This week is my 40th birthday -- March 25, the same day as Aretha
Franklin (after whom I named my daughter, as some of you may have noticed).
I'm on a tour of the American South, promoting my new paperback, "The Sexual
State of the Union," and it took quite some doing to get me in the mood to
hit the road.
For starters, I am having every clichid, sour thought about growing
middle-aged. A few weeks ago, I recoiled in disgust at the sight of my own
visage on a local TV broadcast of one of my bookstore lectures.
"Look at me!" I wailed to my lover, watching alongside me. "I look like a
worn-out rag." He gave a meaningful nod toward the tube just as the camera
zoomed in for a peek at my plunging neckline and evident bralessness.
"I wouldn't say you looked like a rag," he said, letting my
televised cleavage finish his remarks.
"No, you're absolutely right," I said. "I don't like look a worn out rag. I
look like a worn out SLUT!"
And that was my moment of inspiration. I stood up in my wrinkly shirt and
holey underwear and announced myself like a candidate: "I am going to do a
whole new zine in honor of my fourth decade. The name of it will be Worn
Since that instant of clarity, everywhere I have traveled on my book tour
-- from Texas to Florida to Georgia to New Orleans -- I have called on my
fans to join me in my new project. When I tell them the title, I'm greeted
by a tremendous wave of recognition.
"If you're laughing," I tell them, "I expect you to contribute a story."
Worn Out Slut will be the place for people who have Been There and Fucked
That. It is my spitting reaction to all those obnoxiously earnest feminist
tracks about the "joys and challenges" of growing old. It's my salute to
the fact that tomorrow's seniors are people like me who started the first
mosh pits -- Killer Pussycat Amazons who don't enter menopause with regrets
I realized as soon as I announced my plans at a bookstore in Austin that
whatever else we were, Worn Out Sluts are actually gender neutral. One of
the middle-aged fellas who asked me to sign his book wanted to shake my
hand "for luck" because he is going on trial next week for selling a
vibrator in the state of Texas.
You heard me right. I don't know where the fucking ACLU is when you need
them. It's illegal to own more than a handful of sex toys in the Lone Star
State for your own personal reasons. You can bet the erotically inclined of
Texas are exhausted from this reign of terror, and I encourage all of them,
men and women, to sign up for Worn Out Sluthood.
Texas, my first stop, was also where I got my initial inkling of how
profoundly the Internet has changed Southern people's way of getting laid,
as well as just plain getting connected with like-minded spirits, in a
society so censored by Christian fundamentalism.
By the time I got to Louisiana, I was convinced that AOL is being kept
afloat by Southern horniness. A dozen different people explained to me that
they continuously change and improve their online "profile" (the little
paragraph that describes yourself for other AOL members) so that they can
keep their dating life fresh and exciting.
When I arrived in Atlanta, I got a phone call at my hotel from Dolores
French, a longtime whore and a prostitution rights activist who I could
easily call my new best friend. "Oh you poor child, I know what this book
tour is doing to your body," she said. "I have taken the liberty of sending
someone over to give you a massage, a full-service massage."
"Dolores, you are too much!" I collapsed on my bed to relish the thought.
"These are the kind of things that don't even occur to Simon and Schuster
when they plan my schedule."
Dolores was anxious to tell me that my masseur, Sonny, who she had
personally tried out, met her exacting standards, and that if he didn't
satisfy me in every way imaginable, she'd be shocked.
Sonny, stepping in two hours later, looked exactly like a construction
worker, and that's what he told me he did for many years before he made
the big change in his career. His wife, who apparently made the ascent from
crack addict to corporate ladder-climber (I've heard that story so many
times!) became flush with her success -- and embarrassed to have a husband
in a hard hat instead of a suit. She divorced him, and he came out as
bisexual and went to the massage parlors to learn how to get set up in his
While Sonny started rubbing me down, we talked about traveling and places
we'd like to visit again. "I always plan my vacations around the Southern
Baptist Convention, when they come to Atlanta," he said.
"Oh yes, I can imagine how you'd want to clear out of town when they're
around," I interrupted.
He laughed at my naiveté. "No, I have to BE here when they're in town. It's
the busiest time of the year. I always take my vacations afterwards because
by then I'm completely burnt out."
Well, he kept laughing because I couldn't shut my gaping mouth. I'm sorry
to be so incredulous, but it just blows my mind that a few thousand
Southern Baptists would gather together to celebrate their faith and
coincidentally wear out the entire sex worker force of the greater Atlanta
"How can they live with themselves?" I asked him, "Condemning sodomites all
day, and then calling you in for cocksucking all night?"
"They go to church on Sunday, and that makes everything all right," he
replied. Sonny was raised in the same church himself, and maybe that's why
he understands better than me how this one act of submission absolves
I'm in New Orleans now, the psychedelic jewel of the South, with its great
undulating dilapidation the very definition of divine deviance. I went
yesterday for a malt-pecan waffle with bananas and syrup at the Clover
Grill, where Diva Chef and Chief Waitress Earl sings, serves and writes the
meanest menu in the Quarter. "Don't Cry Out Loud" it reads in bold, after
the egg dishes. "Members of our Staff May be Available for Private
Parties," is at the bottom the sheet. An antique dealer down the street
told me Earl was in drag on the street charging $5 a peek during Mardi Gras
to look at his impressive genital inheritance, and attracted quite a
following of Japanese schoolgirls. I'm sure it was worth every penny.
There's a beautiful woman in a red hat, white fishnets and blue polka dot
skirt singing outside my window this morning in the French Quarter. She
shared some of her po' boy loaf with me when I walked out to see the fine weather
we're having today and compliment her on her song. Worn out? Hell, yes, I'm so very very tired -- but with
beauty and generosity like this, there's some life in the Queen of the Mosh