Sunday, October 18, 2015

This post is R-rated

I teach a writing class for OLÉ (Opportunities for Lifelong Education). I titled it “Dangerous Writing,” but on the first day of class, I discovered the title had scared a bunch of folks. Brave souls, they still registered, and we’ve been having a lot of fun.

So one of the assignments was “There are two people in a room who hate each other. Demonstrate that fact in writing without using dialogue or any physical violence.”

Wow, everyone was so creative. We had siblings at their mother’s funeral, roommates (one messy, one neat), a husband accosted by an overbearing, talkative person. Rivals at a 51st reunion. In another, two women were delighted to find each other at a social event, but when their husbands joined them, it was obvious there was bad blood there.

We had tension, passive aggressive behaviors, averted eyes. We had reddened faces, tightened jaws, escapes to an exit. It was a real treat.

The class is mostly retired women and John. I’d guess the ages were 50+ into the 70s. After everyone reads, we all point out what made it real for us, what parts resonated and made the picture vivid. Then it was John’s turn.

His story was an affair gone bad. She’s pretending she doesn’t notice him in a crowded room. He’s shuddering and trying to find an exit; he’ll come back later to get his coat. “She turned and walked slowly toward the coat room, smiling and chatting with people along the way, but moving inexorably toward her destination, her escape. She felt moist, not in a good way. Clammy, nauseated.”

I like the scene. So does the class. “But John,” I say, “I don’t think ‘moist’ is the right word. People aren’t moist; sponges are moist. Clammy is the right word.”

The women – the older women, the class full of women – think ‘moist’ is just right. It has to be ‘moist.’ She’s moist. They stare at me. I stare at them. John attempts to clarify: “But not in a good way.” What does that have to do with it? Quite a few white heads bob at me. “No, ‘moist’ is the right word.”

“Ohhhhh,” I stammer, “moist down there moist???” Yes, that’s exactly what they mean. It’s the real point of the scene. John, whose misfortune it is to be the only man in the room with women who know exactly what he meant, is so beet-red he’s glowing.

“It’s from a Leonard Cohen song,” he says. “‘...and the ladies go moist, and the judge has no choice....’”
This class knows how to do their Third Thirds! The only one who flustered in the face of “danger” was me. So I felt compelled to tell a story; when would I ever get a lead-in like this?
Do you remember the movie The Big Easy? Dennis Quaid and Ellen Barkin have the steamiest, most incredibly sizzling scene together. Shortly after it came out, my sister and I were visiting my mother on Long Island, and the subject of the movie came up. My sister lives in Berlin and hadn’t seen it yet. I told her about that sexy scene. My mother added, “Oh, Allison, that scene just lubricated my vagina.”

The class roared and exclaimed, “Your mother said that?!” Hey, hadn’t they just taught me about ‘moist’? My mother was in her Third Third, too.

Role models all.

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