Sunday, February 24, 2008

Chapter 21 ~ Woman

Photo by
Brendon Stuart

There was an in between time—after the recommendation by the surgeon but before the mastectomy—when Lawrence and I began drawing closer. When he left the house, I wanted to go with him. When we walked down the sidewalk, we held hands. One morning, we went together to several home consignment stores looking for used couches. Normally, I would leave the decorating decisions to my husband. Otherwise, there was bound to be a fight. But during that in between time, when we were waiting for the surgery, knowing our lives were about to change dramatically but unsure of the full scope of consequences, we experienced a newfound faith that we could make decisions in concert. As if to prove our point, we’d been to two stores that morning, and actually agreed that nothing we’d seen was worth buying. We were approaching a third when an advertisement blew against my leg.

It was a small piece of paper, about the size of a postcard, promoting a nightclub on the block named Rouge. I had wondered about that club, largely because of its pretentious design. After taking over a regular, if slightly dilapidated, bar with live music called Route 66, the creators of Rouge had spent almost two years gutting and remodeling the venue. The outside was painted a deep chocolate brown and the word Rouge, in giant metallic letters, was installed on the face of the building. The entrance door was rebuilt at a rakish angle under a proscenium arch. To one side of the entrance a patio was filled with metal cocktail tables and enclosed by what appeared to be chain mail, creating a place for patrons to smoke without leaving the premises. Although I’d never been inside, I’d gotten a glimpse of chrome furniture and flashing, colored lights through the door. One of my 18-year-old students had disparaged Rouge in journalism class. “We drive by that place on Friday nights and just laugh at the people inside,” he told me. “Who in their right mind would go clubbing in Sunnybrae? Especially when we live just a few miles from San Francisco?” He shook his head.

As far as I could tell from the card, there was nothing particular happening at Rouge to warrant advertisement. It stated the hours, the admission price, the cost of a mixed drink. But what grabbed my attention were the graphics. On one side was a woman wearing a fishnet tank top. The view was in profile, from the waist up. Her breast, the size and shape of a grapefruit, was visible through the material, and her thumb was hooked beneath the oversized armpit hole, pulling the shirt out and away from her skin. At the same time, she looked seductively at the camera and poked the tip of her tongue between open lips. “Thursdays are Ladies Nights!” the postcard heralded. “Ladies are Admitted Free.” Just looking at the picture made me quesy.

“Look at this,” I said wonderingly to Lawrence. “Can you believe it? What kind of woman would be motivated by this card to go to Rouge on Thursday nights?”

Lawrence scowled and shook his head. “I don’t think that card is meant for women,” he said.

“But presumably they want women to go there, don’t they? Do they really imagine they’re going to attract them with this?”

When I turned the card over, I found the back more offensive than the front. It contained more general information--the address of the club, the name of the disc jockey--and on each corner was a cartoon figure of a woman. She was all in shadow, and stylized, looking a lot like the cartoon character I’d seen on the back wheel flaps of 18-wheel trucks, a woman with enormous hair and exaggerated breasts. On the Rouge postcard, she was posed on all fours, like a kind of playful puppy.

Rationally, I knew the card was designed by a sexist. Realistically, I knew women weren’t childish toys. But obviously, some people saw them that way. As I looked at the card, I couldn’t help thinking: if this is what women are, if this is how they are perceived by the public, maybe it’s not such a bad thing that I’ll soon be leaving their company. Maybe when I have only one breast, I’ll no longer be automatically included as a member of this ridiculous group.

Lawrence looked briefly over my shoulder at the back of the card before chastising me. “Throw that thing away before we go into the store,” he said, taking it out of my hands with the barest tips of his fingers and dropping it into the garbage like a handkerchief full of snot. “I don’t want anyone to think we’re considering going there.”

Come back next Sunday to read the next chapter, or buy a paperback copy of the whole novel HERE.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home