La Bodega

labodega-boulevard-dining-room2I’ve been thinking about the way I eat (for various reasons) and how/why my eating habits are so bad, why I fall back on banal comfort food, why I’m not adventurous in the least.

As I was writing Paso Doble, I kept finding myself associating my characters’ meals at tapas bars with romance. Small bites in small dishes. Tasting. A meal of hors d’oeuvres, eaten slowly, from a lover’s hand. I wanted to be able to do that.

As Victoria (from Paso Doble) told Giselle (from The Proviso):

Eating with a man, especially if you let him feed you, let him watch you savor the flavors, is like making love in public. I seduced my husband that way. Feed him. Let him feed you. In, out. It’s a promise more binding than kissing. Sex makes life. Food sustains life. You can see them as chores or you can find joy in them. That’s the choice you make.

I wanted to be able to do that. Except … I don’t like food. I don’t find joy in it. I’ve never found there to be anything about food to find joy in. No, it’s not something I can do, or at least, not right now. I find a food I like and I will eat it for days. Variety is not a requirement for me; efficiency is. Food is the thorn in my paw. It is a chore. It’s the enemy.

And then, for our 14th wedding anniversary, Dude surprised me by taking me to a tapas bar, La Bodega on Southwest Boulevard. We were both nervous. He’s only a little more adventurous than I am and we didn’t want to waste money on food we weren’t sure we were going to like. But tapas are a huge part of my universe’s mythos, so Dude wanted to honor that and, fingers crossed, it might turn out okay.

It was one of the most profound visceral experiences I have ever had, as significant as my rollercoaster enlightenment. The waiter came by to ask me how it was and as I was telling him, I teared up.

For the first time in my life, I found joy in food. Profound joy.

I don’t want to go there too often, though. Joy needs to be parceled out so as not to make it banal. But I’ve found that sort of profound joy twice this year (which is pretty much twice more than most other years), and both of them were because Dude gave me something new to try.

Rollercoaster and appetizers. Sometimes it’s the oddest things.

La Bodega
703 SW Boulevard
KCMO 64108
La Bodega Facebook
La Bodega Twitter

The Mamba

mamba2A friend wrote something on her Book of Faces, and instead of taking up all her comment space, I thought I’d put it here. I felt impressed to say a couple of words, but then it went into many words and then paragraphs. OMG I take a lot of words to say a thing.

At some point in my life’s ride, I stopped thinking, planning, wishing, and dreaming and got on the rollercoaster and went for the ride to see where it went and deal with the fallout later. I did a bizarre, outlandish thing. I wasn’t afraid because I wasn’t thinking. I was moving too fast to think anyway, too fast to second-guess myself. That thing I did got me exactly what I’d been looking for. But the rollercoaster ride was twisty and … fun. It was a grand adventure, really. That was 14 years ago.1

Then this summer, I got on a real rollercoaster for the first time in 25 years.2 I didn’t really want to. I don’t like rollercoasters. But Dude and XX Tax Deduction wanted to ride it so there I was with XY Tax Deduction who really didn’t want to ride it and after the first drop, it was wonderful. Well, I rode it a few other times and the last time I rode it, I didn’t have the lap bar down quite as tight, so I wasn’t completely pressed into my seat. And on the first hill and drop, I floated above the seat just an inch or whatever, but it was a fucking grand epiphany.3

Nobody ever told me that the secret to riding rollercoasters is to keep the lapbar just a tidge loose so you can let go and float over the hill and drop.

I have very rarely felt such an intense joy in my life as I did that moment I floated over the drop because my lapbar made it possible for me to let go and physics did the rest.

  1. Met a guy online. Married him 6 months later. Had a kid 9 months after that. My only complaint is that we were stupid about buying a house.
  2. The Mamba at Worlds of Fun.
  3. The Zulu, now? I won’t even go into what the Zulu does to me, le sigh, but I ride it as much as I possibly can and then collapse on a bench in a glorious languor when it’s worn me out.

Virginity as a feminist statement

Best friends forever...until the first kiss.

EMILIO: “Why is being a virgin when you get married so important to you?”

