I wrote a book that came out in June of 2008 called Open: Love, Sex, and Life in an Open Marriage. For the last three years, I've had the chance to read at all sorts of venues. I've read at Good Vibrations in San Francisco with a wall of dildos, whips and harnesses behind me and pole dancers performing all around me. I've read in Central Park at a massive picnic with Hedda Lettuce as the emcee. I've read at Georgetown University with a number of protesters sitting in wait. I've read at Happy Ending in New York, the Science Museum of Virginia in Richmond, and a number of other bookstores and conferences, among others.
But last night was a new one even for me. I read at the Kessler Theater as part of BedPost Confessions Does Dallas. It's series produced by a group out of Austin and this was their first event in Dallas.
I had been generously invited as the featured performer which allowed me the coveted closing spot. My girlfriend and I arrived super early to check out the set-up, so, after we got the lay of the land, we walked across the street to Norma's for dinner. I realize that chicken-fried chicken and mac and cheese might not be the best pre-show food. But come on, it's Norma's.
We got back to the theater around 8 p.m. to hang out with friends and listen to the opening musician. Unfortunately things started running really late right from the get-go. The show was supposed to run from 8 to 10:30 p.m., but I didn't go on until after 11. Still, some of the readings were so good that it just didn't matter.
Sadie Smythe, the co-producer of the show, read a hilarious chapter from her book, Open All the Way, about having her first orgasm when she was nine, riding her new bike up and down a friend's cobblestone drive.
A guy from Austin named Devon Tincknell read an insanely funny and disturbingly erotic story about having sex with his girlfriend in the food court of a mall that included rubbing gorditas on her body and putting French fries in her bum. And then, yes, eating them.
A local writer who calls himself Roy G Bivs read a hilarious piece about the time he spent working as a hooker in Japan. Three hundred bucks a pop, no pun intended, and he never actually had sex with his clients.
The highlight of the night had to be the unbelievably sexy burlesque performance that Lillith Grey put on. While an acoustic cover of a Britney Spears tune played, she poured hot candle wax from votive candles down her arms, legs and back. Then she poured what looked to be liquid lube down the front of her body while wearing nothing but panties and pasties.
For the finale, she ripped the wax off with a razor. I am still in awe. The only problem with her performance was that it was too short.
Finally it was my turn. I'm never quite sure which parts of my book to read at these events. Everything that evening had been wildly X-rated and I wondered if my book was naughty enough to fit the bill. It's got some sex in it. But it also has some research and a bit of philosophizing. I picked a few sections and did a little mash-up about losing my virginity, behaving badly in college, one night that involved a very hot girl and very hot wax, and meeting my now husband.
I love reading. I love the lights and the stage. But most of all, I love the audience. I love hearing them laugh, sigh, shriek and moan. I love watching them nod or seeing them still and rapt in their chairs. I did theater when I was younger and I taught college writing for 10 years, so being in front of a crowd is my natural habitat. But there is something so satisfying, so empowering about reading your own words to an audience of people who have come to hear you.
Writing is a very solitary existence. So, getting the chance to read, to connect with the very people for whom you write, is incredible.
It's also terrifying.
Despite being published and having been reviewed by the big dogs, I still get so nervous. I wonder if people will be interested. I wonder if what I have to say is relevant. I wonder if people will think I'm funny enough, serious enough, smart enough ... you get the idea.
I've been lucky. And last night was no exception. Despite the late hour and my jumping around a bit through my book, people laughed at my jokes, made catcalls, shouted out comments and generally seemed to be having a damn good time.
Afterward, I sold a book or two, met a ton of people, and was extremely grateful for the kind words from those who had seen the show. Many of them thanked me for putting myself out there, for taking a risk and for making the subjects of sex and open relationships accessible and easy to talk about. It does a girl's heart good to know she's doing some good even in her own teeny, tiny way.
The drive home from these events is always the same. First I'm excited and all chatty, but then I get blue since I know it's back to hours and hours with nothing but four walls, my trusty Mac and Walter (my Chihuahua/terrier mix) to keep me company.
The thing is, if I don't write, I won't have a thing to share. And sharing is definitely my favorite part, most of the time anyway. Sometimes, though, I really do relish the quiet and having my loyal hound at my side while I write, something I don't imagine I could stop doing even if I tried.
I get hate mail for the stuff I write at times. I do write a bi-monthly sex column for FoxNews.com, after all. But then there are also the thank-you emails and nights like last night where, at least for a few hours, it seems like the world of sex and sexuality could be a heck of a lot simpler if we all just told the truth, shared our stories and stopped acting like we don't have an interest in sexuality. Anyone who says they don't is either lying or in too much denial to even know they're lying.
It is just sex, after all. And events like BedPost Confessions remind me how much we're all missing out on if we don't see the fun, humor and excitement in letting it all hang out once in awhile.