Monday, December 21, 2015
Excerpt from "Trophy Wife: Sexuality. Disability. Femininity."
Today, I offer a short excerpt from my book Trophy Wife, the topic being erotica and how literature has come to be an integral part of my sexual identity. Enjoy~ XOXO -LV
One year in elementary school I was assigned a fairly abominable excuse of a teacher. I was given this teacher because their classroom was on the first floor so I wouldn’t have to do stairs every day, but that was the end of accommodating gestures bestowed upon me that year. I am happy to report that a majority of my school years were not like this one, but this one sticks out in my mind because it was, simply, the worst.
The reason this school year was the worst was due to a rule about snow boots. I don’t know whose rule it was, but after a certain point in the year everyone had to wear snow boots to recess, even if there wasn’t snow. The first day this rule went into effect, I attempted to put my snow boots on by myself. I spent the entire time trying to get one boot on. When all my peers came back from recess I was lost in a flutter of coats and a cacophony of slamming locker doors. Then silence.
I struggled for an obscene amount of time against the slick of the hall floor and the bulky plastic of my leg braces with hands I had not yet trained to serve my needs.
When the teacher finally found out I was missing, my shoes were shoved onto my feet and I was informed that if I couldn’t get my snow boots on and off by myself in a proper amount of time, I would just have to stay inside for recess.
The problem was my teacher had recess duty in the afternoons so I was instructed to stand or sit in the entry way at the back door – an unheated stairwell where I could hear the shouts of my peers and tings of basketballs against the cold concrete through the doors.
I wallowed for the first few days, my hands stuffed in my coat, my chin down, swallowing against the ache in my throat trying not to cry from shame. I felt like a burden. I knew I had a special problem that wasn’t worth the time to fix. After all, my teacher didn’t have to wear snow boots to monitor recess.
I felt bad, but I never told my parents. I figured adults like my teacher knew what was best and how things worked. I had been reminded in a hundred small ways that I was different from the other students and my disability problems had to be handled by teacher’s aids or the school nurse, never the teacher. So I took the verdict without any outward complaint. In the stairwell I sat, heartsick.
Until I figured out I could hide a book in my coat. I turned a corner in my soul and turned those 20 minutes in the stairwell into the best part of my day. As I flipped the pages with fingers numbed by cold, I did more than transport myself to far off lands and forgotten times. I turned myself into the characters that solved crimes and traveled Westward and fought the playground battles I wasn’t permitted.
In subsequent years, other teachers allowed me to ask a peer to help me with my snow boots. But the experience in that lonely stairwell solidified the joy of reading and an assurance in books for the rest of my life.
Dorothy saved me in elementary school. Celie would save me in college. These women in literature took my hand, skin to skin, life to life. Dorothy had silver shoes and Celie had a rose between her legs and both of these brought comfort and understanding and a rough kind of joy. It was through literature that I learned the limitlessness of imagination and the bittersweet core of reality. Of sex and dreams, wicked witches and God.
Books and reading then served as an escape, something that helped me get out of my situation, my life, and, especially, my body. Reading and writing distracted me from physical pain, took me away for a while, and broke up the steady drone of inflammation or stitches or migraines.
Writing, too was something I saw as a way of getting bright and fabulous things out of the prison that was my body, out into the world where they could finally give me pleasure. Because I was not bestowed pleasure stuck inside my stiff joints and pocked flesh. In other words, reading and writing was always an out-of-body experience for me.
Reading any book is an experience – how the book as an object feels in your hands, how the font dances about the edges of words, the smell of the paper, the feeling you have when you take in the cover. But this, for me, was heightened with erotica. Reading felt suddenly more intimate than it had before, because I was finally connecting to the prose – not using the story and people to pull me away but to reveal what was possible to see, to feel, to be.
I now find it amusing when people roll their eyes at erotica or ask me sadly why I would “waste my time” writing in the genre. Erotica has reputation for being simple, talentless, and perverted to boot. But for me, and so many other readers and writers of erotica, the genre is much deeper and much more complicated than the veneer of stereotypes. The fact of the matter is, erotica opened up the world of literature to me in a way no other genre had. Because I was finally bringing my life in, to mingle with dirt and sparkle in these character’s lives. Erotica is what did that for me. Erotica let me experience literature in real and guttural ways, as I would go on to discover classics and my own personal favorites. I believe I would still be trying to forever escape my body if not for erotica.
This was the time when reading became even more of a sensual experience. I became tingly and giddy reading at night with a flashlight beneath the covers. I started to appreciate the breeze on my face or the sweetness of sugared coffee on my lips as the sensations enhanced the peppered words that jumped from the page. Instead of living vicariously through the characters I began to ignite my own life with new color and new vibrations. I no longer escaped my body when I read erotica – I experienced my body. And this served as the catalyst for finally taking the plunge with my own pen.