed said...

Lord, if I only commented when I felt my comment was non-stupid, I'd never social network. Network socially. Interact with people via computerized widgets. Whatever.

Case in point.

JMB said...

I was thinking about growing up in the 70s the other day. We lived outside of NYC and often my parents would take us into the city. We'd take the Lincoln Tunnel which spills you out near Times Square and immediately the car would be bombarded with squeegee guys and porn. There was porn everywhere. And it was dirty. Garbage strewn all over the streets, graffiti everywhere. Last year, my husband and I went to Paris and all I could do was notice the graffiti. I realized then that NYC had changed so much over the years.

I worry about the sex saturated culture that we live in too. We didn't have HBO and MTV, and the like. But every neighborhood kid knew that in the back room at Al's Barbershop were all the girlie mags and so & so's dad had Playboys stashed in the attic. So we saw that kind of stuff too.
I too don't want to raise my children to be fearful of this world. But it is a fallen world and there is evil and sadness out there. I think we just have to be careful and trust God.

BettyDuffy said...

I think you are right. Every now and then, I want to say that things are so much worse than they were when I was little--or that this never would have happened a hundred years ago. I think this mindset is a trick of the devil leading us to despair--thinking we're at the end, and there's no hope for people. But there is hope for every sinner; there's hope for my kids; and there's hope for culture, especially if I'm willing to do the work myself of cultivating authentic love, rather than the distracted, self-absorbed kind of love that comes too easily.

Anonymous said...

MrsDarwin - I live in a townhouse and there is a convicted child molester living just 3 houses down the street. My kids do not ever play outside without me. We are moving to a new house soon, and I was appalled when I realized that I hadn't checked the online registery. Thank goodness, no one shows up near the new house. But that doesn't mean that someone isn't living right next door who hasn't been caught yet. I hate that.

Meredith said...

The really scary thing is that most sexual abuse is committed by relatives and other people you know and trust - not some random stranger. How do you protect your kids from that? Is there anyone in this world we can really trust? Or do we just trust people until the day we can't anymore?