The Penisless Female, And Other Phenomena


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How dare my mother tell Mrs. Ells this kind of private information. Mrs. Ells was this big sweet old woman whose house I'd be dropped off at. And I liked going to her house. Her son was grown up but she had saved all his ancient G.I. Joes. There was one who wore an old-fashioned deep-sea diving costume. I still remember his gold helmet with the little glass plate in front. I wanted to steal him, but didn't. I knew even then the difference between right and wrong, though I was made to feel, incorrectly, that holding on to my penis was wrong.


Well, maybe it was wrong. It's certainly not pleasant to see men grabbing their penises on the subway or to see ballplayers adjusting themselves on tv. So at least I do it here where no one can see me. But it would be nice to have one witness?that G.I. Joe. I'd like to have him here with me right now. I still sort of long for him. I'd prop him up on my desk and just stare at him and admire his outfit.


Anyway, what do women grab when they're nervous and sitting at their desks? Do they slip their hands inside their panties? What a distracting thought. Just the word panty is distracting. I love that word; it implies so much. I love how women look in panties, how they're flat in the front. I'm 35, but sometimes it's still this beautiful amazing shock to me that women don't have penises. They just have this lovely little mound of hair and then this tucked-away glorious hole. Hole. Wait. Hole sounds vulgar. Is passageway better? Pretty envelope? Georgia O'Keeffe flower? Pussy? Pussy is good. I like the word pussy. Tucked-away beautiful pussy. I wish I could put my face in one right now and sing out, "I love you!"


Someone once told me?I think it was a counselor I was seeing?that Freud said that little boys think girls have penises until they find out they don't. Something like that. And when you find this out this somehow alienates you from your mother or from women or causes fear of castration or maybe makes you think that women are other, or less than, because they're missing something. But it's all muddled in my mind now. I do remember sitting on the steps of the chapel of my university with a friend, and it was spring and all the beautiful girls were out walking around, and I was falling in love with every other young lass with an ass, and I said to my friend, with great sincerity, "Can you believe all these girls have vaginas?"


"Stop spreading rumors," he said.


So I'm still amazed by the phenomenon of the penisless female; thus, I must still be, in many ways, a little boy. That's why in the past, on occasions of psychic-emotional disturbance, like during my entire late 20s, I occasionally spent time in bars frequented by comely transsexuals. I obviously found it reassuring, in some Freudian sense, to be with girls who have penises. But I've covered this already. There's a chapter in my most recent novel, available in paperback by the way, that attempts to explain this important psychosexual issue; the chapter is called: "A Girl As I Must Have First Imagined Girls."


Well, I just refilled the coffee cup to restore the tissues, and I'm feeling slightly tremulous and vaguely nauseous (already had three cups at breakfast, so now I'm on my fifth), and I've just done a word count, 773 words, not including this last sentence, so I've gotten my way through more than a quarter of this final, swan-song column.


(I wonder if any interestingly deranged person will count all the words above to see if this is true; though if I revise, some words might be cut or added; but then I'll adjust the number for those of you who might want to see if my word count is accurate, not that anybody will do this, but I guess I feel like flattering myself to think that somebody might.)


So what else can I tell you? I was watching the Super Bowl yesterday (this sounds like the kind of segue a stand-up comedian would make, do forgive me) and I thought it was quite macabre that there was a commercial with a computer-generated vision of Christopher Reeve walking. His face looked beatifically tormented and bizarre, and it was like that original Star Trek episode where that pre-Kirk Captain is freed?mentally and emotionally, though not physically?from his strange computer wheelchair and gets to go into this dream world of forever youth and sex with this gorgeous woman in a cave. Like all human beings?or people who ever watched Star Trek?I loved that episode. It spoke to all our depths, that somehow we could be freed from the dream of our disintegrating lives and placed in another dreamlife where we never disintegrate; though I guess that pre-Kirk Captain will eventually die in his wheelchair and so his dream of being young and beautiful will just be shut off; and that's what happens to us when we die: we're just shut off.


