Thursday, April 29, 2004


I am reading a book right now, like actually right this minute, called "Inappropriate Men", by Stacey Ballis. I am finding myself a bit disconcerted by it because, while it is, for the most part, well written, I cannot help but think that it's totally autobiographical. The main character, Sydnie, is a self described sexy fat girl - 5'3" and 265 pounds, with curly hair and pretty eyes. The author's photo on the back of the book is an extreme close up of her face, her very round face and pretty eyes, framed by curly hair. And it is an extreme close up of her face, which is what people do when they're fat. Just try internet dating and see if I'm not right - but that's another story. Sydnie is a writer/poet/drama lit professor who lives in Chicago. Stacey writes fiction and in addition she is a poet and the Director of Education and Community programs at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago.

Are you seeing the parallels?

The reason I find this discomfitting is that this story is about an affair that the main character has with a much older man who is her father's partner in his law firm. I cannot help but wonder if this really happened. I feel like you do when someone is telling you a story about "one of their friends", but you begin to realize that they are talking about themselves. It would just be so much easier if they dropped the pretense, you know?

The other thing that keeps throwing me off is that while the narrative is very well written and the poetry that Sydnie is moved to write as she rolls along (sorry) in this illicit adventure is more than good, the dialogue - the part when the characters actually speak to each other is so stilted it's like cruising the highway and hitting some bigass potholes! Example: Him - "Either we should have another drink and go straight to hell, or maybe we should stop." Her - "I suppose that is for you to decide. I am fine to continue, drink or no, or to leave, whichever will make you happiest." Him - "I think maybe it will be smarter for you to go." Her - "If you like."

This is the dialogue right before he takes her to bed! It's like freakin' Jane Austen. The tune to Conjunction Juntion What's Your Function keeps going through my head! All of the dialogue is ponderous like that. It's just not how people speak to each other. And it's completely distracting me. When I get to those parts in this otherwise enjoyable read I try to just speed past and put the conjuctions in, but I find my lips mouthing the words and it's like I'm reading some Victorian drama.

Other than that - the fact that I feel like I'm reading Stacey's diary, only she's calling herself Sidney, and I keep tripping on stilted dialogue - I am liking this book a lot. And for more than just a good story. It's turning into an absolute bonanza of reference. For instance while reading the book I have discovered this place which was really interesting. Also a kick ass dijon chicken recipe, as well as this place for everything you need to create a womblike bed upon which to have your affair.

She even recommends a book wherein you can learn to give your married lover the perfect handjob - Sex Tips for Straight Women From a Gay Man. This triggered a hilarious memory. I am familiar with the book because when it first came out my friend Roseanne and I went to a Learning Annex workshop taught by the authors, a straight woman and her gay best friend. Oh yes we did! The class was over at one of those Hilton type, corporate hotels in Culver City, and held in one of the conference rooms that normally house sales meetings. On this special night there were close to 50 women all anxious to learn some new tricks with which to please our men. Roseanne and I agreed that the authors didn't really have much to say that we didn't already know - being sexually liberated, worldly gals, but the other women in attendance were definitely an adventure in enlightenment.

Women are just great because once we get warmed up we will discuss sex in very pragmatic and direct terms. Men on the other hand tend to speak euphemistically with "you knows" and sentences that trail off into mystery leaving the listener to fill in the blanks. This poor little gay man about had a coronary when it came time for the Q&A. We wanted specifics and his face was blushing a bright magenta as we grilled him. Then the sharing started and I swear he was hyperventilating. Even my mouth dropped open in shock. There was a very sweet looking lady, kind of like your elementary school librarian, who was probably in her 50s, although she was quite overweight with helmut hair, and she was wearing a bright green polyester leisure suit so she maybe looked older than she was, but she couldn't wait to share about the benefits of saran wrap over the asshole when dispensing a rim job.

I swear to God!

That experience gave me a new appreciation for the phrase "you can't judge a book by it's cover". This was a West L.A. crowd, white suburban ladies who were into ass play and strap ons (that they used on their men!) and group sex and pretty much anything else you'd find in a Nancy Friday book. Who knew? That poor gay man had pit stains and was pretty much in the fetal position by the time it was over. It was extremely informational to say the least, even the gay man learned new stuff.

And this book goes into those kind of details as well. So if you want to read a book full of hot sex between a short fat woman and a 50+ older married man, with good narrative, very good poetry and excellent real life references - and weird stilted dialogue won't distract you - then pick up "Inappropriate Men" by Stacey (who's calling herself Sidney) Ballis.

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