let’s talk about sex, baby

(6 december 2010)

i am reading baby, let’s play house: elvis presley & the women who loved him. it is written by a woman who is writing about a man’s sexual relationships with women. the book’s central revelation is that elvis had sex with every woman in the western world, except mary tyler moore.

betcha didn’t know that. i sure didn’t.

that’s the problem with reading a lot about one person. you begin to think you know them. and then, after all these years, you read something so shocking, so out-of-character that you realize you never knew them at all. a truth that should be evident all along but somehow isn’t.

my dad talks about this quite a bit. about how you can never really know another person. about how he and my mom have been married forever and yet she shocks him still. like, the fact that she hates mr. rogers.

finding out that elvis bed-hopped is a lot like my mother hating mr. rogers. both of those truths make me want to curl up under an afghan and weep for the state of our world.

they do not make sense. they are impossible to reconcile with what i already know. my mother is a good person. how could she hate mr. rogers? elvis was a good mississippi boy. how could he have possibly had that much sex? (never mind that he was a man who did not bathe.)

i am tremendously skeptical of this skanky elvis business, though deep deep down i know it is likely true. it’s doubly hard to accept, however, because out of all the other elvis biographies i’ve read, all of them written by men, none of them have dealt at length with this. they have focused on his career and his music. they have regarded him as a serious historical figure.

this book is different. it is a woman writing about a famous man and all the action he got, a story underscored with a faint breathy horror that makes it very, very clear that the biographer does not approve.

as a reader, i’m being horribly sexist. i am reading this as a book written by a woman when it should simply be a book. i certainly wouldn’t want someone to be reading me this way and yet, much as i’m loathe to admit it, reading this book has made me only want one thing as a writer. it has made me want to write like a man.

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