Originally published April 9, 1997
Jennifer's upstairs taking a shower. I'm in the next room on the 6400 trying to convert her bad files into good files, a more universal file type so that I could print them on the Macintosh laser. She also smuggled in a floppy with a few pictures Frank had sent her she wanted me to scan and load to disk so she could return the originals to him once they had smiled the wicked smile at each other under the celestial swoons of Texas.
Remember Frank? Have I mentioned Frank? Frank is the lean keen online prince of control Jennifer was flying out to meet in Houston on January 3rd, for a special weekend tryst. She'd met him in an AOL bondage & discipline chatroom, shared two fingers of e-mail, and was now ready for the ropes, cuffs, fishweights, and cockadoodle of the ages. Yes, I'd seen the pictures. Frank was a studbuffed racked 27ish with beachloads of sun-savvy GEN X pals according to the groupshots he'd sent. He was Asian, of Chinese I think. Unemployed and still living with parents with some sort of business degree going to waste in light of his more prestigious pursuit of underworld sexual exploits, but at first glance Frank came off as a sturdy girdy stand-up guy. Smacked with muscles and a worm for giving orders, he was a graduate, like Steve Taylor, of Georgetown here in the local mecca. The big occasion for which Jennifer, in her submissive "oh my" best, was being prepared was ironically the Georgetown U Houston Chapter's Annual Ball. Apparently, Frank had waffled up to the last moment between choosing Jennifer or some 20 year old local bimbette to show off at this networking bash. Jennifer had almost written him out of the script, but Frank came through at the wire, although I now wonder who really was pulling whose wire in this case. I think it was mine being tugged, anywaze...
JC won the coin toss, and she was damned determined to get fucked hard and horrendous in the first five minutes Frank laid eyes upon her, or else, in her mind her name was past tense. This astonishing lack of sexual confidence was creating quite a freefall frenzy in her normal preparations routine. We were going dress shopping this afternoon as soon as we finished up her collegiate chores. New or nothing was her operating motto. Fortunately I had all the office supplies on hand she or any other office supply junkie would need, so this chore was painless. I suspected the mall safari would prove far more dangerous and exhausting. After putting the finishing touches on her envelope, I then showered, made myself as leisurely presentable as I could manage under such daylight circumstances, and while I was beginning to feel like a goddamned houseslave to Jennifer's whims I knew one thing and one thing only, I loved her with every grain of sand hourglassing between us, and in my jurisdiction that meant I would struggle, string and strumpet to supply her needs as long as possible until they dared conflict consistently with my personal requirements of accommodation.
After leaving the post office we missed the Pentagon Mall exit but I was able to navigate her back on course from the next swingaround. We parked on the top level of the lot, noted our location, and bolted for the doors where shopping until dropping was not just a cliche, it was the prime directive. What happened next can be condensed to a few devilish wordslet's look in here. It was the brainthumping repetition of those words that had me hanging onto shreads of memory which indicated that actually "leaving" the mall was not as impossible task as it seemed at just this moment. I am a notorious quickshopper, despising window shopping when I have nothing to spend, and can waltz into a clothing section scan and within minutes if not seconds, locate exactly what I like, disregarding the rest, and would rather buy and try on at home than to huddle into closets pulling off and then lacing back up boots, bluejeans, girdle, pantyhose, or whatever in trying to make a decision. If something is the wrong size, I'd rather simple return it, and opt for another size or not than to run the gauntlet of public dressing rooms. I've always been this way. It's not a privacy issue. It's a convenience thing. Muss and fuss renders the whole shopping experience a major tragedy. Quickness of style selection is simply a matter of data management skills, knowing what one likes, and remembering it the next time, seeing something fresh, even whimsical, analyzing it against the backdrop and wealth of sensory data gleened from movies, television, sidewalk glances, the workplace, and the creative whimsy in us all. Whether shopping for glamour or sensibility, viva la difference or uniformity-stating protective armor, the process is the same. These are the hallmarks of the speed shopper. Unfortunately, Jennifer operated from a different cache delivery system.