VICTORIA: “Because it’s not important to anybody else,” she snapped, then huffed. “No. What happened was, I saw girls in high school—and one at church—they’d have sex, almost always pressured. Sometimes it was date rape, but they didn’t have the guts to say so. Or they were confused or conflicted about it. And they’d either get pregnant or the guy would treat them like crap. Regardless of what people like to think, I’m not oblivious. I see and hear, and I remember. But I don’t care.”

Didn’t he know that! Her non-oblivion was a tiger trap.

“Now, I ask you. If you see a bunch of girls running around crying after having had sex, what conclusion are you going to draw?”

He pursed his lips. That had never occurred to him. Then again, he wasn’t a teenage girl.

“I drew the conclusion that it wasn’t fun. Not only that, but they ended up with labels that weren’t true at all. Slut. Whore. Easy. Whatever. I saw how the boys treated them and they were not nice. Why didn’t the boys get labeled? Why was it cool and fun for them? Why was it the girls who got all the bad side and the boys who got the good side?”

Emilio was, at the moment, sinking into a vat of goo whose main ingredient, he suspected, was shame. He’d been one of those boys.

And one of those young men.

And one of those almost-middle-aged men.

“Why did the girl have to leave school if she got pregnant, but the baby’s father didn’t? And why,” she continued, “was the girl always blamed if she had the guts to speak up and say, ‘He raped me’? Her skirt was too short. She was wearing too much makeup. She was where she shouldn’t have been. She had too much to drink. She was too flirty. She wanted it. She’s been asking for it. Oh, and my personal favorite—boys will be boys.”

Silver linings. He’d never raped a woman nor, so far as he knew, had he coerced one into doing something she wasn’t sure she wanted to do, which amounted to the same thing.

“Once ‘boys will be boys’ gets pulled out, the girl’s hounded out of town—by women! The boy’s mother will be leading the pack.”

Emilio had noticed this, in fact, and he was vaguely amazed this behavior crossed an ocean.

“It was the eighties. How many girls are going to ask their mothers to take them to the doctor to get birth control? How many girls are going to walk into a drugstore and buy condoms? None, that’s how many. Why? Because if they go on birth control, it means they expect to have sex in the future. And if they buy condoms, it means they’re planning to have sex right now. As far as I could see, there was nothing in it for the girl. And it wasn’t fun enough to have to deal with the consequences.

“It had nothing to do with church, particularly since the chastity lessons in Young Women also put the onus on the girls to keep the boys in line. Analogies like ‘nobody wants already-chewed gum’ and ‘nobody wants to eat a cupcake that’s got the icing licked off’—”

Emilio grimaced.

“—and another one of my personal favorites—I have so many!—‘Boys can’t control their baser lusts, so you have to cover up so they don’t have to discipline themselves.’ Why is it up to me to shepherd a man’s—any man’s—hormones? But the fact of the matter is, secular society, no matter how much it likes to pretend it’s open and tolerant, is no kinder than religious society.

“If I met a man who was willing to marry me for time and all eternity, I would have to assume he loved me and he thought he could put up with me. The risk is there, but it’s a shared risk, because if he changed his mind after, I’d divorce him and take everything he owned. You take me for a test drive, I’ll take you to the cleaners.”

“Oh,” he moaned, feeling that like a knife in his gut. “That’s cold.”

She granted him a haughty sniff. “And heaven help him when my family gets through with him.”

Emilio took a deep breath and released it in a long whoosh.

“Now refute anything I just said. And before you try, let me remind you of Yvette Mallery. Poor girl. She’s twenty-four. Lonely. Not too bright. Caged by her life. The only marginally admirable trait you have is you don’t string women along.”

Sebastian was right. Again. Victoria was awful when she was thoughtless. She was vicious when she set out to cut a man’s balls off, and Emilio felt like he’d been pummeled, held under water, and stretched out in the desert sun to dry and crack.

“I … can’t.”

“The woman takes all the risk and all the blame, even if she’s brutally raped. She could even end up with a baby she didn’t want if she doesn’t get rid of it somehow. Destroys her shot at making anything out of her life. That’s eighteen years of risk, eighteen years of poverty, eighteen years of her life, gone in forty-five minutes. She ends up alone and on the bottom of Maslow’s scale for the rest of her life.

