Thursday, March 12, 2009

Clint Called me a Slut

“I didn’t call you a slut. I’m just saying you might want to…to tone it down a bit," Clint mumbles into the phone.

He’s referring to my photos on Facebook. I take them myself, of myself. They are only slightly scandalous. A solid PG-13, in my opinion.

“I’m just saying that you send the wrong messages to people when you put those kind of photos up. Guys get a bad impression. People like you and me, we're more…normal than that. Just accept that you’re normal.”

Funny, I don't feel particularly normal. I had called Clint because I was feeling very down this evening. I usually just ride it out on my own but every once in a while, I gamble and reach out.

Clint is the oldest of the brothers I hang out with at the Jersey shore. He’s sort of a James Dean meets Kurt Cobain type. He has trouble speaking what’s on his mind, fretting, frustrating himself then finally saying something he considers all wrong anyway. Lately, he's found God and thinks I need to trim a little of the excess evil out of my life.

“I mean…come on. What guy’s going to…take you…seriously. They are going to think, that you’re a…”

“A slut? Don't you have to have sex in order to be a slut? I think my monastic, incredibly dull life might stand in the way of me and total whoredom."

I wish I was a "slut", whatever the hell that stupid word means. I wish the rumors would fly up and down this dumb island, "Hey, there's Beth Mann. What a slut! She just won't stop fucking. Nobody can stop her. She's literally become a fucking machine." I'd walk by and switch my ass, and drink in all the disapproving looks, like a form of foreplay.

Instead, I'm at home watching Law & Order SVU and eating popcorn, with the painful realization that I need to feel very connected with someone in order to have sex at this point of my life. (Though I do keep hoping Christopher Meloni will jump out of the screen and put me in handcuffs one day. Sigh. That man is built to bang.)

I like taking pictures of myself, I explain to Clint. It’s the way I see how I’m doing, how I’m feeling, who I am. It’s the way I feel sexy without the sex, which seems to be in short supply.

"Any guy who sees you like that, he's not going to take you seriously."

Suddenly I found his shame sinking into my ear, worming its way through my brain. I go to my computer and begin reviewing my "scandalous" shots online. I delete a photograph. Then another.

“Clint, I’m an artist. I take chances. I’m not supposed to worry about people like you and what you think.”

“Well, then don’t. I just think, well, you're not supposed to broadcast those images to everybody.”

“Well who am I supposed to broadcast them to?”

“You reserve them. For your…your…”

“Your what? I don’t have a your, your.”

Delete, delete.

“Those surfboard photos, Beth. Come on. You don’t think they’re a bit…much?”

I bought a new surfboard several months ago and took a series of shots with them. In the nude. Rebel, they call me.

“They’re nudes, Clint. It’s not like I’m fucking the damn board or something!” Delete.

I knew when I entered the wide world of the Web, it could be a sneaky, gross and suspicious place. But I made a conscious choice to express myself my way, to use my name, to be me. Of course, there are times it feels awkward and vulnerable. Of course, it can feel self-exploitative and stupid and when I'm feeling down, it feels painful and embarrassing, revealing myself to some mass audience of god knows who. But I move past it. I try.

“Beth, those kind of photos are for stars, for artists…”

“Clint, you asshole, I am an artist. I've been an active artist for over 20 years.”

“Well...then how come you don’t have more money?”

"Hey, Clint. I have an idea. How about I drive to Philly and lie down in front of you so you can literally kick me when I'm down. It might be easier in the long run. And just so you know, I’m getting a lot of attention lately for my work and…and…”

“Well, when do you get paid for that attention?”

"Are you calling me a slut and a loser? I just want to clarify."

I find myself deleting a blog entry. It's one where's just too much of myself.

I begin to choke up a bit. Shame is so terribly powerful. But Clint didn't introduce these ideas to me. They were already poking holes in my gut. Like I don't feel the discrepancy between my talents and my finances? Like I'm not painfully aware that my photos are really just "me on me" action?

“No, I don’t get paid for attention. Well, I do. I mean...I get paid for what I do creatively. I just don’t get paid a lot for it but I'm surviving. And what’s that have to do with my porn shots anyway?”

“We’re just regular people, that’s all I’m saying. Accept it.”

