“Indecent Sexposure,” by Melanie Chartoff

Apr 6th, 2016 | By | Category: Nonfiction, Prose

I lie back on the table, naked, draped in paper, awaiting my exam. I assume the position, heels in stirrups, exposing my privates to an air conditioned gust. Time crawls by and I’m thinking, “Why didn’t they let me read magazines in the lobby where the light’s so much more flattering?” I hate being alone in this room so prone to ruminating.

My ten year try at true love had turned loveless two years before.  Then, I’d rushed into a frantic romance, which ended soon as the guy recognized it as a rebound. This was followed by the realization that my last period had put the period on my menses, and probably put the period on men. Menopause? More like Men-o-stop.  My allotment of orgasms had apparently expired with my eggs.

I look down on my body, depressed by the sight of my mammaries, full of memories that never knew milk; my sleeping possum, whose past pleasure will have to last it forever. They look pretty good at half a century old, but of what interest are these now except to doctors for medications and predictions? They’re nothing but time bombs of catastrophe.

I’d held onto my virginity till it was a 22-year-old antique, a relic of my parents’ prudery and my fear of losing control.  In New Haven in the sixties, going all the way had ruined many a girl’s reputation. I was terrified of the treachery between boys’ lips and legs.

But, in the late sixties, the Zeitgeist of Free Love and Woman’s Liberation made being wholesome, virtuous and moral look frigid, uptight and weird.  My holdover hymen became a curse. I had to get rid it.  Nobody wanted to touch me—I seemed way too complicated. So I got on the Pill and made a magician I was assisting make my maidenhead disappear.  Now you see it… now you don’t.

Then Pandora ’s Box opened and unleashed a sexual curiosity that wanted to devour as many adventures as it could. To counter it, I got boyfriends as chastity belts.  They kept me monogamous and sublimating my drive in my work. And each ill-fitting relationship ended with a heartbreak like this one, that outlasted the length of the love, reconstituting my inhibitions, with a romantic renewal every few lonely, horny Springs.

The image I presented in public was modest—the marrying kind without a kind to marry. As a late night comedy girl du jour in the early 80s, I played the purest looking political wives from Jackie to Rosalyn to Nancy, the Tina Fey of my day.

My gynecologist of many years rushes into the room and stops my maudlin reveries about the past.

“Good to see you,” he says. I’m comforted to see him, until he prepares to introduce glacial gadgetry into me and I remember the limits of our relationship.

“Ow?” I remind him of my preference for small gestures.

He withdraws, pats my thigh, gets a friendly, plastic virgin version. I feel like a plastic virgin, starting all over again, scared to death of everything.  Oooch. He’s in.

“So, it’s been awhile,” he says.

Amazing—he can tell just by looking? I guess he knows me down there better than anybody, better than I know myself.

 “Are there cobwebs?”  I ask.

“I mean, since you’ve been in the office for a checkup,” he says.

Oh. I focus on the clouds painted across the sky blue ceiling to distract myself from the disturbance in my Southern states.

“So, you’ve been inactive, hmm?” he says.

“Celibate two years,” I tell the bald head seated between my knees. “Not because I’m saving myself for marriage.  Not because I’m spiritual. Not because I couldn’t have sex if I wanted it…”

“Uh huh,” he says.

“I’ll just never again be intimate. There’s no such thing as safe sex. It’s nothing but dangerous if you have a heart attached to your vagina.”

He withdraws, washes up.

“I never want to love, leave, or get left again.” I say. “It’s all too horrible.”

“Well, it’s all in working order, so,” he squeezes my arm for emphasis, “Use it or lose it.”

“Use it?! To what end?”

“You don’t need to get married. Don’t look for everything in one package. Have one for talk, one for fun, one for sex. And, till you find them, use this.”

He scrawls a note on a prescription slip for a dildo. He’s written down the type, the material, and an aspirational size that scares the hell out of me. The horror of looking lusty in public overtakes me.  “But, I never… I wouldn’t…where would I even get that?”

He writes down the address of the new Hustler store on the Sunset Strip.

“Are you kidding?” I say.  “What if somebody sees me?” But with a “Thirty Kegels a day keeps the aging away,” he’s on to the next pelvis, busy as a bee pollinating all his flowers with suggestions like this.

I look at the paper. I wonder if this is covered by my medical plan. I wonder if he gets kickbacks?  Maybe he’s joking. I shove it into the debris at the bottom of my purse, but he’s got me thinking. Because deep inside this silly little mind I want to believe that by some fluke I might be able to make love and have love again, that the game ain’t over yet. I’m only in the adolescence of old age, after all.

So one day, when I don’t feel like eating or reading or crying or socializing, but am ready for a slightly braver life, I make my pilgrimage to the Hustler store at the crack of opening. Its official opening isn’t till tonight. I figure who would see me there? Who in their right mind that I know would go to a place like that at nine a.m. even for medical reasons. Sure I’m scared, but time to take out insurance on the possibility of future pleasure. Buying a dildo will be a life-affirming act of faith. Kind of like a teething ring gets a baby ready for meat.

