Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Excerpt from The Playground

Note: This is only a draft
©2016 Phoebe Alexander All Rights Reserved

I count twenty-three people  by the time we've finished our tour of the house, minus the bedrooms that had closed doors. It's a little overwhelming, but I am relieved there aren't more in attendance. I can't remember anyone's names. Actually, I remember faces and names, but cannot attach the correct names to their corresponding faces. There was a Cathy, a Mike, a Joe, a Beverly, a MaryAnn. Maybe another Mike? I'd say most everyone seems to be in the 30-50 year age range. A nice mix.

Amanda gestures from the kitchen. "Come and get a drink! I'll introduce you to my fiancé!"

I wonder how I missed him the first time around.  But then again, I also missed Shanna's husband, Tony, so that makes me wonder if they are (were) behind one of the closed bedroom doors, and if so, with whom? I see Amanda's  fiancé leaning against the granite countertop and he does not appear to have recently exerted himself, sexually or otherwise. He's tall, tan and lean with blonde hair and blue eyes, almost as young and fresh-scrubbed as she is. They pretty much make the most adorable couple ever.

I say hi and he gives me a kiss on the cheek., filling my nose with the scent of a fruity craft beer or possibly a cider.  I watch Amanda put her arm around his waist and lean into him and he bends to kiss the top of her head. I can't help but let the following thought swirl around in my brain vigorously enough to start the rumblings of a headache: Andy and Amanda are pretty much Ken and Barbie. They even have  matching names. What is lacking between them? Why do they feel like they need to be with others? Why do Shanna and Tony?

I mean, I know why I'm interested. I have a sexy husband at home, but he doesn't want to put out. Or he can't. I need to feel wanted again. But if Rob wanted to knock the boots a few times a week, would I even be here? Probably not. Looking at Andy and Amanda, I would bet money they are taking the skin boat to tuna town every chance they get.

I end up in the living room with Brandi. “So how does this work?” I ask, watching Shanna flirt with a group of three men near the doorway to the hall where the bedrooms are.

“Just like any party, really,” she answers. “You chat someone up, talk about what you like, dislike. And if there's enough interest and agreement between partners, you go off to find an empty room. Closed doors mean don't come in. Open means you can watch or ask to join.”

“Wow, okay, that seems weird.”

“How so? People hook up at all kinds of parties. Here there's actual deliberation and consent. It's much safer,” she explains.

“So you don't end up waking up hungover underneath some smarmy frat boy like you did in college,” I say, and she nods. Not that I ever did that in college. Nope, I was the world's most straight-laced co-ed. But sometimes I feel a little left out that I don't have any tales to tell.

Shanna disappears on the arm of a broad-shouldered younger man with a shaved head and a tattoo on his forearm of a skull with a snake coming out of it. He looks a little rough for my tastes, but to each her own, I suppose. She is wearing that dress she showed us last night, and I've personally witnessed every male in the house undressing her with his eyes. I imagine a good number of them are hedging bets about whether or not they'll be able to literally undress her by the end of the night.

Some women wouldn't want to feel objectified like that. Is it any mark of accomplishment to have an entire roomful of men salivating as they plan what they'd do with your body if given the green light? Some women would be disgusted by that prospect. Some would find it utterly humiliating.

But I'm absolutely fascinated. While everyone is nice to me and even mildly flirtatious, I don't get the vibe that men are drooling over me or that anyone is chomping at the bit to bump uglies with me. So I have to wonder what it would be like to be viewed that way, the way Shanna is. She's like a golden-haired, bronze-skinned sorceress, a legion of men under her magical spell. I've always wondered what it would be like to have that power. Even if I'm just now admitting it.

Rob has never made me feel sexy. And since he's the only man I've ever been with, I don't really know what it's like to feel that way. From the moment we started dating, he cast me in the role of “good girl,” setting me on a virtuous pedestal apart from all the promiscuous sexpots he dated from the cheerleading squad. He's never once called me sexy; he's always said he respects me, that he admires me for the way I think. As if being sexy and being admirable are mutually exclusive.

Is it disrespectful to find a woman sexy? Does it take away from her intellectual prowess? I've always bought into that dichotomy of good girl versus slut, but I'm starting to come around. I wonder why a woman who wants to be regarded as a sexual creature with needs and fantasies and desires is so intimidating. And I know I'm wondering this because of the changes that are happening in me. I'm a good person, a mother and wife, a teacher. I'm not a slut. So why am I apologetic about wanting my sexual needs addressed? I can see how someone like Shanna – also a wife, mother, teacher – would feel empowered by embracing her natural, primal femininity. This lifestyle is a celebration of womanhood, not an exploitation of it.

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