“I’ve been mocked for being a thirty-two-year-old virgin. Why? Why would any woman over twenty be mocked for being a virgin in a society that also mocks women for choosing unwisely? Or following their bliss just like men do? Or being victims of a horrible crime? The only explanation is that the woman takes all the blame, all the risk just for existing.

“But you know what? I don’t care if people mock me because I may be a lot of things society thinks are horrible—especially in a woman—but I am not delusional and I am not going to screw up my life over something that seems to be about as fun as a drive-in movie, if that, and I refuse to be a victim. You’re upset about ‘Let’s be friends’? Give me one reason to believe you wouldn’t do that to me, too.”

••• TL;DR •••
I am fucking sick and tired of self-described feminists reviling women who choose virginity/celibacy as some backwoods, fundamentalist Christian, hick-r00b, sheltered, naïve victim of an oppressive patriarchal construct. Women who are happy in their sexuality and sex lives are no more empowered than a woman who chooses to remain celibate for whatever reason until whenever. Feminism is supposed to give women credit for knowing their own minds, making their own choices, and respecting those choices. All of them. Not just the ones you agree with.

We all know how it works

I read that once in a comment on a Mormon women’s writer’s blog bemoaning explicit sex in books. If I recall correctly, it was one where a bunch of the Deseret Book-published writers gather, because it was a “name” who said it. I don’t remember if my book was the one under discussion or not. Didn’t matter.

“We all know how it works.”

What struck me then and still does is that, No, we don’t all know how it works, especially the girls who’re told not to do that. I wanted to say something, but I’m not fond of walking into lions’ dens for the hell of it. This, that no, our girls don’t know how it works, is a ginormous problem. Not only do we not teach them what it is, what they’re supposed to be abstaining from, we teach them they have to dress so as to keep the boys from wanting to make them do it.

Then there’s this: When Virgins Collide, in which the newlyweds never do quite figure out how to do it right. I wonder where they are now and if they finally figured it out by trial and error or if they scraped up the courage to research the topic or if they gave up completely after kid number three. I shed tears to think that woman may never have an orgasm.

And this: Single, Female, Mormon, Alone, in which a 32-year-old woman had to go to Planned Parenthood for a Pap smear and an IUD because, I guess, she didn’t know she could call up a gynecologist to get that done. Seriously? Thirty-two? You’ve never had an exam?

No, Big Name Important Mormon Writer Person, we don’t all know how it works. Because useful, necessary details don’t get passed along. Talk about purple words and euphemisms! And because we aren’t taught, many of us have long-lasting difficulties trying to navigate something that’s so much fun! Or should be. But no! Since we all know how it works, we’re all having fun, right?

Theric, who’s my editor when he’s available (he did Stay and Magdalene), reviewed Paso Doble. He said this:

I know her work is too explicit for many Mormon writers, but I think you should read her anyway. We need to deal with sexuality more as a people and reading her work is a great place to consider how it can be done.

Yes, we do need to deal with sexuality more as a people because we’re regressing, not progressing. Throwback Thursday on Facebook, wherein I see pictures of my (devout) cousins from the 60s, 70s, and early 80s, make the contrast between what was considered “modest” then and what’s considered “modest” now makes that clear. We would be looked at askance now for what we were wearing then, when our (still) devout mothers were dressing us. I could see XX TD sent home from activity night for wearing what we wore then.

And then Scott Hales, the creator of the comic “Garden of Enid, Adventures of a Weird Mormon Girl,” slid something into one of his comics that just floored me. (It took me about all day to see the sly wink in my direction.) (But I was busy writing sessytimes!):

But my not seeing that in-joke at first made me think how much I identified with Enid, where my sex education came from bodice rippers because in Young Women’s we were talking about “necking,” “petting,” and “self-abuse.” It’s true! Media is where we fill in the blanks and puzzle over labeling! Thank heavens for bodice rippers!

I don’t know  what they teach now.  They don’t let me near Young Women’s. I think they think I’m a bad influence or something. Not sure.

I answer XX’s questions straight up and give as much advice and knowledge as I believe she can understand. She’s 11. She’s very well educated on the topic. And when she hits puberty, I’m going to take her to the doctor to get her on birth control. She knows what I expect her not to do (explicitly). I operate under the premise “It’s better to have and not need, than need and not have.” I also don’t trust horndog boys who might play fast and loose with the “I love you”s and definitions of consent.

