Every night I check my e-mail account before I go to bed. After all, somebody really important may be terribly eager to get in touch with me. The people who run my Internet server are very kind -- they collect all the spam in one big folder so I don't even have to look at it. But I look anyhow, because sometimes they make mistakes and put really important messages in that folder, like the ones from my very good friend Cherrybomb99. Who's she? You don't want to know. I mean you may want to know, but I'm not about to tell you. This is about me, not her.
Well, the other night one of those spam headers grabbed my attention. Right there on the message list, it said:
SUSAN5066@AQL.COM Subj:***** EXOTIC SEX QUEENS *****
I didn't read the message, but I got to thinking. Never in my whole life has anybody ever called me an "exotic sex queen." I have been called "Fatty." That was a fair while ago, when I was about 9 years old, but it still irks me. About four years later, nobody called me Fatty anymore, but a lot of assholes called me "Bean Pole." That hurt. Later, during my athletic phase, some people called me a "team player," but others, mostly clueless guys I wouldn't have anything to do with, called me "that tall dyke with the mouth." That was pure slander, at least the "dyke" part. If necessary, I could have referred them to a tight end and a physics grad student who would have given me enthusiastic character references, but it just wasn't worth it.
Did anybody ever call me an "exotic sex queen?" Not on your life.
So when I saw that message, I wondered how the women that ad referred to managed to get such an intriguing title. Being a writer, I immediately dreamed up several stories: Natasha, the Ukrainian peasant girl who came to the U.S. as a boat person after being ditched in Shanghai by her lover, the former KGB man who owned six million shares of GazProm; RoseAnn, who became pregnant by the chauffeur and was disowned by her aristocratic English family, only to have a miscarriage; Little Deer, who was raised by her wicked grandmother after her parents were murdered by a serial killer in the desert. You know the kind of thing -- typical romance crap. But exotic. And sexy.
Obviously, I didn't have the right upbringing. My folks are normal Texans, who only own one pickup and about three guns. They love me dearly, and I went to a perfectly acceptable college and majored in English. I can tell you, if you aspire to become an "exotic sex queen," you can't have worse credentials. If I'd been smart, I'd at least have majored in drama.
To top it off, I married the physics student, by then an important tenure-track assistant professor, and before you could say Arnold Schwarzenegger, people I hardly knew were calling me "Mommy." Now I ask you -- what's farther from "exotic sex queen" than that? And I'd be surprised if I heard that sex queens, even domestic ones, ran around the house most of the time in jeans and a sweatshirt that says "Property of the Boston College Athletic Department," even if they went to Boston College, which I didn't.
Well, that night I thought, frankly, that I had been cheated. Now, if you knew me, you'd know I don't mess around -- when something's not right, I fix it.
My husband was watching some program on TV, probably advance hype for the Patriots game coming up Sunday, you know how men are, and the kids were ensconced in their rooms, supposedly asleep. So I just quietly sneaked upstairs to the bedroom, stopping by the hall closet to pick up a beautiful tapestry scarf I sometimes wear to church. I had ideas.
My closet is pretty tidy, but it's big, so it took me a few minutes to leaf through all the stuff hanging there. What I found included a black negligee I wore on my honeymoon; an aluminum yardstick; and a pair of high black lace-up boots I used to wear to work when it snowed --now I wear zip-up felt boots with a Polartec lining. Let me add: my mother, who knows more about clothes than I do about commas, made me buy the negligee; I thought it was a semi-transparent bathrobe.
To my amazement, the negligee hadn't fallen apart, and still fit. In ten years I've picked up a few pounds here and there, mostly there, but negligees are pretty loose anyhow. And the poor thing hadn't been worn much -- these physicists know a lot about matter, including filmy negligees, and how to make it disappear. I guess I'd kept it for sentimental reasons -- mostly now I wear a long flannel nighty with a high, warm collar in the bedroom. Anyhow, I put it on and pranced around in front of the mirror a minute or two. Guess what? I looked like your typical Celtic hausfrau in a black negligee. Not the least bit exotic.
So I hauled out the makeup kit I use maybe twice a year and did a paint job that would have had my college roommate rolling on the floor. Green eye shadow, the works. Looked in the mirror, then added another coat of paint. Did a slapdash job on my nails with sultry red polish that matched the lipstick. When that was dry, I pulled on the boots and stood in front of the mirror. I looked like your typical suburban matron all painted up and wearing some weird clothes.
What saved the day was a big Mexican straw hat they gave me when we ate at that restaurant up on Route One on my birthday -- it was on the shelf at the top of the closet, scrunched a little, but it straightened out easily. I put it on. Shifted it to a rakish angle. Looked in the mirror. Tossed the tapestry scarf loosely around my neck so it hung down at the side. Yeah. Exotic.
After some consideration, I figured the problem was not the clothes, but my face -- it needed the right expression, or I wouldn't look sexy stark naked. So I started to practice facing half away from the mirror and looking over my shoulder with an expression on my face, and damn near pulled a muscle in my neck. Then I heard my husband turn on the water in the bathroom. I cracked the door open so he wouldn't knock or anything, switched on my bed lamp and turned off the overhead light. Showtime any minute.
When he walked in, I was standing with my booted right leg sticking out and bent at the knee, foot on a chair, bare thigh glowing in the half light, left hand twitching the yardstick. He got a left side view, me looking at him just the way Marlene Dietrich looked at the old guy in that movie.
I slept really well that night.
The next day my husband came home fairly early in the afternoon. I came in around 3:30 and there he was in his big chair, reading the city page of that morning's "Globe." I gave him a kiss and headed for the kitchen to make us some tea.
"Hey, wait a minute." He looked over the top of the paper at me. Gradually, a tiny smile appeared on his face. "The cops let you out?"
"Come look at this."
I sauntered over and started to read the article he pointed out.
"'Exotic Sex Queens' Arrested. Drug enforcement officers looking for illegal substances today raided an apartment in Charlestown and discovered it was the headquarters for an Internet sex ring. . . ."
"Uh. . . . I . . . ." I fled toward the kitchen.
"Hey, come back! I was just going to say I'm really glad they let you go. You're still in business, I hope? I'm a very satisfied customer!" Then he started laughing like hell and I turned on the stove.