A friend starts in, “I’m not saying every straight man wants to sleep with me. But most of them,” she says, “most of them do.” It’s a group of us girls. Women now, though we’ve known each other since girlhood—since college, which is a form of girlhood, the tail-end, if you ask us. One of us is getting married, so we’ve rented a small motor boat and packed it with wine and cheese for a sunset cruise around a neighborhood none of us can afford so we can say farewell to a sex life—like Vikings, one of us says—as though we might set it aflame and watch it float away.
None of us can afford this neighborhood, though we all have careers in the greater Los Angeles area. “Career women!” we sometimes shout. Earlier in our twenties we used to say it proudly—sometimes we still do—but now we use it as a punch line too, or like a brick or a doorstop, dull and heavy.
Eventually, we begin talking about some of the men we’ve known, laughing at them, not kindly. Our teeth are already stained with wine, and one of us starts listing them, so we all do, the men who wanted something from us that we refused to give.
The big-time editor visiting from a New York publishing house who said he loved our stories and wanted to meet at an expensive restaurant to discuss them, who quoted our writing to us aloud, who was married, who asked us to come back to his hotel room with him then, his voice low, who wouldn’t look at us or speak to us when we said no.
The comedian who pulled us aside in the green room after our show, who said that we were pretty funny—pretty funny and pretty raunchy, for a girl especially, as though joking about sex meant we wanted to have it—and tried to kiss us then, without hesitation, without so much as a look to see if we were interested, which of course, we weren’t.
The coworker at the real estate office, who led us into a photo booth at the company party, who squeezed our thigh and smiled grimly into the camera, who looked pained when we said we had a boyfriend, which was a lie. We still have the ticker tape of miniature photos.
The professor, the boss—oh authority figures! Don’t get us started on authority figures. Too many to tick off on our fingers. We shake our heads; we laugh a little wildly. Men at bars, men at work, men who were friends with friends of ours, men who seemed to want nothing, men who said they wanted to give us everything. Those corny lines! As though lines would ever work on women like us. We look away here, shifty. So many men.
Dusk has turned the sky orange-streaked and the alcohol has made our voices loud. We idle the boat in a little lagoon, in the man-made seaside neighborhood none of us live in. The houses appear monstrous.
A toast, one of us says, though the one getting married waves it away.
But we are not the type of girls—women—to say something like “to finding one of the good ones!” because there are plenty of good ones, don’t get us wrong. We’ve been with the nice ones—slept with them, dated them. And we have careers. We’re not idiots. How many times do we have to say that?!
“To us girls,” we shout, and we cheer at varying volumes. Eventually we go quiet for a little while.
“You know sometimes it’s nice to give into a man like that,” one of us says, and we know what she means. Sometimes it’s a relief to finally relent, to go soft and pliant in his arms, to let him kiss us like he’s trying to take something from us, and then to kiss him like we’re trying to take it back.
We drink more; we let our fists clench. We’ll stay out here all night if we feel like it, burning on the inside.