Oh, no, I'm onto death. I can't stand it. I can't stand death. The other day I was looking at a picture of a relative I love?and I won't say which relative, because I don't want to create some kind of terrible jinx, anger the gods?and I started thinking how I might look at this picture when the person was dead, if I should outlive them, of which there is a good chance, and how I would long for them, miss them, how I'd feel I hadn't loved them enough while they were alive, and how my heart would tear apart. In fact, it tore apart just looking at the picture the other day and the person, thank God, is still alive.


Okay, enough of that. If I keep writing in this emotional vein, Oprah might take notice of me, which brings to mind an interesting hoax. What if one of my book jackets was put on a decent, sensitive, humane novel where people don't think girls have penises, and Oprah got hold of this book and read and loved it, but because of the book jacket thought I wrote it? Then she'd have me on the show and I'd become a bestseller, get out of debt and everybody would think that Oprah had put her stamp of approval on a dipso-sex-maniac. The ripple effect of such a thing could be enormous.


This brings me to the next topic, which has just sprouted in the gray matter encased in the skull at the top of my neck: I'm quitting the column because I can't stand writing about myself anymore. Twenty-eight months I've been doing this, and I'm sure a normal person would have grown tired of such a task long ago, but that's because a normal person doesn't have a narcissistic disorder the way I do. But perhaps I'm no longer narcissistic. I feel that for long enough I've bared my soul and dropped my pants in this biweekly space. I want to go back to baring my soul and dropping my pants in fiction; I want to go back to writing about myself in the guise of a character with a made-up name. Well, so much for my temporary respite from the lash of narcissism.


Speaking of narcissism, I was very glad the other day when I was at the World Wrestling Federation's "Royal Rumble" at Madison Square Garden that this humongous fellow known as Paul "The Big Show" Wight referred to another wrestler?the bestselling author The Rock?as narcissistic. I had taken my son to this event and I was secretly wishing he had some other passion besides wrestling, but I was buoyed by the fact that some of the wrestlers' scripted dialogue is sprinkled with good vocabulary, like the word narcissistic, and that my son was getting some positive things, some enriching exposure, out of his love for this strange, theatrical "sport."


We came to be in Madison Square Garden because I had noticed an ad for the "Royal Rumble" back in early December and said to my son I would try to get us tickets. This was lunacy on my part. Why get the kid's hopes up when I'm thoroughly incompetent when it comes to doing something like buying tickets? So for several weeks, true to idiotic form, I pondered how I might go about finding the phone number for Madison Square Garden. Of course, I didn't call information or seek out a phone book. I was worried that once I did get a number, I would get some kind of phone tape and have to press several buttons, which I would find taxing and enervating, so I kept procrastinating. Meanwhile, my son had actually believed that I might pull the thing off. He loves professional wrestling more than anything else. He watches it three times a week, reads magazines about it and his wardrobe of t-shirts is mostly of wrestling figures. Then I read somewhere that the "Royal Rumble" had sold out. I felt ashamed I hadn't even made a manly effort. I was going to have to disappoint my son yet again.


Then I remembered that I'm sort of a journalist?perhaps, I could get press passes. Not knowing how to do this, I procrastinated some more, and then struck upon a brilliant idea: ask someone for help. I turned to my brilliant, competent editor at New York Press. He then enlisted someone else at the Press. The appropriate fax was then sent off to the WWF and nothing happened. I waited a week for some kind of response either by fax or phone call or psychic communique?but nothing. I then willed myself to make a follow-up phone call?you have to understand that basic life tasks are exceedingly difficult for me; for example I've been living in this apartment for five months and all my books are still on the floor because I don't know where to buy bookshelves or how to build them?and so I left a message at the WWF. No one called me back.