I park a block away. I’m wearing a trench coat.  I put the collar up.  I slip on some shades. I walk in the welcoming front door under the fancy marquee, where they’re still sanding the floors. I stop in my tracks. I crumple up the prescription slip in my clammy fist.

This is no apothecary.  Nor is this a smarmy sleaze shop for dirty old men. This is a modern, mainstream mall of amazements—an amusement park, and an “abusement” arcade—a shrine to wildness with walls of erotica two stories high.

There are novelty items: edible panties, pornographic greeting cards, pacifiers with penises, pencils with breasts for erasers, pickle-shaped peckers, penile water pistols with balls for triggers. But they’ve also got serious stuff for any kink you can think of—masks, clamps, pulleys, funnels? Any offbeat fantasy, any peccadillo you thought was all yours, baby, they’ve got an entire wing for it—Bed, Bondage, and Beyond. This Fellini-esque fairground would be completely shocking if it didn’t compel my anthropological curiosity—what do you do with that, where and to whom? But I have a mission to fulfill.

 I ask a woman hanging a light where the “massagers” might be. She smirks and points to a department of dicks. Every color of the rainbow, any size or sound or substance you can imagine is on aggressive display. They vibrate, they rotate, they migrate, they can be run by remote. Some come with instructions in braille. There’s the Regular Joe, and there’s a Kosher Cock with descriptions in Hebrew, friendly members standing at erect attention, promising zipless, fleshless fooling around with no downside.

A freckle-faced girl unpacking merchandise says, “Hi! Can I help you?”

“Just looking!” I say. No crime in looking.  I’m getting engrossed, and a bit titillated, too, but more lights are going on in here and they’re wheeling equipment up behind me, so I settle on a basic skin-simulating brown model that looks user friendly—and you can even warm it in the microwave. ON LOW, it warns. It lives in a nice long box. Its name is “Tyrone.”

I pay, get it brown bagged and turn around into a blinding bank of spotlights.

“We’re rolling,” someone says.

It’s Entertainment Tonight and Larry Flynt is being interviewed in his wheelchair three feet in front of me. That’s me in the background sneaking out of range fast as I can casually run. I’m also seen bolting out the door in the B-roll of the episode, shown at seven, CBS prime time the next night clutching an oblong bag in my hand. In the trench coat and the sunglasses, I could hardly recognize myself, and I don’t think anyone else did either. And besides, what would a nice girl like me be doing in a place like that?

At home, things are looking up. Now that I no longer needed sanitary pads or other period paraphernalia, there’s so much more space under the sink. I make a nice home for my toy boy. Tyrone comes with lubricant, a cleaner, and recommendations for his maintenance. This is the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Maybe I’ll get him a brother.

So, it’s Thanksgiving week—me and Tyrone are lying around thinking up stuffing recipes—and a friend leaves a message on my phone machine:  I am featured in the centerfold of Star Magazine. Currently an iconic Nickelodeon cartoon character, without any recent personal appearances as myself, I eagerly incognito myself over to the supermarket with eggs as an excuse and sidle up to the ten items or less line. I buy my very first issue of Star and rush to my car, poring through to find myself opposite a radiant Carol Burnett who is on the “Best Dressed” page wearing Chanel at some charity event. Across the fold on the “Worst Dressed” side is me in my trench coat and sunglasses, identified at the Grand Opening of the Hustler Store.

I figured few I knew would see this. The Star is not on any lists to which my peers or parents subscribe. But it’s the holidays, you see, and everyone I’ve ever known, stuck in long lines at supermarkets, took advantage of the opportunity to look noncommittally through the tabloids. Aunts, cousins, producer friends, apparently all shameless, closet readers, mailed me clippings with congratulations, easing my embarrassment with their nonchalance.

“Any press is good press,” my manager said.  My old fashioned fantasy of preserving a upstanding image combusted and my life began to pivot onto a wildly different course.


Defenestration-Melanie Chartoff 2Melanie Chartoff writes for the Huffington Post, The Funny Times, and the Jewish Journal. Best known for series roles: Fridays, Seinfeld, Parker Lewis Can’t Lose, The Newhart Show, Ally McBeal; voices Didi and Minka on Rugrats; and Billary’s “handler” on web series, “Transpresident.” In L.A., she performs her work at Comedy Central’s Sit n’Spin, Tasty Words, and Jewish Women’s Theater stage shows, but she began off and on Broadway and East Coast theaters.  She’s terribly YouTubular, a late blooming newlywed, and a sudden stepmom.  She makes the shy stellar with her classes or private coaching via SKYPE. Visit: Charismatizing.com  email: Playdate444@gmail.com

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