Let me start by giving you two conflicting pieces of information: 1) I consider myself heterosexual, and 2) At the age of 13 – while in the violent throws of puberty – I saw the iconic Vanity Fair cover featuring k.d. lang in a three-piece suit alongside a leather bathing suit-clad Cindy Crawford, and thought k.d. was the single sexiest thing that I’d ever seen.
For the moment, let’s put these seemingly conflicting bits of information off on the theory of sexuality that goes, “It’s not some hard and fast thing. It’s a spectrum. And we all fall on different places upon it.” You’re 85 percent straight, 15 percent gay, let’s say. Or 60 percent gay, 40 percent straight. Or maybe 95 percent gay, 5 percent straight. Anyway, you get the point. As for me, I’d like to simplify my own sexuality by saying I think of myself as 70 percent straight, 30 percent gay. I’ve always been attracted to men, always figured that a traditional heterosexual future was ahead of me, but that image of k.d. lang, you see, it knocked something loose within and set me on the path to Barbara. Or, as I like to refer to her: Babs.
There had been the k.d. incident, the confusing longing that didn’t quite square with all the more usual stuff I felt for Luke Perry and Christian Slater, but the thing was, I never found myself attracted to women in person. So for awhile there, I was convinced whatever tendencies I harbored were k.d. specific.
Until, that is, I saw a movie called “Female Perversions.” I’m assuming you haven’t seen it simply because I’ve been asking people if they’ve seen this film for 15 years now, and I seem to be the only one who did. Anyway, here’s its deal: Tilda Swinton plays a woman who goes around munching a bunch of box. Like, a bunch. I’m talking box-munching of the seriously enthused variety. That’s an image of her from the film above, since I’m sure you haven’t seen it. It was amazing, a new height of eroticism for my 17-year-old mind, and as such, planted within it some real workhorse masturbation material: It lasted me the better part of a decade. For this, I remain eternally grateful, and not just because it’s financially prudent, not having to pay for pornography because you’ve stored away visuals of Tilda Swinton. The real advantage is how helpful it is in spicing up a conversation. You’re welcome to try it yourself:
Attend awkward dinner party.
Steer conversation toward teen heartthrobs.
Wait for folks to run their mouths on Luke Perry and Christian Slater.
Drop your Tilda bomb. Be like, “OMG, everyone. For me it’s Tilda Swinton, always and forever.”
There was something about the action of Tilda and her box-munching versus the still image of k.d. fully clothed on a magazine cover, that kicked my drive into high gear. Not my sex drive so much as the drive to see what being with a woman would feel like. The problem with this was, I wasn’t meeting any of the right women with whom to experiment. I seemed only to be attracted to the dapper-butch types, women who looked like slender, stylish boys. And sure, living in New York as I do, I see these types around with relative frequency, but it’s not like you can just bombard a person on the street and be all, like, “Hello! Hi! How are you? I’m mostly into dudes, but also I’m attracted to girls like you! Want to make out, see how comfortable I’m feeling, and then, in accordance with my needs and my needs alone, we could perhaps progress to the oral portion of the evening?”
See? You just can’t say that to a person on the street. And you can’t say it to someone in a gay bar either. I went a few times, and was too nervous to approach anyone. No one approached me either, a fact I write off on whatever utterly unconfident and therefore unattractive vibe I was surely giving off. That, plus the fact I’m sure I seemed just like another posing straight girl. Which, of course, you could argue I was.
It seemed I had no choice but to abandon the dream, all the while continuing my private masturbation sessions to a mid-‘90s-era Tilda Swinton.
Years went by, and in the middle ‘00s, I found myself working as a glorified busboy at a two-star restaurant in downtown Manhattan. That’s where I met Barbara aka Babs. She was an assistant pastry chef and avowed heterosexual who’d recently been broken up with by her live-in boyfriend. We started hanging out a lot because A) Babs existed in a perpetual state of wanting to discuss methods for post-breakup coping, and B) I lacked a decent social life and was in no position to say no to anyone who made me an offer. I didn’t think much of our burgeoning friendship, but then one night we were drinking after work, and Babs started yammering on about the various, exciting aspects that awaited her as a single gal.
“I just, like, feel hungry for life. For new experiences.” Here, her tone got quiet. She bit her bottom lip. “And, you know, for new people …”
Lest this section seem at all titillating, allow me to point out the following: My pants were unbuttoned, and this was not so that Babs could have at me. The reason my pants were unbuttoned was that I’d been eating a gyro sandwich that had caused bloating to the extreme, and my zipper, as a result, had created a breath-stopping indentation in the flesh between my naval and pubic bone. Also, my general vicinity stank of seasoned meat as Babs’ lips drew close to mine. Which was appropriate, as a matter of fact, seeing as how if you asked me how my kiss with Babs tasted, I’d be, like, “Like chicken, I guess. Not at all like cherry chap stick.”
I had a lovely time kissing Babs, but also a fundamental sense that this wasn’t something I’d been programmed for.
“Well, that was … fine,” she’d said, once we’d finished.
“Fine indeed,” I’d said. “I agree.”
Nothing sexual happened between us after that. As a matter of fact, nothing sexual has happened between me and any another woman since. Nevertheless, I don’t abandon hope that eventually she’ll come along – my perfect person with whom to experiment, with whom to take these fantasies just a wee bit further – and she will, of course, look just like Tilda Swinton.