I had to report to my son that things were looking very bleak. He was understanding, but melancholic. Then late on the afternoon of Friday the 21st, there was a phone call: two free press tickets would be waiting for me at MSG on the 23rd, the day of the "Royal Rumble." I went into action. I called Continental, for some reason I'm good at calling Continental, probably because I have their number on a sticker in my wallet, and I secured a ticket for my son first thing Saturday morning. I then called him up down in Florida.


"What are you doing this weekend?" I said. At this point, it was a foregone conclusion in his mind that I had failed to make his dream come true, and you see his dream for some time now has been to go to a live WWF event.


"Nothing," he said.


"You don't have any plans?"


"Nope."


"Taking your psyllium?" This is the fiber supplement I have him on, because the poor kid has inherited his father's digestion.


"Yes."


"So you're just taking psyllium this weekend. You're not going to the movies or anything?"


"Nope."


"Well, how about coming up here tomorrow and going to the Royal Rumble on Sunday!"


"Oh, my God, are you joking?"


"I'm completely serious."


"Oh, my God! I can't believe it!"


And so it went. The dialogue was straight out of the old Andy Griffith Show, but sometimes life is actually sentimental and corny. And my son, who tends to mask his emotions like his paterfamiliass or whatever the Latin curse word for me is, was utterly delighted and effusive.


He arrived Saturday morning in Newark, not having slept a wink Friday night because he was too excited. We stayed out in New Jersey at my parents' and went sleigh-riding and rented movies. It was a good day. At one point, when I was alone in the kitchen with my mother, she said, "You know your son loves you. This morning I started doing a wash and he asked me if it was a cold wash. I said it was. And he said that's good because you were taking a shower and he wanted you to have hot water. There are adults that aren't thoughtful like that. He loves you."


I have to admit, it made me feel good to have my mom tell me this.


Later that day, I dragged out photo albums of all the years of my son's visits and we looked at them together. It was wonderful and nostalgic. He's a great big hulk of a kid, the largest in his class, but he's a sweet hulk and it was hard to believe that the little boy in the pictures is now already nearly a man. He's almost 14 but could pass for 18.


So we went to the Garden that Sunday night and the place was packed with 20,000 people. The WWF was very kind and gave us excellent seats and my son was in heaven. And they put on quite a show these wrestlers, quite a spectacle. For three hours, we watched great enormous men?some of them quite appealingly freakish and comic?throw each other about and holler at one another for all the world to hear. It was like a gladiatorial circus, and I didn't fully get its appeal, though I certainly wasn't bored. And most important, my son loved it and I was glad to make him so happy, and, too, he seems to have the right attitude toward the whole thing. "It's a cross between a sitcom and a sport," he explained to me.


So the next day, he flew back home quite contented, but also anxious to regale his friends at school. I returned to Brooklyn and a friend of mine lent me an essay about wrestling by the brilliant French philosopher Roland Barthes. Barthes loved wrestling and saw it as a theater of excess, a great cathartic spectacle about "Suffering, Defeat, and Justice." This further reassured me: my son has the same taste as a French genius. I knew the kid was bright, but I didn't know he was that bright. I'm kvelling (that's Yiddish for prideful feelings toward one's child) just thinking about it.


Well, I must start bringing this to a close. What I've done here in the Press the last few years is like what Barthes says about wrestling: it's been a spectacle of excess, of my suffering and humiliation and some of my triumphs?the justice part. I've happily played the clown, because I am a clown. But it's time to withdraw.


So I thank New York Press for giving me a voice in the city, and I thank you kind and generous readers for sticking with me over the course of more than 50 columns. I hope you have found it entertaining, amusing and distracting, and should you ever see me in the street do say hello and if you want you can let me know that you liked or loved the column, and you can use as many praiseworthy adjectives as come to mind. And if you're a woman and want to hold me to your chest and let me whimper for a few seconds and maybe let me grab your sweet rear end, I won't protest. And if you're a man and you have an extra 10 or 20 bucks you feel like slipping me, I won't say no. Well, I guess that's about all. So as they say in France (it makes for an elegant ending): Merci and Au Revoir.


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