A lousy cell phone photo of The Pilegesh at Liberty in Seattle. As named by David and I, after more than one of them.
First, lest any of you foster ideas that I am filled with bravado and gumption, let me assure you that it takes weeks of nagging to get me to leave the comfort of my home and venture to places where there are, gasp, PEOPLE. I am not insecure, but I am a textbook introvert, and an hour of social activity takes me about 4 hours to prepare for and 6 hours to recover from. Yes, really. But my friend David is a friend with whom I share drinks often (by which I mean 4 times a year) and enjoy always. I tease him about being a child (he’s much younger than me,) and although we are peers in every way, I have assumed a comfy position as the hot older woman with whom we can talk about anything. ANYTHING. And we do. We sort stuff out together. By stuff, I mean sex.
Sometimes tactical, sometimes philosophical, often hysterical, we talk about sex, a lot. (Long before I decided that was what I wanted to do as a career.)
This is not a problem, usually. The bartenders at our favorite haunts know us. And we live in Seattle – just TRY to shock someone in Seattle by talking about sex. While no one will admit to doing it, we like to talk about it. I mean, we are the home of Dan Savage and Pepper Schwartz and the HUMP film festival and SEAF, which is the largest erotic art festival in the country. For a city of tragically cold and uptight people, we sure like to make sure that we are surrounded by other people’s sex.
Which is fine, unless you are a chronically introverted, overly intellectual, sex-geek who has only very recently developed a reputation as a pleasure pundit, and you sit down to meet a friend with whom you will inevitably discuss sex, right next to Dan Savage. This is worse than when you’re giving a TEDx talk, your first big public talk about sexuality, and go pretty much right after Pepper Schwartz.
I contemplate the options….
1) Tell him “oh my god oh my god I so totally love you, I mean not that way, I mean, I know you’re gay, what I mean is, oh my god, you are so fucking cool, not in a sexy way, I mean you are sexy, even though you’re like totally gay, which is super okay, but you have done so much around sexual shame, and porn, I mean not for porn, but you know….” This is clearly not a winning strategy.
If I could even get to the place where I thought it was okay to bug someone who is clearly trying to chill alone, which I can’t, extemporaneous awesomeness is not my strong suit. Unless there is alcohol involved and since I just arrived, the timing is off. I decide, immediately, to pretend I don’t know that is (oh my fucking god) Dan Savage sitting next to me. It is the polite thing to do.
I value manners. At all times.
2) Do NOT talk about sex. At all. If I talk about sex, It would almost certainly be like sitting next to Newton and saying, “so , this apple fell on my head, I am relatively certain there are angry monkeys in the sky, and I can now prove it.” Or worse, it would be like being the cheerleader who is trying to get the attention of the QB and bending over in her little mini-skirt, supposedly just casually doing stretches. “Oh, ooops, did you see that little curve in my inner thigh, how embarrassing.” This seems like the best strategy. I mean, David and I are smart people, and good friends who have been through a lot lately, it totally makes sense that we would spend a couple hours discussing Romney’s sticky relationship with Santorum and the fact that James Bond is endorsing Heineken.
That would last, easily, a minute. Fuck. (I mean, darn. Fuck is too, you know, too much like, sex, that thing that I am not going to talk about, no matter what, because I’ll sound like a ridiculous and pandering adolescent who….. )
BARTENDER! I’ll have what he’s having.
That seemed like a safe bet, until it turned out that the bartender at Liberty (my favorite bar in Seattle, bar none) was being creative and made us a special concoction and charged us with its naming. How am I supposed to name a drink, at Liberty, anything other than something sexual. Which would mean I had to talk about sex, with David, which would automatically get kinky. With Dan Savage sitting next to me. Damn all the hot delicious sexiness that is Scotch infused and shared with my amazing friends.
It is clear that we’re going to have to take option 3, which is the inevitable result of giving me alcohol anyway…
3) Talk about sex. A lot. For fuck’s sake, that’s what David and I do. Honestly, we know more details about each other’s sexual proclivities than some of our lovers do (which causes us to talk about the need for openness and honesty in relationships.) That’s what friends are for.
And I was there to be David’s friend, and for him to be mine. Dan Savage has nothing to do with anything. If anything, David informs me, Dan is the guy who would want people to be true to who they are all the time. For all we know, he’d be psyched that people are talking so openly about sex with each other. That they were exploring ideas about relationships and expectations and limits with each other. Hell, he may even look at it as a compliment. Or a sign that the world is indeed changing, and that maybe he had some small part in that. (Which would be true.)
Why do I assume he’d be threatened, or offended, or scoff? David’s right. What if he thinks it’s cool. Or that I am cool. I mean, I’m a 42-year-old mom, straight as hell (though with two sets of gay-parents in my family tree). I’m no “threat” to him. Maybe I’d be a great ally. A chick’s perspective. Yah, that’s it.
David asks me, as a good friend would, how things are going with NotSoSecret and Sexxx Talk Radio. I tell him they’re going gangbusters. I think about modifying that statement, given what Dan Savage has on his resume at this point, and then I realize that he started somewhere too. Granted, sooner than I did, but the starting point is the starting point. And my sprint from the starting point has been solid at this point. So yes, they are going well. Any comparison is foolish, and I resolve not to make them.
We are talking about this week’s radio show when the drink arrives. It is Scotch with “stuff” in it. I am a Scotch purist. (As are most people with little actual knowledge but strong opinions, purists.) This week’s show is on Polyamory. It seems fitting that this Scotch is “impure.” There are other things in it. Flavors mixing in ways that I don’t know how to interpret them, in ways that defy what I expect and think I can handle. It is sooooooo yummy. And we get to name it.
On this night, when I am seated with a dear friend, talking about sex next to someone who I admire more than I (oh my god oh my god oh my god) have words for. Well, I admire his work, I know nothing about him. I’m clear on the difference there.
David and I have a lovely conversation. As always. And it is juicy, as always.
Eventually, we name the drink. Pilegesh: The Hebrew word for a concubine who has the same social and legal standing as a wife. Polyamory, blending of things some might not think belong, standing strong with your worth and value alongside those who gained that status prior to you. Pilegesh. It’s perfect. And it’s sexy. And it’s delicious. The bartender loves the name, takes the coaster on which I wrote the definition, and asks my name etc…. “Alyssa” I tell him. I explain that the name came from us talking about a show on polyamory. Out of the corner of my eye I think that I see Dan taking his earphones off. “Sexxx Talk Radio.” He writes it down and says they’ll post it on their site. I want to look and see if Dan heard it. But I won’t. I don’t.
Dan left before we did. And, thankfully, nothing changed in David and my conversation. Sure enough, David and I were just true to ourselves. I talk about sex. I did this with my friends long before I did it with the rest of the world. Indeed, they are the ones who urged me to do it as a job, because it’s who I am, and I’m really good at it. What Dan thinks about it will never matter. (Unless, of course, he wants to do it with me, that’d be awesome.)
What matters is that, as I always tell other people, you are true to yourself, no matter what. And treat other people with respect, no matter what.
So I can talk about sex even if Dan Savage is sitting next to me. And I can leave him alone, because his quiet time at Liberty is about him, not me. And I can be me. That’s what this is about.
Cheers. Here’s to good friends. And to loving who you are and what you do.