Excerpt from “The Agonized Face” by Mary Gaitskill
On one of those long-ago assignments, I had interviewed a topless dancer, a desiccated blonde with desperate intelligence burning in her otherwise-lusterless eyes. She was big on Hegel and Nietzsche and she talked about the power of beautiful girls versus the power of men with money. In the middle of the power talk, she told me a story about a customer who had said he would give her fifty dollars if she would get on her hands and knees with her butt facing him, pull down her G-string, and then turn around and smile at him. They had negotiated at length. “I made him promise that he wouldn’t stick a finger in,” she said. “We went over it and over it and he promised me, like three times. So I pulled down my G-string, and as soon as I turned around, his finger went right in. I was so mad!” Then bang, she was right back at the Hegel and Nietzsche. The combination was pathetic, and yet it had the dignity of awful truth. Not only because it was titillating–though, yes, it was–but because in the telling of it, a certain foundation of humanity was revealed; the crude cinder blocks of make and female down in the basement, holding up a house. Those of us who have spouses and/or children forget this part-not because we have an aversion to those cinder blocks necessarily, but because we are busy on the upper levels, building a home with furniture, decorations, and personalities in it. We are glad to have the topless dancer to remind us of that dark area in the basement where personality is irrelevant and crude truth prevails. Her philosophical patter even added to the power of her story because it created a stark polarity; intelligent words on one side, and mute genitals on the other. Between the poles, there was darkness and mystery, and the dancer respected the mystery with her ignorant and touching pretense.
Tags: Mary Gaitskill