It’s astonishing how a crowd can turn the most mundane of actions into something entirely other. You know those moments when you have a burp caught ever-so-slightly in your throat? If you’re just talking to one person, you can have yourself a discrete little belch, say excuse me, and carry on. But when you have that little burp in your throat, because you drank two glasses of wine before picking up a microphone and beginning to speak to a crowd of fifty people, it becomes a much bigger problem. Amplified, if you will.
Everything becomes amplified when you are presenting to a crowd. Your belly is suddenly three inches more woobly than it was when you decided, in the comfort of your own home, to wear the clingy dress that swooshed so nicely in front of your bedroom mirror. Swoosh at home, sausage skin in front of crowd. Your eyesight, which benefits greatly from reading glasses at home, suddenly seems to require the Hubble telescope to properly see the pages in front of you when you read to a crowd of fifty people. And the bad language written on those pages, which you rehearsed at home and barely batted an eye, suddenly becomes gratuitous pornographic smut when spoken in front of fifty people. Fifty people ranging in age from fourteen to eighty. Some of whom are your students at your place of employment.
Try saying “dildo” a couple of times, in front of a crowd. At home, dildo is a funny word. In front of a crowd it’s an open door beckoning people into the darkest recess of your brain where they sit down and get comfortable, waiting for you to say it again with bemused expressions on their faces.
At my book launch I read carefully chosen passages intended to draw the crowd into the lives of my characters, to inspire them to be curious enough to buy a book, to enjoy the evening enough to tell their friends. I read the word “dildo” twice and made oblique references to dildos at several other moments. I must have read “fuck” half a dozen times. I mentioned a woman’s areola, her “mossy fen”, and her “pudding breasts”. I read of a woman grabbing a man’s crotch. I read the word “hard-on”. I may have mentioned that one of the characters wanted to “get laid”, but by then I was so mortified by my own porno fecundity that I had stopped keeping track. I had noticed none of these words when I rehearsed at home. Put me in front of a crowd and I become a potty-mouth. (See excerpt below.)
It’s not that my novel is Fifty Shades of erotica. AT ALL. It is a very mellow, gentle, Boomer-Lit novel about a fifty year old man coping with the loss of his job and his marriage. It’s about a lesbian with a broken heart. It’s about bad weather and geriatric pets. So where do all the fucking dildos come from?
The Launch was great fun… despite the clingy dress and the awkward moment of hoping my students who were in the audience would have no idea what the “mossy fen” might be referring to. The highlight of the evening came when Dancing DonDon, an icon at Alley Nine, the bar where I hosted my Launch and the location of several scenes in the novel, leaped to his dancing feet after I read a section describing the karaoke scene at the bar, and proclaimed: “That is AMAZING! What an IMAGINATION! How did you ever describe that so well, when you only come here once a year?” He then proceeded to dance wildly to the music provided by The Tangos, a talented group of young men who provided the musical entertainment for the evening.
And so my book, “Indefinitely Idled” is launched. I sold forty print copies the night of the Launch, and I was blessed with a responsive and forgiving crowd who all seemed to have a good time. I hope to do more readings throughout the summer in different venues across the province. I may adjust my choice of excerpts, though. Although I probably won’t even notice anything inappropriate until I’m actually reading it to the next crowd. Crowds do that to me.
Excerpt: Alice, the lesbian financial planner from Toronto, is mourning the loss of the love-of-her-life, Tia who has run off a with a woman from the shoe store:
It had been a month since Tia informed her she was moving in with some slut from the mall who apparently sold shoes and cheap sex, with jet black hair extensions and a pierced nipple. Why Tia had seen fit to divulge this much information still boggled Alice, but perhaps it was for the best.
Perhaps it would make the break up easier if Alice could fully visualize Tia playing with Slut-o-rama’s nipple ring. In new shoes. Hair extensions littering the bed.
Alice had loved it when they made love and Tia would track the map of her body, laughing at new place names they made up for each other’s hills and valleys. She wondered if the shoe slut even knew what a mossy fen was.
It was in this new Post-Tia apocalypse that Alice found herself questioning her body, her face, her purpose in life.
Tia never had these problems. Beautiful, perfect Tia. Breasts like sunrise. Ass like a chocolate sundae.
Heart of dark, twitching, malevolent, pustulent maggots.
Tia liked to tell people she’d been named after the dark and creamy drink, Tia Maria. She would laugh and say “I go down smooth and creamy.”
Alice had once found that incredibly cool. Sexy Tia. It was a miracle they’d been together at all. Maybe she should console herself with the impossible luck that their union had lasted for eighteen glorious months.
They’d met at a party. They got drunk. They got naked. They moved in together.
It had been a romance movie, complete with Friday lunches on outdoor patios and Saturday mornings with Tia wrapped in a towel with wet hair shimmering down her back. Their friends were happy for them; Tia the scientist and Alice the math geek. It was perfect. They wrote poetry to each other with fridge magnets, silly combinations of equations and formulas that spelled ‘love’.
At least, Alice thought it did.
She hadn’t factored in Tia’s shoe fetish.
Maybe if she’d worn heels? To bed? She’d never understood how that served any purpose. Wouldn’t they rip the sheets? Her feet looked better in steel toes.
Maybe that’s what she should have done, been more butch. More dominant. Worn the pants. Maybe that’s what Tia had meant by ‘stalling out’. Someone had to drive the bus, and Alice had never stepped up to take the wheel.
She’d left her for a shoe salesman. Woman.
Was that like having sex with the milk man? Did they do it in the storeroom, boxes of TOMS toppling over their perfect, slippery bodies, Crocs bouncing off their glistening butts? Does she get a discount now? Free insoles? Toe massages at breakfast?
The thought of breakfast almost made her weep.
Breakfast, alone. Shower, alone. Morning newspaper crossword, alone.
“I’m naked and I have to be at work in fifteen minutes.” She sat up and spoke to the picture of Tia still sitting on the dresser. Tia smiling, radiant, unperturbed.
“I’m naked, and my breasts are pooling in my armpits.”
Tia smiling: perfection.
“I want so badly to hate you.”
Tia still smiled. Would always smile.
And wear nice shoes.
Alice groaned. She threw a pillow at the photograph and it spun onto the floor, landing face down. Cupping her pudding breasts in her hands, she shuffled into the bathroom, ignored the mirror and cried in the shower.