Anyway, I’ve been thinking about this since Theric’s review and Enid’s singular observation. I’m thinking that if a girl has to learn about sex from romance novels, well, at least she’ll get a good idea what goes on without all those purple words getting in the way. And I’m thinking, if she has to learn about sex from romance novels, she might as well pick mine.

Pssst, girls. Start with Paso Doble.

Or just ask your mother.

I am God (part 2)

Lisa at Feminist Mormon Housewives had asked Giselle Galen about her creative process for a series of compare/contrast posts for fMh, and Galen kindly brought me into the conversation of creating art; more specifically, art as a form of worship.

This coincided with a post on AML wherein a novelist/publisher wondered if God cared about our art or even wanted us to cease making it.

After using Galen and Theric as a sounding board, I wrote a bit for Lisa, and figured I’d share it here, too:

I’m a novelist. I write Mormon characters (in varying states of grace with the church) who have sex. On the page. While I’ll admit that can be seen as gimmicky, it’s really not. I write what I want to read, and I want to read characters who are like me and not The Other, The Freak, The Cultist, The Satan Worshipper, The Molly Mormon, The Longsuffering Sister, The Polygamist, The Weird Neighbor, The Prude.

Other than writing what I want to read and expressing myself in my chosen art form, my broader goal is to plant our culture and traditions and jargon into the national consciousness the way Catholicism and Judaism permeate it—a common vocabulary even if one doesn’t believe or practice that faith. Everybody knows what a rosary is and what it’s for, what mass, diocese, parish, and priest mean. Everyone knows what a yarmulke is and what it symbolizes, what synagogue, Passover, Hannukah, and bar mitzvah mean. Nobody knows us by anything but our magic underwear. They don’t know what sacrament meeting, stake, ward, and bishop mean. If we don’t define ourselves for the world, the world will define us for us, and they do. And it sticks.

I’m also an active, practicing Mormon with a pagan streak a mile wide. If it weren’t for the belief that we can become gods and spend the eternities creating, I wouldn’t bother with the church at all, and I probably wouldn’t even bother with Christianity. I am willing to jump through whatever hoops I need to just in case what I believe—what I hope to be true—is, in fact, true. If it’s not, it won’t make any difference in the long run because I refuse to believe any other alternative. If I burn in a lake of fire, so be it.

That forms the core of my artistic philosophy: Creating art is practicing to become a god.

Specifically, creating paper people with souls, intellect, and free will is practicing to become God.

(Most days when I watch the news, I wonder if the Creator we worship isn’t still practicing and just hasn’t gotten it right yet. If that is so, I like to imagine we’ll all get an abject apology.)

My favorite thing to imagine is that one day, Father or Mother, whichever one likes the detail work, looked into the ocean and said, “Hm. Those could use some color.” He or She picked up a brush in one hand, and a dory fish in the other and went to town.

I like to think Father was doodling in His lab, doing some structural calculations, sketched something out and said to Himself, “They’ll call that the Fibonacci sequence and I’ll laugh my butt off while they try to figure it out.”

A dildo fit for a goddess

I express my spirituality not in small part through sexuality. I think once one starts down the path of the Mother, then pagan philosophies, it winds up there anyway. Hello, Beltane.

So I like to think Mother was sculpting in the afterglow of some really good sex and sculpted anthurium to hold onto her lover when He was off doing something else. Galen phrased it “a dildo fit for a goddess.”

Because sex is where creation begins with human beings. We created offspring before we created the tools to hunt, before we learned to farm. We started off with the Tree of Life, not the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, but we needed to eat of the Tree of Knowledge to understand the Tree of Life.

I drew it in sacrament meeting. Sue me.

But then the doubt sets in and leads to: Are we created in God’s image or are we creating God in ours?

Does it matter? For better or worse or whatever reason or by whatever mechanism (why are creation and evolution mutually exclusive?), we’re here and we’re living our lives and there’s no getting out of it and no finding out the truth until we’re released from the bonds of mortality (or choose to take the bolt cutters to it ourselves).

When I form people and their worlds, and their characteristics, beliefs, and philosophies, then set them loose to see what they’ll do when I give them a particular set of circumstances, I am not worshipping God.

I am God.