the tuesday afternoon dildo club

Just another letter from the swinging East End.

IN A COFFEEHOUSE on Front Street in Greenport, a group of ladies gathers every Tuesday to share and gossip. Some are younger, others older, some thinner, others larger. But they are loud. The round table in the front of the building seems to spin round and quake with nervous energy and laughter, and the conversation themes usually drift from polite updates on personal lives and real estate to down and dirty girl talk, and you’ll find your ears prick up each time an out of context word like “dildo” penetrates the otherwise mild and old-timey atmosphere of bean roasting smoke and recorded Italian folk singers.

I pretend not to listen to them as I work, but I cannot help but eavesdrop. I measure my own manhood in counterpoint to their strident womanhood, and this gives me great sadness. It seems that so many men and women define each other by gender. They cannot see past this very important dividing line. It envelopes all. The Tuesday afternoon dildo club issues bold communiques like, “But that’s men, they want to control you, they want to isolate you, my ex-husband was just like that.” When a woman’s husband actually entered the cafe to say hi, the gatherers adopted a faux friendliness of “Hi there you!” and pecks on the cheek that vanished the second he was out the door, followed by the telling postmortem, “Why do men feel like they need to do that? Intrude?”

The last confab of the Tuesday afternoon dildo club led me into even more peculiar territory. Someone mentioned Orient, the village where we live, and another person brought up all the “swinging” that goes on in Orient. Swinging? I paid swift notice. As in Swinging London?

“And it’s not just couples, it’s marrieds,” the first woman gushed.

“Really, marrieds, too?!” A second woman half-asked, half-gasped.

“Yeah, it’s huge out there,” the first one said, “not that I know from experience. I have just heard. And also on Shelter Island. And also Sag Harbor,” she said.

“Yes, yes, swinging is huge in Sag Harbor,” a third woman agreed, touching her chest to connote integrity and honesty, as if she knew even better than the first woman about Sag Harbor’s wild key parties. I imagined the nice young Latina cashier I saw at the deli in Sag Harbor, and the gentleman with the scarf and the Jack Kerouac glasses. Were they in on it too? So many things were going on around me and I had been oblivious all this time.

“Will you quiet down,” the first one said, “you are disturbing people. He’s trying to work.”

“No he’s not, he’s listening to us,” the second woman said. I cocked an eyebrow at the revelers seeking some acknowledgement of my humanity, our shared asexual existence, but one never came. Only more locker room talk and vibrant outbursts and chocolate dusted cappuccinos and rubbery pounding of fists on the table. To quote Monty Python, there was much rejoicing.

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