It was a fact. We had very different fashion ideas. In Macy's I had found a snazzy yellow powersuit jacket ensemble with black wool skirt I thought was perfect. Jennifer recoiled in a cringing, "Trying to dress me in an old lady's outfit..."
I knew I knew the difference between an old lady's suit and a young smart power ensemble, and this was no patsy suit, so I gently tried to persuade her in a language I thought might appeal to sensibilties she still found requisite to her own version of sensuality.
"Well Jennifer, look at it this way. While Frank may expect you to play the submissive role to him within the context of a social event, he may also pride himself, and let's use the Bridget Nielsen, Sylvester Stallone scenario whereby Sly is top, Bridget bottom...Frank may pride himself in not only having at his side a submissive female who wilts to his every whim, but may pride himself in having at his side the strongest woman in the room, perhaps a woman stronger than even every other male in the room. You seem to believe that this tramp look is the going thing. But what if Frank is embarrassed by this wanton display? Are you sure you don't have more clues to feed upon in trying to figure out just what WOULD tweak Frank's fantasy?"
We'd been over this gray area of just what WOULD Frank appreciate most a dozen times since she'd arrived to this shrieking repartee of fashion angst. She claimed, and she even seemed to appear sincere every now and then, that she wanted to meet the semi-formal guidelines of the night, but here she was plucking streetcorner dating chic off every rack at which she paused for a second glance. No amount of soft-peddled higher reasoning could dissuade her from the persistance that less was more. More flesh, less likelihood for failure. Again, it was taking great effort for me not to say something that would certainly bruise her feelings. I was quite convinced that women, while claiming to want the unvarnished truth from a masculine perspective, in Jack's words, Jack Nicholson's that is, most of them really can't handle the truth and merely desire affirmation of their own whimsy, or else a purely diplomatic evasion of the question which they could then interpret as a man's naturally disingenuous umbrage. Gender barriers are indeed tough to crack, despite great strides we think we have made in each other's direction. The short version of the reason why we still have so much clutter on the genderbased battlefield is that no matter how much we try to demilitarize and declassify the lines of demarcation, we bank too much on our own gender and we embezzle too much from the opposition that one is never free from the restraints and battle fatigue of our own soldiering.
Jennifer had never been shy about undressing in front of me, friendly-fire nudity, you might say. I’d visited her in the peep show she worked in London to no great hoopla. Strut, strut, strut, until boredom sank in, and I was off to scout more of Piccadilly and Chelsea never to return to the peeps she hated so much again. And it was a laughing matter that her own shortlist of self-ridiculing anecdotes included the raw reality that she changed ten times before every outing, often trying on the same outfit several times before going back to the first one she'd tried on an hour before, and here I was in the dressing room with her, store after store, stall after stall. There was no mystery here. In my humble opinion, Jennifer could use all the help she could get, if she wanted to enflame Frank's candle. Her upper chest was home to a few splotchy red spots and a tiny mole or two scattered about, nothing severely ugly nor anything to be ashamed of, but while she insisted on full display mode, it was evident that her relatively flat chest was not an area of overwhelming interest. Accessories like a full garland of pearls or diamonds might work wonders, but she was not going there it seemed.
The Jennifer of a decade ago used to have as strong a sense of gothic fashion as anyone wearing black spikes or fifteen bracelets to a wrist on the planet, but now that she was in the woeful grips of fly-collar bell-bottomed retro goblins navigating about a style that was atrocious in the 1970s and has certainly not improved with aging, she seems to have lost all grounding, obviously some sort of anxiety reverb to her streak past the big three oh, but really, this was a serious fashion droop she was conspiring to pull...
I didn't know what Frank would prefer on his submissive cunt. But while Jennifer was worried that he might drop her to smooze with potential business contacts, she strongly believed that the sleazier than thou look would guarantee that she wouldn't find herself all alone holding up some wall drinking herself into a come hither von stupor before the night barely got started.
