I sat inside a penis today.
An upscale restaurant/lounge in Yorkville called me and asked if I would interview as a hostess. They used the word Hostess, signifying a truth worth knowing upon approaching a new job opportunity: This will be a place where only women welcome guests, a place where men enjoy a smile and hello from a hired woman, dressed and prepared to make “guests” comfortable, a homemaker, really, in this supposedly sophisticated, fifty-dollar-pasta-dish place where fancy people go to suppose sustenance as entertainment. Lucky crowd.
I entered the restaurant, greeted by the hostesses who towered over my five-foot-two-hello-just-eat-me-alive frame. They smiled through boldly lacquered lips and straightened-hair-framed-faces, each woman a boutique of nicety, each woman sure that I am not there to be “hosted”.
“I have an interview. With _______.”
“Oh. Sure.” She says, in a voice proving that she is either ten years younger than I am or a very terrified turning-thirty suburbanite just moved to a city where high heels are a uniform. “I’ll call her as soon as, because there’s, she’s, already on the…phone. But I’ll call her.” She indicates the other hostess, gorgeous in her own right, even taller, somehow, I’m sure there must be a platform where they are standing. “You can have a seat here or in the lounge.”
“Where would you recommend?”
“When I interviewed I sat in the lounge.”
The lounge. Let me tell you what a lounge is because when I hear lounge, for some reason, I picture a waiting room, but in this case, let’s dignify the word with images, eighteen-by-twelve of women’s faces, portraying either agony or bliss but absolutely in the process of being penetrated. The couches, all velvet, dark colours, lit by round lamps, each with a nippled center, and I mean an ornamental hard thing, straight in the center of a glass circle, why do that, for boobs-sake, I guess, and black-polished dinettes lining the walls, containing tall, dark, tubular ornaments, blooming into vaginal petals at their tops. The music is chalking. The waitress is tall, a wig-shaped blonde coif, a tight black dress, high boots.
“Are you here to meet someone?”
Clearly my Woody Allen hair texture and clashing-patterns outfit suggests that I am here to work for someone, either a someone in the hotel who is hiring me to scare their husband into staying with her forever or perhaps an employer from the restaurant.
I tell her the name of the someone, risen from my seat just to balance the Wonderland struggle between our heights, just to break her towering over me which feels like a biblical warning of an oncoming plague. She offers me a drink. I ask for water. I drink the water.
The beautiful, tall, whimsically-dressed-in-black hostess comes back.
“Is it, sorry, is your name Rita?”
RITA? Let’s all picture every Rita we’ve ever heard of. *Rita Pearlman. END LIST. NO I AM NOT RITA BUT HOLY SHIT I TOTALLY LOOK LIKE A RITA. I am sweating and my hair, which I’ve pinned back, is coming undone. I am Rita. I am hair-everywhere, too short to do anything but make people laugh fucking Rita.
I give her my real name and I wait.
I am waiting in a penis. This feels like the place to go to remember that you have a penis, to resurrect your penis from a time long-spent in celibate captivity or to hold your penis and win at Business over forty-dollar-salad. Vulgar, scary, surreal and not meant for any Rita. I know I cannot work here.
The fundamental element to this series of essays is the painstaking reality that I am not a Hostess. I can write whatever I want on my resume, I can answer questions but I cannot prove that I am tall and long-haired and soft-spoken and keeping my lipstick in place. I am not meant to greet guests into sexually-tense, hardened spaces. I just don’t vibe that way.
This is not the first penis I have sat in. In my early twenties I had a friend who would take me to lounges (the same friend who used to read me The Ethical Slut, previously compared to Kara here). We’d sit at small tables with shaken drinks. She had enormous breasts and she used to lean forward, literally laying her tits on the table, crossing her arms, looking around for men. She fit in because she accepted the exercise: Show off. Become this penis-like environment. Be a dick.
I noticed a cultural pattern in each of these Toronto lounges. The men are very comfortable. Groups of them walk in, look around and either flirt or leave. The women stay, also in groups, either flirting or waiting. It’s a nice little game of ring-around-the-obvious and for those of us who just came to this place because our “feminist” friend decided that she needed to be seen but couldn’t be seen alone because that’s obvious proof that she’s a loser even though she isn’t looking me in the eye, she never looked at me once, she would: Sit with tits on the table, stretch her neck towards the bar, squint her eyes and gaze. She painted herself with the culture of the lounge, hoping to be a beautiful representation of what the visiting men had come to see. If there were a small bowl of nails on the table, she would have hung herself on the wall just for further exposure. Too bad her breasts would have ripped her towards the floor.
It was my favourite evening, the evening that a beautiful man, I’ve come to call “The Man of My Dreams” appeared, walked through the door, literally as if I had dreamt him, the exact man I knew I would be with forever, got himself a drink, turned around to face our table and spoke only to me. No one had ever noticed me. I had no way to handle his attention. He learned my age (nineteen) and clearly lost interest but before he left he promised “you’re really beautiful” and then he just walked away.
This was ten years ago. I can still picture him, exiting the penis with his friends while I sat and dealt with the overly-mixed music, candle-lit, metallic bar-table, hyper-sexualized and tense shafty lounge I had to sit in as a nineteen year old wingman to my large-titted friend.
Other than that one encounter with a man whose name and voice I still remember, I have yet to feel anything other than rugged shame in nice places. It’s the hostesses, it’s the waitresses, it’s the word Martini Bar, it’s the word Mixology, it’s the prices, it’s the lineups, it’s the darkness, everything in these places begging for the production of even shallower attendees because should they learn to want anything other than to look good being here, they will notice that they are being significantly taken for fools.
I knew immediately that I wouldn’t get this job and if I did I would either hide in a hole forever or just simply not take it. It’s true, I’ve invented a character who could work here but that felt really embarrassing today.
For one thing, I would give anything to actually look like one of those hostesses but my wig and shitty self-makeup job isn’t going to get me there. But, the complete truth is more painful: I haven’t been trained to be a penile accessory. I have not been trained to be attractive. I find, unless I really love someone I can’t feel beautiful at all but I would really trade love (because it never works out anyways) for a chance to stand in high heels and reassure men, just by having them look at me, that they will have a good time.
I feel unfair being so contradictory because wouldn’t my words to you be different if I was a really confidently beautiful woman speaking about beauty. Here I am, merely envious but wouldn’t it be more shocking if I was truly a Hostess and I was struggling to accept my role in life as Hostess. All I am doing is wondering if I can fake it. Of course I end up with negative critique. I can’t fake it. I shouldn’t fake it. There are plenty of women who can be hostesses. So, then, what’s left for my employment. What’s left for the women who cannot compete to be seen. I should work Back of House. Or maybe just From My House. Tucked away. Unseen.
This blog is updated daily, detailing my transformation into a fictional character who is being crafted for a larger theatrical project. If you like it, please share to social media, follow the blog and come back soon
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*Rita Pearlman is not a person I know of. Rhea Pearlman (From Cheers) is the woman I was thinking of but, anxiously, I got her name wrong and freaked out over the only association I could make to the name Rita.