I prepare to delete one final item of the night: Clint.

I've been deleting a lot of friends as of late. As I spend more and more time alone, battling my inner demons and demigods, my friends' input has been falling short. Its as if they really don't know me anyway and their feedback seems woefully off-track. Clint is my friend and he's dear to me. He thinks he's helping or protecting me. He just doesn't know me. My friends don't seem to know me anymore.

"You know, Clint. Maybe these are your issues. You're feeling frustrated sexually, creatively. You'd like to break out of your normalcy rut. And you're just taking me down with you."

"Maybe you're right."

"Well, it worked."

Clint and I being normal

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Get off of Wine's Back!

Good wine is a necessity of life for me.
- Thomas Jefferson

As we speak, I have a glass of wine next to me. It is a decent California zinfandel. It's fruity, bright and a little simple, just like its drinker. My wine makes me happy, and as the annoying pop song goes, “If it makes me happy, it can’t be that bad.”

Well, apparently, it is that bad. Even one damn glass is that bad. This is according to the recent study by Oxford University, where over 1 million women were studied over a 3-year period on the effects of alcohol and overall health.

Here are the results, in short:

A history of low or moderate alcohol consumption increased the risk of a half dozen types of cancer as well as total cancer. The risk was greatest for breast cancer, which increased by 11 cases per 1,000 to age 75 with every additional drink.

Now I’m no doctor (though I play one on my internal TV) but here’s my very non-medical and slightly intoxicated opinion on all of this:

1. The Brits are really unhealthy anyway. Why are we taking their word on this? They're the ones who created the pasty look. They eat jellied eel and Spotted Dick. Their country was literally built on a foundation of white sugar and clotted cream.

2. What? Stress is better? So now, because of this study, a substantial amount of women will forgo that one glass of wine after a busy day and drink a nice, hot cup of their own stress-induced cortisol in its place. Goodbye cancer, hello heart disease.

3. Can we deny ourselves of any more pleasure? I already cut out masturbation because it makes hair grow on the back of your hands (right?) No more…no more! I can’t be any gooder than this.

4. We’re study junkies with spinning heads. Of course, we all remember when we were told wine was actually good for us, just a few years ago. We were happy. That was good news! Now a new study pops out, with totally divergent results and we're supposed to manically march like good little soldiers in a brand new direction.

5. Wine is natural. It’s grape. People have been drinking wine since the beginning of forever! So we’ll give up wine and drink what? Lime-flavored Gatorade? Caffeine-riddled Red Bull? Aspartame-rich Diet Coke? Come on…wine is a lovingly crafted beverage made from natural ingredients. It’s not the bad guy, in the bigger scheme of things, unless you’re an alcoholic.

6. Look at the happiness in the woman’s face at the top of the page. Do you want to wipe that sexy, come hither grin off of her Chardonnay lovin’ face? I don’t want to deny this model of her happiness. Let's drink for the young lady above, if for no one else. Salud, lady.

7. Can't you see? They’re trying to make nuns of us! Listen to what this doctor had to say about the study:

In a related commentary, Dr. Michael S. Lauer and Dr. Paul Sorlie, from the National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland, wrote:

Despite its attractions, alcohol has been the proximate cause of a great deal of human misery, now with additional documentation by the elegant report of Allen et. al.
Human misery? What is this, the Prohibition? Are you the new preacher in town? Who asked for your moral judgment on booze, Dr. Lauer? And who calls reports “elegant” anyway? Reports aren't elegant. They're just not. They aren't racy or sexy either.

I love wine.

I gave up cigarettes a while back. I consume very little white sugar or white flour products. I make most, if not all, of my own food. I don’t litter or chew mint-explosive gum or use aerosol hair spray or permanent hair dyes. I wear SPF and use natural makeup. I drink one cup of coffee a day (okay maybe two.) I gave up toxic people and polluted environments. I recycle. I pray. I run on the beach and say sorry when I disturb a bunch of seagulls. I take deep breaths and cry to dispel pent-up emotions so they don’t eat me alive. I live to the best of my ability.

The wine stays.

And that’s that.

Me and Wine (on the left)
Come quickly! I am tasting stars!

- Dom Perignon (1638-1714) at his first sip of champagne