But this particular blonde mannikin sported the look Jennifer was after. I had to agree that the white tether looked good on the window chick from the disco perspective, but it just didn't wear all that well on Jennifer. She agreed, but there was much to choose from in this small goldmine shop whose name escapes me now, but it might as well have been called Fickles. We quickly rounded up four short dresses and stood in line to get the dressing room access which would tell the story.
It was no contest. I ranked them from acceptable to despicable. True to form, my numbers reversed her own ordering, but she accepted my logic, deferring to my top two picks, both black skimpies, in addition to the worst of them all, a beige undergarment bedgown-looking thing. This ugly result of road butt and wrong turns could have passed for an expensive slip beneath a winter wool pullover, something from the lemme-put-on-something-more-comfortable lines of seduction sagewear but a full dress in a semi-formal setting? I couldn't believe it WASN'T a slip, that this fishnet lace-stitched facade over a sheer underlining was actually being marketed as a dress! For the dark slutdriven meat and boner disco or Academy Awards ceremony, maybe, but for a Georgetown U reunion dinner, no fucking way! And this wasn't about some old fogwhistle embarrassed by today's youth go bust scenario. This was propriety, knowing when and where to stretch the limits, especially when they haven't even been logistically sanctioned by the prime player, who happened to be Frank in this case, not Jennifer, not Gabriel (was I of the type to simply agree with Jennifer as an easy way out of this boring affair). I offered to wager that Tim and Sue would agree with me on this call, yes, even Tim, at whose expense Jennifer had laughed earlier in the day while recalling something he'd boasted to her about appreciating the fact that his parents had taught him how to dress well. But Jennifer wasn't alone in redlining the humor in this savory tidbit of Tim's. I whipped up the funny muck with a few details of my own. Indeed it was hilarious that Tim thought he dressed well. It was as true as the bellyroll over my belt that after knowing Tim for eleven years, I had never observed in him even remotely the smart dapper dresser. Little did I know what Tim had in store for all of us, but on this particular date in history, I could do nothing but laugh away at the idea that Tim knew anything about dressing himself. His parents had given him a wardrobe of finer slacks and dress shirts, but Tim never quite cut a character less sympathetic to the eye as when he thought he was dressing in splendor. He generally looked goofy in his best dressed hours, but since this was just Tim working his patented Timlogic, we shared this laugh, Jennifer and I.
Finally the parade was over. To find the car, and get home. Jennifer promised to model the three dresses, and although she refused my wager, what was it? a blowjob, a hundred bucks, I don't recall, she wouldn't commit, so even as our earlier talk of powers, given and received, revolved around permission, permission granted and permission utilized within certain parameters, certain rules, certain limits, nothing had been granted to Gabriel by Jennifer except a Ruby Tuesday and a quick peek. There was no more talk of master. I didn't bring up what was eating at me. Jennifer remained mute, or coy, indifferent to anything that centered around the Dollhouse artistic scene as documented as the single gunman theory elsewhere in tatters. It was becoming clear that this indeed was Jerry's world, not Warhol's Factory, and like Elaine who took no gruff from Jerry, Jennifer was not eager to close the gap between lust and friendship, art and hot air.
While Gabriel like Dylan might find urgency in breathing the air around Tom Paine, the only air anyone else was breathing around the Dollhouse was their own, and a stifling air it was becoming from the artistic viewpoint where freedom was more than a dry word in a box of toys that were soon headed to Texas. We would return home and surprise ourselves that we would be the first ones back that night. But the timing was impeccable. Within ten minutes both Tim and Sue had arrived. Jennifer would model her new pretties. We would drink and laugh, snap a few whoopee doo pictures, and crash rather early because Tim still had to work the next day. There were details just waiting to unfold that night, and unfold they did. These were happy pastoral details, but it goes without saying that not too much art was revealed that night. Tom Paine was carefully hidden within the creeping rites of intensification. Tom Paine still breathed alone.